Here we are, another year, another Inktober infused with plungers and monkeys (everyone’s favorite plunger-wearing monkey, specifically). I’ve taken to doing these recaps/wrap ups at the end of the challenge, but this one will be a bit of a general “what’s been going on?” as well, since I’ve barely posted anything here this year.

If you follow me on my other social media thingies, then you know I’ve been staying busy. I’ll do an end of year/year in review post like I usually do, but just in general, I’m a bit off of the goals I set for myself this year. That’s partly due to other things going on, and partly due to choice. For example, I have set an annual goal for myself the last several years to release at least 6 new tshirts each year. So far, I’ve released just one. I have other ideas, but opted not to focus on them because, well, no one’s buying them anyway. As always, my studio time is limited, and I choose to focus on creating content and not so much promoting and advertising. I will tackle that at some point, though.

Another goal I’m not likely to hit this year is starting to work on Revery. I have the thumbnailed comic done (as of, like, a decade ago now…though it needs some edits), but I need to flesh out some visuals, do some concept art and character sheets and such, all before actually working on it. I at least have the plans and steps mostly laid out.

Instead, I put some work into It’s Plunger Monkey Dynamo Time!, and really focused on trying to get Inside Toby’s Brain done. I may actually finish ITB this year, which would be a big achievement. That started as a little side project to play around with and to learn how to use first Medi Bang and then Clip Studio Paint for making comics, to learn a work flow, to define a style. I’m not going to track down the actual start date on that, but I know it must have been at least back in 2016 or so. I started it in Medi Bang on the old Samsung tablet I had, and I know I got my iPad in 2017 (I only remember because of the weird timing of it arriving. My wife had ordered it as a surprise for me, and had to give it to me while we were in the hospital with our middle son right after he had been diagnosed with diabetes). It’s not a very long comic, and I’ve done a lot of redrawing some early pages, but it will still represent finishing something. I have plans for it being “released”, but that requires a whole other project to get underway…

One of my annual goals is always to complete Inktober. At this point I know I’m never likely going to get it done in the 31 days, but I am committed to getting through all the official prompts. I had a lot of distractions and hurdles this year between a family visit, a barn repair/renovation project that has turned into a much bigger undertaking than expected, standard school and scout obligations, and getting sick. But, I stuck with it and finished 31 ink illustrations and only needed 10 extra days. I’m really enjoying the PMD theme I added to the mix in 2019, it makes things more fun. I’m also thinking about collecting them all into an art book with a few extra bits…we’ll see, though.

Inktober 2021 Day #1: Crystal. It took me a bit to come up with the idea for this one. I like avoiding the obvious, which would have been to draw, well, just some crystals and PMD interacting with them somehow. I’m not quite sure where or how the Infinite Gauntlet popped into my Brain, it might have been a random image of Thanos while I was surfing around online. Wherever it came from, I thought it was different enough that I should pursue it. It has plenty of issues, as they always do, but I got it done.
Not going to lie, I didn’t think I’d get day 1 done (I mean, technically it’s now day 2, but whatever). Too many other things going on. The weekend and next week are looking busy, so I can say with a high degree of confidence that I’m going to fall behind, but, I will finish all the prompts eventually.

Inktober 2021 Day #2: (Squid Mech) SUIT. So…yeah. This one has taken 7 hours and 45 minutes…I think I got a bit carried away. But, in my defense: Squid Mech.
When I started thinking about the prompt, obviously I wanted to avoid a literal suit (I never wear suits, Plunger Monkey doesn’t, either). The next thought was “well, Ironman wears a suit…”. I grew up on Marvel comics, but not Ironman. The movies and the whole MCU have been a treat for me to watch, but I have no particular affinity for Ironman, so that didn’t feel right. Then I started thinking about mech suits in general. I first thought of a Squid Mech, because it sounded cool, but I figured it would be overly complicated. I thought about a Monkey or a Gorilla Mech suit, but my Brain said “No. Squid Mech”, so that’s what I had to do. It was fun, but tedious. Something that could definitely be worked on and refined more, and a concept that could definitely be developed more. Of course, if I ever have to draw this thing again, I think I’d have to create a 3D model of it first to speed things up, because, damn.

