Re-Thinking Inktober

I’ve been looking forward to Inktober 2020 ever since I completed my last Inktober 2019 drawing. For weeks now I’ve been thinking about different ideas, different concepts, different themes, and Cheeky Monkey Mind has been jabbering in my ear about trying this and trying that, and between the two of us, we have yet to come up with a truly do-able idea.

I took out my ink pens, bought alcohol ink, practiced ink-drawing exercises and shared them here on the blog. I tapped my foot impatiently as I waited for the release of this year’s official prompt list. I was ready, I was set, but unfortunately I wasn’t ready to go. There was still that dreadful problem about what I should draw.

Alcohol inks sound fun! But all I can really do with them is make colorful backgrounds. Zen doodling with colorful inks sounds fun, too. But do I really want to spend an entire month making mostly meaningless doodles?

Draw birds. That was Cheeky’s first suggestion. Later, he decided that we should simply reprise last year’s successful Inktober run and draw trees again. The idea had some appeal. It might be interesting to see if or how I’ve improved. On the other hand, it could be discouraging to feel I haven’t improved at all, or that — horrors — maybe I’ve gotten worse!

Matt Fussell has come up with a 31-Day Ink Drawing Course at The Virtual Instructor. It does require membership, but even if you’re not a member, I highly recommend checking out the site and taking full advantage of all the freebies Matt has to offer. I wouldn’t be the artist I am today had I not discovered The Virtual Instructor soon after I began learning to draw.

Back to Inktober. Matt’s new 31-Day Ink Drawing Course covers a variety of ink techniques, and includes lessons on drawing objects, flowers, landscapes, food, animals, and people, not necessarily in that order. I’m tempted to enroll — I am a member — and it might be a good way to keep up with Inktober this year. I wouldn’t be using the official prompt list, but that’s fine.

For me, I think the big stumbling block right now, however, is the whole idea of keeping up. Last year during Inktober — and also in 2018 — I essentially set all other artwork aside for the month and focused solely on ink drawing. I don’t want to do that right now. I really don’t think it would be practical.

I’m learning mixed media. I’m slowly but surely building an online art business. I’m doing an art journal. I’m working with a lot of different ideas, different techniques, and different media. Quite simply, I don’t want to put all else in my art life on hold while I doodle and draw with ink.

Although I’m reluctant to say, “I’m not doing Inktober 2020,” I’m beginning to think that would be my best choice. I haven’t done well with challenges since we’ve moved, and I’ve expanded my art into a full studio! It sounds crazy, maybe, but having a studio gives me so much more opportunity to work on so many different things that trying to fit in Inktober drawings would feel like an imposition on my art time.

Plain and simple, I don’t think I really want to do Inktober this year.

Remember the 100-Day Art Project I took on in May? It took me much longer than 100 days to work my way through the project. Remember the 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor Challenge I began in June? I made it about half-way. How about World Watercolor Month in July? I completed… what? Ten watercolors?

The point is, right now I’m obviously not at a point where I can fully accept and complete any art challenge, and taking one on without any real plan would almost certainly guarantee failure. Even so, I’m still reluctant to say those words:

I’m not doing Inktober 2020.

Just saying them, or writing them here in this blog makes me feel like a quitter. I feel like I’m giving up on something before I’ve even begun!

But I’m not alone with my ambivalent feelings about Inktober. I did a quick Google search and found other artists with similar thoughts.

Why I Am Not Doing Inktober

10 Reasons to Avoid Inktober

5 Reasons to Quit Inktober

And then there’s the whole “Inktober controversy” that’s come up. Or maybe it’s the “Inktober scandal”. Actually, it’s both — two different problems that have cast a dark shadow on the entire Inktober event.

First, the controversy. Creator Jake Parker became upset with artists who were taking his creation — the Inktober concept — and profiting by it. He determined that the best course of action would be to trademark the Inktober brand. Here, in his own words, is Jake Parker’s story — in part. You can read his complete statement here.

Inktober is and will always be free to participate in. The hashtag is free to use (as are all hashtags). Every artist is free to sell the drawings they made during Inktober if they want to.  Contrary to misstatements recently made on social media, I am not trying to stop any artist from profiting from their own artwork, and I am certainly not trying to steal your work, nor receive back payments from work that has been sold.

