Inktober for those afraid to Draw

It’s the first day of Inktober. Illustrators know this. The rest of us might not — but we should, all of us. Because Inktober is awesome. And it’s for everyone.

Inktober began in 2009, by artist Jake Parker, as a challenge to improve drawing skills and practices. The gist is simple: you make an ink drawing every day of the month. 31 days, 31 drawings. And you can share it all online.

Inktober is, obviously, intended for artists. But anyone who can make a mark on a page is welcome to participate. Doodlers, calligraphers, even writers.

You don’t have to be Leonardo to participate.

But why not join in as an artist? Remember when you were a kid? You were an artist, right? Who wasn’t? And once an artist, always an artist. Maybe not a great artist, but so what? Still an artist.

If you’re like me, and “Overcome fear of drawing” has been on your to-do list for most of your life, Inktober is the perfect time to stop procrastinating. “Just pick up a pen and draw” — that’s the motto of this challenge. Who’s in?

Visit the Inktober website for FAQs and rules and prompts. There’s a different word-prompt every day to help you focus your creative energy. If you haven’t got every day to draw, you can try it once a week. Or even just once.

You can just be you.

Many organizations and artists’ communities celebrate Inktober. The Canada East SCBWI chapter is posting weekly round-ups of its members’ Inktober art on its blog. So if you’re a member, send in your stuff.

If you are not a member of anything and you’re scared to post your artwork online, Inktober is still for you. Do what I’m going to do: Create a sketch journal for the month. All it takes is one sheet of paper. (I use a small journal, but it’s not necessary.)

A couple of years ago, while trying to overcome my fear of drawing, I read Danny Gregory’s Art Before Breakfast. (Follow the link, then come back–it’s the best book announcement I’ve ever seen. Artists are so clever.) From this inspiring book, I learned that many tiny drawings in a row look fab even if not a single one of them is any good. And it’s true! I tried it, I liked it, and my sketch journal was born:

My 2017 sketch journal

I don’t draw, I don’t know how to draw, and I’m afraid to draw. But hey, I drew!

You can, too. Fold a blank sheet of paper in half, to make a 4-page brochure (aka a 4-week journal). Make seven little boxes on each page, with blank lines or blank space beneath them. Make Sunday’s box bigger than the others (repetition and contrast being important art concepts I know nothing about). Now you’ve got yourself a sketch journal for the month (or at least for 28 days of the month–but since you’re bound to forget a few times, call it a month).

I prefer to make the boxes by hand; I like the messiness of it. But you can create a template on your computer (and say, hand it out to your class if you’re a teacher, so everyone can participate in Inktober). Here’s what one side of that page might look like, unfolded. Feel free to print and copy it, double-sided, to make your month’s journal.

Each day, draw a picture in a box and write a caption or diary note beneath it. You can draw whatever is in front of your face — perhaps 28 portraits of your cat trying to lie on your paper, if your life is anything like mine — or draw from memory or fantasy (way harder). Don’t pressure yourself to come up with anything astonishing; just draw something of relevance to your life that day. In ink. You can do it in five minutes.

At the end of the month, you will have a record of your life, a daily practice, and a little less fear of drawing. Your sketch journal will delight you, and you might love it enough to keep it up all year.

There are drawing tutorials on the Inktober website, if you want to know what you’re doing. Or you can just dive in like you did in kindergarten.

Make Inktober the month you became an artist again. The leaves are red, the ink is black, and it will all end with candy. Gotta love October.

9 Comments on “Inktober for those afraid to Draw

  1. I hadn’t heard of Inktober before, but I started drawing last year, and I’m loving it! I’m lucky to be in France just now, and I hope to do at least one sketch a day. Maybe I’ll do one every day all month, even when i’m home. Good luck!

    • Awesome, Jan! Sketching in France–you are lucky. Yes, do one every day. It is a great way to keep a record of your life. (I only kept one up for 2 months last year, but I’m re-committing, thanks to Inktober.)

  2. Your post was just was I needed today. I started learning to draw three years ago, but Inktober always gets the best of me — or, I should say, it gets the worst of me and my attempts at drawing. I love your journal/boxes ideas, and you’re right… lots of little drawings all together always do look good. I think it’s because they somehow look intentional, as though they have a purpose. My Inktober drawings are awful, but I’m just going to do what I can do and not worry about it. Or so I say. Keep reminding me of this throughout the month 🙂 and thanks so much for your post.

    • Hey Judith, I’m so glad the timing was just right. I bet you will have some pretty good drawings at the end of the month. One thing about having seven little ones on a page is that there’s bound to be one significantly less awful than the rest. 🙂 (And it’s a journal to look back on, which adds value.) I want to learn to draw, too, and you’re inspiring me. Have a great month.

      • Thanks again for your post. It really helped pull me up out of the little funk I was in earlier this morning. 🙂

  3. I just discovered this post now at the end of inktober, but I’ve actually succeeded in doing a pen sketch every day this month which I’m super proud of. I’ve been wondering what to do to keep my drawing going and I love your journal idea, plus I love the look of Danny Gregory’s books and might have to invest in them in the future. Thanks for a great post

  4. Great job doing a daily sketch, Julia! I hope you keep it up with a journal. There’s something special about a daily practice, isn’t there? Over time, it’s more than the sum of its parts.
    Thanks for stopping by. I loved your squirrel sketch on your blog, BTW.

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