INKTOBER: How to use hashtag challenges to your advantage
Being an artist is hard. Figuring out your style, finding your audience, choosing your path. There are a lot of resources out there to help us figure the art game out, but I think one of the best free resources that everyone has access to are… hashtag challenges.
There are eleventy billion hashtag challenges available to choose from, and weirdly most of them see to happen in October. I don’t know what it is about this month that artists are drawn to creating hashtag challenges. (Get it? DRAWN TO? What I’m hilarious) These challenges, especially the big popular ones, bring in a lot of new followers because people will search the hashtags to find cool art. If your art is cool, they’ll share it, especially on Twitter!
In this post, I want to talk about how an artist can use a hashtag challenge to completely renovate or further accelerate their body of work. I will use Inktober as my base, because that’s the challenge that made the world of difference for me personally. Later in the post, I will compile as many hashtag challenges as I can remember and find.
So let’s get started. What is a hashtag challenge? These challenges crop up throughout the year and encourage artists to participate in a cohesive art experience using the same hashtag. Inktober specifically began because Jake Parker wanted to challenge himself to improve his ink work. It is a 31 day challenge in October wherein the artist is to post a drawing every day in ink and tags it #inktober. It has become its own beast, however, and many artists change it up to suit their own style and needs.
One major point to remember with all hashtag challenges is: There are (usually) no judges, this isn’t a competition. The purpose is to improve our art and have fun.
In 2014, I discovered #inktober and decided to play along. This was my very first Inktober drawing:
But at the time, I had hardly ever worked seriously in ink. I was A Digital Artist who wanted to work for Magic: the Gathering. It looked fun and I posted a drawing every day and hashtagged them all #inktober. That first year, I sold a couple of my drawings. I found that I really enjoyed working in ink. Yet even then, I didn’t even see it as the thing it would become. I participated again the next year and produced a sketchbook that contained that years’ ink drawings, like these:
It was a full 2 years later that it all clicked for me. I was sitting at the Illustration Master Class (https://www.artimc.org/), in full existential crisis mode while failing at trying to be An Oil Painter, when I lamented to Dan dos Santos and Scott Fischer that I just wanted to draw. Scott turned to me and said, “Then just draw.” And then he just… turned and walked away… leaving me in my dumbstruck moment thinking “Oh.”
So here I am, in 2018, known almost entirely for my ink work. I’m not some big shot professional amazing artist everyone knows, but those who do know me seem to know me for that ink work. And what’s better is that they know me for the work I love to do. This year, I can’t post an ink drawing a day, but since my entire body of work has become ink, every day is Inktober for me!
Alright, now that I’ve spent ten hours talking about myself, I want to share some tips for you to make the most of hashtag challenges like Inktober!
Find a challenge you think you’ll enjoy
Plan ahead! It’s ok to sketch things out beforehand.
Have a theme
Try to post consistently. Every day is best, but if you can’t commit to that, try to post as regularly as you can.
Take good, well lit photos of your work. You can use your phone, just make sure it’s well lit!
Participate in the community. Comment encouragement on other artists’ post (Don’t ask them to check out your work, if your comment is good, they will anyway).
Share and retweet other artists’ work. Not only will some of them return the favor, it brings awareness of the challenge to everyone, which results in more eyes on all of the art!
Hashtag your work with the appropriate tag as well as any relevant tags.
Remember: It’s not a competition. There are no judges. There is no scoreboard. This is for you to enjoy and to challenge yourself!
So! Aside from Inktober, here are some hashtag challenges I am aware of. Look them up and decide when and how you might be able to work them into your schedule!
Month of Love/Month of Fear (you can play along even if you’re not a roster artist!)
March of Robots
May Sketch a Day
What hashtag challenges do you know of that aren’t listed here? Comment them down below!
When all is said and done, these hashtag challenges will bring more eyes to your work and will challenge you to become the best artist you can possibly be. They are meant to be fun, so have as much fun with them as you can!
Go forth and create!
Tawny Fritz is an independent, self-initiated artist originally from New Orleans, currently living in Colorado. She works primarily in ink, creating bold, fierce works with striking contrast. The purpose of her pieces vary from just having fun to addressing internal emotional conflict.