October is for Art – Alternatives to Inktober™️ for Celebrating Creativity

Black and white illustration of a early European woman holding her head with one hand tear rolling down her cheek, sitting in profile at a desk with an inkwell at the top of desk

Fall has just begun and that means some people are celebrating pumpkin spice lattes and cooler weather. Meanwhile, makers all over the world are both excitedly awaiting and mentally steeling themselves for October and November. Thanks to two very different internet movements these months have become associated with Art and Writing respectfully. This October is my first time participating in the art side of the annual fall festival of making, so I did a little research on which challenge to accept. Writers and artists alike can find inspiration from this article gathering all the different types of art challenges happening this October!

Every October since 2009, artists all over the internet join together to do one illustration a day in a challenge called Inktober. It was started by artist Jake Parker but has taken off as a global phenomenon that has helped many hobby artists jumpstart their careers. Professional artists who might normally spend their time on bigger projects can play and experiment on a smaller scale. Last year in an effort to convince my students the truth of my theory that creative begets creativity, I allowed them to participate in Inktober during October in place of our normal beginning of class writing exercise. I would doodle on the board while they worked and we all had a good experience with it. Here was one example:

View this post on Instagram

I start all my classes with an exercise I call Free Writing. (Adapted from Julia Cameron's Morning Pages exercise.) This is sustained stream of consciousness writing for as long as the music goes. It helps warm up our writing muscles for class and work toward being able to harness that flow state of writing for drafting. But I'm a firm believer that creativity begets creativity. So for this month I'm allowing students to draw the #Inktober prompt during this time instead. Or use the prompt for a jumping off point for their free writing. Long story short: Here's my doodle for #Inktober2019 day 2. The prompt was "mindless". I'm excited to see how this exercise progresses over the month! Especially as the comp I students are doing expressive essays next. Maybe this will help spark some ideas for them.

A post shared by Professor Watson (@popcultureprofessor) on

I am more familiar with November’s challenge for writers known affectionately as NaNoWriMo. In 1999 National Novel Writing Month was born and has grown into quite a creative phenomenon. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of November. Best selling books like Cinder by Marissa Meyer started life as a NaNoWriMo project. They are now a 501c3 which according to their mission statement, “provides tools, structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds — on and off the page.” NaNoWriMo also runs a Young Writers Program the same month with lots of FREE resources for teachers! I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo off and on since I first heard about it back in 2006. Now I do it with my students each fall for extra credit. If you’re more of a writerly type, I suggest you try using October as a time to gather artistic inspiration for your November novel. Start a Pinterest board and collect ideas for characters, themes, and settings.

Another reason I mentioned NaNoWriMo is because of the amazing philanthropic organization and the community it has grown into as a movement. Not just their actual non-profit programs like the Young Writers Program, but also the different regions all have vibrant forums led by municipal liaisons. These are local volunteers who organize “write-ins” at local libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops. NaNoWriMo isn’t about the person who started it, it’s about growing writers and building community.

Over the past year, Inktober has been overshadowed by the controversies surrounding its founder Jake Parker. Briefly, last year Jake Parker trademarked the name Inktober and his lawyers sent Cease and Desist letters to many artists who sell collections of their work from Inktober. Most recently publication of his new Inktober book has been pushed back after an accusation of plagiarism. Within the community, there have sometimes been problems with gatekeeping that revolve around how close to the original concept of using only ink one should stay (like whether digital art should count).

I just want to point out that Inktober, or Artober if you’d rather (since Inktober is now a trademarked name), could benefit from a little bit of the magical spirit of NaNoWriMo. Rather than focusing on ways Parker can cash in on his status as the “founder”, he could be building a community. Or the art community can cut out the middle man and push back against consumerism by finding ways during this month to give back to art programs, get kids/schools involved and build local communities of makers who gather to do art together. If you’re looking for a lovely art community to help you get through 31 days of making art, I’ve found Artube (Youtube Artists) a fountain of inspiration for everything from digital art to more traditional watercolor techniques. Three suggestions off the top of my head and their main medium would be Arleebean (Watercolor), Alphonso Dunn (Ink and Pen drawing), and ErgoJosh (Digital).

Because of the sometimes negative connotations in recent years around Inktober, alternative drawing challenges pop up. Rebel challenges that deviate from the traditional “ink only” nature have always happened on the fringes, but this year especially it feels like a free for all. As a professor who teaches creativity, I would recommend you choose your challenge based on your own existing skills. Me? I’m fairly new to engaging in traditional art regularly, so I’m aiming for consistency rather than flair. My plan is to make a small watercolor piece (at least 3″ x 3″) every day for 30 days. Even if it’s abstract and just playing with color. If you’re already consistently making art in your everyday life I say go for a challenge that will be 1) engaging and fun (so you don’t get bored in 30 days) and 2) might push you a bit out of your comfort zone. Try a new medium, if you’re really into elaborate compositions try making the most simple illustrations possible, or if you’re usually an economical sketcher try adding more background and complexity to your work! Or as I tell my students, ignore my advice altogether and do your own damn thing. 😉

Here are some of the challenges I’ve gathered over the past month. I’ve seen these bandied about the internet art community (mostly Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube) and also with the help of my fellow WWAC contributors (many of whom are artists themselves).

