A Year of Inktober

In late 2017 I decided, on a whim, to put a little bit of effort into a trend of “Inktober“.

Instead of making what for me is a full size piece (8.5″ x 11”), I tried to keep the work small and something that I could do at work when a quick blast of inspiration hit. I decided to use easy resources: post-it notes and a generic roller-ball Pilot pen.

Due to the small size, I also decided to put a time limit on each. No more than 5 minutes on each. I wasn’t going to diving into a massively detailed stippling piece, or a potential hanging landscape, so the level of accuracy and precision were much more relaxed than other things I had done in the past couple of years.

What I didn’t expect, however. is the level of stress that these doodles were capable of creating. When I’m working on something more elaborate and intricate, I have a bad habit of tensing up when I’m in the process of adding ink to a pencil sketch. It’s usually fleeting because I KNOW that as long as I keep my wits together and follow my process, the end result will be something that I’m happy with.

With these doodles, there was no room for error. You get it right or you don’t. I removed the step of laying the groundwork with any kind of removable media (pencil/graphite) and went all in.

Some of the more abstract pieces went really well and didn’t cause any kind of tension or anxiety. Those were nice, but they also weren’t particularly challenging. For example, the first doodle in this whole experiment was that of a lit candle on a holder. There wasn’t much shading involved and overall, it’s an outline piece. I haven’t really exercised in doodles like these before so it was a nice way of starting and just seeing if it was something that I could spend light energy on while being a bit productive with random bits of free time.

At the end of the 31 day challenge, I was starting to feel a little down. I didn’t want this little exercise to be over. I didn’t want to keep the whole thing open-ended, but I also didn’t want to just bail on a random day. I decided to settle on 365 days. A full year of doodles. Smart or stupid, I was going to find out what it would feel like.

What I started to notice after the first 90 days, was that inspiration doesn’t just magically appear. It has to be fueled by something/someone. I was starting to have flashbacks of problems I had experienced while working for a design firm right out of college. If I’m not really excited and inspired by something, I don’t produce very pleasing work. My heart will not be in it and I disappoint myself. I also remembered that I can have more difficulty than most with creative commitments. This is also why I’m hesitant to take on commissions. It’s not because I don’t WANT to, it’s because I don’t trust the work I will do is my best if my heart and soul isn’t dedicated to the project.

While searching the internet for source material and hunting for inspiration, I discovered that over time, some of those wells were (for the moment) running dry. That’s when I started to experiment with doing portraits on the fly. I do NOT enjoy working on a portrait unless I have an open ended time from to make sure that I can get proportions and shading DEAD on. Landscapes: easy. Most people won’t be able to spot a random tree in the background, a branch missing or added, etc. With faces: one eyelash pointing the wrong way, or the angle of a the bottom or top of a tooth and the whole thing sets off the blink reaction. This project forced me far out of my comfort zone dozens of times and I started to realize just how physically tense I can get while creating. It’s quite a jarring feeling and I’m still coming to grips with it.

What is interesting is that, while editing the collage, I was able to look at all of pieces and recall the mood I was in when I creating them. I’m not sure if others can interpret them, but I can see the moods chronologically. I liken it to a 2d or 3d journal of sorts. While I wasn’t narrating how my day was or experiences were the entire time, my emotions were definitely being recorded and preserved. I guess you just need to have the key to decode the language?

I was never fully prepared to actually make the full distance with this project. As I’ve stated previously, commitment and I have a sketchy past. It’s one thing to work on a piece and put it down for a few weeks to let the mind recoup. For me, engaging to a creative project for 12 months is challenging just on the surface, let alone in practice. ADD kicks in and I get distracted frequently and unexpectedly. Years ago I was hesitant to get fully invested into the climbing activity because I know how my brain works. Through the last 20 years I’ve started to come to a bit of an understanding with myself. If I’m still as psyched for an activity after the first 12 months of discovery, then it stands a chance of sticking around. This project tested every little bit of that threshold. It also wore on me more than I had expected. I’ve taken several months off of drawing as a result. It’s not that I don’t feel the drive to be creative… more that I’m having a difficult time focusing on one idea long enough to bring it into existence. Example:I was given a 3D Pen as a gift a couple of years ago, and I only experimented with it a month ago for the first time.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy something a little different 🙂

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