Inktober 2021 Day #3: VESSEL. I’m only 8 or so days behind…I tried thinking of a different idea for vessel, but I kept coming back to Fishy McFishington of the Cloudsworth Fishingtons. I haven’t drawn him in a while. Actually, I think the last time I drew him was during last year’s Inktober (for FLIGHT as well as BULKY). It added another layer of challenge because I didn’t want to draw something nearly identical. My other challenge was that I tried to cram a lot of detail into a drawing that is relatively small. My lines were frequently derailed by the subtle tooth of the paper (this is a common problem I have when working small. I don’t notice it as much when I make bigger marks), which was frustrating and stressful. I was feeling a bit rusty, my hands are tired from working on the barn, and I wasn’t feeling super excited about this one, especially after drawing that Squid Mech. I don’t have any ideas for the next prompt yet, but I trust I’ll figure something out.

Inktober 2021 Day #4: KNOT. This is one of those fun ones that just sort of unfolded in my Brain. It might not be much to look at, but the subconscious thought process that produced this was fun. I started thinking about knots, and what can be done with them (being an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster, I spend a fair amount of time tying, teaching, and thinking about knots). As always, I wanted to do something a little different. I decided to kick the brainstorming into the background so I could prep for bed last night, but within moments, my Brain came back to me with “what about a monkey’s fist knot?” And here you have it, the monkey comparing the knot to an actual monkey fist and trying to figure out just why someone named it that.

Inktober 2021 Day #5: Raven. Yet another one that took longer than expected. Bonus points if you know the names of the ravens (hint: they’re from Norse mythology). I knew I had to reference Norse culture with this one. One of my ideas was having the ravens in a dead tree, with PMD similarly perched, having just put the plungers on their heads. I usually do some quick google image searching of the prompts to find a spark of inspiration, and this time I found a bust of Odin in a similar pose with similar armor, so that’s the direction I went in. The statue has some nice Celtic knotwork on it (which could have applied the the previous prompt), but I couldn’t squeeze that level of detail in at this size. I could have worked this one a bit more, creating more separation between some elements (like the raven on his tail, it’s body kind of gets lost and merges with the helmet), but it’s very late and my hand cramped up.

Inktober 2021 Day #6: Spirit. Any Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli fans out there? I’m a big fan, myself. I loved Spirited Away (the reference in this illustration. The large fellow on the left is No Face-he’s semi-transparent-and that little creature on PMD’s tail is one of the soot creatures from the furnace room in the movie), but if I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be the graphic novel for Nausicaa and the Valley of Wind. One of the ways I have fun with Inktober, in addition to making everything PMD-centric, is that I have opportunities to pay homage to the various creative works, people, and studios that have influenced me as an artist. I have done it with Star Wars, Calvin and Hobbes, and even made some comic book references, but this is the first time I had the inkling to feature something by Miyasaki/Studio Ghibli. It was particularly fun.

Inktober 2021 Day #7: FAN. I’ve often said that PMD is my alter ego, that he’s a manifestation of some of the crazier parts of my Brain that I otherwise don’t let out for one reason or another. He’s also a window into my inspirations, my interests, and other aspects of who I am. I’ve been a martial artist since 1995, studying Shotokan Karate, but also branching out to dabble in various other arts like kung fu, tai chi, aikido, kendo, iaido, and jiu jitsu. My kung fu dabbling was nothing formal, just sparring and training with a friend decades ago and picking things up from books and videos while trying to gain a different perspective on my “base style” of Shotokan. I’ve always been drawn to the many different kung fu styles, and would love to delve deeper, especially with some of the animal and weapons forms. I’ve never learned to use fans, but it’s on the martial arts bucket list.

