Four Reasons You Should Comic Jam

Vancouver Comic Jam - June 2019
This crew of comic-drawing troublemakers, a.k.a The Vancouver Comic Jam, meets every month at the 12 Kings Pub.
I love the Vancouver Comic Jam. Every month, a dozen or two artists get together at a local pub (these days, it’s the 12 Kings) and we draw comics.

If you’ve never been to a comic jam, here’s how it works: one person draws a comic panel, passes it down the table, and then another person draws the next panel, attempting to keep the story going (or often veering off in different directions), and so on until the page is full. When the comic is finished, it might make sense. It might not. But along the way, we have fun drawing and chatting about comics together with our fellow artists.

Vancouver Comic Jam example
An old favourite from our September 2015 jam. I like how the suspense builds and then veers off in an unexpected direction.

Which brings me to the big four reasons why you should go to your own local comic jam – or start one if there isn’t one already!

1. You will learn to draw new things. Because you’re trying to continue somebody else’s story, you often try drawing styles and subject matter that you wouldn’t normally draw. Anything you can do that puts you slightly outside of your artistic comfort zone is a good thing that will help you grow as an artist.

2. You get to hang out with fellow artists. If you like making comics, chances are good that you’ll have a lot in common with other people who like making comics. Spending time with your fellow artists is inspiring. And it also brings opportunities, because you’re not just having fun. You’re building a network, hearing about what’s going on in local comics circles, learning from others who are trying to do similar things re: publishing, printing, prepping for comic shows and on and on.

3. You will learn narrative problem-solving. Comics are pictures that tell a story. If your skills are stronger on the drawing side than the storytelling side, comic jams can help. Every page is a problem-solving exercise, because every new panel builds on the story without knowing where it’s going. You try to continue the narrative, but also push it new interesting directions. And then the final panel has to sum it all up with a satisfying ending. It’s a fun challenge. It doesn’t always work out, but it’s good mental exercise for your comic-making brain. It’s like improv for introverts!

4. You can’t always work in isolation. It’s healthy to get out and get away from your desk now and then. Us cartoonists spend so much of our time creating worlds and characters and made-up conversations. It’s important to experience some real characters and conversations now and then. I put off going to the Vancouver Comic Jam for years. It’s easier to stay home, especially when you’re an introverted artist, and I didn’t know most of the people, etc etc, but eventually I went and I had a blast. It’s important to get out now and then and get away from the drawing table.

Vancouver Comic Jam sample 2
Sometimes the comics wander a bit from panel to panel, but then everything comes together perfectly in the last panel.

So, if you’re in or near Vancouver, come on out on Saturday and let’s do some drawing together. If you’re not in Vancouver, does your city have a comic jam? If not, why not start one? You just need to find some friends, a pub, and some paper, and then spread the word from there. Happy jamming!

So much random weirdness! I started this one, but could never have predicted that it would end up being about a wolf-skeleton news anchor!
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