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In 2009, illustrator and animator Jake Parker took to the web to announce the beginnings of Inktober, a challenge that he created to improve his inking skills. He casually invited other artists to join along with him, not realizing that over 10 years later, Inktober would become one of the most widely participated challenges on the Internet. 

What is Inktober? 

The premise of the challenge is simple: create one ink drawing each day of the month of October and document the process. Parker’s initial post on his old blog Agent44 reads, “[Inktober is] a month-long appreciation of the art of drawing in ink and the practitioners that embrace that art. To celebrate, I’m posting one ink drawing a day for the entire month.” He continues by saying, “Drawing with ink means commitment…When you make your mark you better mean it.  It’s black and white.  True or false.  On or off.  And that’s what Inktober is all about.” Parker’s Inktober drawings were published into a book later that year when he was urged to do so by a friend and fellow employee at Blue Sky Studios, famous for animated films like Horton Hears A Who and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, both films that Parker worked on. However, Parker could’ve never anticipated the growth of Inktober into what it is today. 

The official Inktober website boasts a wide variety of ways to participate in the Inktober challenge: either stick to the classic or choose the new-and-improved Inktober52, which involves one drawing a week for the entire year. The classic Inktober challenge initially had daily inspirations that were chosen by the artists themselves, but as the challenge became more and more popular, with over 1 million Inktober drawings uploaded to just Instagram in 2015, Parker eventually began publishing his personal inspirations in the form of a prompt list starting in 2016. Today, Inktober has expanded to include ink drawings, pencil drawings, digital drawings, and even sculpture. It’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to art challenges, though. 

The Internet is a Breeding Ground for Art Challenges 

In 2014, inspired by Inktober, animation student Matthieu Daures, in collaboration with a few of his peers at Les Gobelins, created another art challenge for the following month called Huevember, an impressive portmanteau of “hue” and “November”. It’s as the name says: one drawing a day for the entire month of November, except instead of a prompt for an ink drawing, the only rule is to choose one hue per day. Daures and his peers didn’t have the advantage of being established animators at a large studio like Parker did, but Gobelins is one of the more prestigious locales for young artists seeking a future in animation, and Daures’ post drew artists from all across Tumblr to grab their preferred mediums and get to creating. A similar challenge called Drawcember was initiated by Disney Create in 2012 with the intention of providing prompts for people who missed Inktober. 

The trend here with these challenges is that people slowly started finding that one month just wasn’t enough. Sometimes, as much as we want to create, life just gets in the way, and maybe it isn’t possible to churn out one drawing everyday. It’s just as disheartening to finally get back to drawing only to find out that your month is up and everyone has moved on. Even Parker suffered a major setback in October of 2010 following a major accident that placed him in the hospital with skull fractures and dental injuries. In the end, Inktober was always about personal growth and improvement, and to keep that going, people had to take the reins from Parker and create their own challenges to keep their creativity flowing throughout the year. 

TikTok Art Challenges Are… Questionable to Say The Least

It’s no surprise that all good things eventually make their way onto TikTok, the hyper-popular sharing platform that has taken the world by storm for the last few years. With such a large portion of their demographic being young creators, it’s an understatement to say that the platform has had artists sharing their work. In fact, the platform has even bred a few challenges of its own, including the trend of “ruining” one’s own art by painting over it before revealing the piece of plastic that protects the art. TikTok user and artist Brett Park hilariously gained his fame when a botched attempt at the trend went viral. Park’s horror at forgetting the plastic and permanently ruining his artwork was almost mitigated by his overnight fame, with most of the comments reflecting how shocked people were and how funny the mistake was.  Other viral trends include painting under colored LED lights and drawing monsters based on the artist

TikTok trends are disputed in the art world, and there are many artists who have taken to testing these trends and hacks for themselves to see whether it is possible for 60-second tutorials to replace years of rigorous practice. The answer, of course, is a resounding no, but that doesn’t mean this new form of Internet art challenge has no virtues. In fact, in a world where knowledge is at the fingertips of those who seek it, why should art be any different? In the end, the reason why Inktober grew to change and evolve the way it did and why all those other art challenges were created was for accessibility and inclusivity; expanding the reaches of the challenges allowed for more artists to develop their skills and share their art, which is really what art in a digital age is all about. 

So… what is in store for the future of art challenges? Nobody really knows. Maybe tomorrow a video will go viral where people teach their pets how to paint, or maybe we’ll get a new month-long challenge born from post-quarantine work burnout. Maybe young artists have already forgotten about Inktober and will continue on with these short-lived TikTok trends instead. However, one thing’s for sure: artists will never stop coming up with new ways to test their creativity, and any artist is up for a good challenge. So no matter the medium or method, maybe we’re all just along for the ride, and maybe we’ll discover something new each time. All that’s left to do is to make your mark, and mean it.

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