Inktober 2017: Postmortem

This year I decided rather belatedly to participate in the Inktober 2017 challenge. It's now been a little over 3 weeks since the challenge ended, so let's have a look at how it went.

Goals and rules

Since I started a bit late and my goals weren't strictly about improving my inking capabilities, I modified the rules slightly:

  1. Produce one inked drawing per day for the duration of October, on average
  2. November 1st is not a hard deadline
  3. Sketch a concept per day
  4. Ink when time allows
  5. Follow the official 2017 prompt list
  6. No theme; draw whatever
  7. Redoing a drawing before posting is only allowed if ruined beyond repair
  8. Rule 1 is a goal, not a criteria for success

The primary purpose of these rules was to force myself to complete things on a semi-regular basis, and make them public.

Most of these rules turned out to be good ideas. The first rule was worded a bit badly, and doesn't say much more than "produce 31 inked drawings". Although if I had worded it that way I might've decided to attempt drawing all of them during the last week.

The second rule was intended to relax the rules and reduce pressure. Although I managed to complete all 31 drawings before the end of October, I'm not sure I would've gotten very far without this rule, considering I started late and had to average two drawings per day. Especially considering that the first few drawings took the better part of a day to complete and post.

Similarly, rule 8 was designed to allow me to quit and still call it a success, as long as I had finished at least one drawing. A bit of a cop-out maybe, but considering I went from maybe one drawing per year to one per day, anything would've been an improvement.

Similarly, rule 3 and 4 were intended to make the process more flexible, so I wouldn't have to plan the entirety of October around drawing. Once I got into it however, I ended up inking at least one drawing per day fairly consistently. Next time I'll probably remove these type of rules, but I'd still like to allow some degree of flexibility. Maybe "seven drawings per week" would be a good compromise.

As for rule 5 and 6, I like brainstorming, so I added them as a way to kickstart ideas. Building concepts and scenes out of a single word is pretty fun, although some of the words were less interesting than others. Sometimes I just gave up and googled a bit. Screech was such an example.

Rule 7 turned out to be really important. It was designed to counter perfectionism and help focus on achieving the goals, which really had nothing to do with quality; just draw and post it!

I kind of broke this rule with day 7 (shy), but I had enough time to redo it once, so it wasn't a problem. This rule is also responsible for a bunch of the later entries. In particular half of the ones I posted during the last few days. For example day 28 (fall) would've been scrapped entirely if it wasn't for this rule.

Final thoughts

It took me a long while before I managed to shake my perfectionist mindset. The first few drawings I made took half a day, and some blog posts took almost as long to write. In the end I don't know if the quality improved much by iterating on them. In some cases it might've even gotten worse. Towards the end some drawings took less than 30 minutes, and the blog post less than 10.

The drawings that turned out the best had the least amount of details in them. I would like to say that this was because less details meant more time and focus on what was there, but that would imply I would've reached the same result with some of the more complex drawings I spent more time on, which wasn't the case. Instead, it probably had more to do with providing a cleaner look, and that details often turned into noise due to the small paper size I drew on.

On the flip side, the worst images were the ones with lots of tricky perspective in it. I still don't know what my exact problem with perspective is. Drawing perspective lines help, but then the perspective lines themselves have to be near perfect. The exception might be day 22 (trail), which I somehow managed to draw without perspective references. One thing I did notice when drawing that was how big a difference a tiny change in a line makes. Maybe the problem is that I need some point of reference, so I subconsciously and incorrectly use the first lines I draw as a reference point. Eventually resulting in small errors that propagate until everything is slightly off.

Another potential problem is that most drawings lack any sort of shading or shadows. It was a deliberate attempt at risk mitigation, but in retrospect the lack of depth made things more difficult to draw, and without shading it can be hard to differentiate between bad proportions and something that is just angled towards or away from the viewer. Maybe that can be solved by varying the line width, but I never managed to do that reliably with a brush pen.

In closing, Inktober was super exhausting, but fun! I don't think I improved a lot in terms of final quality, but I learned a lot, and I got much faster near the end. More importantly, I managed to post everything online!

If I do this again next year it would be interesting to combine the drawings somehow. Maybe use a random word generator and do some storyboarding.