Since 2009, Inktober has grown into a world-wide event with hundreds of thousands of people participating each year and millions of drawings being posted online during the month of October. Every year Inktober takes more and more of my time, resources, and attention to lead the challenge and engage with the community.

However, as the Inktober challenge got bigger and bigger with each passing year, it started being invaded by individuals outside of the community trying to make a quick buck. These people are not artists like you and me, and have profited off the popularity of the challenge, with no concern for the Inktober community. 

I could have let these bad actors win, eventually taking over Inktober and diluting its purpose, or I could have chosen to fight back. I have chosen to fight back using my intellectual property rights, which is why I registered the trademark that I have been using since 2009.

As artists, we are all in this together. I want all artists everywhere to have success with their work. And every artist has a right to protect the things they have worked hard to create. 

I will keep using the Inktober platform to inspire artists to draw and create, to spotlight artists who are doing amazing work, and to teach people to get better at drawing. 


But then came the Inktober scandal in which Jake Parker himself was accused of copyright infringement.

More Than Sketchy – Inktober Creator Accused of Plagiarism

Jake Parker, creator of the popular online art challenge Inktober, has been accused of plagiarizing large sections of his upcoming drawing tutorial workbook “Inktober All Year Long” from artist Alphonso Dunn.

“Inktober All Year Long” was scheduled for release on Sept. 15, but in the wake of this controversy, its publisher Chronicle Books has withheld its release until further notice.

There are many different links sharing this tale of woe around the world, such as this one from London:

Inktober 2020 in Peril as Creator Jake Parker Faces Plagiarism Situation

I would be untruthful if I said this controversy and scandal hasn’t affected my thoughts about Inktober. Where I once saw it as an exciting challenge that could help me improve my ink-drawing skills, I’m seeing it now as simply a bad situation where people have been exploited. I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong, and I’m not following the story closely.

Truth be told, I don’t want to hear anything more about Inktober. At least not this year. So, I’m going to come right out and say it:

I’m not doing Inktober 2020.

For those who choose to participate, I wish you well. Inktober can be challenging. It can also be fun and deeply satisfying to an artist. I know that for this year at least, I wouldn’t find it fun. I don’t think I would find any artistic satisfaction, no matter how hard I might try. And that’s where the real crux of the matter is. To participate in Inktober 2020 would require significant effort on my part — artistic effort, emotional effort, an investment of time — that right not I’m not willing to make.

So, Cheeky Monkey Mind and I are sitting this one out. Good luck to those who take part in Inktober 2020.



  1. I’m undecided still. I’ve participated for 3 years now, but time constraints make it unlikely I can keep to the schedule. What I may do is meet the challenge of doing 30 ink drawings, but do it in my own time. That’s what I’m doing with the 100 Heads Challenge. I intend to complete 100 small portraits to improve my skills with human faces, but there is no way I can put my life on hold to produce 100 in only 10 days!

    As for the controversy, I’ve seen some really good “neutral” videos by artists who stress that the art community in general was too quick to jump to the defense of one artist or the other without having all the facts … which is the job of their lawyers, not social media. Taking legal battles like that to social media can ruin careers and lives, so it just shouldn’t be done, regardless of whether or not someone is guilty of crossing a line. Their point was if you enjoy Inktober, do it. Don’t *not* do it just because someone on social media says you shouldn’t. Inktober as a 30-day challenge is not something that you pay to do or attend at a certain place at a certain time. If you like, you can even do ink drawings and not put the name on it. People have been twisting the original challenge to suit their own personal schedules and needs anyway for years. What you cannot do is print and sell T-shirts with the logo … stuff like that. That’s what the trademark issue was about. And that is separate from the book plagiarism controversy.

