Lessons learned from last Inktober: be prepared, don’t try to reinvent the wheel, learn from the best, study, explore, relax, do what you love, have fun.
Here I am! More than a year after my last post, you probably thought I’ve forgotten about this blog, but I actually think about it and what could be a useful and interesting blogpost every day. Some unfortunate things kept me from blogging for the past year, but I am back now, I have learned new things and am eager to share them, so let’s begin 🙂
2015’s Inktober started OK for me, but soon after that turned into a nightmare and burned me out badly. I was uncertain as to what I wanted to achieve for that month and so I had no plan, no ideas, I didn’t know the medium, its capabilities, its restrictions. All I knew up to this point was realistic painting (to a degree) and I tried my best to transfer this on paper. It didn’t work, of course!
This year I tried a completely different approach. I’ve been transitioning to environmental concept art for the past year and I knew I wanted to paint/draw environments, so the topics were clear. The other thing I did differently was that I didn’t just gather inspiring pictures of environments, sunsets, reference photos and photorealistic concepts. I googled “urban sketches” and “environmental sketches” because this is what you usually do with a thinliner and a sketchbook – you don’t paint realistic things, you sketch simplified shapes and volumes. I have no idea why I didn’t come up with this last year, it seems quite obvious.
I stumbled upon this guy’s beautiful urban sketches and many Chinese guys foliage tutorials and reference sheets. It was mighty helpful!
Two days before Inktober started, I googled and tried to copy some of the techniques, just to test my hand and eyes. Turned out ok.
So it begun. I didn’t bother with preparing in advance, though it could have relieved me from having to spend mental energy of coming up with something every day, I learned my lesson from last year, when I had a topic for every day and didn’t keep up with it at all :D. I just went with the flow. First few days were “draw what you see” days – I drew interesting things I found around me during the day – scenery, buildings, my desk. Then all of a sudden I felt tired of the blockiness and repetitive elements of the buildings and the everyday objects around me. Things got random from there on.
Schedule gets crazy
Like last year, I tried to keep a tight schedule of working on my indie project, working full time (9 hours + 1 commute) at the studio, being a housewife and not missing an Inktober day. I did it, but I hated it. This year I did it and I loved it. I scheduled time for Inktobering (that’s a word now) every morning and evening, but unlike last year, I put a limit on the time I spent on this. The first week was over, everything was going according to plan and then they came – the concerts, the birthdays, the traveling, the CG2 conference, some ASAP freelance and everything that could screw up a schedule. Miraculously I made it, and even more so – it was effortless.
The secret for that were the schedule and the materials I used.
Devoting a fixed amount of time, preferably at the same time every day, creates a habit, and habits are easy stuff once you cement them. The limited amount of time forces you to think of something easy or quick you can do, so naturally well known or favourite subjects come to mind. If you want to make sketching a daily habit, start with something within your comfort zone and expand on other subjects only after you’ve cemented the habit. There are many other small details around how a habit is created, but I will not be going into detail about that. People who are way better at explaining than me, have studied the subject in depth and have provided easy to follow instructions on creating good habits: James Clear’s The Habits Guide: How to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones
This year I didn’t just pick up my huge, heavy, cheap sketchbook to draw in. I bought a small pocket sized moleskine. It sure was expensive and I’ll be looking for cheaper alternatives after I fill it up, but it taught me what to look for in a sketchbook – the quality of the paper. 2016’s Inktober it have never crossed my mind that there are sketchbooks with smooth paper, on which the marker/thinliner glides effortlessly, it doesn’t destroy the tips of my thinliners either. I tried brush pen for the first time this year and by it is the fastest tool I’ve ever used. Try it for yourself and you’ll know what I mean.
Back on the sketchbook: it is small and I can carry it anywhere with me to draw anytime and it turns drawing into pleasure. The size also puts some limits on the size and level of details I could achieve on every page, which is good, because a huge white page looks like a lot of work, while a small one looks like a lot of fun 🙂
One last thing
Having high expectations for your performance and expecting outstanding pieces from yourself is good and all, but really stresses you out. Last year I started with some beautiful masters’ studies that took lots of time and energy and thus raised the bar too high. My advice is to not have a bar. Drawing should be fun after all. Especially drawing for Inktober. So get rid of the bar, but don’t quit. It’s ok to post a crappy, lazy or small sketch when you are tired, but post something, don’t break the streak. You won’t feel too happy about that not-so-good piece in your Inktober collection, but I promise you, the feeling is a thousand times better than the feeling of skipping a day.
I did it! I made this into a habit! I heard this somewhere on a podcast, that if you do something for 60 consecutive days in a roll, you will turn it into a habit. For some people, they said, it’s 30 days, for others – 60. Now I feel compelled to sketch everyday and so I do it. I don’t post it on the internet anymore and that relieves some of the stress of the sketches being of good enough quality, it lets my mind roam free more or less. I do it as a part of a 100-day project I started right after Inktober and will make a post about it when I’m done with it. Until then I have many other topics to cover.
