The Imagination Game: Calvinball on Paper

Bill Watterson, probably the best ever.

This is the kind of game that sucks to play with boring people, and is absolutely a blast to play with interesting, creative people.  You’ll find out pretty quickly which of your friends is which.  It goes like this:

  1. Get a sheet of blank paper, a writing utensil and at least one other person.
  2. Draw one thing.
  3. The next person draws one thing.
  4. The next person draws one thing.
  5. And so on. 

“One thing” is really whatever you want it to be.  One penguin.  One herd of penguins.  One iceberg full of penguins.  If you’re really creative you could draw something besides a penguin.  Like a walrus.  The idea is to build a world that each of your objects or characters are interacting with.

I draw a mug of steaming liquid, and you draw a penguin relaxing in my mug, which is now a mug-shaped mini-hot tub for flightless waterfowl, apparently.  So I draw a bonfire under the mug and turn it into apathetic penguin soup.  You draw an ice block strapped to the penguin’s head.  I draw the mug in the tiny arms of a tyrannosaurus, heating his mug of penguin tea.  It’s quite the snowball effect.

As I said before, you find out pretty quickly which among your friends have a stunning lack of creativity.  Maybe “lack of creativity” isn’t correct; it's their fear of being creative.  Because really, creativity is just another name for being weird.

This game is amazing for road trips and adolescents, because kids aren’t afraid to draw.  Which brings me to my next post: People Get Weird About Art.



From my previous post you may think I’m against copying.  That’s really all a how-to-draw book is, after all.  But not so.  I’m all for copying.  Copying is an extremely effective way to learn how to draw,- to learn how to do anything really,- but you have to go about it in the right way.  The point is the process, not the product.  
If you ever go to art museums, you may see a person sitting in front of an Anguissola or Cezanne, carefully painting a copy.  They’re not doing this for fun or profit, or to hang a oil that’s nearly by a master on their wall.  In all likelihood their finished painting will get thrown away or painted over.  It’s the process they’re after.  By mimicking the masters, they learn their painting techniques.  

Pictured: Learning.

Many have said (and this sentiment has been attributed to tons of people, from Leonardo to Rembrandt) that by drawing you learn. Meaning that you can look at something as hard as you like, but you’ll always see it a little more completely when you draw it.  Kind of like the fact/theory that you retain what you hear better if you write it down.  Studying the old masters isn’t enough, because you don’t really examine something until you try to faithfully reproduce it.

Here’s an example you can try, to show you how well you understand something after you draw it.  
  1. Draw a dandelion from memory.
  2. Draw a dandelion from life.  Be as detailed as you can.
  3. Wait a day, then draw a dandelion from memory.
Your third dandelion will be miles more accurate than the first one.  It will be nowhere near as accurate as the dandelion from life, but look at how much more information you retained.  I bet you thought you knew what a dandelion looked like before; I mean, they’re everywhere.  How could you not know what a dandelion looks like?  But things like that sort of blur into the rest of living.  Few people really look at things, especially closely enough to reproduce them.

I imagine the same technique would apply to writing.  If you sit down and try to faithfully reproduce the spirit of the words in Pride and Prejudice, but not the actual words, you’d have to examine each sentence much more carefully.  Suddenly you’re looking at the details of the sentences, seeing things you didn’t catch before, forming new theories about the characters.  Maybe even developing your own style in the proxy copying of Jane Austen.

Sketchbook Creatures

 Come October, the shores of Canada are swollen with the tiny, soft, fat globules of beached Odobenus rosmarus lipidus.
They "meep" softly.

This appears to be the product of an unholy union between a mouse and a walrus.  Probably inspired by Ursula Vernon's Smallrus, which is so cute it makes me want to gouge my eyes out.