Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rock and Roll Jam

Yesterday I mentioned that I'd briefly participated in a "sketch jam"--an online forum where anyone could submit art illustrating a theme chosen by a moderator--and said I might share some results if they weren't too embarrassing. I found one I liked.

What I enjoyed about doing sketch jams were the constraints. I think constraints are important in nurturing creativity; they give it something to push against. For example, if I asked you to write a limerick about anything you wanted, you'd probably sit, staring, unable to think of anything. But if I asked you to write a limerick about snorkels, now you've got a kernel to build on ("There once was a man from New Yorkel..."). So: this particular week's kernel was "Rock and Roll."

My approach to the sketch jam was to play around and try out approaches or techniques I normally wouldn't, in an environment where it was OK to be bad. I'll show you what I did, then describe what I was thinking when I did it.

Aside from my hyper-literal take on the words "rock" and "roll," what I was playing with here was minimalism: how simply and economically could I draw and still tell a story? The 16 panels are a basic grid, and most of the shapes are simple circles and straight lines. Drawing the girl, I was partly inspired by Disney's famous flour sack, an old animators' exercise to see how much emotion could be wrung from a featureless bag:

Disney's surprisingly expressive half-filled sack of flour

So, that was fun and kind of worked. I found it worthwhile. I think these types of exercises are valuable in that they make you stop, rethink what you do and why you do it, and consider new approaches. Especially in cartooning, playfulness is important and easy to overlook.

No comments: