05 October 2016


Holidays are funny things, many with storied histories ranging from quirky to downright dark. Many are holdovers from Pagan rituals while others mark historical events (birthdays, wars, deaths, etc.). These can be repurposed as religious holidays, their original meanings glossed over in an almost Orwellian fashion, and others get put through a Kafkaesque wringer of red tape for the sake of making 3-day weekends in February. I'm sure there's at least two holidays that were made up by greeting card companies to fill a gap in their schedule. Many controversies have been sparked over to what extent a holiday should be observed, especially in regards to school closures. Comedians have built careers on the reality of the crawling chaos that is Christmas, with Black Friday bleeding into Gray Thursday (while Small Business Saturday never quite catches on). 

As time goes on, I've found I get less and less enthusiastic for holidays, ignoring most altogether and avoiding whatever I get roped into. For example, I've plans to see my family in December, but to be long gone at least a good week before Christmas Day. I'm also having my own Thanksgiving dinner this year with my roommate due to various rifts in her family that have left it deeply splintered. Part of me is a bit nervous about this, mostly from people placing an alarming emphasis on specific days holding specific meaning. 

"But it's about spending time with loved ones! And if it's not on the day..." they cry out, to which I whisper back, "Who's says I'm not already doing that?" Seriously, I don't get the idea that somehow a gift from someone you care about is less important on one day than another. Sure, Christmas Every Day diminishes the, er, meaning or importance or significance or mojo or whatever, but it's not a comet during an eclipse, either. Still, it gives me pause. I wonder if I'm missing something, if I've just become some embittered Scrooge sitting in the corner with arms folded and punctuating the statement with a mighty, "Harumph!". 

Then I realized there was a double standard in my thinking. I was cynical towards "traditional" holidays, but "new" holidays were getting the No True Scotsman treatment by yours truly. I was saying Pi Day was dopey, Talk Like a Pirate Day was stupid (I mean, okay, it kind of is, but you'll see where I'm going with this), Palindrome dates are an excuse for semi-clever marketing (9-9-99, 11-11-11), and Christmas in July is just an excuse for kids in summer camp to make ornaments in Arts & Crafts. Now, when I see people posting their old photos for Throwback Thursday or adorable kitten videos for Caturday, I may not get as excited for it as I do New Year's, but events like NaNoWriMo come closer than Talk Like A Pirate Day ever could. Tumblr taught me that October is Black Cat Month, when cat lovers paradoxically raise awareness about violence against black cats around Halloween as well as their statistically lower adoption rates while many shelters set moratoriums on adoption because of the aforementioned violence. I think it's great to see people get excited like this over some shared interest. My point is it's as valid as any other holiday, even if you don't get the day off. 

As much as talking about black cats got me riled up, I'm simultaneously "celebrating" black cat month with another internet-inspired holiday: Inktober. Started by illustrator Jake Parker back in 2009 as a challenge to himself, the idea is simple: each day has a word or other kind of prompt attached to it, and you make an ink-based illustration for each one. Proper hashtags are applied when posted to social media to make your work searchable for other participants and onlookers, and you get to see radically different interpretations of the same given theme. There's a few other takes on it, different prompt lists or simply keeping the "one per day" part. There's no wrong way to participate, really, but I decided to stick with the original, and have been for the past week. 

I am doing things a little differently, though, if only by my own standards. I've been drawing digitally almost exclusively for around a full year, off and on for maybe another two. Despite my misgivings, I have generally not missed working traditionally, especially the scanning and photographing and editing of pieces before being uploaded and posted to my DeviantART or ArtStation or even Twitter. For this Inktober, I thought it might be fun to go back to the simple purity of ink and paper, but I didn't want to go through the hassle of scanning. So, I made a kind of compromise. The drawings I post to my Instagram (where this event really seems to come alive) are taken with my iPhone, sometimes at odd angles and many times with shadows left in, and then edited in some program like Aviary or Pixlr or Paper. The edits are generally cosmetic, mostly tilt shift focus or vignetting or color filters, and no new lines are added to the original drawing nor is any part of the drawing erased (only cropped). 

Whatever you celebrate, have fun with it.