How to run a #DrawingEvolutionGame

Back in July, I saw two very inspiring tweets. As @_DeadSlug_ and @suizilla described on Twitter:

“We made two teams and started from one design, each artist had to make the character evolve (stronger and stronger). But we could only see the design of the artist before us.”

Evolution drawing example with a little witch becoming a fiery cyberpunk fox sorcerer
This drawing evolution example transforms the tiny witch into a friendly enchantress with a giant calico cat familiar

As a lover of collaborative drawing games like Monsterland’s exquisite corpse creations, this type of art is particularly exciting to me. I love the conversation between the different artists, each expanding on and amplifying themes from the last.

I was so inspired by those fabulous tweets, I decided to create a #DrawingEvolutionGame of my own!

Keep reading for more on the process of pulling off this feat…
or hop down to the Coordination resources below for a list of resources and templates to coordinate a #DrawingEvolutionGame yourself!

Head over to 24 artists, 39 evolutions: #DrawingEvolutionGame to see the final results!

The Set Up

To make my own #DrawingEvolutionGame, I started reaching out to artist friends asking if they would be interested in something like this. One of my friends Ellis Kim, who is a professional artist, extended the invited to a bunch of amazing professional artist-friends of his as well, and we started picking up steam.

Together, we will take a couple of “low level” seed characters and through each consecutive artist’s work, we will “level up” these characters with illustration.
Imagine these characters are starter Pokemon or freshly generated level 1 characters in a video game. In each drawing, they should become stronger, have better items/equipment/armor, or get more powerful or advanced. Their journeys should show progression and continuity from one level to the next. It’s important that each successive evolution builds on the last while still leaving room to grow so that the next artist can add their rendition.

The initial invite list was over 30 people long! This was amazing, but I have run enough events (and cancelled my fair share of plans) to know that people don’t always show up, especially when committing to do something several weeks in advance without knowing what their lives might look like by then. To help account for this, I strategized a sign-up system and flexible plan to help prune commitments from those who weren’t up to the challenge and to make accommodations for those whose commitments were interrupted by life.

Preview of the #DrawingEvolutionGame application form

The sign-up questionnaire was essential both as a barrier to entry to gauge who was serious and because I didn’t know everyone personally, I wanted to make sure that people were clear on what they were signing up for and wouldn’t spoil the game accidentally.

The sign-up questionnaire had three major goals:

  1. Making sure people who signed up were really on-board and could choose how much drawing they wanted to commit to
  2. Collecting vital contact information to facilitate the exchange of drawings
  3. Communicating the rules of the game (white or clear background, no posting until the game is done, agreeing to having their work be shared in compilations)

See what the questionnaire looked like!

Note: you can’t submit to this form, this is just a preview for your reference, if you’d like to have your own copy of a form like this, scroll to the end of this post!

Originally, I thought that I would create one seed drawing and that Ellis Kim (timefiddler) would create one other, but overwhelmed by the amount of enthusiasm about participating, we decided invite a third artist, the talented Juanita Crooks (yakisobababy), to create an additional seed character.

The three seed characters, a lunging strawberry-headed character holding a wooden sword, a smiling stone surrounded by gravel and grass, and a plucky spring onion with a walking stick.

Even with the sign-up questionnaire as a threshold for commitment, life does happen, and I still expected some drop-outs. To try to limit the impacts of people dropping out, I limited the time each artist would have to work on their contribution to just one week before they’d need to pass their work forward. The three seed drawings meant we would have six branches (two separate branches per seed) which could run in parallel. The parallelization and short time limits helped to ensure that artists wouldn’t have to wait too long before their turn, and if anyone dropped out, it wouldn’t be too disruptive.

Of the 30+ artists who had expressed interest, 25 made it through the sign-up questionnaire. Expecting some drop-outs, I targeted five to six evolutions on each (total of 27-33 drawings). Miraculously—despite the size of the group—we only had one drop-out resulting in six branches totaling nearly 40 drawings!

Check out 24 artists, 39 evolutions: #DrawingEvolutionGame to see the final results!

Coordination resources

In order to coordinate this many people, I used a combination of spreadsheets, Google forms, and mail merge. I won’t pretend that it was easy, but doing this made it more manageable. Hopefully these resources can make that process easier for you.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Recruit a team (or few)
  2. Create the “seed” character(s)
  3. Send the character to the next artist (mail merge email template below)
  4. Evolve the character to its “next level”
  5. Send the evolved character to the next artist (don’t reveal prior steps!)
  6. Repeat steps 4 & 5 until artists have taken a turn and the character is in its FINAL FORM
  7. Share your masterpiece with the hashtag #DrawingEvolutionGame

Resources to create your own:

Hey there, {{New Player}}!

Your evolution game inspiration drawing is coming from {{Last Player}}. Reply back to me here saying “received!” or something like that when you have received your inspiration from {{Last Pronoun}} (or if you haven’t received it after tomorrow, let me know).

REMINDER: {{Last Player}}, do NOT send your drawing to me. Only send it to {{New Player}} at {{Email address}}. (At the end, everyone will upload their drawings into a shared folder and I’ll collage them together.)

{{New Player}}, you have until {{Deadline}} to complete your drawing at which point you’ll be sending it along to the next player.

Keep in mind:
- To standardize, characters should be drawn on white or transparent backgrounds and saved in JPG, GIF, or PNG file format (We welcome physical media for creation, but please be sure to clean up and save in one of these formats for the final!)
- Each artist will see only the drawing directly ahead of their own in the evolution, so don’t post images of your work until the game is complete
- It’s important that each successive evolution builds on the last while still leaving room to grow so that the next artist can add their rendition

Let me know if you have any questions.

Good luck!

I hope you have a fantastic time creating and evolving your character drawings with friends. I can’t wait to see the #DrawingEvolutionGame masterpieces you will create!

Simplified instructions for the #DrawingEvolutionGame in a convenient square format for social sharing

See 24 artists, 39 evolutions: #DrawingEvolutionGame for the grand finale!