An Interview with Joan Stark (Archived)

I knew Joan from the newsgroup but I have not found her online since she left the ASCII art newsgroup/ community. I think of her often, at least as often as I still see her ASCII art ripped off online. She has a style I can almost always spot, even if someone has removed or changed the artist initials with her art.

Her kids will be grown up now and she won’t be fighting for computer time. I hope life has gone along well for her, where ever she is.

Joan G. Stark’s Original ASCII

Believe it or not, I “discovered” ASCII art in winter of 1995. I think I saw a tiny bicycle made in ascii characters and was totally amazed by it. I joked that someone must have had too much time on their hands! But still I was in awe of it… I didn’t even know what it was called. After e-mailing several friends, I found out that it was called “ASCII art”. It was then that I found the USENET newsgroup alt.ascii-art and started lurking to find more of these computer pictures.

I then started collecting as much of the ASCII art as I could. I began wandering through the internet and realized that there was way too much to save. I would forget my idea of having a huge collection… I know where to find the pictures if I want something.

Being a “crafty” type person, I decided that I would try to make the ASCII pictures myself. I’ve always like to doodle on paper, so I figured it couldn’t be that much different. My first project was to make a signature for me to use. I started diddling around with the keyboard in May/June of 1996 by doing lettering. Someone then told me about “FIGLET”. For those of you who don’t know, FIGLET is a computer program that creates fancy lettering from text. Hearing about figlet took the thrill away from making the fonts- I could spend an hour creating an alphabet by hand and someone else could just press a computer key and have the letters pop up “pre-made”.

And so I went on to the pictures… I know that there are programs available to create ASCII art — (I don’t know that much about them…) — but the programs usually create solid-type ASCII art. Even then, the pictures still are pretty rough and need touch-ups to make them aesthetically correct. I have collected some conversion software information from alt.ascii-art and offer them to you– no guarantees– .

I make the line-style ASCII pictures and I don’t believe that there are programs for this style. Basically I sit down at the keyboard and start typing.

OK– so I can’t consider myself a “newbie” at ASCII art any more. The honeymoon is over! I’ve been making the pics since 1996. Some people are anticipating my “burn-out”– but I continue to make the ASCII art pictures and I still look forward to improving. I’d like to be able to look at each of my creations and say “wow!”– there are some that I like a lot and there are some that I consider “ok”. Most of the crummy ones have met their demise at the hands of the delete button. Despite this, I’ve included some of my early works in this gallery so you can see how my artwork has evolved. Perhaps I may inspire other budding ascii artists…

I am just amazed at all ASCII artwork. There are a limited number of characters available on the keyboard and they are all fixed. Considering this fact, it is truly remarkable that there are so many different ASCII art pictures.

I don’t know how long ASCII art has been around. I’ve been told that it dates back at least to the 1960s when computers consisted only of large main frames. There were no PCs and no monitors. Transmissions were done through terminals that were very much like electric typewriters. Games and pictures were done in ASCII. (Remember the original “Zork”?) Some of the pictures passed around then are still being passed around today. See History of ASCII Art.

For me, the ASCII art is still pretty new … although I remember as a kid, my father would take me to work with him on an occasional Saturday. While there, I would play on the secretary’s typewriter and make pictures on a sheet of paper using commas and lines– my “first” ASCII drawings!. (I would also link all of her paper clips together– shhh, don’t tell my dad!). I had a lot of fun those weekend mornings… I guess you could say that I’ve been making text art — even before computers! 🙂

But times have changed! Gone are the typewriters, papers, and carbon copies. I doodle as I did as a child… but now I don’t need a new sheet of paper or white-out when I make a mistake. Sigh… and my children have already connected my paper clips together! 🙁 But that’s OK, I don’t need them! 🙂 I just have to fight the kids for computer time!

Source: About Joan Stark

ASCII Art After Effects

ASCII art, pioneered by Victorian female stenographers, has enjoyed brief periods of interest and cobbled together solutions for After Effects, but there’s now easy-to-use AE scripts to speed solutions.


Rich Young, I don’t want to login or register to comment on your post. So I am leaving my notes here.

First, ASCII art was not invented by Victorian stenographers. That was typewriter art, or text art. ASCII art is included in text art. But, ASCII is literally in reference to computer keyboards, not text or typewriters. Text art has been found before the manufacturing of typewriters. Later there also came to be teletext art and ANSI art and others but this is likely more than you really care to know.

Secondly, the type of ASCII art created by software is flawed. Most people think of this as ASCII art but I think it is just a rendering of a photograph or other original image. Directly copying is not art, it’s just copying. The images produced by computer lack the precision which an artist learns to use to create ASCII art.

For me I can almost accept the computer rendered images as ASCII art but it does bother me that the skill developed to create ASCII art is so easily brushed aside with comments like “anyone can do it!”

Anyway, chances are only myself will read this (I’m a realist) but at the very least writing it will perhaps someday become part of the archives of Internet history and someone else will one day care about it too.