Carl Rustung

Was trying to pull off one of Lynda Barry’s class exercises on my own, but it was tricky. Spent an evening hacking together a substitute for friends so I could do a solo “Character Jam”.

Lynda Barry has a lot of good tips for how to unclog your creativity. In a couple of her books (Syllabus and Making Comics, she presents an exercise she calls a “Character Jam”.

There are some great examples on her tumblr.

Drawing exercises in Barry’s “Syllabus” (front) and “Making Comics” (back).

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.

The suggested rules for filling these sheets are:

  • Draw the first character doing something
  • Include their face and entire body.
  • NO stick figures
  • NO dialog
  • Draw for the whole minute
  • Pass the page
  • Repeat until all 16 characters have arrived

(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, ready to be printed.

They don’t always rarely make sense (and they’re not always safe for work/children), but they can be kinda funny. They seen pretty effective for conjuring up images of something or someone, at least.

Some frames from my first printed sheet. Not too strict about the rules this time (not drawing with a timer, not always showing faces or full bodies), just having fun.

You can try it out here.

Related:

Newton’s Cradle

Hopping back and forth between digital illustration and hand drawing to get through a complicated drawing. (Spherical reflections are hard.)

Spaceships and parrots

Here a few sketchbook pages from this year’s first week-and-a-half. There are spaceships and parrots.

Timed drawings

Just started on a 15-week (15 years, with my tempo) program of creative exercises, taken from a book about cartooning. They range from spontaneous drawing to multi-page comic spreads. This week, I’ve been using a timer.