The post below reflects my personal feelings and thoughts about Inktober and is in no way something everybody will experience were they to take part in this initiative. Although I have mixed feelings about it and am still not sure whether I will repeat it next year, I recommend you try it for yourself, even if you are not an artist. You could read more about the initiative here in its author’s blog.
I managed to finish an ink drawing for each of the 31 days (they are arranged by date in this gif), although I felt like I was cheating with the small sketches during my “bad days.” It was difficult at times, as I’ve set the bar high in the beginning with the environmental studies of old and not-so-old masters’ paintings. This gave me some hard time later that month, when there were some problems at work that ate all of my energy. Still, I think I benefited from the whole endeavor and am eager to share those benefits:
(not in specific order or hierarchy)
Perseverance. Keeping up with such challenges or initiatives has nothing to do with motivation or inspiration. It is pure discipline. Inspiration is something you should never rely upon – waiting for it to come, so you could do your work, nuh-uh. And when you scratch out motivation as well, because work fatigue can make you feel down and even make you question your motives to start and finish your endeavor at first place.
So it’s discipline. I’m proud to pronounce myself not-a-lazy person after all those years of self-criticism and self-deprecation. I did it! I kept up with this for a whole month! 31 days in a roll! It was important for me to make it till the end, despite the difficulties that occurred half-way through (more details in Cons). It means that if I can keep up with this, I can keep up with other such self-imposed schedules.
Line control. Here is something not as subjective as not being a lazy person anymore. An actual upgrade! Since I don’t do traditional art and least of all traditional line art (or rather haven’t done this in years), having to do this almost every day for a month improved my line control and the quality of my linework. It looks less forced and childish now, not a great deal less than before, but the improvement is visible.
Anatomy. I was postponing a more deep learning of human anatomy for some time. Inktober gave me the opportunity to catch up with it. I learned what’s underneath the skin of the back and what moves the fingers and why a hand looks the way it looks. It was a great deal more useful for me, compared to just simplifying the shapes of the body – actually knowing what’s underneath the skin, what is muscle, what is bone protrusion and what is fat deposit – that’s the real deal, not boxes and cylinders.
New technique, new medium. I was forced out of my photoshop comfort zone and its convenient Ctrl+Z, lasso tool, layers and so on. It was not pleasant, but you know what they say – no pain, no gain! Since it had to be done in ink as well as on paper, I had to plan more carefully what I did, I had to learn how my materials worked and use them in the best possible way to create what I wanted. As you can see with my first rushed piece – I had no idea what I was doing. But I learned my lesson and was more careful with laying the greys the next time.
Shift of mindset and workflow. You know how concept artists always say they like to start their concepts on paper rather than digital, because it limits them and forces them to explore more variants of the topic since you cannot erase and draw infinitely on one piece? Ties your hands, but unties your brain. Well, true story! It really is limiting in that way, but unlimiting in another – that it lets your brain brainstorm, rather than focus on this slightly better sketch you just made in photoshop… Hey, what if I enlarge it a bit, just to see if I could add some more detail here and there to see how it would look and then… Nope, nope, nope. Not happening on paper. If you want to explore a design, you’ll have to redraw it. So you get 20 different designs instead of 2 and ½ + a huge brush history or ruining that slightly better design.
So 3 weeks in, I started to feel more relaxed on paper. I started actually using my sketchbook the way it was originally meant to be used: like a concept tool, not only for studies (right?). I did some thumbnails of ideas I had in mind, that I’ve failed to make in photoshop. And guess what? They looked alright. When I started them in Photoshop last time, they looked terrible. Now I explored different versions of them, gathered some new ideas and when I find some time away from work, I shall develop them into illustrations.
Stress. This maybe applies only to me, since I have no experience with traditional media and I also set some high standards for Inktober’s posts in the beginning. Just half way through, situation at work became quite complicated and I found myself lacking both time and energy to draw after work. I pressured myself to not fall below what I have set myself as expectations for a finished piece at the end of each day. Don’t do such things to yourself. Sometimes it’s good for progress, but generally it wears you off and can lead to you loathing what you do. So I am not sure I will be participating in Inktober next year if I am still full-time employed and working on side projects at the same time. It was a huge extra load of creative work for me every day and didn’t at all help me with the laden situation at work.
Cost. I work full-time and can afford buying expensive art materials every now and then, but paying 10lv for a single copic marker that got spent for 5 drawings, well… Even my considerably cheap, but hard-to-master office supplies couldn’t make it till the very end and I had to make do with some ballpoint pens, since I didn’t have time, nor will to go to a bookstore/art shop.
Time consuming. Drawing those things every day took lots of my precious time. I adopted a strict schedule of waking up at 6 and working on my indie game project, than going to work from 9 to 18 (+ and hour and so for commuting), then housework, cooking and dining till 20:30. And after all this I had to sit down on my butt for another 1,5h to 2,5h of yet more creative work. I just wanted to lay somewhere and sleep. During the first week of Inktober, I had almost no tasks at work, so I took my sketchbook with me and drew at the office, but then all hell broke loose and tasks started pouring on me from all sides/projects, so I had to move the Inktober work in the evening. Like I said earlier, I also set the bar of quality quite high at the beginning with those masters’ studies on composition. And they take some time, you know. I couldn’t afford to drop in quality so fast, so I wore myself out. By the end of the 4th week I was so happy that that “damn thing” is going to be over soon, so I could sleep and rest my hand and eyes.
Now that I have rested some am writing this post with more good memories and less negative feelings (that was entirely my fault, let me stress this again). I don’t know what the next October would be like in terms of workload, so I won’t promise I’ll take part in Inktober2016. But I’ll do my best.
p.s. – If you want to see all of the images, you can find them in my twitter gallery with their short descriptions.