Well it’s the end of October (my birthday month), and if you’re an artist and you haven’t heard of Inktober, you might as well crawl back under your rock. I know many of my readers aren’t artists, so you’re sort of excused. Sort of.
What is Inktober?
Basically, for those who don’t know, Inktober is an international 31-day drawing challenge during the month of October. It was started back in 2009 by an illustrator Jake Parker.
‘31 days, 31 drawings’ is the official Inktober website’s strapline. Jake writes that he created this initiative to improve his drawing skills, and that it has since grown to thousands of artists and illustrators taking part every year from around the world.
The rules are simple. Pick up a pen and draw (it must be in ink). Post it online. Hashtag with #inktober or #inktober2018. Repeat.
There is an official prompt list that you can follow if you like. Which I did.
So why did I do it?
Well, one of the reasons, was that I really enjoyed seeing other artists’ drawings last year and found them very inspirational, but I was too late to join. So I had a bad case of FOMO this year and I just went for it.
My dad has had a bit of a medical saga this month, so things have been really tough. I actually chose a very difficult time to do this drawing challenge, because time has been so limited. My dad had been in the hospital for 3 weeks, because of an aneurysm on his aorta.
It’s been a tough time for my family, but there’s been a lot of support from so many people.
The operation was a success, and he’s back at home now, recovering. My mom has been grafting in the family business and she’s close to burning out. My wife has been cooking her meals. My sister and I have been doing the driving around and delivering to customers.
So I’ve had very little time for art or painting. There are often times when life ‘gets in the way’ for an artist. But that’s just the way it is.
So why did I take on a drawing challenge?
Actually, it gave me a chance to escape every day for while. That’s honestly one of the main reasons.
I was listening to a podcast the other day about the importance of just playing around, and the benefits for your creative mind.
By taking on this challenge, I wanted to see if I could do it. Or at least get as far as I could. So it took a bit of discipline. Although, most days I was unable to get a drawing done. And I was usually 3 or 4 days behind most of the time.
But it didn’t matter.
Learning constantly until we’re too dead to learn
I wanted to get more familiar with ink, and to experiment more.
There were one or two drawings which I did in pencil first, and then went over with ink. But I always found them a lot stiffer than the drawings where I just went for it and hit the paper with pen and didn’t care about making mistakes.
Drawing with pen really forces you to be confident with your lines.
And there are so many styles you can employ.
Different nib sizes, different coloured inks, cross-hatching, no hatching, bold lines, broken lines, gestural lines, drawing with a brush, adding a wash, fine detail, very little detail, drawing tight, drawing loose and scribbly, using chiaroscuro, drawing in a more academic style like the Old Masters, or drawing in a more illustrative style.
One thing about this Inktober drawing challenge, is that it forces you to be creative. And 31 days of drawing really helps you to improve.
I learnt a whole bunch. And I parked my ideas somewhere deep in my drawing brain to carry over into other aspects of my art.
Looking online at other artists or even paging through a book on Baroque sketches that artists did back in the old days on scraps of paper, almost negligently, is so fascinating.
There’s so many different personalities and styles that come through, just with the medium of the pen.
Think of how different everyone’s handwriting is.
So I learnt a lot more in regards to technique and I got a lot of practice time in.
Some drawings I was happy with, and others were pretty awful. But who cares? I was learning. And you never ‘arrive’ in art. It’s constant learning. Until the day you peg.
Using the prompts and getting down to drawing
The prompt words were a bit tricky. It really forced me to get creative. And to draw things which I probably wouldn’t normally.
You can just ignore the prompts and do what you like, but I started with them, and so I decided to stick with them.
I think they are geared more towards illustrators and the illustrative culture, in my opinion, than fine artists, but I thought maybe I could still get creative and tailor my artistic voice to the prompts.
I tried to make the drawings as personal to my own life as possible, but sometimes I wasn’t able to. I felt like I went a bit off-track to be honest, so next time I don’t think I’ll use the prompts.
Some drawings I did from life, some I borrowed elements from or copied photographs, and others I did completely from imagination.
That was pretty interesting, and it really pushed me. Drawing from imagination forces the artist to identify their weak spots immediately. Whether in perspective, anatomy, lighting or getting a likeness.
Drawing my dad in hospital, for example, was really difficult because I had to rely so much on memory.
It was a pretty serious moment with him chatting serious talk with my mom, so I didn’t have much time to scribble him and I couldn’t go and ask him to hold still. It wasn’t the time.
It’s a pretty bad drawing, but it got my brain really working.
Doing Inktober is great for sharing stuff on social media and making new friends. I’m mostly on Instagram now after I quit Facebook, and I’m on Twitter maybe twice a year only.
But anyway, it’s been fun posting on Instagram and pretty interesting doing this challenge.
I feel like I’ve improved a lot and found a lot of inspiration (from checking out other artists, as well as just getting into the zone during drawing)
In doing the Inktober challenge, you are forced to draw. And that means gradual improvement. It’s that simple.
Drawing is highly meditative and I really encourage people to do it. Even just doodling on an envelope while chatting on the phone.
What are the benefits of drawing?
I think one could write a book about the benefits of drawing. As Apelles, the artist from Ancient Greece wrote: ‘A line a day.’ I don’t think he was talking about cocaine.
There’s another interesting quote I heard, though I can’t remember where: ‘You never really see something until you try to draw it.’
And: ‘An artist who can’t draw, can’t speak’.
Drawing is really good for your brain and for warding off dementia. It improves your memory, your mood, your hand and eye co-ordination, your self-esteem, your problem solving abilities, your visual intelligence, your awareness, and whole lot of other things.
I’ve never really separated painting from drawing. In representational art that is. Never-mind abstract. A painting is simply drawing with a brush and paint. So any drawing practice is going to improve my painting.
I’ve heard that usually they have a teaching philosophy of 80% drawing and 20% painting in all these art academies and ateliers that have sprung up.
There’s been a world-wide resurgence of realistic art as taught by the French academies before the age of the Impressionists. And they follow quite a strict curriculum.
The mostly commonly heard advice for artists is: ‘Draw, draw, draw!’
So I hope this inspires you to start doodling more, even if for some terrible reason you bought into the idea that you aren’t creative.
We are all creative.
That innocent, creative child is still there, somewhere inside us before life forced us to ‘grow up’ and to stop believing in ourselves.
Damian Osborne is a fine artist from Cape Town, South Africa. Taking inspiration from the Old Master traditions, from nature, and from the people around him (especially his wife), he tries to push beyond the mediocre and aim for mastery in his paintings.