Inktober 2017 Half Marathon Challenge: Experience and Lessons Learnt

If you follow me on Instagram (@asilhassanrashid), or if you read my last post, then you know that I attempted my first Inktober challenge ever this year, the challenge being to draw a drawing every day in pen or ink for 31 days in October and post them on social media platforms like Instagram (#inktober2017). Indeed, it was my first time  using pen as a medium. You can also use watercolors, markers etc as long as pen or ink are the base medium. Of course, I only managed to do the half marathon challenge (16 drawings in 31 days, so roughly a drawing every other day). After all, I am a mom who works from home. But hopefully, next year I will be able to do the entire challenge.

The experience was definitely challenging but also rewarding because it forced me to step out of comfort zone (my comfort zone at the time being strictly acrylics). The other challenge was actually finding the time to do those drawings. I would spend hours on a single sketch wanting it to look perfect (completely ignoring the whole point of Inktober which is just to get you in the habit of drawing in pen and posting it online, regardless of the quality of the artwork. I doubt Jake Parker, the guy behind the Inktober initiative, intended for us to spend the whole day on one sketch.

So what have I learnt from taking on this challenge? I’ve learnt that something as seemingly hard as drawing in pen (there’s no erasing your mistakes with this medium) can actually turn out to be a useful learning curve.  If you apply yourself to  anything it stands to reason that you will get better with time. In the beginning, I treated it like a job. I’m not going to lie, most days it felt like a chore, but eventually as I got into it, I started looking forward to that time of day when I could sit down with my pen and sketchbook and start drawing or scanning my Instagram feed for inspiration or reference images. So approaching this whole challenge like it was a task to be completed was key for someone like me who is learning a new skill and therefore, needs an inordinate amount of self-discipline and commitment to see it through.

I’ve learnt that tutorials are your best friends when it comes to learning new techniques, and that there is no shame in using reference images (which I did, quite a lot), or in sketching with a pencil first and then going over it in pen, adding the details.

I’ve also learnt that I actually love urban sketching which is the art of drawing on location, similar to plein air but the focus is more on the urban environment. I love houses, in general (I think in another life I might’ve been an architect) and I follow quite a few architectural and home decor design accounts on Instagram so this is right up my alley. Urban sketching, however, is more of a science than an artform, what with all the different types of perspectives, dimensions and shading involved.

I’ve learnt that while you might not be able to erase mistakes made in pen or ink, you can easily incorporate them as detailing. One of my favorite things to do when I’m going over a pencil sketch in pen is to start adding the details that lend so much character to the drawing. Of course, I tend to go overboard with my detailing sometimes. Rookie mistake. Less is more, sometimes.

I’ve learnt that you can express light and shadow, contrast and even different textures (such as brick, glass, wood, stone etc) with just a few squiggles of your pen. You can render life and movement and ambiance in a scene without color, with just a few flicks of your black pen.

I’ve also discovered that a huge benefit of posting your artwork on social media is the community of great artists you connect to who comprise a wonderful network of support and encouragement for someone just starting out on their art journey.

And finally, I’ve learnt that art is not so much about talent but about practice and perseverance, you can teach yourself just about any skill if you put your mind to it. And frankly, that might be the best thing I’ve ever learnt.

After I completed the Inktober challenge, I decided to continue sketching in pen, focusing primarily on improving my urban sketching skills, by doing two urban sketches a week (either from tutorials, reference images or on location) and posting them on an upcoming urban sketching series. I’m planning to add watercolors to my sketches soon, once I learn to use them (they’re a bit daunting, but then again, I thought drawing in pen was difficult and now I’m getting better at it everyday).

Below, I’ve collated all 16 of my Inktober 2017 half marathon challenge so they’re easier to view. All drawings were sketched in pencil first and then with a 0.4 or 0.7 black pen. There were days when I used the prompt list but mostly, I just drew what I wanted. I used reference images for most of them and a few were done from my imagination. Enjoy!

Day 1: Seashells. Drawn from a tutorial by Alphonso Dunn
Day 2: Cottage. Tutorial by Alphonso Dunn
Day 3: Poison. I used the prompt for that day (Poison) and I drew this from my imagination. I also really wanted to use the word “apothecary”, a word I really love, maybe because it gives me some serious Shakespeare vibes.
Day 4: Underwater. Again, I used the prompt which conjured up images of all the lovely creatures I would like to see underwater when I’m diving.
Day 5: Long. I used the prompt and decided to draw a long and winding road in honor of the last verse of a Robert Frost poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
Day 6: Porch with a view. Drawn from a reference image found on an Instagram account (@jodie.thedesigntwins) reposted from @tracey.heibert
Day 7: Big, fat, juicy burger. Another prompt drawing, the prompt for that day being “Fat”
Day 8: Study of flowers. All these flowers (except for the calla lillies) grow in my garden. So I thought I’d make a study of them. Calla Lilly drawn from a tutorial by Alphonso Dunn 
Day 9: Mountain Landscape. Drawn from a tutorial by Ken 123films 
Day 10: Freiburg High Street. My sister-in-law who just moved to this small university town, Freiburg, Germany was raving about it so I had to draw it. I can’t find the reference image. However, I did this drawing before I learnt all about perspectives so naturally my dimensions are all off that it doesn’t resemble the reference image anyways.
Day 11: River scene. Drawn using Alphonso Dunn’s tutorial 
Day 12: Cedar shake house in Martha’s Vineyard. Reference image from Instagram @housepitalitydesigns  
Day 13: Early morning silence. This has to be my favorite Inktober sketch. Reference image was from a picture on Windows Spotlight images of a boat and its reflection in Ski, Asherhus, Fylk, Norway.
Day 14: Mountains at night.
Day 15: Doodles
Day 16: Bicycle in Florence. Drawn from a tutorial by Will Kemp Art School

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