So, it’s been quite a year hasn’t it? Aside from the obvious, for me personally it’s been a much busier time than usual with me getting deeper into library work and also keeping busy personally with writing and, of course, art. Writing-wise, I’ve finished a second novel and am currently working on revising it and shopping it around to publishers. Wish me luck on that! I might try to share some of the journey of that on this blog in the future.
What I mainly want to talk about right now, though, is art. More specifically, I want to talk about a project that I attempted for the first time last month known as Inktober. I know most folks who’ve come to this blog are probably here for the writing/literature content, but I also like to talk a lot about the things that power me creatively and drive things like inspiration and passion. All of these are core concepts in creative writing, I’d say, anthropomorphic or not!
https://inktober.com/ ) with the goal of self-improvement and setting good creative habits. The only real rule is to make regular ink drawings throughout the month of October, to keep to the schedule you set, and to share your work with others. The standard challenge is one drawing every day for all 31 days of October, but it’s acceptable to make it an every-other-day drawing or a once a week drawing. So long as you are drawing consistently, that’s all that matters. It’s okay to miss a day, start late, whatever. There’s no cash prize, no official community contest (though Inktober-themed contests DO frequently pop up online and offline during this month). The reward is making art, improving, and sharing.
Inktober has grown like wildfire across the art community over the years, and now it’s standard to have an official prompt list for the month, with a new word revealed every day. You don’t need to follow the official prompt list, but it’s very handy and quite thrilling to have a common theme and to see what your friends have done with the idea as you share your own take on it.
For my first Inktober, I decided to create my own prompt list. I wasn’t quite ready for what I uncovered along the way…
The concept for my list was simple. I opened up an Excel sheet and made a list of about 40 characters from my favorite media franchises and popular works. My goal was to list characters that were not only my favorite, but also my personal inspirations. I wanted to make a list of characters that were important to me, regardless of if they were popular, well-known, or the main characters in their respective series. After I made the initial list, I cut it down by making a rule of “One character per series” and adding a few more that I’d forgotten. The end count was 38 characters. After settling on the list, I set a routine for myself, and followed these rules:
1) First thing in the morning, roll dice to determine which character gets drawn. This cuts down on indecision and keeps things exciting.
2) Roll twice and mark both characters on the list. This will give me a little bit of freedom if I’m ‘feeling’ one character more than the other.
3) If I cannot choose between the two characters that I rolled, then I must draw a human character from a separate list of favorites, requiring me to challenge myself for my indecision.
4) Muse and workshop poses and concepts during my breaks at work.
5) Draw and finish the picture once I get home for the night.
6) Post the picture on my Twitter and DeviantArt before going to bed.
Things started out simple enough, with me drawing Ceri Bobcat from The World of Vicki Fox. It was a fun, new experience working with the character, and the creator of the webcomic even commented positively on the drawing! I started a couple days late into October, as you can see, but I was determined to keep it going for the rest of the month. This was also when I quickly made the rule of not rolling for characters until the morning, as my mind was so busy thinking about poses and ideas on how I most wanted to portray a character that I had trouble sleeping that first night.
The next day of artwork saw me tasked with drawing Finnick from Zootopia, my favorite character from the film… and that was when something strange started to happen.
I have a book called ‘The Art of Disney’s Zootopia’. It’s a massive book detailing storyboards, character concepts, and the general creation process of Zootopia. I love the movie for a variety of reasons, and I really enjoy this book, but I also hadn’t looked at this book since about a year after the movie came out in theaters. As I picked up this book and opened it to study Finnick and the Zootopia art style, a rush of memories came back to me. Memories of seeing the film for the first time with one of my best friends and having revelations on how to portray anthro animals in modern settings while also seeing similarities to my own works and ideas. Excitement at how big it was getting and how “This might be my chance to get something going.” Having new examples to share with people when trying to explain my literary ideas. Memories of my father and his encouragement to pursue various things in art as well as a similar art book that he bought for me for Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’.
Throughout that entire day, I was remembering why I love the things that I do. By the time I sat down to draw Finnick and, of course, his buddy Nick, I was excited to get that energy out and to focus it into one single activity. The drawing was good on a technical level, and it got a positive response from fans, but what the drawing represented to me and how it inspired me felt so much more important, and the chance to share a product of that passion was what made me love it.
The rest of Inktober was a repeat of that day, with some days being deeper or lighter than others. Every day, I took a character from that list and I spent the day not only thinking about that character and what they and their franchise meant to me creatively, but also thinking about the powerful memories surrounding them. Every single character had something from me, no matter how innocuous or random they probably looked to others. I won’t get into too many specifics here, as this blog post is already long enough, but I do want to talk about one more of the drawings I did during this month.
That drawing was Anita from the Capcom fighting game ‘Darkstalkers’. First off, I’m only okay at drawing human characters, as my specialty is more non-human characters. I’m also not very good at mimicking the anime art style for human beings. Something about their more undefined noses throws me off, I think. Even so, Anita was my choice for one of these days after not wanting to draw either of my rolls for that day, and she was a surprisingly powerful choice.
Not only do I really like the character’s design and the game that she’s from (I consider myself to be a fighting game maniac), but I also have a weirdly deep history with her. You see, if it wasn’t for Anita, I may have never grown into the writer that I am today. Anita was the subject of my first ever publicly published piece of fiction.
I won’t bore you with the deep details of my early days on the internet, but one of the first online communities that I got myself involved with was a Capcom fighting game fan-fiction website known as the Darkfighters RPG. I didn’t even know what fan-fiction was at the time. For years afterwards, even, I called what I did ‘RPG writing’ and wouldn’t even look at websites like fanfiction.net or anything like that.
The premise of this website was that you would take a character from a famous Capcom fighting game and you would write for them, detailing their story and making up adventures for them. Then, once per year, all of the writers on the site would get together and break up into pairs to write a fight between their selected characters. Some of the writers were giants to me, writing with prose that I barely understood and having clearly strong writing chops and dedication to the craft. Getting feedback from them on the baby-steps of my first real attempt at a completed storyline was invaluable and I still use lessons that I learned from that website today. I had never tried writing for an audience before, and it was a powerful thing to suddenly have more people than just me caring about what I wrote and how I wrote it. It was exciting to me to have people tell me that they were looking forward to something that I was building up towards, and to learn how to play with audience expectations and even lean into them at times.
These were the memories that I was reliving as I was looking through my old jpegs for references for her character that I also used back when I needed inspiration for writing her.
So, yes, my first ever major writing project and one of my most powerful memories tied to those formative years of initial learning involved me writing a story about a little human girl with crazy psychic powers and no anthro animals in sight. Let that be a lesson to all those who turn up their noses at fan-fiction writers. It’s a great place to learn the basics, I think!
I realize that this was a very long post, and I could easily write several more posts about this entire month that I went through. These weren’t even the deepest places that my mind went to… However, I think I’ve made my point for why this Inktober experience was a powerful one for me. I fully intend to do this again next year! I doubt it’ll be the same for me emotionally, especially as I plan on doing a prompt list with a friend next time, but I can already tell that it’s time well-spent.
If you would like to see my entire Inktober art journey, please feel free to check out my Twitter at: https://twitter.com/BHRacoon .
If you would be at all interested in more musings like this or about specific pictures over that month, do let me know. Otherwise, I’ll do my best to keep you all in the loop for future creative projects!
Take care, and happy reading!