Tag Archives: comics

Drawing Improv Games at Hosea

Hosea is a youth drop in center in Eugene, Oregon.

I went there this last Wednesday to volunteer my time and get more experience working with teens. Many of these teens are homeless, some are people of color, and some identify as LGBT.  That doesn’t really matter though, because I have found that people of all backgrounds enjoy comics!

When you go to a group of kids with the vague idea of “drawing together” or having “art time,” some will be confused or uninspired. “uh, now what do I do?” “I always draw guns.” “I don’t know what to draw.” It isn’t very innovative or artistic to ask kids to follow along with you and draw the same tree, or boat or whatever that you do. That would be “Product Oriented,” and not creative. These games are “process oriented,” no one has no idea where you will end up. These games can break the ice and warm people up, challenge them and get some real belly laughs too!

Here are some of the comics they made while following the rules of my games. Keep in mind they are between the ages of 16 and 19 and may be school dropouts.


the captions read: “I’m having trouble being funny”
The stickman convention’s annual keynote speaker’s speech was interrupted by a loud invisible ghost who blew clouds.
So the ghosts from Pac man came to take the little man off the cliff

I give kids lots of encouragement” I love the language in this! You did a great job of taking a sentence and creating a whole scene, with many characters.” and some advice- I would suggest you draw your characters larger, put in details, facial expressions and fill the panel with your image.


“This is fantastic! Way to give the cat a silly name and decide that the water was Blueberry. Goofy, silly words make the whole thing more exciting!”

The rules go like this: Have players write a sentence at the TOP of a piece of paper then pass it to the left in a circle of four or more. Ask kids to write a sentence that has both a verb (action word) and an adjective (a describing word). If you were in school you could require them to use one of their recent vocabulary words, or ask that it be tied to something they have learned recently in social studies.

When you receive a paper with a sentence at the top, draw an illustration using all the elements. Try to be specific, avoid using words, Show don’t tell. Try to use only 1/5 of the paper, but if your illustration has to be big- let it be the  size it wants to be. Then fold the paper so that the sentence at the top cannot be seen. You pass to another player who writes a sentence explaining what she sees in your  drawing. Use specifics. I try to discourage sentences like “A cat.” or “I see a box.” Or “it’s a burrito.” The paper goes around, alternating illustration, sentence, illustration, sentence.



Papers can be taped together and the collective consciousness can be followed. This game can have some amazing results. Image


4 Scene Stories  (for groups of 4)
Fold the paper into fourths,  have the students label each square 1,2 ,3,4. from left to right as illustrated below. Image



In panel four tell the students to write an “ending” to a story. Encourage them to use both words and pictures, and to fill the whole panel. Then fold it so that the panel marked 1 is showing and to pass it to another player.

The student who receives a 1 from his or her neighbor, will now write the beginning of a story. When they are done, have them fold it, so that theirs is showing and the empty panel 2 is showing.


I believe the second panel reads “But they still where rocking alone The crowd was smushed”


Now a player must draw a panel continuing the story in panel one. Try to include the same elements and imitate their drawing style, or at least make something logical that follows. 



I really love the first panel in this one, its so cliche, starts just the way an old sci-fi tv show or comic would.


the first panel makes no sense, so who can blame the panel 2 author for going Non sequitur, but then, somehow the ending does make the whole thing work.

Then the page is opened up and a fourth player is asked to make the beginning make sense with the end. How can you resolve it? Try and come up with a way to make the beginning tie into the ending! I have left these comics with their 3rd panel blank so you can give it a try.

Some ideas for taking the game further:

When they are at this “3/4 of the way done” stage, you could make a copy of each comic for each person playing. Then everyone can compare the different ways they would have the beginning tie into the ending. Each student could take one and challenge themselves to make a “final draft” form, taking inspiration from the composition and leaving the words the same, but they are free to add more detail and fix spelling or grammar issues. One of these could form the basis for a longer comic, or skit, where the content comes from the kids.

If you play games like this, or have made up your own, or try my games out and have suggestions, or just want to write me, you can at strangecharm99@gmail.com


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MORE Comedians in Eugene!

From the ACT Theatre's 19th annual Laff-Off

From the ACT Theatre’s 19th annual Laff-Off


Alex Adney

From the ACT Theatre's 19th annual Laff-Off

From the ACT Theatre’s 19th annual Laff-Off

From the ACT Theatre's 19th annual Laff-Off

From the ACT Theatre’s 19th annual Laff-Off




Max Brockman


100_2675 100_2674 100_2670Randy Mendez


Nick Hough

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Upcoming shows- Homer/ Anchorage!


