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Inktober challenges Providence students to incorporate art daily

Students Kimberly Parker, 15, and Larissa Siswanto, 15, create drawings with the theme “weak” at Providence High School on Monday. Inktober is an annual drawing challenge in which students, staff and administrators create one drawing a day for the entire month of October.
(Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

Creativity, repetition and camaraderie merged for Providence High School students and faculty taking part in the monthlong art project known as Inktober.

For October’s 31 days, participants are given a keyword or prompt and are then encouraged to create an artistic version of what that specific phrase means.

Providence Advanced Placement art instructor Courtney Abruzzo brought the concept to her school after hearing about Inktober in a conference this summer.

“We need to find ways to teach young artists that just like being better at basketball or whatever skill you want, you have to do it daily,” said Abruzzo, a Burbank resident and former instructor at St. Finbar School. “If you’re a basketball player, you shoot hoops every day, and I really wanted to teach my students that we really have to draw every day.”


Inktober is the creation of illustrator, writer and teacher Jake Parker. The Utah-based artist created the project in 2009 as a way to challenge and improve his inking skills, while developing positive drawing habits.

“Inktober is a time where artists can gather together in our community and just create art daily and see what creative works we can make together,” said Providence Art Club president Stephanie Ko.

On Monday afternoon, in the middle of Inktober, a stack of about 50 4-inch-by-6-inch blank cards are placed on two tables along with colored markers and pencils, paints and wet materials and regular pencils.

Normally the art equipment would be showcased prominently in the quad and be available to students to access during lunch period. But howling winds moved the setup, ironically, into the school’s breezeway near the main entrance.


As the lunch bell rings, students slowly head toward the display, and eventually 25 settle in to create.

Abruzzo said she’s had as many as 70 participants on a single day, but expected a lower tally Monday. High winds and a KIIS-FM tent, there for a drug prevention awareness campaign, siphoned away some students.

Monday’s keyword was “weak.”

Abruzzo sketched a chicken in workout gear lifting weights, while student Matthew Castillo was busy crosshatching a ball and chain.

Inktober’s first prompt was “poisonous” on Oct. 1 and has included abstract themes such as “tranquil,” “exhausted” and “precious.”

For “tranquil,” Ko painted a black-and-white human heart with the words “self-love,” “friends” and “family” occupying three of four chambers and a series of waves filling up the last portion.

Art club vice president Clarissa Corral said she struggled with “tranquil” but found the challenge fun.

Other phrases, such as “whale,” had very concrete representations.


“The trick is to not look on Google but to develop your own ideas and to put your own spin,” Abruzzo said. “The last thing I want is everyone to turn in something similar. I want to challenge the students to be creative.”

Abruzzo put a twist on her whale drawing by putting her upright gray whale in a Victorian dress and wig.

Some students drew killer whales, while others had their sea mammals taking part in activities, such as shopping.

Thirty-one days of work will culminate with a gallery art show on campus on Nov. 1.

Abruzzo already has entries from the community but is eliciting more feedback and is encouraging Burbank residents and artists to stop by the school and take part in the Inktober challenge.

“We want to engage our community to be a part of this adventure with our students,” she said. “This is about exposing the kids to ideas and also teaching them art is a part of their daily life.”

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