Love art challenges and mer-creatures? Then #MerMay is the perfect thing for you.

What is MerMay?

Started by artist Tom Bancroft a couple years ago, MerMay is a lot like Inktober.  The challenge is to draw a picture of a mermaid every day for the month of May.  You can use any medium and style, so long as it includes an aquatic, tailed humanoid.

Bancroft (an animator of many Disney films, by the way) and other artists, like Art ala Carte’s Valerie, are using the month to tell a mermaid story.  Each day sees the next installment or chapter.

While Bancroft says on his blog that the challenge is definitively a drawing per day on Instagram.  From what I’ve seen online, though, most artists approach the hashtag challenge as simply drawing mermaids in May.  A lot of artists share on twitter or other social media in addition to or instead of Instagram.

Almost all of the people I follow who participate (and myself) just try to do as many mermaids as they can fit into their schedules.

It should be said, too, that some artists prepare ahead of time for 31 MerMay drawings.  They may be doing a drawing every day, but prior to the month they do rough sketches, storyboarding, and/or character design.

My First MerMay

Last year (2016) was my first time participating, and I didn’t really know much about the challenge.  But as a fantasy fan I wanted to join in.


I used Copic markers and a Micron Brush pen.

Since I was busy studying for and taking final exams, I wasn’t able to finish even one mermaid picture.  But that’s okay.  The whole concept, in my opinion, of artistic challenges is to go outside of your comfort zone and push your boundaries.

Though a little awkward, the mermaid’s pose was me trying to do something a little dynamic (an idea I was still pretty new to).  It was also one of my first times using a brush pen and stippling with Copic markers.

For 2017, I’ll be posting any mermaids I draw on my Instagram.  I think I’ve improved in the last year, so it will be neat to compare my new drawings to the one above.

So whether you do one mermaid a day or one for the month, remember that the spirit and goal of these challenges is self-growth: whatever that may mean for you.  If you post to social media, make sure to tag it #MerMay so others can see your hard work!

It’s become blaringly apparent lately that my goal of 31 ink drawings by the end of Inktober was a bit too ambitious.  The second week of October I got a bad cold, and now I’m putting a lot of work into my Latin studies.

However, I am happy with the improvements and drawings I have made, despite being disappointed about the total count.  But hey, life happens.  Thankfully the use of ink is absolutely not limited to this one month and challenge.  I look forward to continuing to improve and create inky art in the future.

My latest (and probably last) drawing for Inktober is still in progress.  Last year I made a picture for my grandparents of a deer, and since then I’ve really liked drawing them.  Moose are clearly a little different, and I was interested in studying those differences.  I also wanted to try and create a short hair texture in contrast to the antlers.

Inktober Moose 2016 WIP Watermarked

I’m really loving it so far.  It takes time to build up the shading with short strokes, and I’m largely testing out the techniques here, but it’s turning out well.  Also, it makes me happy to be using my colored microns again.  The dark chocolate color suits the moose for obvious reasons, plus it will make it look more natural and soft when complete.  Now I only have the rest of the legs and some grassy elements on the bottom to do.

The face, which I did first, doesn’t quite match the rest of the body.  Because I grew more confident as I went along, the head has more tentative shading.  It shouldn’t be hard to go back and add a little more.


How are your Inktobers going? Let me know in the comments below.

I ended up doing something different today.  I recently bought a Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen in black, and have been longing to use it.  While browsing Google searches for ink art, to find some inspiration, I stumbled upon the work of Charles Dana Gibson.

Specializing in inked images of figures, particularly women, he is widely regarded as a master of pen and ink.  If you search his name in Google images you can see why.  His characters feel alive and real.

As I learned at the Library of Congress website, his design of women in the 1890’s became known as the ‘Gibson Girl’.  In fact, it became a cultural icon that set fashion and beauty standards for many years.

The particular illustration I studied is simply known as Head of a Girl, and dates to somewhere between 1893 and 1914.  I followed his example of doing a loose graphite underdrawing and then inking.

Head of a Girl Inking Study

To be honest, I didn’t do much of a sketch first.  As you can see, I have been using an “Inktober Practice Apple” sticky note to warm up and play around with techniques. I did a little thumbnail there, a sketch of the basic face on the right, and went in with my Pitt pen.

The end result is okay.  Gibson’s girl looks alluring in her blasé expression, while mine just looks bored.  But the important thing is that I learned a lot from this study.  It was a fun experience to give structure to the face with simple diagonal lines, and an updo through carefully placed yet loose swoops.

I did get overconfident and less careful by the time I reached the neck, which is why it is, well, a bit tree-trunk-ish.  I tried to fix it, but gave up since it just seemed to make it worse.  Anyways, I look forward to studying more of Gibson’s work to improve my own inking.

After taking some time off for my birthday, today’s Inktober work is inspired by the occasion.  I had a few other ideas, but since it was my 20th I thought I should doodle something for it.

