Well. I’m back with a full blog.
I think everyone can agree that the last year was insane. For me, it was definitely nuts juggling full-time graphic design, pushing ahead on illustration work, and fathering a second and first grader as their never-ending Spring Break stretched into the first month of the next school year being remote as well. So, for the sake of sanity, I had to step back from writing here.
But, as I said, I’m back, and just in time to post-op how Inktober went for me last year. For those who don’t know, Inktober is a social media art challenge where the goal is to post an ink drawing every day in October, and by doing so, you improve your skills and hopefully grow your audience as an added bonus. In 2020, I wanted to do something different, so I planned to do one huge drawing with 31 characters, and post my process as I drew and inked one character a day. For multiple reasons (but mainly because I thought it would be fun), I chose to depict the Battle of Hogwarts, the magical war deciding skirmish that closes out the Harry Potter series.
My first step was to re-listen to the audiobook. I took note of which characters were involved, where and when they were, and as many physical descriptions as I could (“which cheek of Harry’s got cut again?”). From there, I put together a list of which 31 characters could be included. Once I’d worked, and reworked, that, I grabbed a 12×24″ piece of newsprint, and drew out what was in my head as quick and ugly as I could.
Once I numbered the characters to the days that I would post them, it was time to start on the drawing. I taped a 12×24″ piece of 300 lb watercolor paper to some foamboard, grabbed a non-photo blue pencil, and started to work. Now, I’d never used this type of pencil before, but knew enough about comic book illustration and animation from the past to know that it was designed to be easily removed from inked artwork. I found that as an added bonus it worked beautifully on the watercolor paper, and fell behind the ink lines in a really appealing way, which allowed me to skip over erasing my piece day after day.
That first day was a challenge, because I chose to do Kreacher, a small elf in the front. This helped set the style and scale of the characters moving forward. However, I knew, but it wasn’t visible, that he was crouching over a casualty of the war who wouldn’t be drawn for another 19 or so days. That right there was the biggest problem to solve in the drawing – drawing in characters meant interact with other characters who were basically invisible. Of course, I told myself that I would work ahead, but that rarely happened, so the best I could do was to block in the forms of where a handful of characters would go at a time before jumping back and forth around the paper. I would work on it at night between 8:30 and 10:30 (once the kids were in bed), with the occassional early morning in the office to finish the inking on the drawing from the night before.
It was equal parts dizzying and fun, and here’s what I ended up with:
I am really happy with how it turned out, because it’s exactly what I had in my head, and I didn’t compromise on the attention to detail. You can check out the full project page here.
The biggest frustration with the project actually came from the social media side of things. About half-way through the month, Instagram apparently messed with their algorythm (or the amount of #inktober drawings just became too much to cut through), and the reach I was getting was affectively cut in half from what I had in the first week. Which is pretty messed up, since posting every day and getting audience interaction is supposed to increase exposure. Unfortunately, the opposite happened, so a lot of days it felt like I was just releasing scraps of paper into the harsh wind of the internet. Then at the very end (we’re talking about the day that I posted the final drawing of Harry), Instagram made it so that it was impossible because search recent posts for all hashtags because of garbage surrounding the U.S. Election. Now this sucked a lot. I was hoping to build my following with 100 new followers, but as October closed, I had only gained a net of 28. In the end, I was able to find a bit of follower and like redemption, but I had to use a paid Instagram advertisement to get my work in front of the people who really wanted to see it (you win again IG).
But, here’s the deal: social media is an illusion, and this project was a wonderful reminder of that. The amount of likes and follows your art generates is in no way a reflection of quality of your work. If that were the case, every anime piece would get 12 likes, instead of being inexplicably popular. In the end, I’d rather have the one person who wrote a really nice message about how much he loved this piece and how he thought it was the most impressive thing he’d seen created for Inktober that year than a few hundred anonymous likes. And hey, I even managed to sell a few of the prints, which you can get here!
Hmmm…. It’s October again in just a little more than a month. Might as well start planning for the next Inktober…
Seriously? Way too much has happened in the last year to give you a full rundown, so I’ll just drop in some of my favorite projects I’ve knocked out in that time. The one thing I will call out is that I signed up for and took the inaugural Children’s Book Pro course over the summer. Now, the summer is particularly tough for my schedule (without school be around to helpfully kidnap my kids every day), so I wasn’t able to get to all the assignments, but I did make it through all the lectures, and there was a lot of good stuff in there. Once we really make it into fall (instead of me just fantasizing that we’re already there), I’m going to jump back in the course work, so keep your eye out for illustated pieces from my take on Little Red Riding Hood.
Now, let’s have some art: