4 Twin Cities Artists Take on #Inktober

4 Twin Cities Artists Take on #Inktober

Published October 17th, 2023 by Blaine Garrett

Local artists Xee Reiter, Nicholas Straight, Jessica Meeks, and Mic Kuschel show off their contributions to the annual drawing challenge and discuss how these types of exercises help them grow artistically.


Inktober is a month long drawing challenge created by artist Jake Parker in 2009. Started merely as a quest to improve his own inking skills and develop positive drawing habits, Inktober has grown into a worldwide endeavor with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year. The premise is super simple: draw something daily with ink and post it to social media. While there is an official daily prompt list, numerous variations exist. You technically don't even need to use ink. Regardless of how artists choose to approach the challenge, the main point of Inktober is to develop a consistent artistic practice and get those reps in. 

Personally, I've made Inktober an annual ritual since 2016. I find it to be a fun and engaging way to build community with fellow illustrators worldwide. As Inktober has grown in popularity, so to have the number of Twin Cities artists participating - each with their own unique spin on the challenge. In this Q & A, I check in with a few of the artists to learn more about their approach and what Inktober means to them.



Xee Reiter is a multi-faceted, self-taught Hmong American artist based in Saint Paul, MN. Her explorations and past works include illustrations for books, restaurants, and online publications such as Twin Cities Public Television and MPR. You can see her murals and exhibits across the metro and beyond including the WE Mural curated by Ua Si Creative for the city of Bloomington, Wonderland for Creative Enterprise Zone, and Home in Stevens Point, WI.

Xee uses various mediums, specializing in ink, watercolor, acrylic, and natural materials to tell stories through both traditional and digital forms. She continues to set her sights on new challenges by using visual art to bridge communities and preserve cultural roots for future generations. You can see more of Xee's work on her website and her Instagram.

Xee Reiter, Digital sketch from 2021's Inktober 

Blaine Garrett: How long have you been participating in Inktober and what are you doing for 2023?

Xee Reiter: My first Inktober was in 2017. I made it through the entire month with traditional ink in my sketchbook. Since then, I started incorporating digital illustrations using Procreate and sometimes follow my own prompts. In 2021, for example, I illustrated 31 days of childhood memories. This year, I’ve been drawing stories using the prompts when I can.



Nicholas Straight has been hand illuminating paper and screens for decades. He currently illustrates and designs for the toy industry and the occasional comic book that comes his way. Nicholas resides in the Twin Cities area with his twin aloe plants. You can see his work on his website and on his Instagram.

Nicholas Straight, Inktober 2023 Day 11 prompt: "Wander"


Blaine Garrett: How long have you been participating in Inktober and what are you doing for 2023?

Nicholas Straight: I've been participating on and off since 2015 — I've done the official Inktober list a few times. However, I've gone off script mostly and have done my own "independent study" Inktobers! This year I'm doing the official list and a gold foil sublimation process. I print my illustrations out on a black & white laser printer onto smooth cardstock. Then I lay on Minc gold foil on top of the cardstock print and run it all through a laminator (with no covering). The foil fuses with the black printer toner when you run it through the laminator and you can just peel off the remaining foil (it's very satisfying). It can sometimes take a few tries since the foil can wrinkle while rolling through the laminator. However, when it is done just right, you have a very shiny gold foil print!



Jessica Meeks has been painting for over ten years and more recently has fallen in love with oil painting. She practices in her home studio, working to build her portfolio and skills. With a love for color and an interest in the human mind and emotions, she works with conceptual themes that often have a visceral effect with the audience. She loves connecting with people about emotions and especially through brushstrokes. You can find Jessica at many local art shows, exhibitions, and festivals throughout the Twin Cities. Currently she is laying low to work on her paintings during the winter months, although all events can be found on her website. You can also catch Jessica live streaming her painting process on Twitch TV and on her Instagram

Jessica Meeks, Day 3: Inktober prompt “Path”, and #twitober23 prompt “Sing”

Blaine Garrett: How long have you been participating in Inktober and what are you doing for 2023?

Jessica Meeks: Well, this is the longest run I have had to date! HA! I have attempted Inktober maybe four times now but never really made it past the first 3 – 4 days. This year I have deep dived into my artistic practice and felt confident in my ability to try Inktober again. It also helps that I have a couple friends drawing along with me, for motivation. I even had a friend create a separate prompt list in celebration of her birthday (#twitober23 on Instagram), and I decided to combine both prompt lists into one drawing each day. I wanted to also bring the entire process to my Twitch Station so people could really get into the Inktober spirit and watch the struggles and successes of drawing and inking. Live streaming the process has been a great way to help jog creative blocks and keep spirits high!


