I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do Inktober at all this year. I’ve had too many other things on my mind, too many other projects and outside “real life” stuff vying for my attention. I figured I had to at least give it a shot, though, and if I was going to bother, I needed to come up with something to make it even more interesting for myself. That’s when I decided to incorporate PMD. I fell way behind right out of the gate, but the first several prompts inspired some pretty clear images for me that just snowballed into a month-plus of pen and ink fun. Some of the prompts were harder than others, but I stuck with it and I’m pretty happy (for the moment…I know the other shoe will drop eventually) with the work I produced. It definitely gave my creative muscles a workout, and I’m pretty sure I have improved my technical skills.

I also used up a couple of inking pens.

Anyway, on with the retrospective!

I drew this in the waiting room of the auto shop I took my van to for it’s inspection. They have a cool table made out of welded together wrenches. I wasn’t following the official prompts at this point, but, it’s an ink drawing, and it was October 1st. Pen and ink in my moleskin.

“Ring”. First Inktober drawing following the 2019 prompts. I decided to add my own personal theme again (the first time I participated in 2015, I did self-portraits. The subsequent years were either random or following the prompts): Plunger Monkey. It’s been several months since I’ve done a proper ink drawing, between life distractions and my hyper focus on making my own hiking and camping gear. It felt good.

This was another fun one to draw, and pretty reflective of what goes on inside my head. I think this is my first time drawing a brain, which is weird considering how frequently I reference Toby’s Brain. They are tricky.

Another fun one for Inktober 2019: bait. I really enjoyed working on the dock for whatever reason. I’m fairly pleased with the overall gesture of PMD, too. My original thought was to have me sitting on a dock fishing with a banana for PMD, but I’m much happier with this idea.

Day #4: (Brain) Freeze. It took me a while to come up with an idea, and even longer to work out the composition. Still not thrilled with it, but that’s the way things go. I wanted to do something a little less literal, which I think I accomplished, at least.

I knew I wanted to do an image something like this for “build”, paying homage to that classic Calvin and Hobbes strip by Bill Watterson (Calvin hammering nails into the coffee table, his mom running in asking him what the heck he’s doing, and Calvin responding with “is this some sort of trick question?”). Watterson is one of my art heroes, I definitely can credit a lot of my inking style to his influence (not at all suggesting I’m on the same playing field as he, but his style is a heavy inspiration for me).

I went back and forth with this one, debating whether or not to depict PMD in his alter-ego state Plunger Gorilla (read It’s Plunger Monkey Dynamo Time if you don’t know what I’m talking about) (I really like Gorilla Monkey Dynamo better than Plunger Gorilla, but it makes less sense…not that anything about PMD makes sense….), but ended up going the dog route. I’m not so great at drawing dogs, not sure if it’s clear this is a husky, but it’s supposed to be. This is a subtle, inside nod to the wedding card I drew for a friend many years ago that had PMD and the couple’s cats sporting plunger hats (the couple have been long time fans).

This was another one that I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do. My first thought was dressing PMD up as a stereotypical fairy with wings, plunger wand, and tutu. Before I put pencil to paper, though, this image popped into my head, and I”m glad it did. Weird and nonsensical always make me chuckle, and that’s a big part of who and what PMD is.

It’s probably wrong that when I saw “frail” as the next prompt, I immediately thought of “old”, especially considering I’m not getting any younger. I also believe it’s possible to stay extremely fit and strong long into what most consider “old age”. Regardless, the thought of Old Man Plunger Monkey tickled me, so I had to draw it. It was kind of fun tweaking the way I draw him to make him look older (and frail).

I’m having more fun than I anticipated using a Plunger Monkey theme for these Inktober illustrations. It’s getting me to explore my character in new ways, viewing him from different angles and putting his anatomy through different moves. This is another image that draws inspiration from a Calvin and Hobbes strip. It’s not a particular strip this time, but Bill Watterson had a few recurring activities or themes that he’d use to convey either a gag or some deeper social/cultural observation. There was Hobbes greeting Calvin when he gets home from school, Calvin’s somewhat disturbed snowmen creations, the wagon rides down a steep hill, sled rides down an equally steep hill, playing on a swing, and many more. Watterson definitely made a huge impression on me in my teen years (when I discovered him) that continues to this day.

This one was a pretty obvious way to go for “pattern”. I’m still enjoying what I’m coming up with, and I’m pretty pleased with my execution for the most part, but this one in particular is one that I feel I could have pushed the gesture a bit more.

And yet again I am paying homage to the great Bill Watterson. The only thing missing is a “Calvin”, as in this particular reference, PMD is Hobbes, who was building a snow tiger while Calvin rolled snow balls shaped like decapitated heads. I suppose I could have been the Calvin in this one, but I didn’t think of it until it was too late. I find the mitten on his tail amusing, something I did early on in It’s Plunger Monkey Dynamo Time during our lightsaber battle on Hoth.

I got a little carried away with this one…It has been well documented (by me) that my wife loves dragons, so this Inktober illustration is by default for her. I’m reasonably happy with it, but if I wanted to spend another several hours on it, I probably would have pulled up a lot of reptilian references and gone nuts with scales and textures. As much as I hate it, I do need to sleep at some point, though.

I seriously struggled to come up with an idea for this one. “Ash” just didn’t inspire anything particularly exciting. So, I defaulted to using PMD as a conduit to express myself, which is very much what he is anyway.

I had a few different ideas for “overgrown”. One was to have PMD covered in weeds and other foliage. Another was to have him super hairy. The third was to draw him as Gorilla Monkey Dynamo (yeah, it makes less sense than Plunger Gorilla, but it sounds better and nothing in my head makes sense anyway). This idea came to me as I put pencil to paper, so I went with it. I wonder how much a giant banana would weigh?

One of the first ideas I had for “legend” was this one: that infamous still from the Patterson bigfoot footage. Not sure how many people will recognize what this is unless they are or were a believer in or fan of bigfoot, but it made sense to me to do this, so I did. I’m actually fairly pleased with my linework for this one, and for a lot of the previous Inktober illustrations this month, too. It’s a fun exercise, but of course the underlying goal is to draw every day (or almost) and improve one’s skills.

This was another tough one to come up with a PMD-themed idea. When that happens, I usually look up the definition of the word, not because I don’t know the meaning, but because I hope something in the explanation or examples will trigger an idea. That’s what happened here, one of the explanations mentioned “wild hair”. I always wondered if I would ever draw PMD without the Plunger, and if so, what would his hair look like? I guess the answer is an anime version of Calvin’s hair. Sort of. Maybe.

Pine. Needles. Do I need to say more? I thought about doing a straight up redrawing of the PMD ornament I made in 2016, but opted for something a little different. He’s supposed to be one of those reflective, colored glass ornaments, not sure the material comes off like that, though. Then I decided it ought to be hanging from a branch, just a close up of one branch so as not to be too time consuming, right? Yeah, that branch took forever and my neck and hand hurt now. Hopefully worth it, though.

“Mistfit” was a struggle at first. I sat on it for a day or so before the inspiration hit me. Marvel’s X-Men has always been about the misfits in the world trying to fit in and protect the world they love. It quickly became one of my favorite comic franchises when I started collecting as a 12 year old. Aside from being cool, I identified with the outcasts and the weird, so it’s fitting to incorporate Marvel’s Merry Mutants into an illustration of my alter-ego. I really like the way this one turned out, and I’m really happy with all the little nods to the characters as well as a few humorous takes of my own. It’s relatively “simple”, in that there’s no background and not a ton of texture or anything, but this still took me about 2 hours to complete once my pencil hit the page.

After how happy I was with my “misfit” idea, it was disheartening how much I struggled with “sling”. I figured it would involve a slingshot, and it was initially PMD getting ready to launch a giant plunger or some bananas, but it just wasn’t working for me. So, I decided PMD would be launching himself, which got me thinking about Angry Birds. I was still a ways into the sketch, not liking it, wanting to come up with something different or some more elements to make this one more interesting. Finally my Brain woke up and said “…uh, why not that whole Angry Birds thing we’re already thinking about?” Then the idea for the bird with the plunger, then the Angry Bird style setting and background happened. I’m pretty pleased with where this one wound up, considering where it started.

These prompts are getting tougher, especially when you’re trying NOT to be quite so literal or are trying to avoid the more obvious choices. It took me a day or more of ruminating to come up with this. “Tread” has a few different meanings and uses, and “to walk” was what I settled on. This lead immediately to Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, which PMD re-named to The Ministry of Silly Treads. Fun fact: just after uploading and as I started typing, I realized the PMD’s right foot was a left foot. I “corrected” that…sort of. Hopefully it’s not super obvious unless you’ve read this far. I suppose that could have been part of the silliness, though.

