Inktober 2018 and How I Approach Art Challenges

October is upon us, which means Halloween, colorful leaves, cooling weather, and INKTOBER.


For those who do not know about Inktober, it is a drawing challenge created by Jake Parker where artists create illustrations using ink and share them throughout the month of October. (You can learn more at the official site HERE.)

There is an official prompt list provided, but usually I use my own themes. One year, I did little pattern doodles on index cards, and another year, I worked on my brush lettering. This year, I've decided that I want to focus on learning about types of flowers and plants. If you know anything about my work, you know that I LOVE to work with floral designs. However, I usually make them up as I go. I've always been meaning to dive more in depth into the structure and forms of actual species of flora.

I thought I might take this opportunity to further explain my personal approach to art challenges. I love to participate in various art challenges across the web and social media. (Some of my favorites include Homwork and Spoonflower.) Many of these challenges are daily or weekly. It is such a fun way to engage with other artists, learn new skills, build habits, and get your art seen. However, it can be overwhelming, especially with all the different ones out there!

I've really been focusing on making creative habits this year, so art challenges really help with this goal since it gets me drawing and painting on regular basis. The thing is, it's easy to fall off the wagon. These are some of the guidelines I follow as I participate:

  •  Don't be discouraged if you miss a day/week. It's not the end of the world. In fact, I really only participate in those that inspire me personally. And if I miss one because of time, I just continue with the next. Don't feel the need to "make up" the ones you miss—that just adds unnecessary pressure.

  • Find a way to be productive with your art challenges. In the past, I haven't been great at this and just did whatever. Now I am realizing there's a better approach. Yes, you can just use challenges for routine sketching exercises and social media exposure, but why not go further? Use your daily sketches to work on a skill you want to improve, or develop an illustration or collection idea you’ve been wanting to work on. Perhaps even aim to sell your original artwork or prints. Have a purpose going in. For instance, I am using this year's Inktober to study plant species. I have an end goal that is specific to my work.

  • As always, follow the usual advice: Plan ahead and set aside a specific time—the basics to success with art challenges.

  • Oh, and have FUN!

So with all this in mind, I've come up with the following list for Inktober 2018 and mapped out each day with the various plant life I want to explore. And because it's October, I'll be adding some Halloween elements as well!

In addition, I took the extra step to hand craft a sketchbook specifically for my Inktober drawings. I used THIS old tutorial from my sister Dani Jones. I decorated the cover with floral scrapbook paper and added in some spider details with ink. The paper is heavyweight Bristol, so the ink won't bleed through. I might have gotten some blood on the pages when I poked my finger while sewing up the signatures, but that just adds to the whole Halloween theme, right? Haha.


Follow along daily on my Instagram (@nicolejonessturk). I'll be adding my own unique hashtag #njsinktober2018 as well. If you use any of my prompts, please tag me so I can see!

Happy October!

Moving Forward

I am super excited that it is now September, mostly because it marks the beginning of the autumn months (my favorite time of the year). September also marks the beginning of school. My kids are still too young, but my husband is a college student, so we have seen a change of routine around my home. There will be more time alone with my kids during the day as my husband attends classes and study groups.

This year, I've been focusing on incorporating regular practices into my routine to improve my artwork. I created monthly themes and projects for myself to give me some direction. I've explored color, aspects of business, painting, books, and more. I used this blog to share information that I've gathered over the years. I've gotten some fun collections of sketches and mini projects done, too.

While it has been a fun experiment, I've decided that moving forward, I want to keep things more fluid, not tied to a set theme. I believe this idea has served its purpose, getting me in the habit of creating for myself on a regular basis.

Part of this is also coming from my desire to make this blog more personal and meaningful. I love sharing what knowledge and insights I have with you, but I don't want my blog to become too academic, which I feel it has a little bit. And I just want to have more fun with it!

So these are just my thoughts as I enter into September. 

I'm still dedicated to pursuing personal projects, growing my portfolio, and sketching every day! In that aspect, nothing has changed. And I'm still going to hop into a themed monthly challenge every now and again. (Inktober IS coming up, after all...)

As always, the best way to follow along with my daily work is via my Instagram (@nicolejonessturk).

Welcome to September, everyone!

