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My inktober attempt and what I learnt

Ink paintings of cute characters

My collection of inspirational women characters I created for inktober.

I know I’m not alone in the public struggle to complete a monthly art challenge. In fact I’m sure most people who set out to complete a finished artwork every day for the entire month of October and post it on social media, in fact, fail to do so. However, I want to forget the word fail and instead focus on what I did achieve this month despite the fact that I only finished and publicly posted eleven pieces.

A daily art challenge is hard

This may come as no surprise but yes it’s damn hard to consistently work at something every day for an entire month. Sure the first week is easy; you are motivated, excited and inspired. You can imagine how good it will feel on the final day when you post your thirty-first image in celebration that you actually achieved something this month! In this first week the challenge doesn’t even look that hard, “I got this”, you say to yourself confidently.

However, come the second week and all of a sudden you’re out of ideas, your motivation has been spread thin and that inspiration you previously had has turned into a form of self-deprecating gloom as you scroll through the other seemingly wonderful posts of others.

This is the point when you need to work the hardest, kick yourself in the butt and just get it done. Or if you’re like me and you have jetlag and the flu on top of being in the third trimester of pregnancy, you just need to give up and crawl back to bed. So I had a good excuse, but at the same time it doesn’t matter I learnt some things along the way, which brings me to the next point.

It takes planning

I decided in mid September that I wanted to try inktober again. I already had a full schedule, which also included travelling to Europe for two weeks, one being the first week of October. This meant that I needed to plan ahead and prepare an entire week worth of artworks before I got on the plane in late September. I ended up creating as many artworks as I could that week, I think I ended up doing 4 or 5, and although it wasn’t 7 I was happy with that achievement and set out to complete as many as I could for the remainder of the month. However upon my return I was sick, unmotivated and out of ideas.

It would definitely have helped if I had planned a little more beforehand so I at least knew what I was painting every day making the daily task a little lighter so I could just jump into it without too much effort. I think it is also useful to be a few days ahead, so you have a little buffer space just in case something unexpected comes up.

If you want to take the challenge really seriously you have to allocate space in your schedule, don’t decide last minute when your schedule is already full and you will be travelling, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Have a realistic approach

Going into the challenge I knew that I didn’t want to use the inktober prompts. I find them quite abstract and difficult to conceptualise in such a short time. I also wanted to choose a theme which would encourage me to practice something I’m not that confident in creating. So I chose the theme which I find most difficult - characters! I decided to create a character inspired by fantastic women! Whether it was someone I knew personally, someone I had seen in the street or someone who is well known today or in history.

By the end of the first week I was beginning to realise that each artwork was taking me a lot longer to complete than I expected. The actual painting was the easy part, but the researching, sketching and character development was the most time consuming.

While I initially wanted to create something every day (or at least every week day), when you are working at this speed inevitably some days the work just isn’t any good. I would rather ditch the artwork than post it online just for the sake of posting.

Next time I would take a more realistic approach and choose a theme or daily prompts that are easier and take less time to realise. So my advice here is to figure out realistically what you will be able to achieve depending on your schedule and how you work, and tailor the challenge to that, which brings me to my next point…

Work in progress sketches and materials

An overview of the process - sketches, materials and finished pieces.

Make your own rules

I’m not suggesting to completely throw out the rules, a challenge needs some limitations otherwise it will lose momentum and structure, but there is no reason why you can’t tailor the inktober challenge to suit yourself.

For me I changed the prompts and came up with a theme so I could practise character design. I also limited myself to only creating artworks on weekdays, because I know I don’t want to work on weekends. I also didn’t put too much pressure on myself to post everyday if the work wasn’t up to scratch or I just didn’t have time. In the end I am still proud of the work that I created, I spent more time doing fewer artworks and I’m totally happy with that.

So whatever you decide, whether it is to stick to the official rules or tailor your own, sticking to those rules is the most important part, and the more successful you are at sticking to the rules you have set the more you will get out of the challenge.

Wrap up

Generally I like inktober, there is a nice community on social media and I have really enjoyed painting in ink and working in greyscale. It’s definitely a challenge but I learnt a lot about controlling the medium and working with tone, gradient and texture. I also challenged myself to develop characters and draw people (something which I am slowly pushing myself to do more of) and I am slowly feeling more confident about.

Next time I will definitely plan and prepare more in advance and maybe come up with my own prompts list or theme that requires a bit less time to realise.

Thank you to everyone who followed along my inktober journey last month. I had such a great response and all the comments were so lovely and encouraging! This is one of the best parts of sharing your work online and I am very grateful of the lovely community I am growing.

- E

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