Try this at home

The other day a friend asked me to explain about Improv. I invited her to do some with me, instead of listening to an explanation.

I thought I’d share the same exercise with you, dear reader. And please, find a partner to try this activity with and see what happens. (And thanks to Alain Rostain for first showing me this)

The exercise is simple: you’re going to draw a face, together. It won’t be a familiar face (probably) but one you’re making up between you.

You need a pen and paper (we made do with a paper napkin from the cafe we were in).

Once you’re ready, you work silently. Resist the urge to discuss the picture as it develops and don’t comment on each other’s ideas. You probably won’t be able to suppress laughter though.

The first person draws just one feature of a face. It’s up to you what it is: it could be an ear, an eye, a nose, a tattoo, an eyebrow… whatver. Rule of thumb: when you lift the pen off the paper, you’ve finished your turn. And remember, as you’re working silently, don’t explain what you’ve drawn.

Then your partner takes the pen and they draw a feature. It may be another ear/eye whatever, or it could be something else. Whatever it is, you then get the pen and carry on. Even if you’re not sure what it is they’ve drawn.

If you don’t know what on earth your partner has drawn, don’t ask! Just carry on adding features as best you can.

Keep going like this for a few turns, each adding a single feature with each turn.

When someone gets the pen and hesitates about what to do, this means the face is finished. So that person now puts down the first letter of the name of this character. Keep adding letters until someone hesitates – when that happens, you’ve finished. And again, don’t comment on what your partner writes, whatever you may think!

I’ve shown a couple of examples of what my friend and I came up to illustrate what happened for us!

I invite you to try this at least three times to see how the work develops.


What you learn from this exercise is… well it’s for you to say.

But I invite you to sit with your partner and discuss any or all of these questions. You may be suprised by what you find out!

What was this experience like? Try to give some detail of how you felt doing it, and find out what it was like for each other.

What suprises (small or large) did you experience?

What made this difficult for you? What made it easy?

Did you have a little voice with its own plans for a picture that your partner interrupted?

Whose pictures are these?

Did any of the pictures end up according to a plan you made?

What did you learn about your partner playing this game?

What’s it like to work with another person where you don’t get to criticise what they do?

And what’s it like to work with someone who isn’t commenting on each step you take?

Did you laugh during this exercise? (If you did, do you know why? What could have been satisfying you when you were laughing?)

What have you learnt about yourself and your partner from this experience?

What experiences that you had doing this would you like to have MORE of in your working life? And LESS ?

And if you have time to let me know what happened, I’d love to hear from you!


4 thoughts on “Try this at home

  1. Paul Klipp

    That looks like a lot of fun. I’ll have to try it a bit in my company and see if there’s a way to incorporate it into my workshops. Do you ever find it difficult to facilitate conclusions after an exercise like this, or do people always naturally draw meaningful conclusions?

    1. jaykayem

      Hi Paul… I’d say mostly groups are pretty good at seeing the value but I do sometimes make observations about things that happen that get taken for granted. eg that nearly always people succeed in drawing faces! that I didn’t see anyone crossing anyone’s work out; that the end product is influenced by both players but not really controlled by either

  2. Pingback: Getting Ready for Graphic Facilitation at ILO’s Turin Training Centre | Full Circle Associates

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