• Abbas A Malakar

To Do or Not To Do… Inktober 2020

Inktober WAS grand! Back in 2017 when I first heard of it I was taken aback. I thought to myself “This is the future of art”. Here we are now, in 2020. Facing not only a pandemic but the breakdown of a global community of dedicated creators.

Jake Parker started Inktober in 2009. You had to do one drawing a day, every day, throughout October. 31 days, 31 drawings. It was a challenge to ensure a steady and regular drawing habit. People from all over the world soon participated. By the time I heard of it, Inktober was a global phenomenon with hundreds of thousands of participants. Millions of works being done and published across different social media platforms. This was a global movement. Inclusive and unbiased. Based on a single desire to create and practice creating. To be better at this without the promise of material rewards. No limits to involvement. No money involved. A community of creators struggling with the same concepts and engaging with each other’s works across the world. It felt amazing to be a part of it. I thought, naively enough, this was the beginning of the next evolution in the art market. Little did I know.

Jake Parker

With less than a month remaining for Inktober 2020, we are faced with a dilemma. Whether to participate or not. There are comment boxes and posts cursing and calling out Jake Parker for ruining Inktober. There is more hate than criticism. I will not contribute to that. This is not me writing about JP’s alleged plagiarism of Alphonso Dunn’s book. I’m neither for nor against him on this matter. I have little to no information on this. My disillusionment with Inktober is for a completely different reason. The trademark.

JP claimed ownership of Inktober- not that there was any debate. This happened in 2018. The reason for this, according to his statement, is that he wanted to conserve the integrity of the challenge from pirates profiting off of it. “Pirates” selling Inktober merchandise without his knowledge or consent. The trademark had to happen so that he could publish his guide book without copyright issues. No one should blame JP for wanting to profit from an original idea or stop other people from selling it as their own. There is, however, no coming back from this.

He has assured the community that individual artists taking part by using hashtags, drawing or using the word ‘Inktober’, or selling their own works will not be liable to legal assaults. They may not, however, sell the original logo or sell anything with Inktober as the main title. For institutions like schools, colleges or clubs to organize a not-for-profit Inktober function, now a request form must be filled. To me it sounds like they have to beg to be able to participate. The fluidity and openness of the concept is lost. Is this what the global community wanted? We are now subject to his benevolence. He is not just another creator in the community. He is high above us, sharing rights as he deems fit. What began as a forward march of thousands of artists now conforms to the same rigid structure of an established brand. Inktober is now another defined hierarchy. Owner, partners and sponsors. Luring you in to sell copyright merchandise.

I am not shaming Jake Parker. What has happened is not on him alone. This is how things work. Everyone is looking to make quick money. No one can blame him for doing what anyone would have done with such great exposure. I myself cannot say I would have done things differently. This is what capitalism does. If someone is profiting, why not me? He is not a god or a prophet. He wasn’t thinking of a revolutionary movement to change the scene of art exchange around the world. He is another human being with a great idea trying to make a living. I have made peace with this.

Inktober is still free. It’s still a lot of fun. It’s a challenge worthy of anyone who fancies themselves as an artist. Inktober isn’t ruined. It isn’t dead. Apart from Inktober throughout the month of October now we also have Inktober 52, with the former now being Inktober Classic. Inktober 52 gives the participant one prompt word a week, each week, throughout the year. People will always have something as a reference trying to build a habit of drawing or inking. Anywhere in the world. Any time of year.

I reject the brand but neither the core ideal nor the creator. No one will ever be able to deny Jake Parker’s contribution to the field of art. We are forever in his debt. His events are worthy of praise- undeserving of the hate circulating right now.

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