I prefer to use the old method of drawing that requires pen and ink on paper. Basically, cartoons actually drawn by hand or “manually” so to speak.
It’s because no technology existed when I was a child and my interest in drawing cartoons initially began at a young age.
In n sense, I use technology to my advantage by colorizing my
cartoons digitally, I communicate with those professionals who may be interested in my work via email. And I derive sales of my cartoons and illustration services through my online portfolio and cartoons I make available through my website.
I still consider myself “old school” to a degree though.
I have nothing against using software programs or any devices now in use for creating artwork and cartoons digitally.
I think it’s because I inherently learned to draw using the old school method and really, I value and cater to that method more and think it’s still the best way for creating my own cartoons and humorous illustrations.
Being a cartoon maker or full time cartoonist requires commitment
I’ll try to go further into my own thoughts and ideas relating to the business of cartooning, making cartoons and developing some aspects of this creative endeavor into a business.
I’ll touch upon magazine cartoons, promoting cartoons and your services and how to self-syndicate your cartoons you make available to the publishing world in general.
Various other parts of this article will show you cartoon samples and
I’ll also share other illustrations I hope will act as some inspiration to get your creative juices going.
Most youngsters now showing an interest in cartooning have so much technology readily available at their fingertips.
It’s amazing how many apps can be found that assist in making cartoons and illustrating them.
Being a cartoonist means you’ll most likely be drawing rough sketches on a tablet or a Wacom Cintiq these days.
Many of today’s top Mad magazine illustrators are using them for example but at the same time, other top comic strip artists are still using pen & ink on Bristol board.
However, cartoonists who are learning to draw at a young age may just opt to draw them like I did when I began drawing cartoons by simply sketching them out on paper.
Or in a sketchpad or on special kinds of tracing paper or Bristol board.
The young cartoon maker will also be assisted by downloading and using digital colorizing software such as Photoshop.
I don’t avoid any such technology, simply because I like the sound of a pen nib or tip or a technical pen scraping across a smooth surface of a favorite drawing paper.
I do utilize software though and it’s a necessity these days if you are making a living with your cartooning talents.
Even web editing programs such as WordPress and Joomla and countless free downloadable web design software is available to the motivated person who seeks to take advantage of technology in order to become a full time professional cartoonist
I’ve never had formal art training or drawing classes in order to become a cartoonist.
Making Cartoon Humor Means A Cartoonist Needs To Be Devoted To Cartooning
I love drawing and always will. It’s ingrained in my genetic make up!
A lot of people never get a college degree or acquire an education from a specialized university.
Many of us who haven’t attended a traditional university like to use the term “school of hard knocks”.
My schooling, when it came to cartooning was a lot of basic trial and error. A lot of frustration also.
I think it could have been the frustration part that kept my head in cartooning and drawing game.
I emphasize this because I wanted to push myself to the point where I could attain a certain look and feel for the cartoons and cartooning style I was trying to develop.
As of this writing and over forty years later, I can truthfully say I’m still trying to reach a level where I’m relatively satisfied with how my cartoons look.
Or at least look good enough to think to myself they’re complete and ready to give an editor or art director. The creative process never seems to end for me.
Show Your New Cartoons To The Print Market To Get Feedback From Editors
Learning from mistakes by not using the right mix of India ink in a watercolor wash or palette.
Or I may have been in a hurry, not studying the line art more intensely of a favorite illustrator or comic strip artist whose work I appreciated and was attempting to emulate.
I kept many sketch pads and pieces of drawing paper in spiral bound booklets I would continually sketch sample cartoon characters in.
It helps greatly or at least it did (and still does) for me, to look at how artists illustrate certain things in their work.
A sketch pad is extremely valuable to cartoonists. Always try to add drawings to your sketchbook whenever you can.
It doesn’t matter the size of the sketch pad, whether or not it’s spiral bound or something with glued pages held together. Just draw in it when the inspiration happens.
At times, cartooning various types of inanimate objects will help you to become accustomed to adding those elements in future gag panel cartoons or comic strips.
Many things in every day life appear all around you….draw a toaster, draw lamps or sketch chairs and recliners. Try drawing cars. I sat down with my sketch pad many times over and would draw cartoons of automobiles.
Develop A Consistent cartooning Style By Sketching Constantly
Get newspaper print ads from local car dealerships and clip out the sample photographs that they publish in their advertising.
Then set aside an hour or so to sketch cars and see how those drawings turn out.
Ask yourself if you’re satisfied with that particular look and feel of the cart you illustrated. Start over if you have to! This isn’t a job for you more than an exercise.
Sketching Is A Mental Exercise In Perfecting A Cartooning Style
Look at sketching that way….as an exercise. You’ll be working on a final look to your cartoons and be continually sketching like this, is how you’re going to be developing that all important drawing style that will work in your favor in the future.
Later in weeks, months and years, you’ll go back through previous sketches and can compare recent cartoons with old sketches and soon it will become apparent that practices does make perfect!
I’m not saying this kind of practice will make you the perfect cartoonist nor will you ever be fully satisfied that your work is personally perfect.
But it should have some modicum of professional appeal. Especially to those editors and art directors who you’ll be showing your finished cartoons to.
Drawing Tools Can Be Simple And Basic For Most Cartoonists
My drawing tools were, and still are basic. I tested, and re-tested specific drawing techniques with various brushes that included camel hair brushes to paint brushes consisting of synthetic materials.
Many times over and to the point I became comfortable with one or more, than I did with other brands I had experimented with.
It takes continuous experimentation to learn cartooning techniques when it comes to the “cartoonist school of hard knocks” I know!
Honestly, I am not sure there would be any school that has a teacher who could diligently show you brush or pen strokes. It takes you, the artist to try and achieve this!
Markers Are Excellent Drawing Tools For Cartoonists
And it never stops. It evolves. I get comfortable with a certain type of tool or drawing pen and then I find that I get bored or want to continue looking at another type of marker or drawing instrument that will provide that certain type of line art.
We also have at our disposal many online tutorials on how to illustrate with different pen tips or brushes.
Study them closely when you can and then try those techniques yourself. Experimenting with various drawing and illustration techniques also requires time, dedication and commitment.
It’s a never ending quest. Yes, I like certain drawing tools that seem to fit my drawing style with which I tend to use more than others.
I become accustomed to one tool or get acclimated to another and later find something else I stumble across and try that, such as a Micron or Pigma pens.
Primarily I like Sharpie markers and also Rapidograph technical drawing pens. I still have yet to really dive into the digital drawing tablets.
For whatever reason, I like the feel of paper and sketching pencil lines and then meticulously inking those lines over, with whatever drawing tool I am using at the time.
I often think what it would be like to no longer have all of my original gag panels anymore. I’m talking about years of cartoon art work I’ve invested in, all packed in plastic storage containers!
I really liked the Speedball B-6 pen tips that required constant dipping into a bottle of Higgins brand waterproof drawing ink.
I created many (probably several thousand and then some) gag panel cartoons with just that one type of pen tip. I found I liked it so much I was continuously cleaning them.
I liked the hand held safety razor blades that allow me to scrape out and up and under the ink reservoir flaps to remove dried and built up ink deposits.
There are other ways of cleaning pen tips but I had several on hand at any given time and some were more broken in than others and I tended to use whatever was near, so long as it was nice and clean and ready to use for drawing funny cartoons.
Many a time I was so “in the zone” and able and willing to draw cartoons, I could use those dip pens in “free hand” or free style mode. Not even bothering to first sketch in cartoons in pencil!
It was crazy. Perhaps I was just in a more creative mind set or just feeling more productive then, than at other times.
Digital Technology Becoming The Normal In Cartooning
In regards to the digital drawing tablets, I feel as though I’d be cheating myself although I also know it’s a completely different creative experience.
Many other illustrators who blog about their using the Wacom drawing tablets have been extremely interesting to read and glean from.
Almost to the point of goading me into buying one. I then think about all the stacks of original cartoons I’ve previously created that are sitting in storage bins and what I wouldn’t have to contend with if I were to go digital.
Having no hard copy artwork would leave a void though. I’ll learn more about that as I eventually make that transition. But for now, my “old school” mind set will prevail.
If I was strictly “digital”, like so many cartoonists are now becoming, all of that work would seem none existent.
I mean, nothing for the artist or creator to physically handle and look at. It just seems weird to me.
If anyone reading this cares to enlighten me on their personal experiences using any type of brand drawing tool or apps, do feel free to contact me and in a future cartoon blog post, I’ll highlight and feature your experience.
I think the business of cartooning and being a cartoonist is the type of professional endeavor where you can gradually enter it on your own, or try to acquire knowledge about cartooning by getting an art education and degree.
It’s a flexible type of creative line of work with many open options for someone who is considering entering the field.
Cartoonists Cover A Broad Spectrum In The Cartoon Business
If I can give any professional advice here in this writing, I highly recommend doing your research before hand.
Why? Because of the many options there now are available! Cartooning doesn’t just mean gag cartoon panels or comic strips. Many tangents exist. One of the newest is a “comics journalist”.
Don’t misinterpret that discipline. It’s doesn’t relate to comic books in any sense.
