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Normally I don’t do challenges anymore because I don’t like how they intrude on my own flow, but Inktober is different. Just like writing Tanka I love limiting myself to just one medium. Creative wings are often born within limitations. It happens with writing poetry within the preset structure of the syllables and lines of a Tanka and it happens within the limtations of white paper, black ink and the use of dip pens. I’ve experienced this in ink before, but not as powerfully as I did this year.

Tree felling illustration by Mandy van Goeije
“Tree felling”, Indian ink on Bristol paper

The night before October I took out the collection of dip pens, nibs and Indian inks that I’ve collected over the years. I started inking to compare them but all of a sudden I found myself drawing my daily life and laying down my own illustrative style in ink. And then I was hooked! And I still am! I’m drawing my diary. I’m drawing cards. And I’ve come up with a project, about which I’ll tell you more soon. All in inks. All black and white.

I don’t really ‘do Inktober’. I don’t ink and post daily and I don’t follow the prompts, but my own life and flow instead. And still…it feels fun to know that there are so many people out there in the world who are inking right now. It kind of feels like a community revolving around little jars of black ink. When I sit down behind my drawing table, I can almost hear them scratching and cross-hatching away. I can hear them say “Ouch!” when they accidentally puncture their skin with the sharp nibs. I can see them jump up and dash for a towel to clear up the growing puddle of ink on their desks. I can hear them curse at an indelible mistake. For thirty one days in a year I’m not alone in the experience. And for some reason, I love the idea.

migraine illustration by Mandy van Goeije
“M. Igraine”- Indian ink on Bristol paper

Besides the inspiration I find in the limitation of the medium, I also find that “simple” ink illusrations like these can be quite poetic in a sense. It’s fun to draw something simple and to imply a lot more than what can be seen in the image. I believe it’s a consequence of the limitations within which I work at the moment. And it’s becoming a sport to come up with ways of expressing things I express so differently when working with other media. This is SO black and white, SO clear, such extremes. If you’re looking to express something delicate, it takes a different approach. The medium won’t help you there. Then it’s all about symbolism, about line style, about the distribution of black and white.

If you are intestered in drawing with ink and if you feel like challenging yourself but a daily ink is too much, Inktober came up with Inktober52, which is a weekly challenge. I don’t know if it’s my cup of tea to do prompts anymore at all, but I might just take a look at the weekly prompts when I run out of inspiration. Who knows?!