Inktober 2021 Day #8: WATCH. Yes, this is an homage to the classic Mickey Mouse watch. Of the many things I say about PMD, one of them is that he is my Mickey Mouse. Like most kids with a creative bent, I drew great inspiration from Walt Disney. I always thought it was so amazing that he started where he did, with a little sketch of a mouse, and where the Disney empire is now. One man (with lots of help) and one idea (and later many more ideas) have had such a massive impact on global culture, going from unknown to world wide household name recognition. I’ve always aspired to that to some degree, to have my art, my creations, reach and entertain everyone. I dream about the PMD empire of video games, cartoons, comics, toys, movies…theme parks…maybe a watch…

Inktober 2021 Day #9: (PEER) PRESSURE. I really struggled with this one. My initial thought was to dress PMD up as Freddie Mercury (Queen fans should be able to figure out why), but it just didn’t feel right. I thought about having the Multi Purpose Novelty Squid squeezing PMD, but that was more “squeeze” than “pressure”. Then I started thinking about peer pressure. All I could come up with was PMD holding a sign saying “do it!”, but to whom and what was he trying to get them to do? I wanted to avoid the more standard peer pressure problems of drugs and alcohol, because that’s just not what PMD is about (he’s an all ages kinda guy). Suddenly, this image came to mind of PMD trying to convince the MPNS to get with the cool crowd and put a plunger on his head. PMD putting plungers on others has been a running theme in many of my Inktoberings over the years, but the wearers always seem mystified and it’s apparent they didn’t have a choice. Clearly PMD must respect the MPNS to at least give him the option…though at the end of the day, I think we all know that plunger is going on that squid one way or another.

Inktober 2021 Day #10: PICK (of DESTINY). Who doesn’t love Jack Black and his band Tenacious D? This is my take on the movie poster for The Pick of Destiny. This was another Inktober prompt I struggled with. One of my original ideas was an homage to Bill Watterson and Calvin and Hobbes. I was going to have PMD all muddy, carrying a pick ax in the woods, off on some adventure. I swear I’ve seen an illustration of Calvin and Hobbes like that, but I couldn’t find it. I may have imagined it. I thought about PMD climbing a banana tree to pick bananas, perhaps with a pick ax. I looked up some banana tree references and wasn’t inspired. I thought about the obvious nose/ear picking, but that’s not really PMD’s style of humor, either. I thought about having him picking through my hair for bugs. I thought about him using a hair pick. I tried thinking of him using an ice pick or a water pick…then I thought of guitar pick, and went immediately to the Tenacious D album and movie. I’ve always enjoyed Jack Black and his musical stylings, he’s a great entertainer. I have their 2001 album and have listened to it thousands of times (I listened to it half a dozen times while working on this piece, too). I’ve watched the Pick of Destiny stage show/concert videos on YouTube, but somehow don’t own the album and never got to see the movie. I’ll have to fix that. By far, though, my favorite creative endeavor that Jack Black was involved in was the video game Brutal Legend. It’s tough to describe, but basically imagine a world based off of 40 plus years of heavy metal album art, fun and unique weapons and gameplay (a guitar is one of your weapons), great visuals, an entertaining story, cameos from heavy metal legends, and oh yeah, unlockable heavy metal songs that you can listen to as you cruise around the world in your hot rod. So much fun.
And yes, I’ll shamelessly tag Mr. Black when I post this around.

Inktober 2021 Day #11: SOUR (Patch Kids). This was another tough one for me. I eventually landed on Sour Patch Kids. I used to love them as a kid. Now, I think I could eat maybe two before feeling ill. I don’t remember when that weird ad campaign started with the giant Sour Patch Kids doing mischievous things and then being remorseful and sweet, but I always found them odd. And like PMD says, food that looks like kids is creepy.

Inktober Day #12: STUCK. Ironically, I was stuck on this prompt for a while. When I was on my way to pick my kids up from school, I randomly envisioned PMD in carbonite, but I found this idea a bit funnier. I probably could have spent a day on Han in carbonite, there’s a lot of interesting shapes and textures and whatnot in the actual prop. I’m not entirely thrilled with the way it turned out, it’s a tough thing to draw. Either way, this one is done and it’s time to move on.

