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Inktober 2019: Challenge veterans share their secrets of success

(Image credit: Daria Golab)

Inktober is almost upon us! 2019 is a landmark year: it's celebrating its 10th birthday. Not heard of it before? Inktober is an art challenge that asks participants to create an ink drawing every day for the month of October. The rules, however, are very much flexible. For example, some participants might just do a drawing every other day, or once a week for the month. 

Inktober started life in 2009, when Jake Parker decided he needed a challenge to help him improve his Japanese brush pen technique. Since then it has exploded in popularity, and become a true community event.

"I think it's popular because you can tailor the challenge to your needs as an artist and make it as simple or as challenging as you want it to be," says Parker. To help you get the best from this year's event, we asked some regular challenge participants for their advice on smashing Inktober – read on to find out what they had to say. 

For practical techniques, you might also want to take a look at our article on getting started with ink drawing or our roundup of how to draw tutorials. And if your pencil case is looking depleted, check out our guide to the best pens for artists.

01. Use a prompt list

This year's inspiration list

This year's inspiration list

(Image credit: Jake Parker)

Whether you choose to follow the official prompt list (above) or make up your own, illustrator Cathrine Sandmæl thinks it can be helpful to have a plan of some kind. "If you are set on finishing all the days I would recommend making a prompt list with suggestions of things you can draw, a theme or anything that gives you some idea of what you can draw every day," she says. 

Artist Daria Golab echoes her sentiments. "Get to know the list of prompts before you start, if you follow one, or come up with enough of your own subjects or ideas to always have something to fall back to if your creativity is low some days."

02. Make a schedule

Drawings can take 2-4 hours, so you need to block out that time

Drawings can take 2-4 hours, so you need to block out that time

(Image credit: Derek Laufman)

Derek Laufman is an Inktober veteran who has completed 31 drawings each year since he discovered the challenge in 2014. His top tip? Plan ahead. "When I know October/Inktober is approaching I start to mentally prepare myself, but also set aside time in my schedule," he points out. "These drawings take anywhere from two to four hours, which is a big chunk of my work day. So I make sure that I'm setting aside a designated time each day to make it happen."

03. Don't stress about missing a day

Don't forget that Inktober is primarily about challenging yourself and having fun

Don't forget that Inktober is primarily about challenging yourself and having fun

(Image credit: Cathrine Sandmæl)

Got late stuck at work or ended up on an impromptu day trip without your pens? Don't worry. "I see every year see people who feel stressed out when they think about doing a drawing everyday for 31 days," says Sandmæl. "To them I would say that the most important thing is to have fun and don’t stress out if you miss a day or two."

Sandmæl herself has never completed the challenge 100 per cent, but has still got plenty of value from it. "I always end up with a collection of drawings I feel proud of," she continues. "I've even gotten some client work because of them, so it’s never a waste to try!"

04. Be realistic

It's easy to get carried away with grand plans, but great artwork takes time, and realistically you're not going to be able to create a masterpiece each day. "Be honest with yourself how much time you’ll be able to spend on drawing each day," advises Golab. "Think how complicated you want your drawings to be according to the time you have."

05. Set up your workspace

Consider sketching out your ideas before October starts

Consider sketching out your ideas before October starts

(Image credit: Jake Parker)

Founder Jake Parker is all about preparation. "Set your tools out and get your drawing area ready in advance," he says. "You don't want to waste creative time prepping your space." Parker also suggests getting started early – use September to look at other ink drawings for inspiration, and sketch out ideas, so that come October you can just focus on inking. 

06. Try something new 

In 2007, Daria Golab created digitally coloured versions of all her Intober drawings

In 2007, Daria Golab created digitally coloured versions of all her Intober drawings

(Image credit: Daria Goleb)

Whether you often work with ink or have fallen out of touch with traditional tools and are looking to reconnect, this is the time to push the boat out and be brave. "Inktober is the best moment for me to experiment, try different ways of inking and come up with some changes or additions to my style that help me evolve and push my skills forward," says Golab.

07. Adapt the rules to your needs

Cathrine Sandmæl tends to do just a few, more complete ink drawings over the period

Cathrine Sandmæl tends to do just a few, more complete ink drawings over the period

(Image credit: Alexa Pasztor)

While the 'official' challenge suggests completing an ink drawing each day, feel free to adapt the rules so you can get the most from the challenge personally. For example, illustrator and comic artist Alexa Pasztor tends to do just two or three artworks across the month. "If I'm going to sit down and do something on paper, I prefer to spend more time on it and make something with a more 'completed' feel to it than just a daily sketch," she says. 

08. Get involved on social media

If you get stuck then there's inspiration abound on the Inktober hashtag on Twitter and Instagram – plus plenty of people willing to offer help and advice. If you're comfortable sharing, don't forget to hashtag your work with #inktober and #inktober2019 so others can see it.

"The community aspect of it is a great motivation," says Golab. "Every year it feels like the most creative month, all over social media and even around my friends and colleagues who draw occasionally as a hobby. I absolutely can’t imagine October without Inktober."

What's more, as this will be Inktober's 10th anniversary, Parker is planning some special competitions and giveaways. Check out the Inktober website or follow the Inktober instagram account to make sure you don't miss them.

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