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Looking Back at InkTober 2018

November 23, 2018

I frequently work for days and weeks at a time in ink only. I have an early, childhood love of dip pens and inky fingers. I love working with the brush pen directly, and taking chances with bold brush lines. 

This year I was also getting ready to go to a sketching conference and wanted to demonstrate monochromatic ink wash while at the conference. I wanted to be in the groove when I hit the ground.

It seemed because of all these things that it would be useful and fun to participate in Inktober 2018.

I didn’t want to worry about prompts however, since I don’t enjoy them.

I knew I needed to start the project a few days early so that I would finish before I was traveling—I didn’t want the hassle of fitting a project sketch into a travel day.

I decided that I would use Sktchy App muse photos because I would be packing for the trip, running errands for the trip, and in general squeezing the project in during the late hours of the night when live models would be scarce. Relying on the Sktchy App muses seemed simpler than planning a trip to the zoo or mall every day for 30 days. In other circumstances, yes, but not in the actual October I faced, full of other deadlines and duties.

Whenever I take on a month long project I like to set up the criteria and scope of the project so that if daily installments are what’s necessary I have set things up to accomplish that.

For this project I also wanted to use paper and ink I had on hand. I was going to use Richeson Recycled Watercolor paper (11 x 15), but when I got a couple days into the project I wasn’t happy with the paper and grabbed Canson Watercolor Boards, Canson Illustration Board, and Blick 100 percent Cotton 140 lb. Hot Press Watercolor paper, depending on my desires and goals for a given day.  All of the papers I used after abandoning the Richeson Recycled were 9 x 12 inch.

Note: I used the Blick paper because I had a 9 x 12 inch block of it sitting on the drawing table corner. I had used it for testing and wasn’t fond of it for watercolor, but it was OK for ink wash and I wanted to use it up; and of course use paper I already had on hand. I finished the block during this project.

I also used a single piece of Cricut Chipboard (12 x 12 inches) and glued it to an 11 x 15 inch piece of Richeson Recycled Watercolor, on the second day of the project because I was still thinking all the pieces would be 11 x 15 inches.

I loved that piece so much that I have printed a copy of it to store in the project box. That original piece is about to be hung up on my wall with the rest of my gallery of characters who look down on me everyday as I work.

I should have realized on the second day of the project, when I set the Richeson Recycled aside and used the chipboard that I was unhappy with the primary paper selection—but I let things float for a couple more days.

Then at the same time I switched papers and page size I realized that I had really been doing the prompts after all, in my own fashion. I have listed the prompt in the caption for each of the items in the gallery. 

As for my exact intended interpretation of that prompt you will have to puzzle it out. Some are very “esoteric.” 

While all the pieces were sketched on a 9 x 12 inch sheet (after the first six entries) I didn’t always use the full 9 x 12 inch space, hence the different croppings which show up throughout the project. I used Nichiban Artist’s Masking Tape in the process to frame things while sketching.

My Project Process

Each day I looked over a selection of muse photos that I have stored in a queue for sketching. As the month progressed, I started to write some of the photos down for possible use later in the month. This helped me save time on days when I was really tight for time.

On the day, when I had time to sketch, I sat down, looked at the prompt (after about day 4 when I wasn’t just subconsciously doing the prompts after having spent so much time looking at the list before the project started), and selected an image to work from that suited what I was trying to convey.

I have to admit that throughout the month there are several Muses that I have sketched before. They are like “comfort food” for me. Sktchy users will recognize Rick for instance (I’ve done whole series of paintings of Rick). One of the things I think really helps if you are having a time crunch in a project, is to work with subjects that you really enjoy working with. I think on many days of this project that’s exactly what happened. And because I allowed myself those “comforts” I was able to complete pieces I liked, during the limited time I had available. I urge you to find your own “comfort” food for sketching.

My Sketching Process Was Simple

On almost all of the pieces I began with a direct brush sketch using the Pentel Pigment brush pen (with gray barrel; pen C in the first photo of the linked post).

Next I would add ink washes using a regular synthetic watercolor brush. I would use ink from the Pentel Dye-ink Brush pen (which is the blue capped pen in the third photo of that linked post), sumi ink, or FW Acrylic ink (for my colors).

On a few pieces I actually used a limited amount of watercolor. (It was my understanding that was acceptable in the “rules” of Inktober, but I was trying to keep that to a minimum.)

On some days, especially as I got further into the project I actually found that I was starting my direct brush sketch with a synthetic watercolor brush and diluted ink. An example of this is the dog in day 9’s piece. If you look closely you can see the light ink lines I used to “landmark” the features before going in with more layers of wash. These early lines of light ink I was often able to hide with other washes, but on all the papers I used for this project I found that they wouldn’t lift up or wash out, so if they were in visible areas I simply left them rather than try to overwork the paper or board.

A few of the sketches contain Montana Marker—30mm wide nib—as background or other colors. They are pens, which is sort of the point of InkTober, and Montana Marker “paint/ink” is not the main medium of the piece so I thought their use also fit within the rules of the project as stated by the founder.

