OCTOBER, ONE of the more creative times of the year. We find ourselves entranced by the eye-catching Halloween makeup, the riveting costume designs, and the spooky illustrations posted on social media. This is a time in which boundaries in creativity do not exist. Say hello to Inktober, an art challenge that encourages both artists and non-artists to draw one ink piece per day for the entire month of October. A once simple concept that has now turned into a global trend, Inktober is more than a quirky challenge, as it has the potential to free the mind from its normally constrictive bubble.
Started in 2009 by animator and illustrator Jake Parker, Inktober was created as a part of his personal goal to improve design skills with a Japanese brush pen and foster more positive drawing habits. As much as Parker wanted to acquaint himself with the medium, he also realized that he would quit instantly if using the brush pen became too difficult or boring. In an interview with *The Yonsei Annals*, he commented, “I knew that if I created a challenge and publicly announced it, I would be forced to practice using the pen.”
The concept itself is very simple: the participant must draw one ink drawing every day for the entire month of October, each drawing differing from the other. They must then upload the piece on social media with the hashtag #inktober. While the rules seem explicit, the challenge allows various exceptions. For example, the almost decade-old challenge has diversified in its use of mediums. Many have added their own flairs to the ink artwork, incorporating watercolors and ink washes; some have even gone digital! Also, while the rules state that the artist must post a drawing every day, it is possible to participate only halfway through the month.
All in all, the challenge encourages people to set a goal that is attainable. If posting every day feels too burdensome, it is acceptable to take part in the challenge at your own pace. However, Parker recommends participants to be as consistent as possible with their uploads, as he believes that can lead many to achieve the same goal that he himself had set when creating Inktober: to improve personal skills and develop better drawing habits.
Inktober hardships and breakthroughs
Inktober is easier said than done. In practice, creating 31 drawings for 31 days generates various obstacles and frustrations along the way. For one, illustrating an original piece every day is no easy feat, and many may face artist’s block*. Moreover, with so many artists participating and uploading their works on social media for everyone to see, some may feel too intimidated to post their work in fear of possible criticism and judgement.
Yet, Inktober leads to a tremendous improvement in drawing skills for those who persevere.The frustration that comes with artist’s block pushes participants to search for other perspectives, leading to a better flow of creativity. Furthermore, Inktober mainly focuses on a love for art and an incentive to improve. This reassures participants that there is no such thing as a failed work of art, thus allowing both professionals and amateurs to not only have fun with the challenge but also give more meaning to the art they create.
When asked about the general effect this challenge has had on its participants, Jake Parker replied that many people have gotten better at drawing. He also recalls having met hundreds of people who decided to draw again thanks to Inktober. “They had quit drawing for years and the challenge had got them excited about creating again,” he commented.
Going social with Inktober
Social media has played a considerable role in propelling Inktober to popularity. Firstly, it has proven to be the perfect motivator to develop consistent drawing habits. Parker explained, “Knowing that people would be waiting for me to post my drawings every day made me want to start the challenge.” Designer and illustrator Yang Seong-yeol, better known as YangBro on Instagram, also stated, “Posting on social media didn’t help improve my skills; it helped me develop a habit of drawing. As I began to gain more followers who wanted to see more of my works, I ended up drawing more frequently. It was only natural that my skills improved.”
Hashtags have become a game changer because people can now simply search for a specific keyword and be introduced to various new artists. The hashtag #inktober has already garnered more than seven million posts on Instagram, facilitating wider exposure for a diverse range of skill sets and encouraging even casual onlookers to try the challenge. With the low entry barrier, the challenge becomes an open outlet for people to freely express themselves.
What can Inktober do for *you*?
Inktober is more than a mere art trend. It is an instrument for people to escape from the pressures of society and ultimately become comfortable enough to find their unique voice. Korea is notorious for being driven by pressure, with a 2018 survey** by the Korea Institute of Health and Social Affairs highlighting how, out of 7,000 people, more than 90% responded they felt stress on a daily basis. Additionally, C. Harrison Kim, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii, stated in an interview with *Quartz* that Korean society is framed by order and a need to meet high expectations, which results in heightened pressure on the individual.
Art can become an escape route to relieve such burdens. In a form better known as art therapy, art stimulates creativity to produce therapeutic effects. For example, in recent years, Korean adults have used coloring books as a way to relieve stress. According to Marygrace Berberian, a certified art therapist, coloring has the potential to bring out mindfulness and alleviate anxiety.
The phrases *so-hwak-haeng****—a small but certain happiness—and meaning-out**** are currently trending in Korea, which underscores how members of the current generation are more aware of their constrictive society and are trying to break free from it by developing their inner selves. Inktober, and art in general, have been able to aid this endeavor as they provide an outlet for people to convey any repressed feelings or thoughts. Yang agrees that art can indeed serve as a means of escape. “Art allows me to express my thoughts to the world,” he explains. “It is through my drawings that I am able to portray the ideas that have been stuck with me and make that frustrated feeling go away.”
Conclusively, challenges like Inktober give people the opportunity to create what they wish and share them with others. It can become a safe route for any voice to be heard and a way for people to interact with society while they discover and better their inner selves.
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For people who want to partake in this challenge, Jake Parker has a few words of advice:
“Repeat this while you draw: ‘Finished, not perfect.’ Your drawing doesn’t have to be beautiful, inspired, or creative. It just has to exist. Every time you finish a drawing, you not only learn something about your art, but you also get a sense of accomplishment that gives you a small high and carries you through your next drawing. At the end of the month you’ll want to look back and see 31 drawings, not 31 sheets of empty paper.”
So, pick up a pen, create an ink drawing, and post it online with pride and happiness. There is your *so-hwak-haeng*, your means of escape. As Parker encourages, “go make something beautiful,” and motivate yourself to create a magnificent legacy online.
*Artist’s block: A condition in which the artist is hindered from producing any new work due to a slowdown in creativity
****So-hwak-haeng*: An abbreviated term for the Korean phrase “소소하지만 확실한 행복”
****Meaning-out: A new trend to actively express one’s political and social views through acts of consumption, which are unreservedly posted on social media