Homer Public Library: Kids Comic Workshop July 12 at 3 pm Free.


Homer- Down East Saloon July 13, 9 pm. Appearing with Mike Fairman. 5$

Anchorage July 14  

Dueling Pianos of Peril with Isaac Paris and Kat More.

The Lofts at Anchorage City Limits. 6:30-9. Five bucks



Upcoming shows-…

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Comics workshop and Kamishibai Presentation at the Bend Library march 27

100_2038Comics workshop and Kamishibai Presentation at the Bend Library march 27100_2032

Many talented kids and their willing parents attended my lecture and played along with improv comic games today. Thank you April, Jill, Heather and all the kids who came!



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SXSW was a total blast, new comics event added!

Screen shot 2013-03-21 at 7.07.14 PM

Portland Independent Publishing Resource Center March 24 2 to 4pm. All ages, there will be a zine workshop simultaneously conducted by someone else.

Redmond Library, March 26 at 6:30. For ages 10 up.
Downtown Bend Library, March 27 at 2 pm. For ages 10 up.

I am also playing a show for 21+ at the Horned Hand in Bend Oregon on March 28. Isaac Pierce and Silvero are playing with me! EXCITING!

I am looking for shows in portland, if you know of somewhere I could play, send me a message.
I had a great time at SXSW. I will post more after the experience has settled a bit and I can scan my drawings.

I drew these and 30+ other bands at SXSW. I will post more in time, I am too busy in Portland.

Marit Larsen

A sweet voice and a talented backing band. It was a delight to hear her play live. I especially liked the minimalist sound of her percussion player. She didn’t need a full kit, but provided a beat that complemented the music while singing and playing the occasional glockenspiel melody.

her song “If a song could get me you” was her first big radio hit and its available on spotify. She said a secret tip she got from Joni Mitchell was to put the word “radio” in your song. It was a cuter story when she told it.

This might be going off on a tangent, but I do believe that there is some truth to the idea of lyrics that musicians repeat over and over again finding a way into the collective consciousnes, and influencing people. A song I have thought carries much weight is that one by Hank Williams (family tradition) in which he sings “why do you drink? why do you roll smoke? Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?”
It’s part of what makes “I wanna be a billionare so ***ing bad” obnoxious to me, and why I get sick to my stomach when that awful song about domestic abuse comes on the radio. Millions of teen girls sing along as Eminem angrily barks, “If she ever tries to ****in’ leave again, I’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire.”
Uh, thats not cool Eminem. Its called murder, please don’t lead young women to think thats romance and young men to think that’s acceptable. I get sick of hearing lyrics I can understand, so thats why i listen to portuguese and french music so much!

Nubes en mi Casa

Nubes enmicasa

Ok, lets do a 180 and discuss this charming band from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Their album is free on Spotify and its a joy from beginning to end. I would call it shoe gaze in Spanish. Josephina, the songwriter told me she is influenced by PJ Harvey, The Beatles and Beach House. I have always loved pop music from other countries, sung in languages I do not understand. This album reminds me a bit of Pato Fu. Gentle guitars, shimmering synths and Josephina’s dreamy voice dripping with reverb are at their best on “Cuerpo.”
We had a brief conversation about what it is like to be an “indie band in Argentina” and their experience coming to Austin, TX. They said they would be willing to do an email interview with me. I havent done that for awhile, but I really enjoyed my interviews with Yakuza Heart Attack and Roz Raskin and the Rice Cakes (both available here on this blog, of course).


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Comics Class!

I am currently teaching a 6 week comics class an elementary school in Fairbanks Alaska!

I have these photographs of busy hands working:Image

I am planning a residency in a high school for April, and I have these dates confirmed for my march tour:

Redmond Library, March 26 at 6:30.  For ages 10 up. 
Downtown Bend Library, March 27 at 2 pm.  For ages 10 up.

I will be adding a date at a Portland library as well… (around march 22-24)

If you want me to come to your school or library and do my comics workshop let me know! You might have to get in touch with a PTA or something but we could make it happen. Here are some things kids have said about my workshop”Your comics class is awesome!” -10 year old.

