Catching up on Inktober

I love working in pen and ink all the year round, so the concept of one month dedicated to ink drawing is a bit odd to me. But since it is Inktober October, I’ll try and do mostly ink sketches for the remainder of the month. I’ve spoken about my favourite pens before, but I’ll say it again; there’s nothing like a good workhorse fountain pen or dip pen to really explore the fluidity of this medium. I’ll often spend the better part of an hour frustrating myself with a substandard pencil sketch, and two days later I’ll pick up a pen and try and capture the same subject and it’ll happen quickly and easily in a few strokes.

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Why? Because ink forces you to look- really look- because your brain knows ink marks can’t be erased. So subconsciously, you hyper-focus. You realize more is at stake, and it’s such a little thing but it makes a big difference when you’re pushing yourself to do your best. With pencil or digital tools, when you know mistakes can be easily corrected, your brain can sometimes lose interest; if nothing is really at stake and everything can be fixed, why focus so intensely? I think it comes down, funnily enough, to our primal human survival instincts. Our bodies and minds just perform better with the right amount of pressure. Enough to trigger the fight or flight instinct but not enough to tip you over into fear and flight.

A friend of a friend’s once said that completing any task takes precisely as long as the amount of time we commit to it. It was something I noticed all the time at university, with essay deadlines and dissertations and presentations. For me, it was 5 days for a good essay. If I gave myself more time then I wouldn’t be focussing hard enough and the research would’ve been lazier, the writing sloppier and more disjointed. If I tried to do it in less it would feel rushed and hurried and shallow. 5 days was the perfect pressure level for me, and I’m coming to suspect that everything in life, from drawing to physical exercise to socializing and dating, follows a similar rule of thumb.

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