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I recently went to a Royal Farms Store in Glen Burnie where I had take-out fried chicken with wedge fries. It was really excellent There’s a reason why Food & Wine Magazine had named it “…best fast-food chicken…” (Okay, I don’t read that magazine but the store had the sign with that quote.)

Royal Farms Store, Glen Burnie, Maryland

I also saw some Bic lighters in that store featuring Run-DMC, Eminem, and Outkast.

Royal Farms Store, Glen Burnie, Maryland

I saw a couple of dinosaur-related stuff at Target. One was a jigsaw puzzle.

Dinosaur Stuff at Target

The other was a virtual reality set that’s a tie-in with the upcoming Jurassic World movie.

Dinosaur Stuff at Target

Click here to learn more.

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Early last month it was an unusually warm November day so I sat on a park bench outside the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, Maryland. One nice touch that the cafe has is that there is a dog dish filled with water that’s available for any dog to drink from. Except other animals besides dogs have also taken advantage of the cafe’s generous offer, such as this sparrow in the next two photos.

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Inside Russia’s alliance with white nationalists across the globe.

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There’s a word for the state of American Democracy: Kakistocracy.

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Yesterday I spent Thanksgiving with the family in the home of one of my cousins. The night before I decided to try my hand at decorating an edible house. I purchased this Hershey’s Chocolate Cookie Mini House Kit from a local Five Below store for only $5.

This kit has everything needed in order to construct that house so I didn’t have to worry about doing the old fashioned baking method. All I had to do was just construct it and decorate it. The next few photos show the results of my decorating, which you can compare to the photo of the house that’s on the box in the above photo.

Okay it’s pretty obvious that I’m not a professional cake decorator. (LOL!) But my family still liked my effort and that’s the only thing that matters.

I parked my car near one of her neighbors and I took a photo of their tree in its glorious fall colors.

My cousin’s neighbors love to decorate their home for nearly every single holiday—both major and minor. I’ve taken pictures of their Thanksgiving decorations before but it looks like they have added yet another inflatable decoration.

The little turkey in the next picture is one that I think is new. Or I have never seen this particular inflatable bird in any of my previous photographs I’ve taken of that house.

My cousin has undergone some changes regarding her pets. Years ago she and her husband adopted two puppies and two kittens over a one- or two-year period. The big advantage is that the pets grew up as siblings and they basically tolerated each other. The big disadvantage is that all four pets have died close together. It started with Cookie the cat in 2015. Then the family went through 2016 with just three pets. 2017 became the year they lost the rest of their original four pets. Gonzo the dog died in March. Soon after Gonzo’s death, my cousin and her husband decided to adopt a new dog (which I’ll write more about later in this post). So their pet count went up to two dogs and one cat. During the Labor Day holiday weekend my cousin made a sad post on Facebook announcing that Lucy the dog had died as well.

So I arrived at her house expecting to see the new dog and the last of the original four pets, Purdy the cat. That cat had long acted very regally as if she is the Queen of the House. (Heck, I even once dedicated a post to Purdy’s regal ways.) When I asked my cousin about Purdy I learned that the cat had died as well. Apparently her health underwent a major decline over the past few months and it got to the point where putting her to sleep was the only option. My cousin admitted that she didn’t mention Purdy’s death on Facebook because she was afraid that her Facebook friends would start to wonder why her family had lost three pets in the same year. I can understand her rationale because not everyone would’ve known that the reason why this happened is that the pets were close in age and they arrived at the home around the same time. In any case, here are a couple of photos I took of the late Purdy in happier days.

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So now the original four pets are all gone. But they have one new dog, who was adopted earlier this year after Gonzo the dog died. Her name is Layla and she is a year-and-a-half old. Layla is also incredibly shy. This next photo is the only decent shot I was able to get of her while she was resting in my cousin’s husband lap.

Let me explain why Layla seems to have a purple spot on her forehead. (No, she’s not some rare purple-spotted breed.) My cousin’s husband has this penchant for dying a dog’s hair in a variety of funky colors on special occasions using food coloring. He used to frequently do this to Lucy, which you can see in this photo.