“I’m so glad you are back, last time I looked forward to it all week!” -9 year old




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Jeffrey and Jack Lewis, The Glass Bead Game

Chris’ mural is finally up! I got to help paint it and it was fun. While I was filing in greens and reds I remember thinking, why am i 29 years old and this is the first time I have worked on a mural?


Thanks so much to Chris Green for hosting this wonderful day in appreciation of comics, and for Brady and Rebecca File for bringing up Jeffrey Lewis. I have been a fan since I heard his album “the last time I did acid I went insane and other Favorites” back in 2001.  I played his songs on KSUA while I was a DJ there. It was  so nice of them to feel I was an appropriate opener. I played two “Damn you Damn you Damn you,” “Sometimes it all reminds you of a story” and “Dancing in the street” as well as old favorites “anthropic principle lullaby” “Homonculus Reductio Ad Absurdum” and Ileah even requested “William H Macy.” It was nice to get a request, though I hadn’t done that song in five or six years, I tried to remember it; I did an a cappella version and forgot the ending. Ah well.
I enjoyed Jeff’s set immensely and he played my request: “Broken Broken Heart.” In that song there is a line “thank you pain for teaching me, thanks but its been more than enough.” This line reminds me that every aspect of humanity/psychology is there for an evolutionary reason, those who felt what we know of as heartbreak” had an evolutionary advantage over those who didn’t. The concept is kinda buddhist, and just one of many amazingly clever lines in Jeff’s songs. He also played an old favorite “Back When I was Four.” He even played a song from his first album and nailed it, “The last time I did acid I went Insane,” with a very weird poem at the end, long and rambling , psychedelic and strange recited by his brother and him in unison. It was nice to hear “Seattle” and these other old tunes. Sometimes touring musicians don’t play songs from their early career, wanting only to promote the new material. He played one Crass song as a request “punk is dead” and one that was maybe by Jack Lewis (I assumed as he sang the lead) about a band of teenagers on tour getting into fights, drinking too much and trashing hotel rooms.

I found it especially inspirational to see pages of his notebooks that included Rom, robot knight. The character has been an obsession for Jeffrey, and he has traditionally started each notebook over the years with a drawing of him. He redrew pages of Watchmen with Rom replacing characters and also pages of Daniel Clowes “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron.” Sometimes Jeff and Rom were teammates, other times mortal enemies, with Jeff blaming Rom for his comics addiction, and cursing him to a life of loneliness. Jeff is seen throwing the robot knight out of a helicopter, and as he falls he shouts “Jesus Fucking Christ!”

Jeff and I also discussed some aspects of the phenomenon of traveling book presenting. He commented that there was a certain justice in traveling with books, as they inevitably get damaged and this forces the performer to continually create new material. It was great to get to see him play in my home town.

For more info on Jeff Lewis, thejeffreylewissite.com
For more info on WallofBalloons and Chris Green http://www.wallofballoons.com/boglog/


On sunday I got to catch “The Glass Bead Game” a band that played in Fairbanks at the Howling Dog back in 1972 and 1973. Riff Rafson plays bass, he and I would talk music and economics back when I was friends with his daughter. Pat Fitzgerald plays drums, and he was the sound engineer for the first and third Paper Scissors albums. Bill Black was playing Harmonica and he was my 2nd grade teacher. He always just nods at me and politely says hello, even if he’s in the audience to one of my weird shows at CCH.


Glass Bead game were a very fun 9 piece band playing blues and 70s covers. Their horn section really was the icing on the cake, with harmonica, and two flute players, Al green on sax would sometimes play two trumpets, providing a delightful chorus effect, or would play a midi synthesizer breath controller. It was pure prog! Phil on keyboards always added something pleasant to the song, but I’m a sucker for blues piano and b3 organs. Donna on flutes sounded amazing, etherial, psychedelic and joyful. Props to Josh Bennet doing sound for mixing all those instruments live into something coherent.

For more info on Glass Bead Game:

newsminer.com/pages/full_story/push?blog-entry–Just+like+in+the+days+of+old-+Glass+Bead+Game+provides+rich+sound &id=19139969&instance=blogs_editors_desk

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First samples of “BAN THIS BOOK”

My book is on the way, here are the first samples. The book is a series of biographies of heroic progressives who dared to say unpopular or obscene things, heretics, muckrackers, war protesters, poets and even doctors who dared insist that homosexuality was normal! Here is Bob Marley and Sonya Kovalevskaya. More to come!

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