Inktober 2021 Day #13: ROOF. I don’t have a strong connection to the Peanuts or Charles Shultz beyond the fond memories of the animated specials around the holidays. I never really read The Peanuts comic strip much. But, I do respect Mr. Shultz’s impact and longevity in the field. Something to aspire to. This was a fun one to draw, and came together relatively quickly (which is good, because I’m annoyingly busy right now).

Inktober 2021 Day #14: (the) TICK. When I scanned the prompt list before Inktober started and I saw that one of the words was “tick”, I knew exactly what I had to do. Growing up, going to New England Comics, I was familiar with The Tick, but I never read the comics until more recently. I did, however, watch every episode of the Saturday morning animated series. It’s zany and fantastic, poking fun at decades of super heroes and super hero cliches in a loving way. To my knowledge, there have been two live action attempts at The Tick, but I have only seen the Amazon Prime one (and it was brilliant). Hopefully I did Ben Edlund’s character “justice” with this little illustration.

Inktober 2021 Day #15: (SQUID) HELMET. I was a little unsure of this one at the outset, but I decided to go back to one of last year’s prompts for some inspiration. For “armor”, I designed a set of squid armor and weapons for PMD. The helm was originally much simpler, so I decided to make it more complex and fun. If I ever get around to making a PMD video game, I’m sure this (and that armor) will show up.

Inktober 2021 Day #16: COMPASS. It took a while to decide to go this route. I couldn’t come up with anything else clever, but I wasn’t sure how well I could pull this off. I have had a video game idea for over a decade that involves the use of art tools in the “real world” both as weapons (who hasn’t picked up a T-square at some point and thought about smashing something with it?) and also as “magical” tools, like using a compass to create portals that either allows you to pass through obstacles, or as traps for the bad guys. Yet another project I want to get to some day…

Inktober Day #17: Collide. I can’t believe I’ve made it this far into Inktober withtout a Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Watterson homage. This is my twist on one of the classic interactions between Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin comes home from school, Hobbes tackles him because he’s so overjoyed he’s back home and they can go on adventures again. It’s a bit of a recurring “gag” in the strip, and it’s both humorous and heartwarming.
This idea came to me pretty quickly, and the longer I worked on it, the deeper meaning it had for me. Bill Watterson and the Calvin and Hobbes strip have had and continue to have a huge impact on me as an artist and creator. Rereading strips instantly transports me back to my youth and discovering them for the first time. I was devastated when the strip ended, but I love going back and rereading the 10 years worth of brilliant content Watterson created, and I love that I can share it with my kids.
I’ve said Plunger Monkey is my Mickey Mouse, but he’s probably more my Hobbes. I had not yet created him when I was Calvin’s age (about 6 years old), but the ingredients were there. This image is very much a silly dramatization of how I created PMD, he hit me out of the blue, during a time when I was not in the best place mentally, and brought me back to being a kid. He gave me a creative purpose. This is also pretty much what it’s like whenever I have a new idea for PMD: he tackles me out of the blue, interrupting whatever I was doing, and makes me a carefree kid with an overactive imagination again.

Inktober Day #18: MOON. It took a while to come up with this one. It’s another Calvin and Hobbes reference, this time to one of Calvin’s alter egos: the intrepid Spaceman Spiff. The spaceship is pretty much Spiff’s, but PMD’s costume is just loosely based on Spiff’s. I’ll call him Spacemonkey Spiff, or something. I’ve frequently written about how much I love Calvin and Hobbes, and how influential it is on me. One of the things I love about the strip is Calvin’s imagination. It’s deep and rich and something I can very much relate to. And of course Watterson’s art is just amazing. HIs brush work has so much life and energy, it has an element of simplicity and yet it conveys so much detail. It’s something I still want to learn from. My linework is, at times, too “clean” and rigid, not enough life or expressiveness to it, in my opinion. Too OCD or anal retentive or something. I’ve never wanted to draw exactly like any other artist, I’ve always wanted to have my own unique visual style. But I think that is just like our personalities in that we are an amalgamation of our influences and experiences, filtered through what is distinctly us, and manifested as something unique.