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The only dog he never did this to was the late Gonzo and that was because he had black fur.

Basically I visited with my family and socialized with my mother. Her health hasn’t changed much. She’s not getting better but she’s not getting worse either, which is all I can hope for at this point. (She has multiple sclerosis, which has no cure.)

American Flag

Today’s the day where many of us will eat turkey and pumpkin pie until we are totally stuffed. For this occasion I made this new ink drawing. It’s the first new ink drawing I made in my small sketchbook since Inktober ended on Halloween.

This drawing was based on my photograph of two turkeys that were on display last year at the Greenbelt Farmers Market. The drawing was relatively easy to do because both turkeys had white feathers. (They were domestic turkeys whose owners had raised as free range birds—meaning they were actually allowed to roam around outside instead of spending their entire lives being cooped up in small cages located on top of each other.)

What am I thankful for this year? My family and friends who continue to stick by me long after I endured that awful drama regarding my divorce and my ex-husband’s antics (such as sending me a divorce petition in a .pdf format that was attached to an email that was sent on Christmas Eve). I’m also grateful to new people whom I continue to meet on a regular basis, many of whom are basically decent people. There are so many people in my life whom I’m grateful for that I literally can’t name them all because I know that there would be a few names whom I would inadvertently leave off my list. I just want to say that I love you all.

Like I wrote in my last post, November 4 was a pretty busy day for me. In the morning I went to the Christmas Bazaar that was held at a Roman Catholic church. For lunch I ate Slavic food at the Slavic Festival that was held at an Eastern Orthodox church. (You can read about both in my last post.) If all that wasn’t enough, after I left the Slavic Festival, I headed to Laurel where I visited Dinosaur Park.

I first visited the place a few years ago on the spur of the moment when I kept on passing the sign pointing the road that leads to Dinosaur Park and I found myself wondering what exactly is Dinosaur Park. I arrived there only to find out that Dinosaur Park is only open to the public two Saturdays per month and I happened to be there on a Saturday when the park was closed.

So I forgot about Dinosaur Park for a few years until I learned about a planned gathering on Meetup.com where people were going to meet at Dinosaur Park and I decided to go. To make a long story short, I arrived at the park from the Slavic Festival but I arrived an hour later than the designated meeting time and I didn’t find anyone. (It didn’t help that I was meeting strangers and I didn’t know what they looked like.)

In any case I decided to just take photos since I was there on the Saturday that the park was opened to the public.

The entrance to Dinosaur Park has sculptures of dinosaur bones and eggs which are very popular with the children.

The dinosaur tracks lead directly to the entrance to Dinosaur Park.

Dinosaur Park came into existence when someone discovered a rare deposit of fossils from about 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. Among the fossils are ones belonging to a dinosaur known as the Astrodon johnstoni, which has since been designated as the state dinosaur of Maryland. The next two pictures show a sculpture of a newly-hatched Astrodon johnstoni.

There were dinosaur art showing what the Laurel area probably looked like back when the dinosaurs roamed that area.

Dinosaur Park is an active working archeological park where the public can help out as long as they follow certain rules. The biggest rule is that any fossils you find must be turned over to the park. You are not allowed to take the fossils home with you. However you will be given credit if you find a fossil. The next photo shows what had been found at Dinosaur Park the day I was there: a raptor tooth, bone fragments, and a fossilized pine cone.

Before a visitor can help with finding fossils, each person must sit through an orientation that’s given by one of the park employees, such as the man in the next photo.

Toy dinosaurs and fossil samples are displayed for people to look at during orientation.

The next photo shows a replica of a raptor skull that was found at Dinosaur Park.

Fossil samples are displayed as part of orientation. We were told that the chances of us actually finding a large dinosaur thighbone or giant rib were extremely small. We were more likely to find very small fossils of things like a dinosaur tooth or a small turtle. Many of these fossils are even smaller than a penny, which is why they can be difficult to find.