Paint Every Day

My focus this month has been on the theme of PRACTICE. One of the things I've been doing to implement this in my daily routine is to start my day with a little painting, inspired by THIS Skillshare class. It takes just a few minutes, and I've really enjoyed it so far. For one thing, it has gotten me to step away from my computer and iPad to create with actual paint and paper for once. I also have been able to enjoy doing this in the morning in the quiet time I usually have to myself before my family wakes up. Below are the results of the first two weeks (I chose a floral theme, of course). I'll be continuing with longer, more detailed paintings through the rest of the month.

Sincerely, Nicole


Practice, Practice, Practice

You can sit and read blogs and watch tutorials all day, but there is nothing that will improve you more than DOING. That is why this month, I've decided to focus on PRACTICE. Doing every day. Learning every day. Artists need to establish habits in their lives that help them progress in their work. I will elaborate more on creating creative habits later on, but for now I will just say that never have I ever learned more, created more, and accomplished MORE in my art than when I simply was in the habit of drawing every day.

My number one advice for how to be successful at art:


Ideas will flow more easily. Your methods will become more efficient. Your art will look more polished and professional. I'm not saying you'll instantly find financial success, but it will certainly make you more prepared when opportunity knocks.

This month, I don't have a set project, per se. I'm still working on last month's Christmas collection, which I'd like to focus on. But I want to make sure I draw, paint, and create as much as possible. I am challenging myself to stop wasting what little spare time I have on TV, iPhone games, and unnecessary naps (although I would argue that EVERY nap is necessary when you're a mother, haha), and just MAKE ART.

As always, you can follow along on Instagram (@nicolejonessturk, #sturkartchallenge2018).

Sincerely, Nicole

Creating a Collection

I’ve really been working hard on my portfolio and building up my illustration career. I’m partway there. I’ve had a few good illustration jobs come my way in the past few years since I started freelancing—including picture books, adult coloring pages, web images, craft stencil and embroidery designs, and hand-lettered quotes. I feel truly blessed that I can occasionally get paid to make art!

It’s easy to get discouraged, though. Despite working for years towards this goal of making a living as a full-time artist, and even though I feel I’ve grown a lot, it’s like a never-ending journey. With the heavy competition out there, it seems like my work will never get seen, or that my portfolio will NEVER be good enough. 

One piece of feedback I’ve received recently is that I need to develop my collections. By that, I mean that I need more groups of coordinating art rather than just a bunch of individual, stand-alone pieces. This is especially important if I want to start licensing my art for use in commercial products (i.e., fabric, stationery, craft supplies, housewares, etc.), which I would LOVE to do. Potential customers need to be able to visualize your art on their products, so having pieces that go together, as well as a variety of formats, is key. 

I’ve dabbled in collections before in my surface patterns, and I’ve made some attempts to expand on some of them by making coordinating illustrations and such. Upon further research and reflection, however, I see just how much I am lacking in this area. I think I struggle a little with focusing my attention on one thing for too long. I just like to keep moving from one idea to the next! So, I have more learning to do, as always.

Similarly, if you're looking to get into narrative illustration (such as children's picture books) this idea still applies. In this case, your "collections" would be groups of illustrations showing the same story, character development, and so forth. This is something I would also like to work on, but for now, I've decided to focus on the licensing aspect. I’ve resolved to go back and revisit some of my past work and flesh them out into full collections. In addition, I’ll work my monthly project into this by building a new collection from scratch...


I know it's a bit late in the month to be introducing my monthly project, but if you've been following along on Instagram, you'll know that I've already started. I've been getting a jump on developing some holiday designs. (Christmas in July!) So this collection I will be creating will be seasonal. I would like to include:

  • a moodboard
  • at least 4 full illustrations
  • a few spot illustrations 
  • some coordinating surface patterns
  • one or two hand-lettered phrases
  • some isolated decorative elements (flourishes, borders, etc.)
  • a lookbook with the collection title, description, color palette, art, and mockups

This is going to be a huge undertaking—bigger than any of my previous projects. It might take past this month to get this one done, and it won't stop with just this collection. Going forward, I think this is the route I need to be going with my art. I’m determined to improve and can’t wait to go through this process!

Sincerely, Nicole