Sagittarius Dolly

The Inktober Controversy

For the past three years I’ve participated in Inktober, the annual art challenge where every day from October 1-31 you are expected to make one new ink drawing per day then share it online while using the hashtags #inktober and #inktober2020 (or whatever year you are participating in Inktober).

For this year I was sitting on the fence as to whether I even want to take part in Inktober again. I still have memories of burning out on doing one new ink drawing per day for an entire month. I also felt frustrated by the fact that my Inktober drawings haven’t received much attention in the three years I’ve participated and it’s due in large part to having so many artists also take part. I feel like my drawings have gotten lost in the shuffle of so many other Inktober drawings.

Also, after succeeding in completing one new drawing each day during the 31 days of Inktober for the last three years in a row, I no longer feel the need to prove to myself that I can do something like this. I now know that I capable of creating and finishing one new drawing per day for one month if I put my mind to it. I just don’t need to prove it to myself year after year. I also want to go back to the pre-Inktober days when I used to actually enjoy the Halloween season and working on Inktober had definitely cut into that.

Of course with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, I seriously doubt that there will be any kind of large-scale Halloween celebrations this year. I’ve heard parents online expressing their reluctance to send their children out trick or treating because of fears they could catch that virus. Practically all of the fall and Halloween festivals, parties, and other kinds of events in my area have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

I think the pandemic, along with the death of my mother back in February, have definitely opened my eyes to the realization that there are times when I should just sit back, savor the quiet moments, and just enjoy the little things in life—like the changing fall leaves and the arrival of the milder weather where the outdoors are less hot and humid. I’m starting to think that life is too precious to spend time sweating over making one new drawing every day for one month just to satisfy some online event where I haven’t even gotten recognition for my past work.

At one point I had thought about taking part in Inktober again but cutting back on the number of drawings. Instead of churning out one new drawing every day, I thought about doing one new drawing each week during Inktober. The big issue is the fact that, unlike the last three years, I have less free time this year. I was accepted into a program that’s designed to get adults into jobs faster and it’s designed to prevent long-term unemployment and underemployment. I’m attending online workshops via Zoom four days a week plus there are additional readings and activities that I’m supposed to be working on. I’m not even sure if I have the time necessary to participate in Inktober even on a weekly basis.

Then there are the actions of Inktober’s founder, Jake Parker, who have alienated the artist community in general. Jake Parker originally created Inktober as an online artist community event where people would create and share their art. In time Inktober has become a big name as it has attracted more and more artists from around the world.

First there was the growing corporate sponsorship to the point where there are now official Inktober drawing supplies, which drew complaints from more cash-poor artists who complained online about how they couldn’t afford to purchase these higher-end official drawing supplies. In the past I didn’t let the lack of funds stop me from participating in Inktober and I even made a video last year showing how a cash-strapped artist could still participate in Inktober by using cheaper art supplies instead of buying the official Inktober ones.

But then Jake Parker decided to file a trademark on the Inktober name, which really pissed off the participants who have long assumed that they were involved in a non-commercial online community art event. I’ve read complaints online that Jake Parker had used that trademark to go after individual artists who decided to sell the work they’ve generated during Inktober online (at places like Etsy and eBay) if they use the word “Inktober” while selling it.

Jake Parker has also attacked artists who decided to participate in Inktober by drawing digital sketches using various computer graphics programs instead of the traditional ink and paper. He strongly feels that one can only take part in Inktober by using ink on paper. (He only allows pencil for underdrawings but they have to be finished in ink.) He has even stated that he strongly prefers black ink only although I have used ink in other colors in my Inktober drawings.

I’ve also read accusations on Twitter that Jake Parker had a series of web courses where he allegedly pulled examples from Pinterest without crediting the original artists.

But then Jake Parker decides to come out with a book of his own titled Inktober All Year Long. Naturally the artist community is bristling at the title because it dredges up memories of the fact that Parker trademarked the name Inktober and had gone after any artists who were selling their Inktober work using the Inktober name.

The book hasn’t been released yet but one artist named Alphonso Dunn had downloaded an excerpt of that book of that book from Amazon and noticed some similarities between Parker’s book and Dunn’s own book called Pen & Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide. He became suspicious but, since the book hasn’t been released yet, he can’t look through the book to see how similar it is to his own book. It was when Jake Parker had gotten an advanced copy of his book and he posted a short video on Instagram of himself quickly flipping through his book that Dunn decided to make a screencast video of Parker’s Instagram video then slowed down the video enough so Dunn could get at least a superficial peek at what is in the book. He found numerous similarities to his book throughout Parker’s book. Dunn made this YouTube video where he outlines his accusation that Parker had plagiarized parts of Dunn’s book.

I understand where Dunn is coming from, especially where he speaks about how much work it is to write a book because I’ve written a book myself. I can only imagine the emotions that Dunn felt when he saw the similarities between his book and Parker’s book.

But, then again, I have to remember that Parker’s book hasn’t been released yet. Dunn’s accusation is based mainly on a short excerpt from that book and an Instagram video. I’ve heard the defense that, naturally, there are similarities between the two books because there are only so many different ways that one can teach art. But the bottom line is that Dunn has made a pretty convincing case for his contention that Parker had plagiarized portions of his book. Anyway, to be fair, here are two other videos about the controversy that you may want to take a look at.

In any case there have already been fallout from this controversy. DeviantArt was going to host the 2020 Inktober Awards but it has decided to withdraw entirely from that event.

Then there is also the racial aspect as well. Parker is white while Dunn is black. With the brutal police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the more recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, which resulted in renewed protests by Black Lives Matter activists, people have been taking a hard look at how African Americans have been treated by whites. In the arts there have been African American artists who have complained about having their work plagiarized by larger companies owned by whites.

Here’s one such example: A few months ago an African American social media influencer known as Studio Mucci has accused MGA Entertainment, the company behind the popular Bratz and LOL Surpise doll lines, of creating a LOL Surprise doll named Rainbow Raver that had brown skin and wore a similar hairstyle and clothes to what Studio Mucci wore at the time that this doll was released. In response Issac Larian, the white CEO of MGA Entertainment had issued a series of since-deleted tweets where he basically attacked her in a way that was unprofessional for a corporate CEO.

So the accusation of a white creator like Jake Parker plagiarizing a black creator like Alphonso Dunn in the year of civil unrest due to racism is definitely not good optics for Parker or even Inktober.

With both the name Inktober being trademarked and the plagiarism accusation against Parker, there are calls on Twitter to boycott Inktober this year. Some artists have decided not to participate at all while others are coming up with Inktober alternatives (such as Drawlloween, Artober, Drawtober, and OCtober—the latter being that you draw your own original characters during October, which explains why the first two letters are capitalized).

Last night I saw on Twitter that there are calls for another kind of protest. Jake Parker has already released his official Inktober prompt list for 2020. The prompt word for October 11 is “disgusting.” Some artists are calling for devoting October 11 to making drawings of Jake Parker himself then using the #Inktober and #Inktober2020 hashtags.

Given the controversy and the lack of time in my personal life, I’m starting to lean towards skipping Inktober and its alternatives this year. I think I want to focus more on longer creative projects where I can schedule working on them around that employment program that I’m currently enrolled in while leisurely spending my time doing the best work that I can without having to adhere to some artificial “one new drawing per day” deadline.