Friday, October 14, 2005


i don’t play board games very often these days, but one game i’ve had the opportunity of playing many times is pictionary. i suspect you’ve played this game as well. a variant on pictionary can also be found in the game cranium.

inevitably, when i’ve found myself among a group of people who have decided to play pictionary (because most board-game playing in my experience is fairly spontaneous), people immediately find me, being an illustrator, an attractive teammate. my profession makes me, in their minds, a first-draft player. i draw for a living! surely that will give their team the extra advantage needed to carry off the win and subsequent trash-talking rights.

it probably comes off as modesty, but i quickly find myself protesting by telling them that, in fact, pictionary is a game for which my skills are not very useful. it works like this: the first skill involved in pictionary is in quickly associating an icon with a word or symbol. in this regard, i’m probably no better qualified than anyone else, except perhaps on the more obscure words that don’t lend themselves to obvious icons. take the word “woodsman” for instance. immediately, any player will draw “-- | --“ on their paper to indicate first/second part. for the first, the most rudimentary trees will be drawn, each looking like the Christmas-tree icon we all know. being correctly guessed at, the draughtsman will proceed to the second part and everyone’s favorite stickman will quickly appear on the page. the word is put together, and the point scored.

now note that there is little i could have brought to the table to improve the situation. instead, i am often a liability to any team i am on for a simple reason: pictionary requires me to “dumb down” my talent and draw simplistic icons. i would have to fight my natural inclination to draw a brawny man in a plaid shirt and caterpillar boots carrying a large axe in one hand and a tree trunk slung over the shoulder, complete with intricate root system, dirt clods hanging from it, and a fleeing squirrel leaping away from it, utilizing full chiaroscuro and sfumato, to boot. the everyday folk—those who always like to tell me, “i can only draw stick figures,” are in fact in a position to humiliate me in pictionary, even on the obscure terms.

now if the term “corinthian column” showed up, i might be at an advantage since while anyone could draw a column and score half, getting that top part would be a breeze for those who could quickly draw acanthus leaves and such.

but i imagine “corinthian column” is not likely to appear any time soon.