Thursday, November 1, 2018

#InkTober2018 Finale: Lessons Learned

10/29/18 Zoka Coffee

Every InkTober I learn something, even if it’s not necessarily what I set as my objective. When I’ve attempted using ballpoint in the past, I didn’t stick with it long enough to learn from the exercise. This year I was hellbent on staying with ballpoint for 31 days, if only out of obstinance. Today, more than 31 sketches later, I’m happy to say that my obstinance paid off. Here’s what I learned:
  • The modest Bic Stic – the kind I have taken from hotel rooms and filled the kitchen junk drawer with – has become my favorite ballpoint for sketching. The most like “the pencil of pens,” I can vary the pressure and build hatched layers to create values. I actually purchased some very inexpensive Bic Cristals with the intention of using them for InkTober, but very quickly I preferred the Stic, which has a finer point and ever-so-slightly-less-cheesy plastic body.
  • A major benefit of ballpoint over every other medium I’ve tried is that it is happy with nearly any kind of paper, no matter how cheap or thin and regardless of surface sizing. Scrap receipts, newsprint, expensive European sketchbooks – they’re all the same to the egalitarian ballpoint. For example, ballpoint enabled me to finally make use of a Shizen Design notebook, which contains paper too thin for most other media. The book’s colorful pages were a bonus during monochrome InkTober when I was craving color.
  • If I lose its cap, a Bic won’t dry out, and even if I lose the whole pen, it sets me back about 25 cents at most.
  • I daresay ballpoint is the ideal sketch medium to take to Gilligan’s Island (my ongoing hypothetical game of developing the most minimal sketch kit possible). In a pinch, I could bum one off a restaurant server, a hotel clerk, the professor or Mary Ann and sketch happily for a very long time on any paper the island happened to have. (Coincidentally, I came to this same conclusion several years ago when I found myself sketching with a ballpoint during a presentation.)
  • While I practiced hatching last year also (with a variety of pens), sticking with one type of pen this year kept me focused and enabled me to discover and appreciate ballpoint’s nuances. I see noticeable improvement in my hatching skills.
  • Ballpoint is not versatile enough to cover the wide range of subject matter and time constraints I like to tackle. For example, for a one-minute-or-less sketch (like the one of the fire marshal with the green man bun, which required a brush pen), ballpoint is too fine and slow, and while I enjoy all that hatching, it takes time. It’s unlikely to ever become my favorite medium, but I’m surprised by how much I’ve grown to like it. The Bic has earned a permanent place in my bag.
  • Beyond the chosen medium itself, subject matter was another interesting aspect of InkTober. As a daily exercise, it wasn’t always "inspired"; in fact, more often I simply chose something handy in my studio or kitchen. Very often, the object was boring at first glance (that postal scale is not inspiring by any stretch), yet surprisingly, as soon as I began drawing it, I found it fascinating because I was "seeing" it for the first time. Over and over again, it happens: The subject matter becomes much less important than the act of drawing and being fully engaged with the act of drawing. 

I already blogged about sketches made at Starbucks and the SoDo Reserve store; the rest from the week are shown here. The entire month’s sketches are in this Flickr album. Here are my learnings from InkTobers past: 2017, 2016 and 2015.

How did your InkTober go?


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