In keeping with not wanting to go obvious (in this case being a treasure chest), I hit upon this idea. I’m having extra fun with these prompts referencing the things that have influenced me. I pretty quickly decided that instead of a bag of sand, Plunger Monkey Jones would replace the idol with a bunch of bananas. I knew from the get go that he’d be sporting the leather jacket, but I wasn’t sure what to do about the iconic hat. At first I had it way up, hanging off the very end of the plunger handle, but I didn’t like that. I looked a bit more carefully at the reference photo I pulled up and realized just how spacious the top of Indy’s hat is…it could probably accommodate a modest plunger handle…

This one was a struggle. I thought of various ways PMD could BE a ghost, but I didn’t like the notion of his being dead. Then I thought about him reacting to a ghost, and the potential for a new expression/posture got me excited. I realize now that this is fairly similar to what I did for “enchanted”, what with the large magical banana, but, I still find it amusing. I didn’t realize how tough it would be to take such a simple object and make it look transparent and ethereal. I’m not terribly happy with the way I handled that, but, time to move on.

Another prompt that took some thinking to come up with an idea, though I honestly don’t remember the flow of thoughts that settled on hieroglyphics for “ancient”. This looks really simple, but it was incredibly difficult for me force myself to stick to this “style” with the limited details and uniform line weight. I thought about trying to do this as if it were a relief carving, but decided I didn’t trust myself NOT to go way overboard and be up all night working on it. I think this one would benefit from some color, since it was inspired by the painted hieroglyphics. It was also a great reminder of the speed of working digitally: those eight monkeys were extremely tedious to make them as close to identical as I was capable of.
Speaking of eight monkeys…yes, that was a specific reference…

I’ve been trying to avoid the literal, but for “dizzy”, I couldn’t escape another Calvin and Hobbes reference. Have I mentioned how much I loved that strip and Bill Watterson? Well, I do. This was a scene of Hobbes stumbling around as Calvin watches, and in the last panel Calvin comments that Hobbes has just come out of the dryer. I love Watterson’s style and skill with ink and brush (and his water colors are equally amazing), but I don’t think he gets enough credit for the body language and gestures he depicted. The man was just awesome.

“Tasty” was a difficult one. But, it was an opportunity to draw PMD with yet another new expression so I went with the literal again. I was reluctant to use the banana as a prop yet again, so I added a little twist to it: it’s wrapped in bacon. Because bacon. Bacon is actually tough to draw in just ink and make it look right, at least for me. I don’t think I got it quite right.

I didn’t go super creative for “dark”, but, I thought it would be fun to draw PMD with some drastically different lighting than anything I’ve done with him before. There are bits that I like, but overall I’m kind of “meh” about this one. I got very impatient with the cross hatching, and in hindsight, we should be seeing some of his shoulders on either side of the flashlight. This one would probably have worked better if I had broken out the Copic greyscale markers and white ink.

I had to go literal again for “coat”, I just couldn’t resist putting PMD in the wool Tabbard Coat that I made. It was tough to capture the details of the coat and imply that wool blanket texture. I’m not sure how well I pulled it off, but it involved a lot of stippling with a .005 pen. Stippling in general is pretty tedious, it’s even more so with such a small nib.

Maybe someday everyone will be waiting in a line to get on a Plunger Monkey “ride”? I’ve always entertained the notion that my comic book and fantasy ideas and creations would one day result in theme parks, (I hadn’t really considered PMD as a feature, though). I think I can blame a childhood admiration for Walt Disney for that. What’s interesting is my ideas for a theme park always involved an immersive experience, like one would enter the park and everything would feel like a different world from the plants to people walking around in character to the buildings to the wildlife, etc. Kind of like what Galaxy’s Edge and the Avatar parks seem to be doing. I guess that validates my crazy ideas a bit. After this drawing, though, my theme park ideas are changing a little…like, instead of being centered around one or two of my unfinished graphic novel ideas, maybe the whole park is just Toby’s Brain…

I’m not sure if this reads as “injured” or not, but it’s where my brain went. I’m trying to avoid the literal and obvious, and one of the definitions has to do with having injured pride or being upset and offended. Hopefully this reads as that, at least. I’m pretty happy with PMD’s dejected posture as well as the overall scene. It was incredibly time consuming, believe it or not. Deciding how to represent the stones without going overboard was a challenge for me, as was trying to figure out how to imply the glass of the doors. I think it’s reasonably successful.