    So, 2020 being what is it thus far, I am leaving my options open to do it. I want to do it. But there is no way I can do it within the original time frame. Whether I share what I do or not, will be a day-by-day decision if I do it, but I may not even do it consecutively. What matters to me is that I get a total of 30 practices because 30 practices can’t help but lead to better skills. Win/win for me. 🙂 The rest is none of my business.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I let myself get burned-out over it all. Too much thinking about what to do, too many people talking about all the controversies, and — like you — too many other things going on. I’d like to Inktober, but I don’t want to stress myself out over it. With the mixed media art journaling I’m doing plus a lot of other art-related activities, Inktober just started to sound like a hassle instead of something fun and rewarding to do. I’m still playing around with ink though, and maybe by the end of October I’ll have a collection of drawings to show. Right now, I just don’t want to commit myself to Inktober and then feel bad if I don’t finish.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are so many other challenges out there, in addition to any challenges we give ourselves (like art journaling), that you won’t miss it too much for too long. And stuff like this should never be a chore. I know someone who did Inktober last year for one week. That was her goal. She met it, and she was happy with it. That was enough for her. So, that’s how we need to look at fitting things like this into our overall plans … or not. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. This captures my thoughts exactly… have done it since I heard about it three years ago but last year I pretty much ignored the prompt list and just decided to draw an animal a day. It was still a struggle to fit in those 2-4 hours a day every day.

      This year I’ve gone one step further away from “the rules” and decided to not only not follow the prompts, but also to not aim to complete a drawing a day. I am however drawing every day and posting the progress shots to Instagram.

      In addition to that I’m posting a more detailed post about what I’m doing on each page to wordpress as it’s less of a scroll-click-scroll-click environment.

      Disclaimer: last year I did add nearly all the drawings to my etsy shop but nowhere does it mention Inktober or trade off that name at all. I only add them there because honestly I’ve got so many drawings and paintings kicking around that if someone else wants it in their home then I’m more than happy for that to happen. I don’t profit from the shop but it’s rewarding to know that someone likes your stuff 🙂

      I wouldn’t have any problems with saying “I’m not doing Inktober”, it’s not a sign of being a quitter, it’s a sign of knowing your own mind and having confidence in your decisions. Better to not be a sheep for the “likes” 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Steve. Yep, lately I’m learning more and more that sometimes it’s best to say “No, I’m not gonna do that.” Inktober has been fun in the past, but I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed it this year. Too many other things going on! If I’d pushed myself into doing it, I would have come away frustrated and unhappy. It sounds like you’re taking a good approach to doing Inktober your way. Best wishes with all your drawings. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It looks like Art only read your first sentence!
    I don’t participate in drawing challenges because I have projects in the works that I want to finish. If an artist is out of ideas the challenge would be a good prompt but otherwise you don’t need to do it. You’re practicing your skills on your own and making good progress.
    I didn’t know there was a controversy involving Inktober. Interesting. Thanks for the info!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I enjoyed Inktober last year, and I made a LOT of progress with ink drawing. This year, though, I just don’t want to spend so much time with ink. I have too many other projects going on. I like ink drawings, but not to the exclusion of all others. Sitting it out this year feels right for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Inktober does require a big investment of time — at least if we want to do it well. That’s one reason why I don’t do a lot of ink drawing. I’m too impatient!


    1. It took me a couple of tries before I managed to make it all the way through. I’ve completed 31 drawings for Inktober twice now — first in 2018 and then again in 2019. If I had a really good idea… well, I don’t. I was wracking my brain over it and finally had to admit that I’m just not interested in doing it this year.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. In 2018 I did lots of silly doodle monsters. Anything is fine for Inktober. It’s a good way to get into the daily drawing habit (if you’re not already doing it), and it certainly did help me improve my ink-drawing skills. You don’t have to follow the official prompt list, either, so just draw or doodle and have fun with it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve enjoyed Inktober in the past. This year it just doesn’t fit into my art schedule. I’ll miss it, but at least I’ll be able to look at what everyone else is creating. 🙂 Why not have a go at it? It is fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great setup! It’s interesting reading what other artists think about Inktober…I’ve never had the motivation or the time to complete the entire month of prompts (especially considering the controversy etc.), but I’ve found more freedom in trying out other lists of prompts or just doing any type of art. This year, I’ve taken to writing in a concept I alone am calling ‘Flash Fictober’ XD. Regardless, you’re clearly a great and experienced artist and I wish you the best in your creativity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words. Inktober has been fun in the past, especially the two years when I completed the entire month of drawings. This year, though, I just couldn’t settle on any theme — something I really need — and I was just so unsettled about the whole idea of it that I knew I wouldn’t really enjoy it. Good luck with your Flash Fiction XD project. Will you also be doing NaNoWriMo?


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