Mic Kuschel is an emerging oil painter based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. As she joins the art scene, she is quickly building up a body of work. Her art is primarily influenced by her personal experiences, as she portrays the intricacies of the human experience and evokes empathy among the audience. Currently, she is focusing on building skills and adding work to her portfolio. You can also see more of her work on Instagram.


Mic Kuschel, Inktober Day 10 Prompt: "Fortune", Oil on canvas paper

Blaine Garrett: How long have you been participating in Inktober and what are you doing for 2023?

Mic Kuschel: I have loosely participated in Inktober since 2017, but never committed to finishing the entire month until this year. I previously took the "do what you can" approach. This year, however, I had an idea to change things up and that helped me mentally commit to the whole month this time around. For 2023 I decided instead of doing pen/ink drawings, that I would paint (using oils on canvas paper) in black and white — imitating ink while not technically doing an ink drawing. Over the past few years, I have narrowed my artistic focus to oil painting and I wanted that intention to be shown here.



Left: Mic Kuschel, "Dream" & "Golden", 2023; Right: Xee Reiter's first ever Inktober contribution, 2017

BG: How does Inktober fit in with your primary artistic practice?

Xee Reiter: As a kid I’d hear other people say “You’re a good drawer,” and as an adult I can officially call myself an Illustrator. I am always working on projects for books, publications, paintings, etc. so having a challenge like Inktober is quite therapeutic for me. I can just free draw, and it helps ease the overactive mind.

Nicholas Straight: It's always a struggle to fit them into my daily schedule, especially being a full-time artist. The easiest Inktober to manage was 2020, the pandemic really freed up my time after work hours. Who would have thought that being stuck at home and not bound to social obligations would be so advantageous for focusing on making art! Haha! Joking aside, it's really satisfying to sneak in a daily illustration during such a busy time of the year. 

Jessica Meeks: My personal portfolio has been my main focus right now. I'm building up a body of oil paintings that I would like to debut in my next shows. Inktober has been a great exercise in building my confidence with drawing and also pushes my imagination, both which are valuable to me in my practice.

Mic Kuschel: Both in the past and even now, Inktober's main purpose for me was to just get me to think creatively and have something low-pressure that felt like creative "play." It is also a creative challenge, both in terms of commitment but also in terms of concepts. Usually, I spend a lot of time thinking of concepts for my paintings. However, for Inktober I don't have much of a choice — I use their prompt even if it doesn't spark an idea right away, and by doing so, it forces me to think of something.


Left: Nicholas Straight, "Golden," 2023. Right: Jessica Meeks, "Wander," 2023

BG: Do you find that challenges such as Inktober help you grow artistically?

Xee Reiter: Hell yeah it has! I’ve always had a problem with finishing things. After completing my first Inktober, I started believing in myself and my abilities more. It sounds profound but it has helped me move on from completing full sketchbooks to painting murals on buildings. The prolificness of the process has also help me develop and hone in on my artistic style.

Nicholas Straight: The Inktober word prompts have honestly been the biggest challenge for me, some of them are real clunkers. Finding that creative window into a terrible word prompt and making it fun and interesting on the page is hugely rewarding. I've been pushing this year's series to be more dark and gothic ('tis the spooky season) and so far... I think I'm pulling it off!

Jessica Meeks: Painting is my most used and loved medium, but drawing and inking has been such a fun avenue to explore and I very much enjoy the energy in linework. It has been quite some time since I have done proper drawing and inking on a sketchpad. It has been rewarding to exercise this with the Inktober prompts and I have definitely seen improvement in my drawing skills. The prompts have even brought ideas to me for painting as well!

Mic Kuschel: I do. It helps for obvious reasons like consistency, but I also think it is a great way to quickly build onto a body of work — especially as an artist who is relatively "new" and doesn't have a ton of free time, like most people. Other challenges I've done in the past that I'd recommend include 36 Days of Type (I did 2021/2022, and started 2023 but didn't finish), and Still Here Still Life (a weekly challenge, providing still life references for artists to use).


Well there you have it. Inktober and other drawing challenges of this type allow artists low pressure ways to explore different media, exercise creative thinking, and develop a consistent routine. Whether you are an established artist or one just starting on your artistic journey, these are all critical concepts for growing as an artist. You can see my Inktober experiments on my instagram.

Now, go out there and do the work. ◼︎ 


This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. 

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