Inktober Day #19: (MONKEY) LOOP(S). Who wouldn’t buy a box of these? This was another one of those “no idea where to take this one” prompts. This was the first solid idea I had, and I thought I could have some fun with it. I probably could have spent a ton more time squeezing details into this one, but I was running out of time and cramping up. If I was doing this one digitally, I probably would have added a lot more to the top and side of the box because it would be easier to create things to put there on a separate layer and then transform them to fit the perspective.
I really wanted to call these Monkey O’s, because it sounded better to me, but the prompt is “loop”, after all…

Inktober 2021 Day #20: SPROUT. I’m not sure I captured Baby Groot’s likeness as well as I could have. I was working off of a still shot from one of the Marvel movies, while also trying to reference some of the comics, and there’s a fair amount of difference between the two. I wanted to put more texture into him, but the size I was working at didn’t allow for it. Either way, I thought it was a fun interpretation of this prompt.

Inktober 2021 Day #21: FUZZY. Generally speaking, I try to avoid being totally literal with the prompts, or I try at least to find a fun twist on them to make them more unique. I couldn’t get away from PMD being fuzzy, though. I’m not entirely sure he reads as extra fuzzy in this. I tried making him even more poofier, but it wasn’t working the way I saw it in my head, so I dialed it back. I struggled a bit with the electric ball thingy, too. I’m not quite happy with the way I rendered the electricity. Something to work on.

Inktober 2021 Day #22: OPEN (mic). Here’s another prompt that took me awhile to arrive at something. When I get stuck, I usually Google the definition of the word and do some image searches. Somewhere in my Googling I saw a single, off-hand comment about “open mic nights” and knew that’s where I was going to go. I actually did a sketch of PMD years and years ago (back when he looked quite different) singing karaoke. That was obviously before I realized he spoke with signs only. That fact makes this image all the more funny to me. This one illustration took me 5 hours, mostly due to the brick wall backdrop and figuring out how I wanted to handle the shadows. I think it could still use some work and could have been handled better, but my hand is absolutely killing me right now.

Inktober 2021 Day #23: LEAK. Okay, this one might not make sense outside of my own head. As I usually do, I was trying to think of the less obvious way to illustrate the prompt, so I came to “leaked information/news”, like from a movie set or something. PMD, since I’m not convinced it reads well, is listening through a door (my studio door, though I don’t know that others would recognize this as a door the way I cropped it) using a cup/glass (cuz that’s a thing my Brain told me people do, at least in sitcoms or cartoons or something). So, yeah. Maybe this one doesn’t work so great, but, the “leaked” information is accurate. I’ve been thinking about collecting the last several years’ worth of PMD Inktober drawings into an art book, along with some nice calligraphy of the words, the definitions, the definition I actually used, and maybe my little insights about each drawing. I think it would be fun, but I don’t know if there’s an audience…mostly because no one knows who I am and I never seem to get around to promoting myself correctly.

Inktober 2021 Day #24: EXTINCT. I spent a long time wracking my Brain trying to come up with a good idea for this one, but I just couldn’t come up with something clever or unique. So, when that happens, I resort to being a bit more obvious in my interpretation of the prompt, and just have PMD sticking a plunger on something. This one did indulge my love of details and working on how to ink textures, which was fun, though tedious. I actually haven’t drawn many dinosaurs, now that I think of it, which is kind of weird considering how much I loved them as a kid. I loved reading books about dinosaurs, though I was mostly interested in the artists’ renderings of them. I loved the National Geographic-type dinosaur shows whenever they aired. I had tons of toy dinosaurs, I did reports on dinosaurs (including one involving a big display piece with some rocks and sand and several clay dinosaurs I made). I was also always a big fan of Bill Watterson’s dinosaur renditions in Calvin and Hobbes (which were somewhat frequent, or at least I remember a lot of them). At the end of the day, this wasn’t a super creative take on ”extinct”, but I had fun.

