I figured that it might be useful to archive a place with links to all of my posts from this year’s Inktober. I think they’re all consistently tagged if anyone wanted to search for Inktober stuff, but it doesn’t hurt to have a stable list.
The first one where I really started to feel like I knew what I was doing is the Juggernaut Colossus from Day 7. There’s a good string of work following that one, culminating with the dancing Pixie for Day 10 (that dress ended up looking really good, even if it did take me a couple hours to do all the inking). The Logan picture was a throwaway joke about a really famous panel from an old Wolverine comic, but it delighted X-Twitter for an afternoon, so that’s a highlight. Even though it didn’t get much attention online, I still really love what I did with the Gentle portrait. Cipher also turned out better than I expected, even with the composition problems that I noticed after I’d gotten too far along in the process, and I’m really taken with the final run of drawings from Magik through Blindfold. I know that folks like Egg (he’s a great character), but the picture feels like a step backwards compared to what immediately precedes it.
After days of anticipating the end of Inktober, I celebrated this morning at work by… starting a new drawing.
This is different though because I started it in my big sketchbook, which is not ideal for inking, so I’ll be sticking to just pencils on this one. Also, it’s not X-Men related, so that’s a relief. It is still fanart for a comic series though, because I do have a brand to maintain. I’m thinking about trying to color this one when it’s done. I have a pretty limited color pencil palette to work with, but I think I just need to get used to working with color regardless of how well my available tools match what I’d like to do. The big relief is that the time pressure is gone. I spent a good twenty minutes on this new drawing today, and it’s nowhere near finished, and I don’t have to go back to it until I feel like it.
The picture for today is kind of underwhelming after all the other stuff I’ve experimented with this month. It’s a pretty standard front view of the figure with some surrounding environmental details. I’m not super pleased with the overall composition, but being okay and done is better than excellent and unfinished. I am very relieved to finally be able to take a break from inks. After doing it for a month straight, I feel a lot more comfortable with inking, but it’s still not my favorite thing. Mostly it’s because inking reveals a lot of my flaws as an artist that aren’t so apparent in rough pencils. I will return to it sometime, but for now it’s going to be nice to rest in my comfort zone.
When I think about my set of drawings for this year overall, the thing that stands out most to me is just how rapidly I branched out from static character portraits. I didn’t always opt to add backgrounds, but by the last ten days, it was definitely something that I was actively thinking about as part of the drawing as a whole instead of an add-on if the figures ended up being particularly simple. There was also a shift towards playing around with angles and perspective, mostly because it can get boring to always draw an upright figure from the front. There are certain drawings that I did this month that I was especially proud of too. At some point in the near future I think I’ll do a roundup post with links to the entire month’s worth of work and highlight the ones that I like best.
The final prompt of the month is “Ripe,” which put me in mind of the recent developments in the X-Books that mutants don’t stay dead anymore because they have a resurrection protocol fueled by the powers of five specific mutants, one of which is Fabio Medina who just announced in this week’s Excalibur #1 that he’s going by Egg now. Egg’s power is oddly specific; his body produces gold balls that were recently discovered to actually be unfertilized, nonviable eggs. With a little reality warping, these eggs are now used to grow replacement bodies for mutants who have died. Egg’s kind of a big deal these days.
In the last third of Inktober I’ve begun to play a bit more with extreme angles for my scenes, which has been really fun. When the medium is so small, the tools limited, and my skill still very much developing, having something dramatic that I can reliably do, like unusual perspectives, is a really satisfying way to give my sketches some interest. The one that I did for today is probably one of the more extreme examples of what I’m talking about; I wanted to simulate some extreme foreshortening with the figure’s outstretched hand magnified so that it’s nearly as big as the rest of the figure. I think there are some slightly cheat-y things about the angle perspective, specifically in the view of the figure body; I probably should have placed the torso more directly behind the shoulders, but one of the things I’m learning about working in an analogue medium is that you just have to live with your mistakes after a certain point in the drafting process. Anyway, it’s only like two hours’ worth of work from start to finish, so it’s not like there was much lost in committing to the error. The composition over all still feels like it works pretty well.
The prompt for today is “Catch,” which is a pretty wide open prompt when you’re talking about X-Men. One of the signature features of the X-Men series is the periodic break to play baseball; it hasn’t happened much in recent years, but it was a mainstay of the Claremont era. Following that concept, I just needed a subject, so I decided to go with one of my personal favorites from the last decade, Ruth Aldine, code name Blindfold. In addition to general telepathy, Blindfold is precognitive, which is useful seeing as she was born without eyes (blind seers are a long, long tradition). I thought it’d be cute to show her participating in her typically distracted way (one of her defining character traits is the way she inserts polite expletives into her speech as though she’s constantly conversing with someone else who isn’t present).
Tomorrow I’ll post my last drawing of the month along with final thoughts about the experience. It’s been really fun and enlightening.