Once orientation was over, people can walk over to the nearby piles of dirt and start looking for fossils. In addition to the ban on removing fossils from Dinosaur Park, there was also a ban on digging because many fossils tend to be found on the surface, especially if they had been naturally uncovered by wind or rain. Digging runs the risk of inadvertently destroying fossils.

I tried looking around on the dirt surface but I didn’t find anything. It’s a real challenge to find something that may be no bigger than a penny. I gave it a shot but I wasn’t lucky enough to find a fossil. At least it was a nice sunny day and I finally got a chance to see what Dinosaur Park was about.

In case you’re interested, Dinosaur Park is only opened on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 12 noon-4 p.m. For more information and directions, I suggest that you check the park’s website.

Twitter verifies Jason Kessler, the organizer of the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville that resulted in violence that left one person dead.

A historian explains why the Founding Fathers would be baffled by conservatives’ obsession with flag worship.

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Giant straw animal sculptures invade Japanese fields after rice harvest.

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Americans are now paranoid that robots will toss their resumes in the trash.

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The rise and fall of the word “Monopoly” in American life.

A disturbing dispatch from Seattle’s super secret white nationalist convention.

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This fall I’ve been volunteering as an English teacher to recent immigrants through a program that my church sponsors. These days I pack a lunch and soda as I head to Sunday service. Once service ends I socialize with people while the church serves coffee and tea. Once the social time ends and people leave church, I find an empty room in the church’s Religious Exploration building where I eat my packed lunch and read over the lesson plan. One Sunday, I happened to look out the window where I saw a black squirrel cavorting outside. I grabbed my camera and I managed to take this shot.

Technically this squirrel isn’t really a black squirrel. This critter is considered to be an Eastern grey squirrel but this one is considered to be a melanistic variation where the squirrel appears all black. It’s still considered to be an Eastern grey squirrel despite its black fur so, no, it’s not a rare black squirrel species. (LOL!)

While I liked the shot, I thought that it could use some improvement. So I put it through Adobe Photoshop where I increased the saturation and the contrast. I liked the result even better.

I tried putting the picture through a few Photoshop filters but I found that there is such a thing as overdoing it. Here is the same photo with the stained glass filter. It’s an okay effect but I think the second picture is the best because I had only played with the saturation and contrast. This third picture proves that sometimes less is more.

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The first historical record of Jesus describes him as a “magician.”

An interesting looking crochet version of The Exorcist.

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The making of the first hand-drawn VR cartoon.

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World-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall likens Donald Trump to a chimpanzee.

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One woman’s quest to save Baltimore television, including some early footage featuring a young Oprah Winfrey.

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Dancing Skeleton

Today is the day after Halloween and the first day of the two-day Mexican holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In addition, Inktober officially ended right on Halloween yesterday. I succeeded in drawing and uploading 31 ink drawings in 31 days from October 1-31. I finished Inktober at the same time as I ended up getting sick with this stomach flu where I constantly felt nauseous and I alternated between going through dry heaves and diarrhea. The fact that it also happened on the same day as Halloween totally sucks. I barely managed to get myself together enough to give out treats to the trick or treaters. Instead of going to a Halloween night party at a friend’s house, I had to make an emergency run to Giant after the official trick or treat time ended just so I could pick up some medication and toilet paper.

Today I feel better in that the dry heaves and diarrhea has subsided and I feel mostly tired. I took a nap today and I’ll probably go to bed early tonight so I can rest some more.

As I go over the drawings I did during the month, I realized that I could easily put them into certain categories (with many of those drawings falling under more than one category).

Animals: Penguin, panda bear, black cat, dinosaur, swan, pig, two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest amusement park shaped like a duckling and a swan, Willie the Whale, goat, and Zombie Dog.

Based on Dolls I Currently Own: Volks Dollfie Dream, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (with Donald Trump and by themselves).

Building: Crooked House.

Clark’s Elioak Farm: Two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest shaped like a duckling and a swan, the Crooked House, Willie the Whale, goat.

Death Penalty: Guillotine.

Friday the 13th: Black cat.

