by Iris Wu '20
When Jake Parker created Inktober in 2009, almost a decade ago, he probably hardly imagined just how much its popularity would explode. Originally a challenge to help improve his own skills and develop consistent habits, it has since been taken up by thousands of artists every year. The concept is simple: during the month of October, people challenge themselves to complete at least one ink drawing each day, whether illustration or calligraphy, ballpoint or brush pen, traditional or digital, simple or elaborate. Although there is no set standard for what subject or type of ink drawing, starting in 2016 the Inktober site has published an official prompt list to provide inspiration. Often, artists post their drawings online to try to self-impose an additional sense of commitment to the challenge, and it has produced many beautiful works of art focused particularly on line and value.
Inktober is among the most popular of art challenges, but it is far from being the only one. Like Inktober, some feature a particular theme (such as Mermay) or a certain medium (painting with coffee, watercolor style). There are also those that sound more mundane, such as the facial expressions challenge or a time trial, and those that seem unconventional at first, like completing a drawing with only one continuous line.
Art challenges like these can help develop skills in unique ways, as they provide a break from more traditional (and still important!) methods of practice. Self-challenges also differ from more formal contests, because the aim is not necessarily to create a masterpiece to be judged, but rather to experiment for oneself. This takes away competitive pressure and allows for more freedom while still giving some structure and direction to improve and, more importantly, have fun.
This October, NCS Arts Board has encouraged everyone to attempt Inktober. Even if completing the entire month is too overwhelming, the challenge is a great way to overcome art block and find inspiration!