Because I’ve been working a day ahead during this Inktober, I only have one drawing left to make tomorrow before I’m done. I’m feeling pretty relieved to be at the end of the project, because there were definitely a few days where it felt like more of a burden to have to plan and execute a small composition every day without rest. I think I know what I’m going to do for my last one at this point, though I still have to think through some of the concept details. In the mean time, let’s talk about the one that I drew for today!
When I look at this finished drawing, it feels very much like it’s partnered with the other hangdog chair-based picture, “Swing.” There’s something imminently satisfying about drawing someone slouched in a chair with a look of weary contempt on their face. Aside from shifting perspective to the other side of the chair, so many things about these two drawings are visually similar. Aside from the posture, both figures are wearing relatively little clothing, seem vaguely dissatisfied with their situations, and have as nearby accents to the composition a helmet of some sort.
Besides the visual connections, there’s also a thematic one here; where “Swing” featured Beak, a fourth string X-Men character who didn’t amount to much in the main Marvel universe (though he saved the multiverse many times as an unsung hero in the Exiles), today’s prompt, “Injured” brings us to Magneto, the arch rival to Charles Xavier and signature X-Men villain who’s not been much of a villain for a long time. The major beats of Magneto’s history are relatively well known, but he also had the pleasure of serving as Beak’s mentor at the Xavier School while he was pretending to be the mutant Kuan-Yin Xorn (or maybe Xorn was pretending to be Magneto; it’s all very complicated, and most folks just ignore that part of his history as being wildly out of character for when it occurred). Magneto has been through a lot, and the injuries he’s suffered over the years haven’t all been physical. I like the image of him brooding with thoughts of his failures and frustrations, all while dressed in his silk lounge wear and generic torso bandages.
Everybody talks about how terrible it is to draw horses, but you know what? It’s fine. Once you simply acknowledge that you will need to look at reference for a thing, drawing it becomes way less worrisome. Of course, there wasn’t much in the way of reference for a flying horse (although I did learn that artists are apparently split on where you place the wings–like it makes sense to put them anywhere besides the shoulders), so that took some imagination, but I think I managed okay despite these challenges.
Today’s prompt is “Ride” which could have been a difficult lift except that I remembered one of my other favorite X-Men characters was chosen to be a Valkyrie and actually has a winged horse. Danielle Moonstar is one of the original members of the New Mutants who used to have the psychic power to project illusions based on her target’s deepest fears or desires. Her powers went through a lot of changes over the years, probably because writers decided being able to make people see stuff they find personally terrifying isn’t a cool enough power, and then she eventually got de-powered after the mutant Decimation. The Valkyrie bits come and go as well, but I think she’s most recently working as a Valkyrie for Hela, Marvel’s version of the Norse god of death and the underworld. None of that’s super important (although I highly recommend any story that features Dani) except that she is friends with a winged horse named Brightwind and she rides him into battle.
Only. Four. More. Days.
The big thing I wanted to convey in today’s drawing is the sense that the figure is leaning forward towards the viewer. I drew the upper body slightly larger than the lower to try to get this effect, and I think it worked decently well. Also, it’s really fun to draw clothing that’s heavily impacted by the wind. I always feel like the clothes I draw are a little underdeveloped, mostly because I haven’t spent enough time studying how other artists convey folds and wrinkles in cloth. I can kind of intuit that you need to have some creases at joints, but beyond that I always feel lost. Maybe I’ll do a series sometime where I only draw people in hoodies and baggy jeans so I have to figure out how to overlay a bunch of volume on top of a body in a way that doesn’t look like a big blob.
The prompt for today is “Coat,” so I went with the character who always wears a coat no matter the weather because he’s the Gothiest X-Men character ever. Jonothan Starsmore, code name Chamber, is a low grade telepath who also has a raging psionic furnace located in his chest. When it activated at the manifestation of his mutant powers, it blew his lower face off. Because comics, he doesn’t need to eat or drink to survive, and the telepathy allows him to communicate without speaking, so he’s actually mostly okay with this situation aside from it being an excellent reason for him to be as Gothy as he wants in his black turtlenecks and scarves piled up to his nose. I always imagine him as a young emo Neil Gaiman, although Jono is a lot less pretentious about his work.
My original concept for today’s drawing was more of a solo picture with only the primary subject, but then I got this idea of a setting it on a subway car, and then I had to figure out why they would be there (today’s character is a teleporter), which settled me on the idea of going somewhere with friends. The body count sort of multiplied after that. In terms of composition, I think I’m happiest with the perspective on this drawing. I don’t know that I’ve played around with doing a top down view like this in the past, but it was fun. I debated with myself about how much to shade the windows of the train car because I figured there needed to be some significant pockets of black on the page, but I wasn’t sure how it would look if I filled each window in completely. I skipped pencil shading on this one, so I didn’t have a real sense of what that much ink would do to the picture, and you can’t really take ink back once it’s been put down on the paper.
