James Boyle


What I learned from Inktober - a 31 day post-mortem

2018 has been a year of firsts, career changes and new artistic directions, enough for one year? No.

In the spirit of new firsts, I was really excited to jump into a month long drawing challenge and Inktober was the one.

Inktober is a daily challenge that runs every October. There are a set of prompts for all 31 days, and the rules are draw an image in ink (traditionally or digitally) inspired by the prompts and share it on social media with the hashtag #inktober. Simple. 

I have been aware of Inktober for a couple of years - I’ve followed Inktober creator/illustrator Jake Parker on YouTube & Instagram for a while and his work and attitude towards creating has been a constant inspiration. I wanted to take that inspiring mindset and spend time to push myself.

Day 1: Poisonous. Day 14: Clock.

Day 26: Stretch. Day 3: Roasted.

Now the challenge has finished, I wanted to note down some lessons and observations from it. During the challenge itself, it becomes such an intense month of creating and sharing daily, that it’s hard to collect your thoughts.


Preparation is not cheating

This has been key. I work full time at an advertising agency so knew that the time I was going to have each day to draw was minimal - around 45mins during lunchtimes.

I read and reread the rules and there was nothing that stated you could not prep beforehand. September came and I dove into the prompt list, brainstormed ideas around my chosen theme (more on that below), and then started thumb-nailing out ideas.

Thumb-nailing out ideas.


This was another element I wanted to nail before October 1st. I had seen that a lot of artists kept to a theme or central idea as a way to unify the work, but also to keep the workload manageable. One of the amazing things about drawing is that it inspires you to draw more, and it has this ability to freeze time...I can sit for hours and just draw. But, if you don’t start with a plan of what you’re going to draw, all of sudden hours have gone by, and you may not have achieved what you set out to. Now, that’s great if you have a day off and nothing else to do...not so great if you have 45mins to draw an ink drawing and post it to social media.

This year I wanted my theme to 1) be linked towards my goal of becoming a story artist and 2) have a semi rigid creative output; hopefully that would keep things manageable. My theme thus became: story beats from fictional films and television shows, with each daily drawing being a single frame plucked from a storyboarded sequence.

I had recently completed The Art of Storyboarding course, taught by Blue Sky Studios story artist Lyndon Ruddy. My thinking was to roll Lyndon’s teachings right into my Inktober drawings. Perfect, I was off to the races. The remainder of September was spent thumb-nailing and working on the underdrawings for each daily prompt.

Day 30: Jolt - Sketch > Underdrawing > Inks > Final


I wanted to challenge myself, and try to not miss a day, a tall order for my first year. I almost did it, there were only 2 or 3 times I fell behind a day, mainly at the weekends when life commitments took a precedent.

One of the things which I didn’t anticipate was the way social media made me feel like I wasn’t creating fast enough, even though I pretty much posted a drawing a day. The fallacy of social media and the way it increases self imposed anxiety totally at work there.

I had to keep reminding myself that I was on track with the goals I had set - 31 drawings in 31 days - and forget everyone else. The #Inktober hashtag was a great source of encouragement and inspiration, NOT my competition.

Successes Vs Lessons Learned

What would a blog post be without a list ;) 


  • Learned I can create something everyday.

  • Finding the joy in drawing again.

  • Froze time.

  • Created 31 drawings in 31 days.

  • Learned some useful digital inking techniques (all my drawings were done in Procreate).

  • Only focusing on one social media platform (Instagram) for sharing drawings, helped with time constraints.

  • I now really want to take some of the drawings/ideas further, maybe into a small comic or storyboarded sequence.

Lessons learned

  • Highlighted my lack of skills in drawing anatomy in proportion.

  • If I didn’t have an idea thumbnailed before the day I was to ink it, those 45mins were even more challenging.

  • Just because I wasn’t happy with one particular drawing, doesn’t mean it didn’t have merit or value. The mantra of finished not perfect kept beating in my head plus, there was always the next day’s drawing.

  • Widescreen images on Instagram were not the best option. When the majority of people are using the smartphone app, portrait drawings would have worked better for engagement and maximising screen size. Chalk this one up to experience.

  • Not posting sketches and in progress was a mistake. This was a decision due to time constraints, but I will definitely not do this again.

  • Only focusing on one social media platform possibly restricted others finding my drawings. Note: look at Tumblr, Facebook and Medium for next time.

Widescreen images on a portrait screen.

What to do after October

I loved taking part in Inktober this year, and it has further encouraged me to keep drawing, however big or small, each day. There are some particular takeaways which I want to tackle next though:

  1. Focus on anatomy.

  2. Take gesture drawing classes.

  3. Frame studies / reverse storyboards - taking freeze frames from films and do frame and colour studies

  4. Draw 100 somethings - take this challenge and work on 100 hands, faces, expressions etc. Build up my repertoire and creative bank account for future drawings.

  5. Look at taking some of the more successful drawings into a short comic or storyboard sequence.

Thank you Jake Parker for creating this challenge and for all the other amazing artists who inspired me.