Two Milwaukee artists discuss their art in relation to an annual art challenge

Poisonous. Angular. Whale. Slice. Expensive. These are just five of the 31 daily prompts for this year’s Inktober — a month long art/drawing challenge created by artist Jake Parker in 2009. The idea behind Inktober is that artists draw something new every day for the entire month of October, with the ultimate goal being to help them hone their skills, while also developing consistent drawing habits.

The rules for Inktober are simple: create a drawing, post it online, use the hashtags #inktober or #inktober2018 and repeat daily for the month of October. When it first started, Inktober focused on the creation of ink drawings, but it has since opened to digital drawings as well.

Inktober has become a worldwide phenomenon, with thousands of artists participating. Milwaukee itself is host to numerous Inktober participants, including Quinn Blackshere and Cathy Schmeichel.

image courtesy of Quinn Blackshere

Blackshere has been making art almost her whole life, with her first drawing memory an attempt at sketching the Spice Girls when she was in kindergarten. She fell in love the pursuit and eventually began selling her work while attending the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She describes her work as “whimsical,” focusing heavily on humor, animals and storytelling.

Blackshere first heard about Inktober in 2016, and she’s participated every year since. “Participating in it has helped me push myself outside my normal comfort zone and helped me learn more about my artistic style,” she said.

Blackshere is also working with a Milwaukee Latinx artist collective called Latinas Unidas En Las Artes (LUNA) for an Inktober collaboration. The “Luna-Tubre” prompts include Latinx monsters and legends — find the full list on the group’s Instagram.

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Blackshere likes to compare her pre-Inktober work to today’s work, because she says she’s able to see so much improvement. Modifying an old adage: “Practice makes perfect, and Inktober has been a fantastic excuse to get lots of practice,” she said.

She notes that, although some aspects of her art has remained the same over time, she’s learned a lot about how to create a successful piece of artwork. She also reflects on the improvement of her “artistic limberness,” thanks to Inktober. The prompts are often things most artists haven’t drawn before, so they learn to adjust relatively quickly.

Schmeichel echos the same sentiment expressed by Blackshere, saying that drawing every day naturally helps you grow as an artist. In the past two years, Schmeichel says she’s been making more of an effort to practice other styles and skills with ink.

Schmeichel has identified as an artist since she was five years old, when her mixed-media collage of cats won a ribbon at her school’s art fair. She began seeing art as a legitimate venture in college, and while she’s still not at the point of making a living from her art, she’s hoping to focus more on her work and selling it after her kids start school.

A four-year Inktober participant, Schmeichel notes that one of the most challenging things for her about Inktober isn’t necessarily even the challenge itself; it’s comparing her work to that of other artists.

Schmeichel uses Twitter as her main means of keeping up with the work of other artists. “It can get stressful when you look through the hashtag and see the absolute masterpieces some artists are posting,” she said. “But I just try to focus on what I’m doing and improve throughout the month.”

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While Schmeichel’s “main love” is illustration, given that it’s the most practical for her lifestyle, she tries to branch out into other forms when she can, including printmaking, papercrafting and painting. Schmeichel says she typically sketches comics of her family, animals and fanart.

Interested in seeing more of Blackshere and Schmeichel’s work? Find Blackshere on Instagram at @ArtOfQuinn. You can purchase her art on Etsy, under the same name.

Find Schmeichel on Twitter and Instagram at @cattheless, and purchase her art on her website.

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