Inktober Artist Self Portrait
Finally completed my Inktober challenge. Time for cake.


Why I Decided to Give Inktober a Go

by Damian Osborne


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.

Inktober prompt list.
Inktober prompt list. Pretty straight forward.


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 with ball point.
Drawing my dad in hospital with ball point.


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.


Inktober Day 1
Day 1. The first prompt word is “Poison”. I think one of the most poisonous thoughts that affects relationships and oneself in a big way is believing that if I’m just a little bit better, then I’ll be accepted and loved. I haven’t used pen in a while. I must say, it’s a challenge shading around the beautiful contours and curves of a woman’s body. Naturally I used my gorgeous wife as a model. The black mamba is one of the most poisonous snakes in the world, found right here in South Africa. I think of the allegory of Eve in the Garden. I’m glad I just managed to get this one in before midnight.


Inktober Day 2
Day 2. The word is “Tranquility”. Today in lifedrawing we had a wonderful model Tasmin.


Inktober Day 3
Day 3. “Roasted”. I was inspired by the model’s tanlines in drawing class. 30 Minutes from life. I added goldleaf and watercolour later.


Inktober Day 4
Day 4. “Spell”. I did a pen drawing of my wife Janine in my sketchbook and added silverleaf to the paper with gum arabic. Then sealed it with one part shellac to four parts methylated spirits. It remains to be seen if it’ll last. I used a thicker pen this time. No preliminary pencil drawings. I’m still experimenting with the hatching, but I think I’m getting there. Didn’t take a great photo of the silverleaf, but it’s late and I’m too tired.


Inktober Day 5
A crappy drawing. Day 5. “Chicken”. Rushed to get this done after a shit day. My dad has to go into hospital for a major operation so I’m helping him in his business. My car wouldn’t start and my wife is sick. The neighbour’s dog is giving me mental health problems with its barking incessantly everyday. I’m fantasizing ways of killing it. I can’t focus. Anyway.. Didn’t have time to draw a chicken from life so found an old photo of my wife having a farm breakfast that I took. Janine is much prettier than that. I stuffed up her face and obviously can’t rub it out. Lost plak for this drawing, but oh well here it is.


Inktober Day 6
Always fun to do disturbing self portraits. Day 6. “Drooling”. Did this drawing from life this morning, looking in the mirror. Still struggling to get proportions right and hold the sketchbook in my left hand. Also it’s natural that one’s head keeps moving, which is why I always feel inspired by other artists who do amazing self portraits from life. I think it’s the hardest thing to do.


Inktober Day 7
Day 7.  “Exhausted”. Got this drawing done at the end of the day, lying next to Janine drawing her from life while she read her crime novel before bedtime. Only had a few minutes before ‘lights out’ 😴


Inktober Day 8
Listening to the Stars. Here’s Day 8. “Star”. Silas was lying on the couch, so I grabbed a ballpoint pen that was on the coffee table and started sketching him from life in my sketchbook. Every time Janine opened the fridge in the kitchen, he would lift his head and prick his ears, thinking she was going to take out the can of tuna. He’s a frustrating subject to draw! I added a wash of Parker Quink ink.


Inktober Day 9
Rupert. Day 9. “Precious”. I was waiting for my mom to give me a lift home (my car broke down) while she was working in the laundry. Rupert follows her everywhere like a shadow. So I grabbed a blue ballpoint pen by the telephone, and started sketching him lying on the laundry floor. The pen really sucked though, so I continued with a black one. Then added a wash of blue and black. I think my mother loves this damn dog more than her own children. Lol.


Inktober Day 10
Yes it’s a bit scribbly, but didn’t have much time today. Day 10. “Flowing”. Sat by my parents’ koi pond with my sketchbook while taking a break between delivering for my dad’s business.


Inktober Day 11
Day 11. “Cruel”. This drawing took a lot longer than I expected or intended. Maybe I’ll do a better job of it another time. I always hated birds being in small cages. I drew this from my imagination. Feels like something from an old alchemy book which I may explore further.