Halloween/Day of the Dead: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Goat Man, Zombie Dog, Day of the Dead skeleton, Frankenstein, Jack O’Lantern.

Hollywood Scandal: Harvey Weinstein.

My Own 100% Original Character: Zombie Dog.

Native American (For Indigenous Peoples Day a.k.a. Columbus Day): Wolf kachina.

Real People: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time, Tom Petty, burlesque performer Reverend Valentine, Harvey Weinstein, my father-in-law, my mother (which also includes Elvis Presley), Madonna Girl Dale.

Religious-Related Drawings: Jesus Christ (with Donald Trump), Unitarian Universalist flaming chalice, wolf kachina.

People Who Celebrated a Birthday During Inktober: My mother.

People Who Died During Inktober: Tom Petty and my father-in-law.

Politics: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time.

Relatives: My father-in-law and mother.

Superheroes: Batgirl and Wonder Woman together with Donald Trump and by themselves.

Supernatural Book/Movie Characters: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein.

Virtual Models from Figurosity.com: Woman running with a gun, woman dressed in psychedelic tye-dye outfit holding a gun.

The biggest challenge for me is that working on a new drawing a day then uploading it online to this blog and various social media sites took a portion of my time that I could’ve spent doing other things (such as doing house cleaning, putting up Halloween decorations, sending out a few more resumes). That was the main reason why I had quit a previous effort to do one new drawing per day starting on January 1, 2016 (which was a New Year’s resolution). I think the reason why I was more successful at Inktober than my previous daily drawing effort last year was because I knew it was only for 31 days that I had to worry about doing a new drawing each day. After that I could draw as much or as little as I wanted.

Even though there was an official Inktober prompt list of one word for each different day, I was more interested in doing my own thing since this is the first year I participated in this. (Inktober has been going on since 2009.) I only used the official prompt list if I was stumped for inspiration. Now that I got my desire to draw whatever I wanted for Inktober out of my system, I’m thinking that if I was to do this again next year, I would discipline myself by sticking strictly with the prompt list. It would be a way to challenge myself, especially since I’m sure that there will be a word or two that will have me totally stumped at first.

The biggest benefit I got from Inktober is that I was able to learn which social media sites gave me the best exposure in terms of publicizing myself and my work. I uploaded my drawings to the current popular social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) as well as other social media sites I haven’t posted anything in a while. These sites used to be relatively popular until they were overshadowed by Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. I decided to upload to them because I wanted to see if I should still bother with them. I found that the absolute worst were Flickr and Google+ because I only got one “Like” on both platforms and that was it. Tumblr was hit or miss in that I got maybe one or two Notes (which is Tumblr’s version of “Like”) for some of my drawings but there were others that got zero Notes. (The one drawing that got the most attention was the one I did of Tom Petty and that one only got four Notes.) Minds, the open source alternative social media site, was just as hit or miss as Tumblr in that I got maybe one or two “Likes” on some drawings but others were totally ignored.

By far the best response I got was on this blog and Instagram. In fact I got new followers on both platforms because of Inktober. Twitter came in at a close second in that I also got new followers as well as retweets. Facebook was surprisingly more of a mixed-bag. While I got a better response than Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, and Minds combined, the response rate was lower than this blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

The one major social media site that I didn’t use was LinkedIn because that one is more of a professional social media site and some of my drawings were either too political (such as the ones featuring Donald Trump) or the subject matter was one where I just didn’t feel comfortable in posting there (such as the one about the Harvey Weinstein action figure). I’ve seen people get chewed out on LinkedIn for posting anything that was even remotely controversial (especially one that’s political) and I’d rather avoid it since it’s common knowledge that would-be employers tend to look you up on LinkedIn to see if you’re someone they would even want to hire. I don’t want to lose out on any potential opportunity because of some post I made there.

It was time consuming to upload the same drawing on so many different social media sites per day but at least I gained knowledge on which ones are worth investing my time in promoting myself in the future so it was worth it in the end.