Inktober 2021 Day #25: SPLAT (backed chair). Okay, so, at first glance, this one is probably a “huh?” I was going to go with the more obvious this time around because I thought it would be fun: PMD smooshed up against a pane of glass, maybe with a squashed banana in one hand and an “oof” sign in the other. I wasn’t totally sold on that idea, so I decided to quickly look up the actual definition of “splat”. I learned something. A “splat” is “a piece of thin wood in the center of a chair back.” I did not know that, and I never would have guessed that. I googled some images and found some fancy chairs with ornate carvings, which made me decide to make a squid chair. I thought about it just being a relief type cut in the center of the chair, which would probably be more accurate for a true splat back chair, but this design was more fun. I was going to add a bunch of wood grain texture to it, but thought it would get a bit too busy, and I couldn’t quite come up with a good flow for it.
I kinda want to make an actual squid chair now.

Inktober 2021 Day #26: CONNECT. I’m not much of a baseball guy, but this is one of the ideas that came to mind, and I thought it would be fun and a good excuse to practice illustrating motion and impact, so I went with it. Representing movement in a static medium is always challenging. There are numerous approaches to it dating back to Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” in the fine art world (and probably early, too, but that’s one of the more famous ones) all the way over to western comics and manga throughout their histories. I’m still trying to figure out how I like to handle it, but I lean towards some of the more manga-ish approaches. I still need to do more practicing and refining, though, because I’m not quite happy with it.

Inktober 2021 Day #27: SPARK. First page of a new sketchbook! This one amuses me. This was supposed to be a “simple” idea, but it wound up taking me well over 3 hours. I thought about PMD using a flint and steel, or having electric super powers. Then I thought about tasers for some reason. They make “tactical” taser flashlights now, and this is somewhat based off of one of those. You never know when you might have a clogged toilet and/or be attacked in the bathroom…

Inktober 2021 Day #28: Crispy. Yet another prompt I struggled with an idea for, so I turned to Googling the definition. That lead to me thinking about a “crisp” Autumn day, and walking through crunchy leaves, which could also be described as “crispy”. So, that’s what I went with. Stylistically I was thinking of Bill Watterson a bit, as I love the way he renders nature, especially when he’s using water colors. I’m a far cry from him, of course, but I like trying to learn from his work.

Inktober Day #29: PATCH. I have thought about turning some of my shirt designs, and particularly some PMD images, into patches. I don’t know that there’s a market for such things (especially when no one knows who I am), and I just haven’t looked into it yet. At some point I probably will.
This image was full of textures for me to explore, which was fun. I don’t know how well they read or how happy I am with them. There are parts that I like and parts that I thought would have turned out better. I’m not sure the “patchy” quality comes across as well as I envisioned it. It was still fun, though. Two prompts left to go…

Inktober 2021 Day #30: SLITHER. Okay, this one might be a bit out there. It certainly wasn’t the direction I thought I was going to go in. My original ideas had something to do with PMD performing some snake-style kung fu or something. I wasn’t super into it, so I turned to Google. The vast majority of the image results I got just from “slither” were art and screen shots from the mobile game Slither.IO, which I’ve played but not much and haven’t even really thought about in years. The game came out in early 2016, and that summer, one of our sons landed in the ER with a serious medical issue (the first, but not last time). While he was dealing with the pain of what was going on, and stuck full of tubes and wires, we played this game together on my phone. A lot. It helped take his mind off what was going on, and it certainly helped distract me from my worries, too. This is my twist on the game’s logo. This one took my mind somewhere I was not expecting.

Inktober 2021 Day #31: RISK. So, in a lot of my PMD illustrations, he seems to have a penchant for putting plungers on things…fair warning…

There you have it, Inktober 2021 through the lens of PMD. Now that this is checked off my list, I still have a timelapse video of this year’s Cat Dragon illustration for my wife to finish editing, I have some sewing projects to get to, there’s IPMDT in need of some new panels, I want to finish ITB, there’s a few book ideas, video games, maybe shirts/stickers/patches…same old story from me. Oh, yeah. It’s probably time to get an xmas card started, too…