#InkyDays: A year of drawing, daily, with ink.

Copyright © Kristin Henry 2018

Originally published at kristinhenry.github.io.

What possessed me to try #inktober last year? I can’t draw! At least, that’s what I thought. My work revolves around code and data.

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When I do create art, it’s usually with code. It involves a lot of creativity, but it’s abstract. If I’m drawing, it’s usually just to figure out the mathematics of something.

And yet, I decided to give #inktober a try, to draw with ink every day in October and share my drawings on social media with the hashtag #inktober. Along with artists around the world.

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My first drawing was truly terrible. Yes, really. It was terrible.

My second drawing was a little less terrible. With that second drawing I started experimenting with a glass pen and ink I’d brought home as a souvenir from Venice.

In the early days, I was drawing grids with a pencil and using these grids to guide my drawing in ink. It took me awhile, but eventually I started letting go of the grid.

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During #inktober, sharing my drawings with all those artists, drawing and posting, helped me keep going. If they could make it to the end of the month, maybe I could too.

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I started playing with simple repeating patterns, more like something I might code … sort of “Generative”. Possibly drawing generative art, by hand.

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By the end of October, I realized I didn’t want to stop. My drawing skills were slowly improving, and the daily drawing had become meditative for me. I’m a big fan of Dr. Immy Smith’s work. So, when we decided to continue drawing and came up with #inkyDays, I was thrilled.

It took me a while, but I eventually realized I was indeed “generative drawing”, and my thinking shifted to focus on patterns. On some days, my idea could have worked well with code.

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As I continued drawing daily, my patterns became more organic. I’ve always been fascinated with knot-work and illuminated manuscripts. I started playing more with under-over patterns

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Keeping up with daily drawings proved challenging during the holidays. In late December, I spent some time in Santa Fe with my family. On those days, I did my daily drawings quickly, with a ballpoint pen.

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I found some new inks in Santa Fe. Once I got them home, I discovered that they ‘bled’ when combined with my other inks. This could be interesting!

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The Women’s March was amazing. There are so many of us! My drawing for the day of the march was a sea of pink hats.

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The day after, I imagined all the pink hats in our day-to-day lives. In the crowd, we may notice a few, but there are so many more that we don’t notice. We are more than we can see.

I spend a lot of time writing and thinking about data and code. I often wake up with an idea that I want to code…or how to fix a bug I’ve been battling with.

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Since starting #inkyDays, I sometimes wake up with an idea to draw. They’re usually organic in some way.

Coming up with ideas hasn’t been too hard. I’m usually influenced by whatever’s going on in my life. In March, I was well into preparing to take the GalaxyGoo Cell Project back to the Maker Faire. Cells and Organelles were on my mind.

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Inspiration comes from so many places. I read a lot. Often it’s Science Fiction, and Julie Czerneda is one of my favorite authors. Her ‘Drapsk’ inspired several days of my drawings.

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Most of my drawings start with a simple idea, and the rest just happens as I draw. I think about a concept or see an image, and I simplify it to a pattern before I pick up my pen.

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Fractals, the geometry of chemical bonding, and so many other concepts bubble to the surface in many of my drawings.

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I love Jennifer Shiman’s work. Her 30-second Bunnies Theater videos are just wonderful!

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While I try to move on to new patterns, it was hard for me to stop drawing bunnies. I spent many #inkyDays drawing patterns inspired by Jennifer Shiman’s bunnies.

May was very busy, and full of change. Just before traveling to Paris for the OpenVis conference, I realized my work situation was changing.

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I decided that instead of joining another company, I’d go independent as a consultant. Yes, that was a scary decision. But it seemed right.

Before the conference started, I had a few days all to myself. I walked a lot, just wandering around and exploring Paris.

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On a day I had plans to meet a friend at the Louvre, I spent the morning with the museum and it’s art. The building itself inspired me. I found a lovely spot to sit in the gardens and pulled out my sketchbook.

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I found wonderful inks in the shops near the Louvre. I couldn’t resist bringing some home.

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In my pre-conference wanderings, I I found some wonderful Japanese paper cuts in a museum. These inspired another drawing.

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At a conference, the whole point is to talk with people you don’t usually see face to face, and to network, network, network.

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I didn’t have much time to draw at OpenVis, but I squeaked out a few minutes between talks. My sense of humor is usually a bit nerdy. Drawing pie-charts during a data visualization conference was a bit of wicked whimsey on my part.

The morning after I got home from Paris, I had to head down to San Mateo and set up for the GalaxyGoo Cell Project at the Maker Faire.

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Other makers were also setting up, including the Cupcake cars. I love the Cupcake cars! So I drew some with my new inks from Paris.

Building clay models of cells, with hundreds of kids at the Maker Faire, absolutely influenced my drawings. Once back to normal-ish life, I started playing even more with my new inks.

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Usually, I try to keep the drawing composed in the center of the page. But for this drawing, I was inspired by a photo of bright orange lichen in the woods, and I wanted the pattern to run off the page.

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This whole drawing adventure started with ink from Italy. When I was in Paris, I was delighted to find more Italian ink.

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This oak gall ‘black’ is really interesting to draw with. It darkens over time. When first drawn, it doesn’t look dark at all. I didn’t even realize it was ‘black’ ink for several days after drawing with it.

When I started this, I was hoping to keep going for a month. That was a year ago.

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I’ve learned a lot about ink, and my daily drawings have become an essential meditation that helps me get focus for the day. Some of my drawings are terrible. Most are nice. But a few are kinda fantastic.

Over this year I’ve collected new inks, both at home and on my travels, and my color choices have evolved. If you’re curious, you can visit the interactive version of this article on my site. At the end of that story, you can mouse over the dots in the chart, to see where each ink came from.

Written by

Data Visualization Consultant. Generative and Data Artist. Creative Coder. Founder of GalaxyGoo. http://kristinhenry.github.io/

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