I also learned that there is certain value in practicing drawing only for yourself because you’ll never know when one of those drawings you’ve done have struck inspiration to do a regular art project based on what you’ve drawn. I’m thinking about doing a watercolor version of that swan I drew during Inktober because I really liked the results.

Another positive result of Inktober is that I discovered Figurosity.com and that site was valuable in providing virtual models for me to practice my drawing with. I plan to use that site for my drawing more often.

I also looked at other people’s Inktober drawings on social media and I was amazed by the amount of creativity I saw there. There were a few people who did some really ambitious things for Inktober. I saw some people do two or more drawings per day, which I personally admired since I found it a challenge to do even one new drawing in a small sketchbook every single day. I saw one guy who was working on a graphic novel and he decided to use Inktober to draw and ink one new page per day. There was another person who decided to use Inktober do a large complex drawing where the person inked just one section of that drawing each day with the goal being that the large complex drawing would be completed on October 31.

The biggest challenge with Inktober is to maintain my enthusiasm for continuing with drawing one new drawing per day then uploading it online. The first few days I was very eager and enthusiastic. But then I came down with this nasty cold but I continued to work through that cold even though my body wanted to get more sleep so it can knock off those cold germs. After I got rid of that cold I began to gradually view the daily Inktober sketches more and more as some time-consuming daily chore instead of something that I was excited and enthusiastic about. Even though I tried to keep the designs relatively simple and I used a small sketchpad, I still found myself burning out towards the end. This was especially true when I wanted to put up Halloween decorations or go to some Halloween-related local event only to remind myself that I needed to make time for my daily Inktober drawings.

By the last week I went to Clark’s Elioak Farm because I wanted to draw enough pencil sketches so I could just ink over them on the allotted day for the next few days. Then I spent one additional evening filling up my sketchbook with enough Halloween-themed pencil sketches to last me until the very end of the month.

But then I began to just burn out on even doing the ink over the pencil outlines, especially during that last weekend before Halloween. I started to partially-ink over more than one pencil sketch a day or two before the allotted date while leaving each one intentionally unfinished until the allotted date, when I would finish it so I could technically say that I did work on one new drawing per day each day during Inktober. One evening, about two nights before the end of Inktober, I used my free time to do the bulk of the inking on my scheduled drawings of the last two days while leaving just a small area of each drawing unfinished so I could spend less than 15 minutes completing each drawing on the allotted day.

I did it this way because I grew tired of spending anywhere from a half-an-hour to a full hour working on each new drawing then spending additional time photographing my drawing then uploading it on my various social media accounts. You may think that I was cheating but I don’t care. If I hadn’t done something like this, I would’ve grown so tired of spending a chunk of time on my Inktober sketch that I would’ve quit just days before October 31.

Right now I’m typing this in the early days of NaNoWriMo, which is something similar to Inktober where you spend every day in November writing your novel. I’ve read about people who are doing NaNoWriMo but I’m definitely not taking part in this. Spending time each day doing Inktober was enough for me without having to go from doing daily Inktober drawings in October to writing daily NaNoWriMo prose in November.

Now that Inktober is over, I’m going to take some time off from drawing on a daily basis because I have other things in my life that I need to focus on (such as the upcoming winter holidays in December). Ultimately I’m going to try doing a new drawing in my sketchbook at least once a month. I would do this by just working on that drawing in blocks of 15 minutes on a given day (and that would be only if I had extra time available for me to do such a drawing). I would keep on working on the same drawing, 15 minutes at a time and one day at a time, until I’m finished. Basically I want to practice my drawing but on a more leisurely schedule where I can balance that with other activities that require my attention at the same time.

Of course only time will tell whether I actually achieve this. (LOL!) But I’m willing to at least give it a try.

