Inktober: A yearly ink drawing marathon


illustration by Noelle Barrera

Shadowy figures cackle in dark rooms, while their creation rises from the ashes. Twirling their instruments of mayhem maniacally, they celebrate the coming of October with a fearsome glee that may seem strange to outsiders; at last, everyone will see what they have done.

This isn’t a description of a witch brewing a magic potion, or a scene from “Frankenstein.” It’s Inktober, a social media challenge that artists can participate in. The rules: Create something with ink and post it online with the hashtags #Inktober or #Inktober2017.

Artist Jake Parker began the challenge in 2009 to improve his own creative skills, but since then it has expanded into something a multitude of artists take part in each year. The prompts in the original list are abstract concepts such as “swift” and “furious” that can be interpreted in many different ways. However, artists are free to create their own list of prompts or simply draw whatever inspires them. There are many Halloween lists going around that many artists enjoy, such as Mabs’ “Drawlloween,” which centers around monsters and spooky objects or characters.

The best part about artistic challenges such as Inktober is seeing the different perspectives artists can have on the same prompts. Take ghosts “” one artist may draw a silly cartoon of a ghost, while another may opt for a photorealistic ink drawing. Artists can draw original characters, or rework the prompts to center on your favorite fictional character.

For example, Tyler Feder, an artist I follow online, is redrawing a series of Renaissance paintings such as Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” and “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt, but with a twist! Feder’s updates of these classical artworks feature more women and people of color than in the originals, and she uses Sharpies and art markers instead of oil paints.

Another good part of Inktober is that your art supplies don’t have to be fancy “” even ballpoint pens count as ink. However, if artists are looking for better supplies, Inktober partners with ArtSnacks, a company that provides subscription boxes of art supplies each month, to create an Inktober themed box that contains inks and canvases. Inktober boxes are currently sold out, but next year they may be available again.

Inktober is most valuable for young artists because the act of drawing every day helps them improve. All artists know about the phenomenon of “˜artist’s block’ that makes inspiration difficult and writing or drawing hard. With a fun challenge format, Inktober can be a motivational tool to help artists draw. In Parker’s own words, “It’s not about making the greatest drawings, it’s about developing positive drawing habits.”

Earlier in October, I decided to participate in this challenge. I had kept up with my drawings for a day or two last year, but this time I decided I wanted to participate in every day of the Inktober challenge. There are many Inktober daily prompts circulating online. The one that I chose is a list of witch familiars and flowers by Instagram user lanajay_art. Examples of prompts for various days include “Owl + Lavender”, “Fox + Marigolds,” and “Rabbit + Forget-Me-Not.”

Drawing one new thing each day was more difficult than I had expected because of my rigorous class schedule. After several days of chastising myself for not wanting to draw something at the end of the day, I finally decided to forgo drawing one new thing every day in favor of simply having 31 drawings in general, which I will post sporadically as I complete them.

However, busy students like me who still want to participate in this challenge need not worry. As the official Inktober guide says, “You can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. Whatever you decide, just be consistent with it. Inktober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.”