The prompt for the day is “Dark,” which I’ve been looking forward to all month because I’d reserved this prompt to draw my favorite X-Men character, Illyana Rasputin, code name Magik. I’ve written, well, a lot about Illyana on my blog in the past (obligatory links found here, here, here, here, here, and also here), so there’s not much to say at this point other than she’s one of the characters most entitled to brooding but she doesn’t let that stop her from being fun. Once I got the idea for the subway ride with friends, I decided to run with that contrast. She’s going out and doing something social with Kitty Pryde and Doug Ramsey, but that isn’t going to stop her from wearing all black and half listening to something appropriately overwrought and emo like My Chemical Romance (I don’t know that she’d actually listen to My Chemical Romance, but I don’t know much about the landscape of Goth music).
Okay, so the big thing you need to understand about X-Men in order for this picture to make sense is that the ’90s were wild, and character concepts just got really out there for a time. I don’t think my scene really captures the thoroughly disturbing nature of the character in question (I think I’m always going to skew more towards silly than grotesque in my compositions).
The prompt for today is “Tasty,” so I thought of the one X-Men character whose powers are directly related to the way that he eats: Maggott. Maggott grew up in a poor rural village in South Africa where his family struggled to figure out why he appeared to be constantly starving despite having plenty of food. One day Magneto was wandering through (as Magneto does), and he recognized that Maggott was a mutant. With the power of his magnetism, he helped two giant bugs emerge from Maggott’s stomach, upon which occasion they immediately started eating whatever they could find. The bugs, named Eany and Meany, are his digestive system; they eat what they like and then burrow back into Maggott’s stomach to provide him with nourishment, super strength, and also blue skin. He was obviously an extremely weird character, and he didn’t stick around very long in the comics before he faded into obscurity. Now he’s mostly a background joke.
It was kind of a long day at work, so let’s keep this short today.
The prompt is “Dizzy” and the character is Spiral, a six-armed villain from the Mojoverse, which is far too complicated to explain in brief. Spiral originated as the stunt woman Ricochet Rita, but then through a bunch of timey-wimey stuff, she ended up being captured and remade into Spiral, who then spends an inordinate time harassing the not-yet-captured Rita. The main reason to draw Spiral is to practice doing arms, because there are a lot of them. She doesn’t typically have quite this many weapons, but if you don’t put weapons in the hands of a six-armed supervillain, what are you doing with your life? Also, at no point in Spiral’s history has she been associated with spiders despite the fact that you can look at her and clearly see that she is supposed to be a spider. Probably something to do with maintaining the integrity of certain brands.
I mostly practice drawing people because I think the human form is fun and interesting, and there are very clearly defined parameters that allow you to say when you look at a collection of lines, “That’s a person!” The year that I’ve spent practicing drawing, I’ve focused on that pretty closely, and it means that I often find myself feeling far less confident when it comes to things like environmental details. There’s definitely some transfer of skills in the sense that practicing figures involves a lot of repetition of some slightly complex geometric forms and playing with a few universal techniques for conveying dimension; it’s not like I’m utterly incompetent when I do environment stuff. Still, it’s not the most comfortable, especially anything related to organic environments. Boxes are easy, but vines and leaves induce a sort of fundamental panic because there’s so much abstraction that has to be done if you’re not attempting photorealism.
All this is to say that today I drew a tree man, and it was fun and challenging.
The prompt for today is “Ancient,” and after I drew Apocalypse for “Legend” I had to stretch to consider what other X-characters are old enough to really fit the descriptor. Logan is close, but I already drew him too (just because it was a joke doesn’t stop it from counting). I took some inspiration from the HoX/PoX series that just ended and decided that Krakoa, the Island That Walks Like a Man, was a perfect choice with his multiple incarnations that appear throughout the series. This is probably the most conceptual drawing I’ve done this month, as I wanted to highlight how Krakoa chooses to incarnate in gradually smaller forms mostly relative to his growing closeness with Doug Ramsey, the mutant universal translator, as the series progresses. While it must always be kept in mind that Krakoa is a sentient land mass, it does manifest faces of various sizes in places where it intends to have direct communion with the people who are on it. The foliage on Tree Krakoa was probably the most interesting to work on here, again because of having to work out how much to abstract leaf clusters given the size of my medium. Rock Face Krakoa’s plant growths were similarly fun, although I think they ended up looking more like patches of moss than larger splashes of plant matter on an enormous face (the plant patches do sort of form a beard, which was unintentional but still awesome). The Dougkoa in the corner, a far future version of Krakoa who has merged consciousness with Doug and manifested in a humanoid shape, is probably the least satisfying part of the composition, though I do kind of like the way his feet look. Even so, I’m generally pleased with it altogether.