Illustration by Jake Parker.

Central to every single thing we do at noissue, creativity is a life force. We’re always looking to champion creative thinking and practices in our daily lives and are endlessly inspired by our Creative Community for empowering us to do just that.

As you may know, our community participates in a monthly Design Challenge – the #noissuechallenge is the perfect opportunity to stretch creative muscles, push the boundaries of one’s style, and come together over a shared theme.

Our favorite part of each month is seeing the entries stream in and we’re always blown away by the variety of interpretations on each theme. No two are ever the same!

While mulling over the beauty of creative challenges, we were thrilled to sit down (virtually) with Jake Parker, founder of the globally renowned design challenge Inktober.

Where Inktober began

Artwork by Inktober creator, Jake Parker.‌‌

Rewind to 2009, and Arizona-based Jake Parker was looking to flex his drawing skills by attempting to work with a new tool: a brush pen. A notoriously unyielding and finicky tool, the brush pen posed a unique challenge for Jake who was determined to level up his skillset.

“At the same time, several friends of mine were doing health challenges: things like a month of daily pushups, or daily running, and the thought came to me that I should do a similar challenge but for art. October was coming up and I decided to call my challenge Inktober.

“The first several years were just me and a few other artists just doing an ink drawing every day for the month. No theme, no prompt list. I would just show up and draw the first thing that came to my mind,” Jake says.

Jake Parker.

An avid drawer his entire life, young Jake was no stranger to getting crafty and thinking outside the box when necessary. As a kid coveting expensive action figures, he forged his own out of paper, ink and tape.

“I would draw the front view of the character I wanted, then cut it out and draw the back view on the same sheet of paper. I would draw weapons to tape to their hands and play with them,” Jake says.

“As I got older I started to take art more seriously and in junior high and high school, I learned the fundamentals of art. I took some college courses on drawing as well, and ended up leaving school to take a job at an animation studio.”

Artwork by Maria Dimova. IG: @mary_dimary

Inktober, for those unfamiliar, is a yearly design and drawing challenge that takes place in the month of October that aims to help artists stretch their skills, try something new, and get into the rhythm of a daily practice.

Did Jake ever envision the massive scale that this humble project would take on? Simply put – no.

“For the first five years, I had no inclination that this would grow into what it has become. When social media crossed paths with the challenge and the use of hashtags became ubiquitous, I saw a spike in participation one year. I think it peaked a couple years ago, but is settling into a nice level of participation at about 3 million drawings posted on Instagram per year.”

You read that right: three million drawings posted to Instagram each year! Three million people eager to interpret a prompt, find community, and sink into the joys of improving their skillset.

Though our monthly #noissuechallenge is formatted differently, the goal is the same: uplifting our Creatives around a simple theme allows them to bring their designs to life through sustainable packaging, custom mockups, features and more.

‌‌Artwork from recent #noissuechallenge participants

Creative burnout or fatigue is no joke, and when we think of the word ‘sustainability’ it may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, when we asked Jake how sustainability plays a role in his art practice, he warned against just that.

“​​I try to pace myself and not do too much drawing in a single day. Inktober is a marathon, not a sprint, and in order to sustain the same level of quality in your art over the course of 30 days you have to reserve some creative energy for the last half of the month.”

How to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Artwork by Pawel Witiak.

As a creative, you may have felt the looming sense of dread or procrastination that sometimes proceeds a great project. Staring at a blank piece of paper, canvas, or screen can be intimidating. Sometimes the best way to break free from this sense of option paralysis is to set a restriction.

Start with one color, allow yourself only one font, or in the case of Inktober, limit yourself to one tool: a black ink pen.

“Constraints are the oxygen of creativity,” Jake shares. “To make something within an unlimited amount of time, with unlimited resources, and unlimited ideas will ensure that thing never sees the light of day. When your options are endless how can you come to a conclusion knowing you left behind something you had access to?”

Whittling away some of that endless opportunity can actually help to narrow an idea, focus a concept and push something beautiful across the line! All creative challenges unite around the concept of a restriction or boundary. In the case of Inktober and the #noissuechallenge, the magic lies in the prompt.

Artwork by Matthew S. Armstrong.

“An artist needs boundaries to push up against and penetrate. The weekly prompt and the binary nature of black ink on a white sheet of paper are just the thing to get someone to start thinking outside of the box.”

But what happens when that moment of inspiration doesn’t strike? For Jake, a long run or winding road trip often helps kick creative block to the curb. Whether you’re sketching logo concepts for a client, creating masterful gouache paintings, or sculpting your imagination to life, getting up and moving can be a great way to break free from stagnation.

Take a walk, drink some water, or look for inspiration in unusual places.

Jake’s three favorite sources of inspiration? We’ll lay them out:

  1. New York City. Having visited at least once a year, he always leaves feeling refreshed and ready to work harder.
  2. The deserts of Utah and Arizona. A place he’s grateful to call home, this unique ecosystem, landscape and collection of people fills his mind with endless ideas.
  3. Comic books. Beloved not only for their characters but the unique form of art that they encapsulate, comic books have been inspiring Jake from a young age.
Artwork by Jake Parker.‌‌

With over three million people participating each year, Inktober no doubt can attribute some success to the worldwide network of social media!

“I think the greatest thing that social media has done for the art community is to give upcoming artists access to knowledge about the art world that would otherwise only be available if they knew an artist personally.

If there's any technique you want to learn there's a demo someone has done showing that technique. If there's advice you are seeking for your career, there is a video of someone explaining their experience. It's an endless well of knowledge.”

We couldn’t agree more! While there are still plenty of negatives to be found on social media (particularly for artists, the pitfalls of comparison) the access to knowledge is pretty incredible. Keeping your mind open and being willing to learn and grow as a creative will only help to strengthen your skillset and grow your client base.

Wrapping It Up

We’re so thrilled to have chatted with Jake and hope you’ve gained as much from his experience as we have!

We’ll end on the most important question of all: if you were distilled into an ice cream, what flavor would you be?

Jake: “Rocky Road. There’s a squishy softness to me balanced with some crunchy bits.”

Roll up your sleeves and get to work this month on some spooky, creative designs! Our October #noissuechallenge will be announced soon on our Instagram. Keep an eye out for Inktober’s latest prompts and happy creating all!

Enjoyed learning about Inktober, or want to get involved? Check out the growing movement on Instagram and its website. To learn more about Jake’s work, visit his Instagram and website.