Inktober drawing #3, on the fourth

My cake last year actually looked a little like this one.  Well, it had three small tiers anyway.  I finally broke out my colored Pigma Microns.  It’s mostly dark blue, with tiny orange accents on the candles.

One thing that’s been particularly interesting to me about ink lately is the use of different textures- how one pen can create a variety of surfaces.  I played with that in this, experimenting with the crosshatching on the table, the little flowers on the borders, and the scumbling/scribbling background.

I was nervous about the background.  It felt like adding that dark scribbling would either make or totally ruin the picture.  In the end, I think it could have been done better.  Although it does add some depth which is nice.

Inktober 2016: Day Two

This evening I felt like drawing some fashion.  Clothing folds are something I would like to be better at, as well as drawing people beyond just headshots.

Pinterest is often my go-to for inspiration and references.  Interestingly enough, though, the subject today isn’t wearing any of the outfits I found.  The end result, as you can see, was a sort of amalgamation of what I saw.

Inktober 2016 Day Two Woman

Materials used: Pigma Micron pen, Pigma Brush, white Gelly Roll, Copic Cool Grays

I don’t often draw women with short hairstyles, but I was inspired by some updos and dress/skirt combos.  This turned into a character from the 1940’s and ‘50’s.  I like to think she’s a down-to-earth, sarcastic journalist or businesswoman.  In this image, I imagined she was halfheartedly contemplating a problem in the office.

Her backstory and design were gradual developments, which I think was both good and bad.  It was good in that I was able to keep going and finish the illustration without being bogged down by my perfectionism.  That said, her proportions are off, since I didn’t really stop to check them while drawing.  Oops.

Inktober 2016: Day One

Today’s art star: Batman!  I’d never drawn him before, so I was excited to try something new.  I was inspired to go with a similar style to his animated appearances, where his eyes are just white shapes.  To go with that I put white rim lighting on his him.

Batman Inktober 2016 Day One

Although Batman is known to be stoic, I decided to give him a snarl.  The sort of look he might have before stopping some frustrating bad guys.  I wanted to capture the grimness of Gotham abstractly, so I used my Copic cool grays to add rain in the background.

It’s time for another Inktober! I thought you might want to see which ones are in my arsenal this month.

First, are the Pigma Micron pens by Sakura. Technically, there are also the Pigma Brushes and Pigma Graphics, which are ink brushes and markers respectively. This is a mixed set of 16 I purchased a while back. The Microns are what I use for all of my inking normally. The Brush makes occasional appearances when I’m feeling fancy, and the Graphics are seldom used to fill in large areas.

I also have a selection of colored Micron pens (more than what’s above, but here is an array of most of the colors). These were my favorites last year, as I received them for my birthday at the beginning of Inktober.

The basis of pretty much all of my drawings, I use pencils to do a sketch that I ink over. I tend to prefer wooden pencils around the B-HB range for these, but I’m not too picky. The erasers I use are pretty cheap but good for erasing the sketch after inking.

Some people consider using Copics and other markers cheating for Inktober. Other people say that there is ink in the markers, so they count. I’m kind of in between. For this year, I’ve decided that I can use some of my cool grays, but only for accents or to fill in spaces.

A major staple in many artist’s supplies is a white gel pen. Specifically, I use a white classic Gelly Roll by Sakura. It gives an opaque color fairly easily, making it good for bold highlights and fixing inking mistakes.

Edit: I picked this Pitt Pen by Faber Castell up about half way through Inktober. I’ve been meaning to get one for a while, based on some positive reviews on YouTube.

What are you using this Inktober? I’d love to know in the comments!

What is Inktober?

Month long initiatives for skill-building, projects, charities, and more are nothing new. One of my favorites, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), was started back in 1999. From Movember’s mustachioed charitable funds to American Humane’s life-saving “Adopt-a-Dog” month, these challenges/awareness events create communities and make a difference.

Inktober, created by Jake Parker in 2009, is one of the more artistic and personal themes. Every October, thousands of artists create inked works for the challenge. The main intention? Personal growth in discipline and a specific medium.

On his website, illustrator Jake Parker says he started Inktober as a personal endeavor to improve his “inking skills and develop positive drawing habits.” His challenge has inspired a worldwide community, with over 3.5 million posts for #inktober on Instagram. Participants on Instagram have expanded beyond the traditional pen and paper medium to include ink washes, alcohol markers, and even tattoos.

While there is an official prompt list for 2016, there are no required subject matters. The rules Parker lists on his website are quite simple:
“1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).
2) Post it online
3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2016
4) Repeat”

He adds an encouraging note below these, that not completing all 31 drawings is not failure; even doing one ink sketch a week is acceptable. It’s all about self-improvement. So “the more you’re consistent [you are] the better.”

Parker includes a comprehensive list of his favorite Inktober materials as well. Curious what materials I’ll use this Inktober? See the list here. You can also see my first Inktober sketches from 2015 here.

Have you participated in Inktober? Let me know below!