With his left hand firmly gripped onto the edges of a notepad and his other holding a black ink pen, Luke Schroder began to draw.
His actions were deliberate, intensive and quick. He spent a few minutes illustrating whatever was on his mind. The white pages were strewn across the tattoo artist’s table bed with detailed sketches of grotesque zombies, fearsome skulls and an anthropomorphic fried egg wielding a fork, among others. He even drew portraits of me and the photographer, making us look like hard-edged journalists -- complete works of fiction.
Schroder’s office inside Addictive Tattoo is a sketch artist’s dream: It’s small, it’s organized and there’s art posted all over the walls. There’s even a small collection of drawings taped to the back of his office door: drawings of villains from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle universe and a lone picture of a “real life” Homer Simpson.
Each picture was drawn with an ink pen on a small blank sheet of paper and included the hashtag #inktober. When I met with Schroder last week, he had eight “InkTober” images created, one for each day of the month. Which means Schroder should have at least 31 sketches by the end of October if he manages to complete the InkTober initiative.
Schroder has participated in InkTober for three years now. The challenge was created in 2009 by illustrator Jake Parker, who has worked in comics and picture books and has even animated films like “Rio” and “Horton Hears a Who!” Those who decide to take on this annual pledge must create one drawing a day for the entire month (or take the half-marathon approach and draw every other day) and are encouraged to share their works on social media with the corresponding hashtag.
“It’s worldwide and it’s inspiring to see your online art friends sharing and posting their own things,” said Schroder, who has decided to complete the 31-day pledge. “It’s not so much a competition as is it is donating to a bonfire of art.”
According to the event’s website, Parker created InkTober as a way to improve his “inking skills and develop positive drawing habits.” Schroder said it is important to practice and implement these habits on a daily basis by giving economy to your strokes, being deliberate, showing forethought, and making sure the work is complete in your head before making any marks.
“Your results will be much better,” he said. “Especially in the way I’m doing it with no pencil sketch and just going right in with ink. The flaws are going to be there, the pressure is on. It’s going to show that you’re not making deliberate lines or thinking ahead of where a light source is going to be with a hard black-lined drawing.”
Schroder was first exposed to InkTober when he noticed members of online art communities starting to post their own drawings around October a few years ago. He was eventually driven to share his own works.
Participants are allowed to draw anything. Schroder has taken it upon himself to draw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle “fan art” without any reference (other than what his 10-year-old self remembers watching the cartoon all those years ago). But if others aren’t feeling all that inspired, an official InkTober prompt list is available. The list contains a vague word for each day of the month, allowing artists the freedom of interpreting each prompt however they see fit.
As of last week, Schroder had only used one prompt: “hungry.” In response, the Sioux City artist drew a zombie looking for brains to eat at a political rally (the signs said “Turmp”). He may draw something from the prompt list from time to time, but Schroder said he will most likely stick to his fan art theme. If he runs out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villains, he might draw G.I. Joe or He-Man characters.
In previous years, Schroder has drawn Halloween-themed sketches with an emphasis on zombies. Now, Schroder is most concerned with getting his ideas down on paper as fast as possible. His works so far have taken him about three to five minutes to complete.
“I like to go really fast and just get it out,” he said. “I like getting fast results.”
He’s improving his skills with each drawing. Outside of InkTober, Schroder is always sketching something. In fact, he rarely stops. He also delves into painting, pumpkin carving, sculpting and digital illustrations among other things.
Although Schroder has been drawing since he was “shitting green,” he still finds ways to improve his craft. Throughout InkTober, the 11-year tattoo artist will practice his speed and efficiency and expand on the limitations of black ink on paper.
“I’ll definitely do one of those a day and whatever else I can get my hands on,” he said. “I’m not special in doing this. Literally anybody can do this. You don’t even need to post [on social media]. You can do it for yourself. And you really should develop the ethic to do it all the time.
“Anybody can be diligent with their art and do it all the time. It doesn’t take anything to do a three- or five-minute sketch a day. Get a pen out and do it. Don’t follow a prompt. Just do it.”