During the month of October, I participated in “Inktober”—a challenged to create 31 inked drawings and post them on social media. This year I finally decided to participate in full, and so every draw I put my pen down to paper and rendered something new for each day in October (sometimes even more than 1 drawing per day). The challenge was designed by illustrator Jake Parker, who wanted to better his inking skills. And now—8 years later—thousands of artists worldwide have joined in the challenge.
And boy, it was a challenge.
There were several reasons why I wanted to do Inktober, but the main reason was because I wanted to fight through an artist block that I have been battling for the last two years.
Ever since I got back to the states, I placed heavy expectations on myself and my artwork, mentally telling myself that “playtime was over, and now it was time to get work done.” But things rarely turn out the way we plan, and before I knew it, my own expectations and false images of what a successful artist looked like started to crush my creative spirit. I was creating artwork that I believed would please people, rather than creating what truly pleased myself. The results were suffocating and demoralizing, and I never felt as though I could satisfy the critic in my head. Even before my pencil could hit the paper, the critic in my head would say it’s gonna suck, or my skills are not good enough, or so-and-so would think it’s weird, terrible, unoriginal, blah blah blah.
Through this long slog of artist block, I’m coming to realize that I’m missing the heart of my work. And the heart of my art is to play, to explore, and to revel in the beauty of being alive. It’s not about money, or recognition. And as trite as that sounds, it’s such a common and subtle pitfall that I believe most people get stuck in it at some point of their life. Because we want to be recognized and praised, and who doesn’t want to make money off of doing what they love?
And I really do believe my troubles started when I placed these objectives before the heart of my work. I’ve put a false image of success before me like a carrot on a string, and have been chasing it around in circles ever since.
So I’ve been having some hard talks with myself lately, really asking what is most important about making art. And it really comes down to because I love to create. Just as my heavenly Father creates, so I too, love to create. I desire to add beauty and truth to my world and the world around me. And maybe that means I won’t get published. And it probably means I won’t make much money off of it. That’s alright for me. It won’t mean that I stop trying to get published—and sure it’d be great to make some money on the side—but first and foremost I will follow my heart’s calling.
And so, for that reason, creating a drawing every day for Inktober was very challenging, because I knew that I was putting my artwork out there to be praised or criticized. I had to constantly remind myself that first and foremost I was creating art for myself, and not because other people thought it was or wasn’t cool. And through the challenge I learned a lot of things about myself and why I make art, and it really helped me to recognize my trouble spots and areas I wanted to improve—both skillwise and in practice. Here are some of my major takeaways:
- Knowing when a drawing is good, or when it needs more work.
- Careful planning is good, but there’s a difference between that and over-analyzing something. Don’t be wishy-washy—make a decision and go with it!
- Oftentimes, simple is best.
- Making sure your drawing is clear and easy to read.
- Making art is first and foremost for myself, but it’s good to keep in mind relatability with the audience.
- When inking, things will not turn out exactly as you intend them to (there will be variation with this)–and that is okay.
- Mistakes will happen. Deal with them.
- Don’t Rush.
I’ve learned so much from this challenge, and I’m grateful for all the positive feedback and affirmation from friends and family alike–and especially grateful for my loving and wonderful husband, who constantly encouraged me and put up with all my late night Inktober drawings. Thanks, babe. 😉
My journey is far from over, but I’m excited to see where it takes me. And to wrap up this post, I hope you’ll enjoy some of my favorites from Inktober 2017! Onwards and Upwards! 🙂