Now that we’re half way through November, I’m finally getting around to doing a recap of my first Inktober. In case you missed it, Inktober is an annual challenge started by artist Jake Parker. The goal is to do one ink drawing every day for the month of October (or as many as you can manage) in order to improve your skills with ink as well as foster the good art habit of daily practice. When I decided to take up the challenge, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do a drawing every few days, much less every day, considering my normal hectic schedule. I quickly found myself several days behind schedule, but made the commitment to catch up, producing multiple drawings on some days. By October 30th, I had 31 drawings in the bag. Surprising myself, I finished early! Here’s a look back at where I started and how I finished up.
On day one, I pulled out one of my sketchbooks, propped a big mirror between my lap and the wall, and started drawing with my Copic Multilners. It had been a looooong time since I had really attempted an ink drawing (the occasional PMD doodle and annual Mother’s Day card for my wife aside), and I can’t even remember the last time I tried to do a self portrait using a mirror. My original intent was to draw a variety of different things over the course of the month, but after doing another self portrait on day 2 (that I wasn’t very happy with, I was interrupted by a delivery of firewood and that just threw me off enough that I really screwed up proportions), I decided to give myself the added challenge of doing a whole month of self portraits. I had recently been lamenting that I hate the way I draw heads and faces, I need more practice. Plus, I was thinking that I need to rely less on photo reference when I start working on Revery again. Inktober would accomplish multiple goals for me.
Paradoxically, on day 3 I decided to draw from photo reference, rather than my mirror. I live a much more interrupted art life than I did back in college, so leaving a live drawing situation for an undetermined period of time and then trying to get back in the exact position was just too frustrating. I also made the switch to my gray toned sketchpad so I could play around with a greater range of values. I’m much happier with day 3 and 4 than 1 and 2, even though they both have their problems. I knew attempting 31 self portraits was going to get stale unless I found ways to keep things fresh and interesting, so I started playing with lighting and camera angles, as well as trying to capture expressions. And Mr. Handface, cuz technically that’s still a self portrait.
As expected, I quickly found myself behind schedule, but I had decided I wanted to do all 31 days. This meant doing multiple drawings on some days. It also meant squeezing in some quick sketches in my moleskin sketchbook while away at the NH State Jamboree. Day 6 was drawn from a “selfie” I took in my cot tent before going to sleep on the first night. Day 7 was a shadow portrait during a brief break in the crazy action on Saturday. Both were done with ballpoint pen, which I love to draw with. I decided to attempt some longer self portraits with the ballpoint pen. I like the greater range of values I can get when compared to a felt tipped marker pen, which is kind of either “on” or “off”. I’m very happy with the portrait in the hat, I think it’s one of the strongest ones I did all month. I did continue playing with the Multiliners, though. I wanted to see what I could do with some of the brush tips in addition to the fine point pens. I think I did a decent job on the contour of my profile in day 9, as well as my hair. Day 10 has some things I like about it, but the proportions are wonky.
On day 11, I really wanted to use more brush pen, but I hate the result. I needed to spend more time on the underdrawing, I think. The photo reference had some cool shapes and shadows, but I got really discouraged and frustrated, so I didn’t push this one. For day 12, I went back to ballpoint, and I’m fairly happy with that one. I was really close to the lens for the picture, so there’s some distortion going on. I’m not sure it reads right in the drawing, I either needed to minimize it or exaggerate it more. All these drawings, particularly the ballpoint pen ones, were taking up all of my studio time. Trying to create forms and shadows with line was just too time consuming. On day 13, I tried solving this by incorporating my greyscale Copic Markers. The anatomy isn’t quite right, but I like the sense of light and shadow I managed here. For day 14, I really wanted to try some more interesting and challenging camera angles. This one is another one of the strongest pieces I produced.
With all the school activities and weekend Boy Scout, Cub Scout, and family events, I found myself several days behind again. Since part of my ultimate goal was to improve the way I draw myself for a graphic novel project, I decided to bang out the next 5 portraits in comic book page format. Working smaller was interesting. The drawings could be done faster, but the lines had to be kept to a minimum, and they had to be right because of that. The first two panels are the best of the five, but that last one still bothers me.
I needed to get one more quick drawing in on day 20 in order to be caught up. I wanted to do something quickish, but obviously still part of my self portrait theme. One of my other theme ideas for Inktober was going to be Plunger Monkey, so given that he’s just a manifestation of part of my brain, I decided he still qualifies as a self portrait. In this drawing, he’s tired. Because I was tired. On day 21 I tried to blend ballpoint pen with Copic Markers, and I liked the overall effect. I really wanted to work on creating some contrast between light and dark, too. Batgirl makes a guest appearance on day 22, perched on one of her favorite spots: my back/shoulder. This was another ballpoint and Copic combo. I’m pretty happy with the fur texture I accomplished by layering different Copic values. For 23, PMD makes another appearance. This was a fun idea, but I’m not thrilled with my execution of PMD. He doesn’t look quite right. It made me realize I only ever draw him from the front or 3/4s, so I don’t even know what he looks like from other angles. I will work on that. This image did give me some ideas for some PMD related projects, though…On day 24, I was sick of seeing my face. So I covered it. With my hat. And put my glasses back on. I was still playing with ballpoint and Copic and liking the results.
The end of the challenge was fast approaching, and I was striving to keep the self portrait theme interesting. With the end goals in mind, I tried to get some more extreme expressions, camera angles, and poses, all of which pertain to comic book drawing. I like the lighting in day 25. On day 26, I really wanted to draw the inside of my mouth…I don’t know why. This was another one where the picture was distorted from my closeness to the lens, but I didn’t quite translate it well in the drawing. My eyes just look too far apart and my forehead’s too big or something. The picture for day 27 was kind of neat, there was strong sunlight coming through my studio window, creating some deep shadows. I was trying to create the sense that the lighter forms were emerging from the dark, and I really liked how the shadows fell on my face. It was a great way to create some volume. On day 28, I wanted to do something different. So, handstand it was.
For the final 3 drawings of Inktober, I decided it was time to put the month of practice into action and attempt some cartoony, manga-ish self portraits. Day 29 doesn’t really work for me, but 30 is a little better. Day 31 is really where I want to be heading.
Well, if you read through this whole post, thanks! You’re a glutton for punishment. I’m pretty happy with what I was able to accomplish, and I definitely see an improvement in my skills, as well as greater efficiency. I’m still trying to balance things out so that I can make time to continue this practice but also work on other projects (I have worked on 10 Things, but not as much as I want to). Inktober may be over for this year, but I’ve continued the daily drawing practice. I’m still working on developing a manga version of myself doing two drawings a day: one using photo reference, one without, both cartoony. The non-referenced drawing has turned into my response or reaction to my photo referenced attempt, which is proving quite amusing to me. I will probably do a recap of those images periodically, but if you want to see them now, you can find them on the TOBYSBRAIN FB page.