Inktober & Daily Practice

on Lettering  

Sometimes it’s hard to make time to draw, or to come up with new ideas. I seem to go through it in cycles – after a period of being super productive, I’ll fall back into a lull and not feel like picking up a pencil or brush. There’s nothing wrong with taking breaks and recharging of course, but it’s easy for me to fall out of the habit of daily practice, and the longer I leave it the harder it is to get back into the swing of things again.

I love the idea of month-long challenges like Inktober, but I’ve never really made it longer than a couple of weeks before. This time I was really determined to see things through to the end, so I made things simple by choosing some parameters:

  • Each day, I’d draw the number for that day
  • Keeping the same style throughout
  • The same tools: mechanical pencil + eraser, a felt tip pen, broad calligraphy felt tip pen and a white pen
  • A general botanical theme to make each number interesting

At first I was going to do them all on sticky notes, but after the first one I realised I’d need far more space to get the level of detail that I wanted!

For most days, I’d pencil in and then ink the day’s number in the evening, then photograph and post to Twitter and Instagram Stories the next morning. Some days were more rushed than others, some days were skipped and then caught up on the following day – you can see the variation in style and quality throughout. I’m not sure if I necessarily improved the quality throughout the month, but I’m certainly a lot faster and can draw numbers much more easily!

Why did I make it through to the end this time and never before? Here’s some advice for my future-self in the next Inktober, or anyone else doing a daily challenge:

  • Choose some extra constraints – it’ll mean taking some of the thinking work out of the equation each day, and that’s often the biggest block to getting started.
  • Stick to a theme – whether it’s style, tools, or both. Again it will mean less thinking in the moment, and also means you have a cohesive series at the end of it, which always looks more impressive as a whole than individual pieces.
  • Set aside the time – even with all the planning, you still need time to do the work. You can find the time if you want it to be a priority.
  • Keep the tools simple – I used simple pencils and pens with a sketchbook that I could easily carry around with me as needed, perfect for drawing on the couch. Not having to worry about setting up paint or inks or having to sit at a desk meant less excuses.
  • You don’t have to publish everything you make – the point is making it, not showing it to the world. If you want to then that’s fine; if not then that’s okay too! I decided not to post each day on Instagram in case it felt too repetitive, so mainly posted on Twitter and Stories.

Overall, the main thing is to set yourself up for success (which I see used often in dog training videos but is equally relevant to humans). Choosing something really complex and outside your skill level is only going to cause frustration and give yourself an excuse to admit defeat. For me this time, the challenge was to get into a habit of creating something every day, and seeing it through to the end. That plus tackling skills I’m still improving (lettering, numbers and illustration) had enough to make it difficult and interesting, but without setting myself up for failure.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for Inktober to roll around again – there always seems to be one going, or you can just decide on your own challenge!

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