For the Character Jam, you split a sheet of paper into 16 frames, and make little caption boxes underneath each frame. Then you fill in one caption box with some kind of name or character description “that make you picture someone” and pass the sheet to your neighbor. You keep passing papers around until all 16 captions are filled.
Lynda’s suggestions for character captions
Type of criminal
Character from a fairy tale
Personality type, like ‘snob’ or ‘stoner’ or ‘sports fiend’
Name of former teacher
A title – like Lord or Judge or Senator followed by name of fruit or vegetable
A silly name both first and last beginning with the same letter
(I love that phrase, “until the characters have arrived”.)
The idea is that her class can generate any amount of characters in less than half an hour, and then use those as jumping-off points for little comic strips.
It all sounds super fun, but for people like myself, with no access to cartooning students or friends who like to draw, a solo character jam can be difficult to get going. That’s why I spent a lonely evening creating the Character Jam Sheet Generator, to simulate the random input from a roomful of buddies.
It’s just a few lists of occupations, stereotypes, fictional characters, adjectives, titles, and dog names that are mashed together in a dozen different ways, but it cranks out a staggering amount of random character captions, in a grid, ready to be printed on sheets of paper.
They don’t always rarely make sense, but they can be kinda funny. They seem pretty effective for conjuring up images of something or someone, at least.
The top menu lets you select between 4, 9, 12 or 16 frames for your sheet. (The number of frames will not update until you press “Refresh” or “New Sheet”.)
“New sheet” will always make a brand new sheet with the selected number of frames, but “Refresh” will only overwrite the frames you haven’t opted to hold.
Each frame has two buttons: “New character” and “Hold”. “New character” will update that frame with a new character caption. “Hold” will let you refresh the whole rest of the sheet (using the “Refresh” button in the top menu) without overwriting the held frames. Press “Release” to release it again.
Draw ten five minute cats. Use a timer. Don’t stop. In less than an hour you will get to know some cat that starts showing up under your brush. No by willful effort, but by some sort of being together over a period of time. A drawing of a cat can be that, a being together with the image you make of the cat and then five minutes later you can draw the same cat to see what it is up to. Maybe it’s in the same position, maybe it has gone to sleep. But I like to imagine this place where the cat is being itself and I can somehow pull up pictures from that place onto the paper. It becomes a kind of conjuring. And ordinary superpower.
One of the most mysterious things about drawing fast is how the drawings accumulate some kind of aliveness that I can’t recognize at all when I’m making them. None of these drawings made me happy or satisfied me while I was making them. But later they made me laugh. Especially the ones I’d thought were ‘failures’. Those are the ones that seem the most alive to me later. I was writing to someone about it. Saying that these are the ones that are impossible to do on purpose and impossible to really copy. The spontaneous gesture is in the line. That third place.