A brief history of Inktober
Many social media challenges and events take on the form of monthly commitments. You may be familiar with Movember, in which men abstain from shaving for the month of November in order to raise awareness for men’s health, or Escapril, during which aspiring poets respond to writing prompts every day in April. In the same vein, but a little more lightheartedly exists Inktober.
Inktober is an artistic challenge created by cartoonist Jake Parker in 2009 in order to “improve his inking skills and develop positive drawing habits,” according to the project’s official website.
The premise is simple: every October, a list of 31 drawing prompts is published, containing various words for every day of the month to act as inspiration. Prompts from previous years have included words like ‘big,’ ‘little,’ ‘dizzy,’ ‘misfit,’ and ‘screech.’ These serve as thematic points of departure for artists who then create a piece of artwork in reaction to these words’ evocation, whatever that means for them.
While many different mediums are now commonly used, Parker originally intended for ink to be the only tool allowed, with the occasional use of pencil for under-drawings. As such, the challenge received its name of Inktober.
Inktober quickly gained popularity, and has grown to have over 18.5 million posts tagged with the Inktober hashtag on Instagram. However, many participants remain unaccounted for, as not everyone posts their work on social media.
Nevertheless, Inktober is a worldwide phenomenon that gathers artists of every level and skill; a certain kind of community has emerged in which artists can share and discuss their work in a safe, nurturing environment. After all, the point of the challenge is to improve as artists: fostering an accepting community is a crucial part of that.
Of course, one does not always have to follow the rules. Inktober’s lists of prompts can be used any time an artist finds themselves in an artist’s block, or wishes to try something out of their comfort zone. The official Inktober website keeps past lists uploaded for this very purpose, and in fact encourages participants to go at a pace that’s comfortable for them. “Whatever you decide, just be consistent with it” is the advice given by Parker and his team.
Recently, the Inktober team has also developed a new challenge: Inktober52. Unlike the original Inktober, this challenge is not practiced daily for a single month but rather weekly for the entire year, and the prompt list contains 52 themes. This alternative would be suitable for those who find that 24 hours is too short a time to make art, or who simply wish to prolong the fun all year long.
So will you try Inktober? With a second wave of COVID-19 right around the corner, you might just find that drawing is the perfect hobby to pass the time at home this month. And with prompts such as ‘ominous,’ ‘rodent,’ ‘disgusting,’ and ‘crawl,’ you’ll also be getting yourself in the Halloween spirit.