The last two years that I’ve participated in Inktober I have had such a great time! This year, on trend, Inktober is a bit more complicated than usual. I will still participate in the art community challenge during October but there’s a lot to unpack with regards to Inktober.

My history with Inktober started through other artists on Instagram who I followed who usually created their own prompts for Inktober. I didn’t know anything about Jake Parker’s role in the challenge and simply assumed that it was like the many other challenge hashtags that got me actively making, posting and supporting fellow artists. October’s art challenge was more general than the variety of floral challenges I participated in during the other months of the year and as such it provided an experience more akin to art classes I’ve taken where everyone is focused on improving their skills during a narrow space of time. I loved that, like NaNoWriMo, it gave me a chance to not just create but to socialize with others who were also creating.

Originally I started using the internet to socialize during my teens. Nothing was monetized in any efficient way and the communities I found were often filled with people like me who lived rurally or were seeking a sense of community (or perhaps both). Over time every community has become a monetized commodity where membership also includes the opportunity to buy branded merch to further solidify one’s status as part of the community while often alienating those who are seeking more than branded content. When Alphonso Dunn’s video was posted it was followed by other videos that detailed Jake Parker’s trademarking of Inktober. Though Alphonso’s accusations are very much a matter for him and Jake Parker to work out legally, it did give me pause. Jake Parker’s ownership of the community of artists that create and share during October is dubious at best and so I’m not especially eager to “cancel” my participation in that as I have my own prompts and my own plans for the month.

However, as with NaNoWriMo, the branding of the experience has given me an opportunity to rethink how I participate in the event. Last year I found that I really preferred posting several pieces at once rather than feeling like I had to post every single day. The beauty of self-directed challenges is that their value is in clarifying personal objectives and making goals that help to support those objectives. Though the Instagram art challenges did help me to post more regularly I also, often found that I didn’t have time to see a piece through to completion because I wanted to finish in time. This has value for learning how to refine one’s process and for helping to shed perfectionism. After a year or more of challenges I did find myself more capable of accepting “good enough” and moving forward. When I started participating in Inktober I wanted to improve my skills by attempting to draw things that made me nervous (portraits) and both years I did begin to feel more confident to take on pieces that felt risky.

Because I began to learn how to plan my own challenge I did find myself straying further away from the “official” event (though I never tried the official prompts because they were too abstract and thus distracting for me). What I really enjoyed about the event was the ability to search through other artist’s entries for each day. Some used the official prompts and others did not. The broad range of skills and motives for posting made it a delightful treasure hunt as well as an opportunity to support other artists by giving constructive feedback and encouragement.

For me, that is what Inktober will always be about though I am not sure if that is the official purpose of the event. As for the question of using the Inktober hashtag, I don’t think I will this year. Beyond the little I’ve covered here I am not personally interested in exploring the dramas surrounding Jake Parker. What I’ve been able to glean makes me hesitant to use the hashtag for my own work because what I am seeking from the October challenge may not in fact be in line with the hashtag’s purpose but I’m not above searching it to encourage my fellow participants during the month.

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