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There are some things that people seem convinced they can’t do – drawing and sketching is one of them. I’ve heard people proclaiming “I can’t draw”, “I have no talent”, etc, countless times, and this has got me thinking about what we call talent. Why should we consider something impossible, when it just takes effort and practice? I don’t believe that anyone can do anything (there’s hardly enough time after all), but it must be worth it to try if we really like something, even if we think that it’s not for us. The notion of talent is misleading. It makes us think that those who succeed do so because they have talent, a natural proclivity towards an activity that gives them an advantage, without them having to work hard. While the rest of us, who don’t have this elusive characteristic, shouldn’t even bother trying.
Maybe it would be better to change the narrative about these things, to think that effort and hard work lead to success while talent, if it exists, just offers a push in the right direction. While I was growing up people always told me I had talent, but no one ever mentioned that I needed to work and become better. I felt frustrated when what I was trying to do didn’t work out and I tended to abandon my endeavors instead of trying to improve my skills. That’s how I ended up rarely drawing or sketching after I finished school.
All this wordy introduction is because I wanted to talk about Inktober, in which I participated this past month. The artist Jake Parker created the Inktober challenge some years ago, aiming to help himself and other artists to improve their skills, making a drawing in ink every day during the month of October and posting it online using the #inktober hashtag. Every year there’s a different official prompt list, although it’s not compulsory to follow. It’s not even compulsory to draw every day, if you don’t have the time. The participants can decide to do a drawing per week, or every other day. Others choose to do Inktober in order to work on their personal projects, completely disregarding the official prompt list. In any case, the benefit from the challenge is that it offers motivation to the participants to commit to a goal and try to achieve it, while being part of a huge online community. The internet is full of Inktober creations and you can find them either in the official hashtag or on the official Inktober Instagram account.
Personally, I made the decision to do it because I had the time to dedicate for drawing every day, since I’m not working at the moment. I won’t say that it’s easy or that anyone can do it. If I was working full-time and on top of that had to take care of all the other every day tasks, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. That’s also the reason why I don’t yet want to commit to doing the challenge next year, because I don’t know how much time I will have then.
I started preparing before September was through and I dedicated some time to think what I wanted to achieve with Inktober, to find the notebook that would house my sketches, and to devise my list. I didn’t follow the official list, apart from a few specific prompts, because I wanted to focus on doodling and experiment with designs from a book I have, called Zendala.
I didn’t know if I would manage to complete the challenge or what I would gain from it, but I’m very happy and proud to say that I did it. It taught me a lot about my skills, it gave me ideas and motivation to work on them, it boosted my self-esteem and my creativity. It needed more time every day than I had in mind before starting the challenge – this is typical, I tend to underestimate the time I will need to do something creative, because I can see the end result so clearly in my mind and think it’s simpler than it actually is. I would start my day with Inktober work, just to be sure that I would have time to finish my design, it became my priority for the month.
I needed discipline and persistence to do this every day, even when I wasn’t happy with my designs. The challenge’s structure helped a lot, the fact that I had my list and had decided beforehand on what I would draw each day. And even if a design didn’t work out the way I had envisaged it, I always learned something new.
The sense of community really helped as well. Watching others do the challenge was great since on the one hand I didn’t feel alone and on the other I saw many different art styles and made new contacts (mainly on Instagram). Creativity that is shared is like a renewable energy source and social media are full of ideas (though we should always be careful and respectful towards other people’s work).
Finally, and also really importantly, I used my supplies. I can imagine this happens to most of us, we like buying new things, craft supplies, art supplies, etc, because we think that along with the object we buy the time to use it or creative inspiration. That’s how our drawers and cupboards get full, but our pages remain blank. Inktober proved to be the perfect opportunity for me to rummage through my supplies to see what I needed for each day’s design. I used mainly fineliners, gel pens and markers, some of which I had barely touched in months. Now I don’t feel bad anymore for hoarding supplies and not using them.
The month of the challenge may be over now, but that doesn’t mean that I will forget my designs. I have the choice to open my notebook again, to evaluate, evolve and improve my sketches and patterns. The most important thing is that I started something, I wasn’t afraid of the blank page and lack of practice and now I have a notebook with 31 designs – some pretty, some failed, some better than I expected, some worse, but all of them complete. A motto that has really helped me with my creative endeavors is “done is better than perfect”. True perfection does not exist and we always learn new things and improve our skills. If I waited for my sketches, videos, photos, and texts to be perfect, I would never try anything new and I would not share my creations with the world. Gradually I’m learning to ignore the voices in my head saying that what I do isn’t good enough. It will be better next time. And all the next times that are to come.
Also, I have many photos and videos from my everyday process in my Instagram highlights.
Finally, I made flipthrough videos for every week of the challenge, showing my designs and sharing my thoughts, you can see all of them in this playlist.