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Inktober makes its mark in 2019

Inktober brings kudos and criticism to artists’ daily work.
Photo: Rigby Guerrero · The Sentry

The drawing challenge Inktober transforms the online art scene as amateurs and professionals alike commit to creating one inked piece a day. Inktober has become an inclusive, welcoming event where artists of every medium, experience level, and background come together to uphold each other’s work and strengthen their skills.  

The premise of Inktober is simple. Creator Jake Parker publishes a list of one-word prompts at the beginning of October, and participants create an ink illustration every day for the given word. Parker explains on the Inktober site that he started the challenge to practice his own inking skills. The challenge garnered global attention with the hashtag “Inktober” on Instagram that boasted over 15.4 million posts with this year’s tag “Inktober 2019” currently at 2.9 million posts.  

The challenge extends over multiple platforms, including Tumblr, Twitter, DeviantArt, and Facebook. It might be Jake Parker’s easygoing rules that draw a wide range of artists to participate. Despite the name Inktober, Parker welcomes all art mediums when participating in the challenge. The Inktober FAQ site details, “While it’s suggested to use real ink, keep things black and white, and use the official prompt list, the spirit of the challenge is very open to people being creative in what tools they use, how they use them, and what they create.”  

Although the rules are lax, participants feel some pressure to draw every prompt and publish their work on the same day. Submissions by artists are seen by other artists, and participants can compare their progress to others in real time. Full-time artists make use of the challenge every day, with some publishing two or three drawings per prompt.  

 Small artists benefit from following as many prompts as possible to maximize the use of the tag. While gaining exposure as a budding artist is important, the expectation to participate becomes overwhelming. Some artists can become cruel, superficially knocking others’ work for not following the prompts, posting prompts late, or not using ink. This attitude is generally frowned upon by the community.  

Jake Parker called out elitist artists in a recent Instagram post. “It’s not a contest to see who the best artist is. It’s a challenge to see how much you can improve your art in a month, and to be inspired or help others do the same.” There’s a sense of mutual respect and support between those who participate. This welcoming, open-minded attitude has kept many returning to the challenge each year for a decade now. 

While no other challenge exceeds Inktober in popularity, artists have created their own prompt lists following the Inktober model. Challenges include Witchtober, Monstober, and Goretober. There are no official creators of these challenges, and it’s easy to find multiple variants of them.  

Challenges aren’t restricted to October either. MerMay, created in 2016 by Tom Bancroft, is the most popular challenge that takes place outside of October. These challenges aren’t viewed as copycats of the original Inktober; instead, the online art community upholds them as individualized. Each challenge has similarly lax rules and stresses the importance of participating for self-betterment. 

At its core, Inktober appears to be an effort to push artists to better their skills. Its inclusiveness is essential to its appeal, so it follows artists who begin putting their own spins on the challenge itself. 

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