In October 2009, illustrator Jake Parker created an annual challenge for artists called Inktober. The event was primarily a challenge to himself to improve his own inking skills and to develop positive and ongoing drawing habits. The project also served as a way to hold himself accountable to fulfill the task, as he reached out to others and encouraged them to do the same.
According to the Washington Post, Inktober didn’t catch on right away. It was a simple idea that grew over time. The event has since become international where all kinds of artists from illustrators to graphic designers challenge themselves to create 31 new ink drawings in 31 days. Today, proof of those artists’ efforts can be found all over social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.
Inktober is a pretty big deal in Colorado’s illustrator and graphic artist scene. That is why we asked five Colorado-based artists to take the time to answer some questions about their involvement in Inktober 2015. Oi Bob Parks, James McFarland, Thea Hunt, Zak Kinsella and Lonnie Allen stepped up to explain what brings them to Inktober. From career advancement and networking to practicing certain skills, these artists explain what the event means to them and their communities.
“Fight Club” spoof by Oi Bob Parks for Inktober
A few years ago, self-described “pencil zombie” Oi Bob Parks began noticing artists on Instagram using the #Inktober hashtag. Later the hashtag began appearing on his Facebook and Tumblr. It wasn’t until this year that Parks began participating in the event.
He explains that taking part in Inktober is a way for artists to show solidarity with each other.
In his social media feeds and in local gatherings, he has seen his artist friends adopt themes for their Inktober contributions. Some adopt horror or anime themes, while others choose to work in everything from realism to robots. “It gave me the idea to try posting things that I’ve never drawn before.” It’s definitely a challenge for me as I don’t often get the chance to draw every day,” he explains.
“I started blocking out chunks of time that would otherwise go to busy work or…zoning out, and I made sure I drew my Inktober for the day. It helped me realize that no matter how busy I thought I was with life, I still had time to draw.”
Parks is currently working on many projects in the Denver area, including a third volume of a series called “Dinopocolypse”, which is a collaborative effort coming from Colorado artist collective Red Team Go.
Inktober image by J. James McFarland
Boulder-based commercial illustrator, fine artist and graphic designer J. James McFarland explains that Inktober provides artists with a way to share their work and receive feedback. “Artists in the digital Era tend to be eager to share their work, but they are uncertain what is and what isn’t worth sharing. The practice of creating frenetic, fast-paced, generally unplanned art is immensely advantageous to this end.”
Inktober along with other events such as 30 Characters and 24-Hour Comics Day force artists to work quickly. Artists work at an “uncontrolled rate, and ultimately force the work to display patterns of strengths and weaknesses, relates McFarland. “It’s important because a community of artists absolutely must be able to strengthen each other through encouraging criticism. Holding your work to the regular exposure of peer feedback is a revolutionary tool for self growth.”
McFarland is very active in his communities. He has just finished a project with Aurora Rise, a Denver-based charity community that supports families of the victims of the 2012 Aurora Theater shooting. He also has ongoing comics projects, including “Maize”, “Mustang Tuesday Weekly”, and a 24-Hour Comic that will be published by Time Warp Comics in Boulder, Colorado.
Map of Veronlen by Thea Hunt
Denver-based sequential artist and illustrator Thea Hunt explains that Inktober for her is a way to connect with other artists both on and offline. She began participating in the event about three years ago. Hunt explains that the group event helps artists connect with other artists, even when they are spending most of their time working on their individual projects. “I think that since drawing is kind of a solitary thing most of the time, it’s fun to still be able to see what others come up with,” Hunt explains.
“For me, I’m a pretty shy person. I do a lot of my socializing through online groups. Inktober is a fun way for me to interact with other artists and see some interesting ideas on paper,” Hunt continues.
Hunt’s main mission with her work is to create good stories. She is currently working on a small comic project named “Amelia.” The story is about a girl who is separated from her family and then finds out she is protected by a forest god.
Self-Portrait by Zak Kinsella
Cartoonist and illustrator Zak Kinsella explains that Inktober is important because it fosters consistency, growth and improvement for artists. “Those things can be a hurdle for any kind of artist,” he says. “But, adding one drawing a day isn’t too overwhelming. It’s just enough of a challenge to not get in the way of your other work.”
Kinsella likes the way the month builds a sense of community, not just in Denver, but worldwide. “We can all put up a drawing everyday, explore the hashtag and find new people’s work we love. It’s a weird introvert’s way of making friends,” he said.
“We made an Inktoberists Facebook page for our Colorado group. It’s cool to see what people are working on without going to a convention or meetup. Between work, freelance and my own comics #Inktober provides a way for artists to shine and be social, even when they are swamped.”
Kinsella has two books he’s writing and drawing right now called “The Book of Daniel” and “Outré Veil.” He explains, “My philosophy is that comics should be fun – and not just whimsical, marshmallowy, no content kind of fun, but the kind that can explore any topic to it’s depths while retaining a sense of humor about it.”
Inktober Gender Bender Green Goblin by Lonnie M’F’ Allen
Graphic designer, writer and illustrator Lonnie Allen loves the way Inktober brings communities that wouldn’t necessarily know about each other together via social media hashtags. “Participating artists can easily look up #Inktober and see what other people are doing all over world. There’s the instant gratification of us simultaneously participating in something larger than us and also as individuals,” Allen said.
Allen is currently working on many projects, including a book that will be printed through Tinto Press, a Denver-based boutique publisher of graphic novels, sequential art and mini comics. The book will be available at the upcoming DINK Comic and Art Expo.