Inktober Day 12
Day 12. “Whale”. This drawing was done totally from my imagination. It took me a while to get into it. We have plenty Southern Right whales here in Muizenberg out in False Bay. So seeing their tails loptailing is quite common.


Inktober Day 13
Day 13. “Guarded”.  I couldn’t think of what to draw, so I quickly sketched Janine watching ‘I Am a Killer’ on Netflix. She likes these disturbing crime things on T.V. She soon discovered I was sketching her, whereupon she got annoyed. So this drawing began as a 5 min rough sketch. And then I started a totally new one based completely on the quick sketch and from memory. Pen and graphite.


Inktober Day 14
Day 14 “Clock”. It’s a bit of a hesitant drawing with pen and pencil, but then I did draw it completely from memory and imagination. Drawing from memory is really the best way to find the weak spots in my anatomy and in getting a likeness. I got the idea from watching Janine getting ready for work in the morning, putting on her fitbit. I realised that if I draw with pencil first and then go over with pen, it’s usually so much stiffer than if I just go ahead and sketch from the start in pen. Oh well. .


Inktober Day 15
Day 15. “Weak”. Don’t know what the hell was happening with my anatomy there or in trying to get a likeness. This drawing challenge is really showing up my weakspots. Mostly because I have zero time to do them. I’m way behind now. My dad has been in hospital this week. His blood pressure was scary high and he’s having a major operation. He was feeling dizzy and weak. My mom brought him a tupperware dinner. I tried to draw him with ballpoint pen, but he kept moving about, talking serious talk with my family, so it’s not like I could ask him to keep still. Didn’t get a great likeness, but it’s always good practice to draw what you can in the moment.


Inktober Day 16
The Fire Pit. Day 16. “Angular”. I sat drawing the makeshift brick bonfire pit in the front garden.


Inktober Day 17
Day 17.  “Swollen”. May not be the best drawing, but actually I learnt a lot from doing this one. Considering it’s completely out of my head with no references and I’ve never drawn a nude pregnant lady before. Drawing from imagination really pushes one’s anatomy and proportions. So yeah. Maybe a few errors, but ok I’m moving forward. Also I’m trying a less is more approach with the pen. Still some hesitancy in the lines, but I’ll keep practicing.


Inktober Day 18
Day 18. “Bottle”. The kitchen windowsill where traditionally all the wine bottles end up after dinner at my folks’ house.


Inktober Day 19
Day 19. “Scorched”. Sat in the front yard at Janine’s place in Muizenberg and sketched this in my book. It’s been pretty dry for the last week or so. Summer is definitely on its way and my hayfever is insane. The grass is scorched dry and looks terribly scraggly and weedy. But because of Cape Town’s water restrictions, we just have to live with it. Though I do throw bath grey water over it sometimes. Hanging up the towels to dry in the sun. Silas finds refuge from the sun behind the clothes-horse.


Inktober Day 20
Day 20. “Breakable.” I parked my car at the end of Muizenberg beach, just a km from our house and did a little pen drawing of the bay looking down the peninsula towards Cape Point. It was tricky doing breaking waves in pen. It helps to just stop drawing and watch the behaviour of the water for a while. I need new pens now, as the nibs are pretty worn down and scratchy now.


Inktober Day 21
Day 21. “Drain”. Ok so I got a bit lazy and freehand copied a cellphone picture I took of Janine slurping on a cocktail. Hence a bit of visual distortion. And then I photographed my drawing with the same cellphone. But I guess any drawing is better than no drawing. Jees but I struggled to control the pressure of my lines. My pens are all kaput. The nibs worn down to nothing, and either make no mark at all, or a heavy mistake line. I hold my pens at quite an angle, so when the nibs wear, it makes it quite annoying for me. Time to buy pens now.


Inktober Day 22
Day 22. “Expensive”. Eish! Felt sorry for my brother Rhett this week. Cambelt snapped on his Ford Ranger. He started trying to get to the cylinderhead, trying to work out how to remove the manifolds etc. We were imagining bent valves, maybe even stuffed pistons. I drew this with ballpoint, as my other pens are worn to hell.