Autumn and Fall

These prompt lists are themed around all things fall like cozy weather and gathering with drinks and food. One thing about these lists is that they’ve very abstract so you could use them no matter your particular art style or preferred medium. Some of these are hygge heavy lists created by specific artists, check out the feed of your favorites and see if they’ve created their own challenges!










Witches, Halloween, and Spoopy

This group is broken out from the Fall theme because of the sheer number of Inktober participants who have created more specific lists around October traditions. Witches, spooky, and horror themes abound. There’s something for everyone who bleeds orange and black rather than red and green. From what I’ve seen these themes tend toward illustration and character design, but there’s something to be said for tackling a new topic if this seems out of your wheelhouse.











All Creatures, Great and Small

Some of these lists could overlap with the previous theme, but the variety means they’re less tied to a certain spooky holiday. After all, I’m always down for a good monster movie year-round! I’m leaning heavily toward doing Bugtober hosted by Bug Robbins because of their adorable inclusive spirit. This challenge seems particularly suited to watercolor and gouache, which is a type of more opaque watercolor I’d like to practice more this October. Who’s with me?!

View this post on Instagram

So long SarahRobbinsDraws and hello… Bug With A Pen! 🐛 Ok, Real Talk time- I keep a lot of myself close to the chest, (despite my sometimes extra stories 👀) but I don’t feel comfortable keeping important aspects of myself quiet anymore just for privacy’s sake. Today I am choosing to finally be fully visible- not just for me, but for others who are afraid and wonder if they’re alone and don’t feel safe being out. 🏳️‍🌈I’m proud to say I’m non-binary, I’m asexual, and I’m pan-romantic.🏳️‍🌈My name is Bug and my pronouns are they/them.🐝 . Seeing others be visible has been so important to my own journey of personal growth/understanding my queer identity so even though I’m scared to death it seems as good a time as any to be visible for others and refresh my brand to match how I really feel + who I am. Thank you so much to everyone who has already supported me along the way. Scroll for my new icon, and banner (view on twitter). I’m looking forward to wiggling into a new decade with all of you, authentically and openly! 🐛🦋🌷 . . . #nonbinary #nonbinaryartist #nonbinarypride #nonbinaryvisibility #asexualvisibility #asexual #asexualitypride #queerartist #queerart #rebranding #sarahrobbinsdraws #bugwithapen #illustratorsoninstagram #illustratorsofinstagram #illustration #editorialillustration #bookillustration

A post shared by Bug Robbins (@bugwithapen) on


Crittertober (Also this one!)






Skills Based

What these challenges have in common is that they’re themed around trying new things or challenging yourself with particular skills. From practicing small details, backgrounds, different mediums, original characters, purpose, or even focusing on a particular body part, these prompt lists are more about form and function than themes. I particularly love the passion of G.M. Bennet the creator behind Protestober and this challenge’s focus on the transformative nature of art as a catalyst for social change.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by G.M. Bennett (@theglobalgrrl) on






PaintwithInktober (Includes a giveaway!)





October has become a time for the art community to come together and support each other. Use hashtags like Artober and Drawtober to find each other! Build the kind of feeling you want to see in the art world. It’s a movement larger than just one dude. So skip the capitalist trap Inktober has become and raise up the work of people who give back to the community. I think it’s important to remember that art has historically privileged a certain identity and when we promote marginalized creators it leads to a more diverse representation of our world. If you’re more of a spectator during this month check out hashtags like #DrawingWhileBlack, #LatinxsCreate (which was just celebrated this past weekend on Twitter!), #NativeArt, #IndigenousArt, #NDNart, #VisibleWomen, #VisibleNB, and #VisibleTrans.

I also want to take a minute to feature #NDNinktober2020 created by Sandra of Plateau Pop, which will feature native art and artists. With Indigenous People’s Day falling in October, it’s vital to highlight that native people are here, they shouldn’t only be taught or talked about in terms of history, and their art styles are often co-opted by big companies. They are often depicted in art and children’s literature using harmful stereotypes. Check out Dr. Debbie Reese’s website for more information specific to American Indians in Children’s Literature. If we want to decolonize art and build a more diverse community, that movement must include indigenous creators. Take special care this month to raise up native artists and educate yourself more on this issue.

Tell us in the comments or on Twitter which challenge you’ll be joining in October! Or tell us your favorite artist that will be doing something special during that month. We’d love to share all kinds of artwork this month!!

Lola Watson

Lola Watson

I'm a community college professor, nerd, and mom who collects comics, knits, and procrastinates a whole host of other hobbies in my lack of spare time. My research focuses on using technology in the classroom, pop culture, children's literature, and comics.

One thought on “October is for Art – Alternatives to Inktober™️ for Celebrating Creativity

  1. Great article! It’s wonderful to see so many different outlets for creativity and forces for social change.

    My own project is a prompt-based online drawing site that I’ve been building for the past few months: http://www.drawnandquarantined.com.

    There are two prompts per day, and you get to see what everyone else came up with. In addition to basic drawing tools, there’s a paintbrush tool with palette mixing for a painterly look within a restricted palette, as well as a timelapse feature. Have fun!

Comments are closed.