Day 13 is a bit of a departure. It was a day I was stressed with work, and not really interested in doing the project. But at two weeks in, I’m committed. Past  history tells me that even significant bodily injury doesn’t keep me from a daily project once I commit.

I dabbled with being not-present. By that I mean I picked up a piece of copier bond paper and started to scribble the dog portrait that said to me “guarded.”

I immediately loved the very quick contour sketch I did of that dog. Without pause I corrected the ear height on the left, restated the muzzle, and refined the forward paw. (You can find the image in the gallery before the finished Day 13 image, so you can compare.)

Then I sat there and thought, “You really should do this as a finished piece.” But the sketch was too strenuous to cover with additional ink and other lines. I sat there and couldn’t let it go.

So I did what I often do when completing a more “polished” sketch for a client, I taped the warm-up sketch to the light box and placed a piece of watercolor paper over the warm up sketch. I quickly redrew the contours I wanted to work with in the final drawing onto the watercolor paper.

Because I worked fast I feel that the final sketch for day 13 retains some of the warm-up sketch’s spontaneity, while benefiting from the clarity of the re-do. I have included both in the gallery so you can see the quick warm up sketch that I fell in love with. (Color in day 13 is watercolor.) 

I used this approach on day 22, but for totally different reasons.

I was again having a difficult work day, and decided to do a warm up sketch of the dog I’d selected for “expensive.” The point of the sketch would be an expensive bow-tie on the dog (represented by collaging an expensive bit of silk-screened Japanese paper.)

In this case I drew the original sketch in an 8 inch square journal I’d made with the old Gutenberg paper. My intention was to simply cut the page out. But I got really fussy on that sketch and I felt that if I added collage to it the effect would be lost. On that day I actually gingerly taped my journal page (with book dangling—I’m so grateful I make sturdy books!) to the light box, covered it with watercolor paper, and then sketched only the contours I wanted to work with in the final illustration.

I was happy with my choice.

In hindsight I wish I had also created the background with expensive silkscreened papers as I have an established habit of surrounding completed illustrations with collaged papers, but the day was done, the job was done. And on we go.

You can read about my approach for using collage papers in that way by using the category list on my blog to find “collage.” You can also sign up for my “By Design” class which is available any time. In that class there is a special section on my collage method from my 2011 Strathmore Visual Journaling class. This is the only place those lessons are still available. This design class is affordably priced and contains over seven hours of video demos and discussions about all aspects of page design.

So that’s how the project went. 

I felt great as I was working on it, even though it was a stressful and busy month. There are some pieces during this month that I really love. I do remain, however, a non-fan of prompts.

Using the Gallery

In the gallery below you can

  1. Click through it as you see it appearing on this page,
  2. OR you can click on the first image and the gallery will blow up into a different format. Note, if you click on the first image you have to click a second time on the black background to have the full gallery appear below the main image.

I recommend option 2.

When the gallery blows up you’ll see a larger image version of each slide. Additionally at the bottom left you will see an arrow you can hit to play the gallery as a slide show (I’d skip that); an “i” which if you click will give you captions (I recommend this) and a speech bubble. (The last is for leaving comments.)

There will also be a row of images at the bottom that you can navigate with. If you click on the first image, you’ll need to click onthe black background that appears, before you get the whole gallery list to appear below. Explore.

Some of my InkTober pieces have made it onto or will be added to my Instagram account but they are cropped because of the square format there. That offers a different look at what I was doing on the day.

The official prompt list for 2018.

Image 33 of 33

    • Lynn
    • November 24, 2018

    Roz, these are delightful. Thank you for sharing your process. It helps to understand the steps involved (and gives us uptight perfectionists the reminder that PROCESS is what gets one to the end).
    /Lynn of the blue hair from SketchKon.

    1. Reply

      Lynn it’s good to let go of perfection, it’s how you get 30 pieces finished in a box. Working and really making something sparkle is great too, but it’s a different attitude. It’s good to have a balance.

    • Susan
    • November 25, 2018

    This is a fantastic gallery of Sktchy portraits. There is so much to learn from looking at each of them. I’ve scrolled through them several times and will do again. Not to mention the added fun of puzzling out the relationship between the sketch and the prompt. Thanks for sharing them and your process.

    1. Reply

      So glad you enjoyed them Susan.

    • Elizabeth
    • November 30, 2018

    I participated in Inktober for the first time this year, after several years of thinking about it and a couple years aborted starts. I, too, am not a fan of prompts, but wound up using them. Mine were personalized – by the 10 year old boy across the street. He likes drawing in pen, I told him about Inktober, so we agreed to make a list for each other. He made a pretty good list, I had fun, learned a few things. I limited myself to ballpoint pen, and found it wasn’t as limiting as I expected.

  1. Reply

    I greatly love your Inktober drawings, thank you for posting them. There’s so much there to think about!

    1. Reply

      So glad you enjoyed them! It’s good to hear that. I had a lot of fun.

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