Inktober Day 23
Day 23. “Muddy”. Went for an early morning Spring walk at 7 am and sat at the river near my place in Constantia. I sketched out the scene in my book with a 0.05 pen, then got tired of the early morning walkers with their wet and muddy dogs bounding past me through the river. So I went home and gave the drawing a wash with bistre ink. I love the colour of bistre.


Inktober Day 24
Day 24. “Chop”. I decided to sketch my trusty framing guillotine. It’s a German-made Schleicher that’s from the 70’s and still works perfectly! My Morsø blades are hand-signed from 1975! This machine has already paid for itself over and over and I run my framing business and frame my own paintings from it.


Inktober Day 25
Day 25. “Prickly”. I was giving an art class, so I decided to use the rather abstract shapes and design of the Aloe Vera plants taken from the garden, to teach gesture and abstraction in drawing and going beyond mere line. Ok, so technically it’s watercolour, not ink, but I wanted to show how drawing and painting are pretty much inseparable from each other. Is it a drawing, or a painting? I didn’t use any pencil, just hit the paper with cad red watercolour and took it from there. So spacial and compositional aspects become a natural part of the process.


Inktober Day 26
Day 26. “Stretching”. Did this pen sketch from life of Rupert stretching out on the cool floor. It was like 35°C. Unfortunately he kept farting some evil sulphurous farts!


Inktober Day 27
Day 27. “Thunder”. I had fun scribbling this one out. My wife is from Namibia and there’s nothing quite like a thunderstorm there. You better watch out! Am I talking about my wife, or the tempest? 😜 Storms in the desert are always pretty awesome. Anyway, I was inspired by Rembrant’s kind of impassioned charioscuro pen drawings.


Inktober Day 28
Day 28. “Gift”.  It was my birthday, so I decided to draw the presents I got from my wife and my sister. A bottle of incredible 2012 Vergelegen Cab Sav from my sis, and a pair of sneakers and a new wallet from my wife. So now I can walk in new shoes, drink wine and spend money in style. I really love ballpoint. Pity about the ink blotches and the fact that it’s not archival. But it’s a sketchbook, so won’t be exposed to UV light much.


Inktober Day 29
Day 29. “Double”. Neo looking at his reflection in the mirror and looking very confused. We call him ‘Fatneck’ as his nickname.


Inktober Day 30
Day 30. “Jolt”. This drawing I did completely from imagination and memory. On the weekend, Silas was irritating me in the kitchen. He’s a very vocal cat and very needy. I was trying to teach him how to jump over the stable door. But he wasn’t getting it. Eventually I sprayed a burst of ‘Spray n Cook’ at his butt (I was frying bacon) and he went flying up onto the door. He gave me this dirty look under his shoulder that just made me burst out laughing. So I remembered it and decided to draw it. I used Faber-Castell drawing ink. I’m still trying to get used to this medium, so sorry for the messy drawing.


Inktober Day 31
Day 31. “Slice”. Yay! I’m so glad I finished this bloody challenge! Now for a slice o cake! Here’s a self portrait. I feel like the dude now. I don’t think I’ll be using the prompts next year. It was difficult to suit my artistic ‘voice’ to these prompt words which I feel are geared more towards perhaps the illustrative artists. But anyway, it was fun.


Check out another Pen Drawing Challenge I did. 21 Days of drawing random stuff around the house from life, everyday with a pen!


Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.


See some more of my figure drawings here.


2 thoughts on “Why I Decided to Give Inktober a Go”

  1. An interesting series of sketches Damian. Especially liked the Whale – superb!
    Good likenesses of Rupert.

    So glad to know your Dad is home and recovering.

    Have you sampled the 2012 Cabernet?

    1. Thanks a lot Chris and Lindsay. Yes, I’m glad my dad is well. No I haven’t tried the cab yet. Maybe I should bring it over some time?

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