As of November 16, 2023, I finally finished Inktober 2023…only two weeks behind schedule this year. I found this year to be much more challenging, and I think it’s because I’ve been doing Inktober 52 all year long for the first time. I can’t quite classify it as burnout, but definitely a strain on the creative faculties. I struggled with ideas for many of the prompts this year, but in the end, I always managed to come up with something that met my general, self-imposed guidelines: it has to feature Plunger Monkey or something from his universe (the PMDverse?), the interpretation should be non-literal, if it can’t be non-literal it should be weird and/or have a plunger on it, and it should also reference something from my life or some creative influence as much as possible.
Each year I subconsciously try to out-do myself. After all, the whole reason for the exercise is to improve one’s skills, so I do my best to push my current limits. I don’t shy away from technically challenging images, whether that involves anatomy, perspective, textures, lighting, etc. The only way to get better at something is to DO that something. A lot. Looking back at the last several years’ of Inktoberings (three years of which you can own in the form of my first art book “Inklings”…the holidays are coming, you know. Not subtle hint, not subtle hint…), I am able to see improvement. That’s a vital thing for an artist, or anyone in a creative field. You don’t want to be stagnant, you want to get better. When you focus on the current project, your current skills fully on display, it’s difficult not to see just the flaws, the mistakes, the things you want to do better. It’s frustrating, demoralizing, and depressing. I really believe it is the reason so many creative people wind up abusing drugs and alcohol. You are constantly holding a mirror up to yourself and your abilities, and if you are only looking at right now, you see yourself coming up short. Being able to look back at older work, you can see your progress, and it takes the edge off that “I’m not good enough” feeling.
Anyway, I’m not posting this in order to get philosophical, this is about the month of October 2023 in review (and maybe some talk of what’s next at the end)!
There you have it, 31 new pen and ink illustrations starring Plunger Monkey. As I mentioned before, I collected the first three years of my PMD/Inktober creative adventures in a 200+ page book that I brilliantly titled “Inklings” (why yes, I did just link to my book again. I wouldn’t want to burden anyone with the hardship of scrolling all the way back to the top of the page when they realize just how much they actually need a copy of “Inklings”…). I’m already contemplating volume 2. In fact, due to my doing Inktober 52 this year, I already have amassed more new illustrations than were in volume 1. I think the first installment was a good size, though the page count (and full color printing inside) definitely forced me to have a higher cover price than I would have liked. As of right now, I haven’t decided how to handle everything, whether volume 2 will just collect the regular Inktoberings and keep the Inktober 52 illustrations for their own separate volume, or if I’ll just mash everything together. One thing I do know is that I set myself up for a big challenge going forward. It took me a year or more to design unique fonts, paper textures, and other embellishments, as well as lay the whole thing out. I think the whole process could be slightly faster the second time around, since I already have some of the glitches and whatnot figured out and I have kept a document of my musing for each prompt throughout (though I’ll have to relearn how to use Affinity Publisher, since not only have I forgotten, but also they have since released a new version), but the fonts and additional art will eat up a lot of time.
Speaking of time, that is a constant dilemma for me. As I have said often, I have lists and lists of ideas and specific projects I want to work on. It’s very easy for me to get sidetracked, too. That said, I think I have produced more art this year than I ever have in any given year, and perhaps more than a few of my lighter years combined. That’s a great feeling. However, that ideas/projects list is a hydra: I scratch one item off, but add two or three more. Not a bad problem to have, I suppose. I haven’t forgotten the years of being “stuck”, of fighting depression and suffering from what appeared to be an insurmountable creative block.
So, what’s next? Well, in no particular order (another challenge of mine is prioritizing projects), I need to catch up on Inktober 52 prompts that I missed during regular Inktober. See, the prompts overlap, so whatever Inktober 52 prompt was released on a given Thursday that month was the same as the regular Inktober prompt. But, me being me and thinking about the future volumes of Inklings, I decided I had to take a second crack at those prompts. I have a t-shirt design that got kicked to the back burner on October 1st that I need to finish in short order (in time for the holidays, hopefully). It’s time to start thinking about the annual xmas card, which also means the envelope art. I also intended to look into some Amazon advertising for Inklings coming into the holidays, but I was so obsessed with trying to stay as on top of Inktober as I could that I sort of forgot about all that and I haven’t had the bandwidth to look into what’s involved. There’s also several sewing projects I’d like to sit down and figure out, and of course make. I devote a lot of brain energy to such things (it will literally keep me up at night sometimes), but I also get a little paralyzed about sitting down and actually cutting fabric. Materials are expensive, and it doesn’t generate any money. I have made a ton of iterations of bags and wool coats, and every time I come up with a better idea afterwards. I guess I fear that I’ll spend time, material, and money to make another thing and then not be entirely happy with it at the end again. I also know that some of my sewing projects have taken an excessive amount of time to complete. I don’t work from patterns, I make up my own designs. I don’t have a dress form or whatever it’s called to drape fabric for coats. In reality, I have probably sewn enough to be able to complete some of my ideas relatively quickly, but I don’t want to get started and get so sucked in that a month or more goes by without my having done any drawing projects.
Finally (maybe), I have decided I really want to work on my graphic novel ideas. I have been sitting on them for a very long time (one of them for over two decades, one of them has already been written and thumbnailed but needs updates and revisions), avoiding them because I haven’t felt like I was skilled enough to handle them. I still don’t think I am, but I’m not getting any younger. Earlier this year, before I got sidetracked on another project, I decided to take my seemingly-abandoned webcomic “It’s Plunger Monkey Dynamo Time” and convert it and finish it as a graphic novel. I decided to ease my way into it after setting up the document in Clip Studio by drawing a cover idea I had, which would allow me to continue to work out some of the kinks in my work flow and process. It sits unfinished, waiting, like so many of my ideas. I had originally hoped to complete that cover and start working on the book in earnest before the end of this year, but at this point that won’t happen until the beginning of next year.
Alright, if you’ve read all this, you deserve a prize or something. Might I suggest getting yourself a copy of “Inklings”?