I knew what PMD was going to be doing for “catch”, but I wasn’t sure what he was going to be catching. So, I asked my kids, one of which said “he should be catching a squid using a plunger”. That’s honestly where I was leaning, but I wanted another opinion. I guess my kids have my brain.
Earlier on in my comic strip, It’s Plunger Monkey Dynamo Time, I spent a lot of time trying to capture dynamic motion, mostly trying to figure out how to use manga-style speed lines. I’m going to have to play around with that some more, as it’s fun and can create some cool results.
This image also marks yet another new facial expression for PMD. I’m not positive, but I don’t think I’ve ever drawn him with his mouth open, other than the toothy grin. He doesn’t speak, so there’s never really been a reason to.

The last Inktober prompt and illustration for 2019. “Ripe” was a tough one to come up with a decent idea for. I didn’t want to go with bananas again. Eventually, I returned to one of my biggest artistic inspirations, especially when it comes to inking and comic-style work: Bill Watterson. I thought it was a fitting way to close out the challenge with yet another homage to some classic Calvin and Hobbes, in this case the recurring strips in which Calvin complains mercilessly about his mom’s cooking.
So there you have it, five days late, but I completed Inktober 2019. I had a lot of fun, and I think my skills have improved, both my physical drawing and inking skills, but also my creative thinking (if I do say so myself). Taken as a whole, I’m pretty happy with what I produced.

(It’s always a little weird, transitioning a post from the captions to “regular” writing again, but here it goes anyway…)

With Inktober behind me, there’s a bit of a creative vacuum I’m trying not to get bogged down by. This always happens when I finish something, that feeling of “what’s next?” There’s plenty of stuff on my list, but deciding what to focus on, coupled with my indecisiveness in general, causes anxiety and often leaves me spinning my wheels, being unproductive, too nervous to start on something because it might not be the “right” thing (even though I’m in charge of what’s right and what’s not). Not knowing what I’m going to be plugging away on tomorrow can be frightening. Will I experience a creative block and not be able to work on anything? I spent about a decade not making any art to speak of while I focused on being a stay-at-home dad, and those years were mentally a struggle for me. I don’t regret spending the time raising my kids, but making art and being an artist had previously been so much of my identity (setting aside the compulsive nature of being “creative”) that NOT being that for so long, and wondering if I’d ever be that person and achieve some life goals, left me lost and depressed. It’s not the first or only time I’ve felt that way, either.

So, anytime one project ends, there’s this fear that I might not move on to something else. That that’s it, something else more important will come along requiring my time, I’ll get wrapped up in other obligations, and I’ll never build my theme park. Or something. I haven’t achieved anything really resembling success yet. I have a ton of goals, some more concrete, some much more vague (like that theme park…), will I complete even one more? I don’t often think about my age, especially in terms of “getting old” and especially not dying. Other than taking a bit longer to heal from injuries and some digestive issues, I feel just about as well as I did when I was 19, and I don’t foresee that changing (staying fit and strong into “old age” is a whole ‘nother digression I could go on, but I won’t right now). However, in terms of accomplishments and ambitions, I can’t be blind to the fact that I’m already 42. Will I ever produce anything noteworthy? Will anyone remember my name?

Alright, I’ll stop. Two things I do know that I need to address as soon as possible are Spectrum and American Ninja Warrior. It’s that time of year again. I need to cull through any and all art I’ve generated this year and see if I have something, anything, to submit to Spectrum. It’s one of those annual goals I have for myself. I don’t hardly stand a chance of getting my art published there, but as low as those odds are, they are zero if I submit nothing. The same goes for American Ninja Warrior. I have been a fan of the show since it’s Japanese origins, and I dare say there’s a strong chance longer than anyone currently competing on the show. I have entered the contest almost every year since the days of G4 trying to send a single American to Japan to compete (notable exceptions being the first contest coinciding with the birth of one of my kids and another being a significant nagging injury). I was fortunate enough to be invited to compete in 2012, the first year the show was filmed in the states. I didn’t perform nearly as well as I could have (there’s yet another digression I could make here about my long history of coming up short in competitions since I was a kid due to psyching myself out), and I desperately want to try again, especially now that I could draw some serious attention to my art and my shirts and such. Like Spectrum, it’s an annual goal I have for myself, and the competition gets tougher every year. This year I don’t have anything pre-filmed (I got into the habit of filming interesting portions of workouts throughout the year to make the video submission quicker to edit and submit), nor do I have any new ideas to try to stand out among the thousands of other entries. The deadline is also a month earlier this year.

Anyway, if you’ve read this long, thank you. I appreciate your digital attention. I hope you enjoyed this years crop of Inktoberings as much as I enjoyed making them.