I am glad to be back 🙂
Here are all of the images from 2016’s Inktober and their stories:
1st. First day we went house hunting around Sofia. Somewhat off-road-y, but so peaceful and quiet! We didn’t end up buying a house there anyways 🙂
2nd. This is my setup at home. The big monitor’s stand is centered in real life, I swear 😀
3rd. Monday and a walk around the office. This is the statue of the Tsar Liberator, Russian Emperor Alexander II right in front of the building of the National Assembly.
4th. More walking around the office’s block. Since it’s in the center of Sofia, there are lots of old beautiful buildings there.
5th. I remember this day being rainy, so this is sketched from Google street view. It’s somewhere in Sofia center.
6th. The street in front of those buildings was cluttered with cars. I put some grass and shrubs there instead 😀
7th. A memory from our old office – this used to be our view from the 5th floor. Beautiful, eh?
8th and 9th. I got bored with all the straight lines of the first week’s buildings, so decided to try some organic shapes, and what’s more organic than sea life?
10th. Weekdays got busy and I remember having less and less time to draw. Luckily for me, I have folders stuffed with photos I’ve taken while traveling, like this of of this old UAZ. I sketched this in the morning before work and inked it in the lunch break, because we were attending a concert in the evening.
11th. Oh what a concert it was! My second time hearing Karma to Burn live. My neck and back hurt for the rest of the week. A fine Monday night (though this I drew on Tuesday).
12th. Finishing the old vehicles’ page with an old blue Kamaz left to rot in the shrubs near Smolyan. This was my first time using brushpen and I didn’t expect it to be so easy to get used to. This sketch took around 15 minutes with all the waiting for the ink to dry, so I can put my hand over it to work on other regions of the sketch (although you can see it’s smudged here and there).
13th. Some view of Meteora’s monastery. I unintentionally made one of the rocks look like a penis and then spend almost half an hour trying to fix it. Only made it worse… Well, here it is!
14th. Our car broke, so we had to take the train to Plovdiv. We spent some time on this train station waiting for our train. This sketch was finished on the train and the photo of it was taken on the train as well. I have somewhere around 20 blurry photos of it. It was a bumpy ride, so no straight lines in this sketch.
15th. Sketched people around the town and at the birthday party we went to in the evening. Via the awesome fastness of the brushpen this day of walking, shopping, cooking and partying was saved and an Inktober sketch was submitted in time.
16th. The party moved to a bar at some point during the night. A friend drove us from the party to the bar in one of these. Holly Terra, that was a great ride 😀 I drew those Trabants the other day to be sure to remember it.
17th. Another Monday, another concert night. What was with this October and concerts on Monday? Not that I’m complaining, I had the time of my week on those Monday nights 🙂
18th. That’s what got imprinted in my mind from the TFN’s performance the other night. They had some neat light and smoke show along with the music, but I swear this moment, when the spotlight shone just from behind him was so beautiful, I had to draw it. So here it is. I think I spent the rest of the concert not moving and just absorbing visual information. Good stuff.
Oh, and I got them to sign my sketchbook as well 🙂 Thanks for all, guys!
19th. We went to a graffiti exhibition in the -2nd level of the subway underground parking space. It was eerie: the darkness of the parking and huge realistic portraits of people spotlit with powerful lights.
20th and 21st. At this point I got really tired, so I fell back to my comfort zone – easy things that I really love: Warhammer 40K stuff ❤
22nd and 23rd. The weekend on which I got no rest, because I attended a CG conference for realistic 3d graphics. I also got to go to the parties after the lectures. Oh, and there’s more – I got a call for a freelance gig. Oh, October, why do you have to be like this? 😀
24th. Sister of Silence. The Emperor gave me strength to continue on with this daily sketches, the office work, the housework and the freelance.
25th. But like I said earlier in the post – there are those bad, bad days, when there’s just not enough energy for it all. Still, I didn’t skip. I did something 🙂
26th. Here are the Imperial Guard – they never quit, they never give up, nomatter what!
27th. I remember when the Lord Inquisitor Prologue got released around August on YouTube. I must have watched it over 100 times. Those marching Imperial Fists’ dreadnoughts *datass.jpg* Here it is. I had to rewatch it again 😀
28th. An Eternal Crusader ship. I remember this was a day where I didn’t have much work at the office and was waiting for feedback on the freelance, so I had time for this.
29th. But not for this one. As you can see, it’s just background added on the previous day’s sketch. I think I hadn’t had more than 4 hours of sleep per night for the past week. But the show must go on.
30th. Glorious Sanguinius standing over a pile of dead orks. A glorious Sunday! I slept!
31st. For people who know the story around Horus Heresy, this is a very dark and loaded scene: Ferrus Manus facing Fulgrim on Isstvan V. Something ended there and it made me very sad. This Inktober ended as well and this kinda made me sad as well.