Here are a few things I would advise a person who’s thinking about doing either Inktober next year or simply wants to devote a different month to doing one drawing per day (such as December or March or June):

1. Don’t obsess too much about drawing supplies. I know the official Inktober site has a list of recommended supplies but some of these supplies (such as Micron pens) can be pretty expensive to those on a tight budget. If you can’t afford the recommended Inktober supplies, don’t fret. Just go with cheaper supplies instead. I did my Inktober drawings using a cheap pack of multicolored Paper Mate InkJoy pens that I purchased at Target for only $10. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t use the best supplies either. I saw quite a few Inktober drawings that were done only with the cheap disposable blue ink Bic ballpoint pens and I found them to be just as interesting and well-done as the ones that were used with the more expensive pens. As for drawing paper, I would recommend shopping around because sometimes you can find the best bargains. Here’s one example: I’ve seen 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm) sketchbook drawing pads on sale at my local Five Below store for only $5.

2. Use a small sketchbook that’s no bigger than 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm). Not only will you fill up the page faster than with a larger sketchbook but a smaller sketchbook is more portable. I did my Inktober drawings using a 4” x 6” (10 cm x 15 cm) sketchbook. When I decided to travel to Clark’s Elioak Farm to do some more Inktober drawings, all I had to do was to put my sketchbook (along with my pens and pencils) in my purse and I was good to go. Heck, I saw some Inktober sketches online that were drawn on Post-It Notes.

3. If you can, try setting aside a certain time each day to work on your Inktober sketch. It could be when you wake up the first thing in the morning or after dinner or whenever. If you can’t commit to the same time every day, then just take advantage of whatever free time suddenly materializes to do your drawings. I’ve seen people admit that they did their Inktober sketches while riding public transportation on the way to or from their day jobs. I’ve even seen people admit that they did their drawings on the sly while being forced to sit in on a boring lecture at school or they took advantage of some downtime at work. Just do whatever works for you.

4. The one thing about Inktober I learned is that you can do some advance drawings in pencil as long as you wait until the designated day to do the final inking. In fact, I learned that this year’s official Inktober prompt list was put online two weeks before the month began so one could have the luxury to decide what he/she wanted to draw on the designated day and even do a rough sketch in pencil. I took advantage of this policy towards the end of the month when I began to burn out on doing a new drawing every day and I was in danger of quitting before the month was over. What I did was to go to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I finished one new drawing in ink but I did other unfinished drawings in pencil that I could finish in ink over the next few days. By the time I finished that series, it was close to Halloween so I spent one evening just doing a pencil drawing of Madonna Girl Dale (who usually wears a costume in public all year round) followed by pencil drawings of traditional Halloween and Day of the Dead figures until the 31st drawing of the month. So I spent the last week of Inktober just coloring in one previously made pencil drawing in ink per day until I reached the last drawing on Halloween.

5. If you hit a rough patch where you really can’t focus on doing any complicated detailed drawings or you don’t have a lot of time to do anything too complex, just do a simple drawing that you can easily finish in 30 minutes or less. I experienced this challenge earlier this month when I came down with this horrible cold that literally left me feeling very weak and tired all the time. For those days I decided to do simple drawings of a penguin and a panda bear because those animals were relatively easy for me to draw quickly before I felt tired enough to take another nap. As an added bonus, those two drawings were basically black and white drawings so I didn’t have to do much thinking while I drew them. I also didn’t bother with drawing backgrounds because that would’ve been more time-consuming and I didn’t feel wide awake enough to draw something that would’ve been more complex.

6. Don’t be a perfectionist about your drawing. The whole purpose of Inktober is to practice your drawing, not focusing on being the next Rembrandt or Keith Haring. The idea is to do a quick drawing that can be done in a small part of your day.

7. Don’t be afraid of posting your drawings online, even if you personally feel less than enthusiastic about your latest drawing. I found that people tended to be really nice towards those who posted their Inktober drawings and many of them gave positive feedback. I personally didn’t encounter any cyberbullying in the month that I posted my Inktober drawings online. Just post your drawing online even if you personally don’t like it because there will be people who will like it better than you do.

Well, that’s it for Inktober 2017. I’ll end this post with a couple of embedded things in case you’ve missed some or all of the Inktober drawings I’ve been uploading over the past month. One is a YouTube video that includes some catchy background music.

If you prefer to view the pictures at your own pace without background music, you can view my Flickr album instead.

Inktober 2017

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