Tag Archives: #cartoons

Imagined Conversations, One Year Later

By: Jay Duret

A year ago I initiated a project called Imagined Conversations. Every day I would post a drawing of a face along with a snatch of related text or dialogue. Sometimes my drawings were cartoons or caricatures; other times I did my best to capture a likeness. In every case I created the face before thinking and inking the words that, at least in my imagination, went with the face. My conceit was that every face is different and therefore if I drew a new face, it would have something different to say than all the other faces I had drawn before.

ProposalThe Proposal

In my mind an Imagined Conversation was not limited to what passes between two or more speakers, but could include soliloquies or what might be found in a net dipped into the mental meta stream of internal monologue. Sometimes an Imagined Conversation was a sliver of words overheard in the gym or on the street or at a Starbucks. Other times, the words were nothing other than the words that were bouncing around inside the pinball arcade that is my head.


I undertook the project as a sort of cross training from writing stories. I was tying to teach myself to draw and I knew the demands of a daily drawing would be a powerful incentive to learn. I liked the idea of a fixed daily regimen; a concrete and completable creative task that I would need to stick with regardless of the other claims on my time. Most of all, I wanted to explore this concept, though I wondered how far I could go before I ran out of ideas, of energy, of enjoyment. Could I do it for a year and if I did, at the end of the year would I be a runner at the end of the race, desperate to break the tape and collapse?

A year has now come and I can report that I posted a drawing every day, 366 in all, even though this was not a leap year. I snuck in an extra one on February 28th:

Leap Year IGLeap Year

Over the year I travelled to Iceland, to Belize, to Burning Man and still I never missed a day. I learned all about the tools available to time and schedule one’s posts, but by large measure I did not need to use them. With drawing materials, an iPhone to use as a scanner, a laptop, and an Internet connection, I could post a drawing every day no matter how distant I was from the studio/office where I work.

Some conclusions and observations about the series. First, I didn’t run out of ideas, either for the drawings or the text. In fact, I don’t feel as if I come close to finishing the exploration I started. On good days I think I have discovered a rich area between writing and drawing that is not quite the same as cartooning or illustrating. I hoped that my best pieces combined the sharp, quick insight found in six word stories (Hemingway’s classic: “Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.”) with the thousand words that a picture, well drawn, is worth. My worst pieces were as trite and unambitious as the tee shirt you might buy at a click clack souvenir shop on a beach town boardwalk in August (“I AM the man from Nantucket.”)

And while triteness was an enemy, the biggest risk was the problem of context. Because I rarely use props or locational references, sometimes the text is just the words that rattle inside my head, inaccessible to anyone who hasn’t been there. Like the bad writer who assumes the reader knows as much about a character as the writer does, I sometimes left words on the page, but did not tell a story. When that happened – and sadly it happened far too frequently – I would tell myself that the reader who worked would figure it out. But if there is one thing I have learned over the last year, it is that with this form of art, you do not get more than a millisecond to get your reader’s attention. My work is scrolled by, swiped past, clicked through in less than the time it takes you to read this sentence. If there isn’t something that instantaneously connects to the reader, the raging river of meta-consciousness will flow on.

And though that is undoubtedly true, midway through the year I began to create wordier pieces. I realized I was not limited to sloganeering and jingling. I could write whatever was on my mind. And so I didn’t pass over matters of religion and philosophy and politics:

Guns Guns copyGuns, Guns, Guns

 I could dispense my own brand of homespun wisdom, the kind you don’t get on a greeting card from Hallmark:


I could cover metaphysics:

Assembly LineAssembly Line

I could create puzzles. This one, for National Poetry Month, required some knowledge of T.S. Eliot:

Poetry MonthNational Poetry Month

And of course I could not skip over my lifelong painful attachment to The Philadelphia Eagles:

EaglesThe Eagles 

The DefenseThe Defense

In my writing, I often try to tell a story exclusively or almost exclusively through dialogue. During the year I realized that those stories, in their own way, were also Imagined Conversations and so on Sundays I began to post drawings that linked to short stories on my website. I wasn’t able to produce a short story quite every week but over the course of the year I linked more than twenty stories to Sunday drawings:


I don’t have a single favorite post, but I liked these a lot:

HatAll Hat


But the one that most syncs with the reflective mood I have at the end of this year:


Thanks to the many old and new friends who have encouraged the Imagined Conversations project this year. Wishing you and yours a brilliant year in 2016. And for those who might enjoy it, you can get a daily post in the New Year on Instagram @joefaces or on my website.

Jay Duret


Jay is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator. His first novel, Nine Digits, is available from Indigo Sea Press. Jay blogs at www.jayduret.com


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Imagined Conversations: A Status Report Six Months In

Jay Duret

Jay Duret

At the New Year I decided to try my hand at cartooning. I had been drawing figures – mostly faces – for a few months and wanted to see if I could add text in a pleasing way. I committed to posting a cartoon a day, an undertaking which sounds painfully unambitious but then, well, I knew what I had to work with. And so I began with a New Year’s post on January 1.

Over subsequent weeks I kept the promised cadence, dutifully posting each drawing to my blog in a section called Imagined Conversations”. I also started an Instagram series under the name @joefaces. After a month at it, I wrote a brief report on the effort for this blog and posted it here.

In the months since I have continued to post. I have found a weird satisfaction in the daily ritual: once you become a daily poster and settle in the groove, your day does not feel complete without going through your workflow. It’s like writing in that way. You can’t produce a book on the strength of a mood, at least I can’t; you need to settle into a steady rhythm of daily tapping at the keys. I think of it as running laps.

My cartoons have touched a number of topics as I listened and took notes on the conversations that endlessly rattle around inside my head. Some dealt with writing:


Poetry Month

(I doubt that anyone reading this blog will have trouble filling in the blanks,  but on the off chance that someone skipped out on poetry class in 11th grade I will note the answer below.)

Some of my cartoons are part of a mental project of building a set of emoticons that have more to them than the stupid little circles and smiley faces and thumbs up that come in every text message. Wouldn’t it be better if those little nuggets of cuteness were replaced by drawings like this:


or this:



Some of my cartoons are just what came rattling along my train of thought that day:


Lean In

When I began the project I told myself that I would stop when it wasn’t satisfying any more. I think that was a good approach and I am sticking with it. But I confess to some surprise that after producing nearly 200 cartoons I am still interested in the project. If I had predicted at the beginning, I would have said that Imagined Conversations would have begun to limp in February and fall on the ground in March. Yet at the mid-year I am still working away. We’ll see how much longer I’ll last. In the meantime – thanks for the support. And if you aren’t receiving the daily postings, follow my blog or Instagram.

– Jay

* * *

Jay Duret is a San Francisco-based writer. Second Wind recently published Jay’s first novel, Nine Digits. See the trailer here. And for all puzzlers: These famous lines begin T.S.Eliot’s The Wasteland: “April is the Cruelest Month”. No surprise that April is National Poetry month.


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