What it refers to is how television stations hire cartoonists to draw up news stories. In essence, they draw serious stories that other don’t want to or are interested in.
Mainly because the subjects or content is so vulnerable. That subject matter would in fact lend itself well to being illustrated.
Stories are actually drawn like graphic novels and presented in televised (and most likely online) visual.
The greater the television market or bigger the TV station, the bigger the salary or assignment fee the cartoonist can negotiate.
Of course, this is where a cartoonist could employ the use of a digital drawing tablet to enhance his or her ability if time is of the essence.
Many other avenues exist now, in which someone can follow into the field of cartooning since we have electronic publishing.
Anyone can start their line of specialized comic books and sell them directly to the public via an online personal website.
Think of the possibilities. The comic book industry was affected years ago by electronic and digital marketing when brick & mortar comic book stores had to compete with online sellers.
Many people were also able to liquidate their comic book collections and specialized copies and slabbed books etc. through well known auction sites.
Comic cons also allowed people to bypass brick & mortar retailers by promoting titles at conventions, and those conventions can easily be promoted months or years in advance on social media or through special web sites and digital platforms.
Some cartoonists are also mentioning the fact they are finding clients by attending comic cons.
One artist recently spoke of an overload of work. Some of it consisted of having to do cartoon related web site banners and different types of character clip art illustrations that were also intended for online usage.
A Savvy Cartoonist Also Is A Marketer And Self Promoter
The magic word being “online” where many publishers and marketers are now promoting and advertising.
The playing field for cartoonists and cartooning has been leveled to a degree where one needs to adopt a savvy marketing mindset.
Being a cartoonist or humorous illustrator is not enough, keep that in mind.
I learned through my “school of hard cartooning knocks” that you need to have some modicum of marketing know-how and appreciate the fact that marketing cartoon services is going to be a part of your business!
Self promotion will be a key factor in letting your intended market know who you are, what your cartooning specialty is and what you have to offer in the way of special cartoon services!
Personally I understood the importance of self promoting cartoon services early.
It helped to learn from other artists whose work I had seen in special illustration directories and source books and contacting many to ask for personal insights and advice on how I could best promote my own cartoons.
Reach Out To Fellow Cartoonists And Humorous Illustrators For Advice
If you are wanting to run your own cartooning business, it will help to reach out to fellow cartoonists or illustrators and ask some questions. Don’t be hesitant.
I found it quite refreshing to hear from artists and cartoonists who I’d fax or write letters to, and ask for their feedback on how I should go about promoting my work.
Long before the world wide web impacted the business, there were several different special directories that went out to art directors, creative directors and editors and publishers at publishing companies, advertising agencies and Fortune 500 companies who looked for, and hired illustrators and cartoonists for special print advertising work.
Your Illustration Services Should Be Promoted In Many Ways
Names like Creative Black Book, American Showcase, Los Angeles Workbook, The Directory Of Illustration, RSVP and others were kept by art directors.
Many of these titles were shipped to graphic design firms and ad agencies throughout Europe and also Japan.
Numbers of copies per title varied, but some print runs like American Showcase had roughly 23,000 recipients.
RSVP was the smaller book on the totem pole and one of the more economical books to advertise in.
I believe the last time I ran a page in their annual release, there were 12,000 recipients. The larger part of it’s distribution was throughout the New York City area.
All of these books had varying annual release dates and a majority are still being produced, and of course have a digital presence to enhance their marketing of cartoonists and artists who advertise.
By getting your page or spread in one of these books is by no means a guarantee you’ll get any work. It’s definitely a crap shoot!
Don’t forget, your samples will be competing with many other artists who are hoping for the same results as you – illustration assignments!
And page advertising costs are by no means inexpensive. The last promotional booklet for The Directory Of Illustration volume #35 advertised a single page cost of about $2,600.00.
You will be competing with many of the top cartoonists and illustrators around the world and if you seriously decide to consider running an ad, call the publisher of the book you’re interested in and ask for their “regional sales manager” who in turn, can ship you a sample copy for review.
Most of the time for free, if you seriously show initial interest.
A lot of these directories are still in existence and enhance their print versions with online versions of the same directory.
And they allow you an number of added cartoons and illustrations you can show in your very own gallery page that users or their directory sends out.
This is basically a leap of faith for any beginner, like it was for me.
And you have to devote all of your time to this endeavor of planning your page, working with your assigned ad manager and regional sales manager to get an understanding of how others are doing it and what may be expected on how your page should best be laid out.
Choosing the right samples is of the utmost importance, so you’ll want to be meticulous about all of it.
When I first started, I had to take what are called color transparencies of all of my original cartoons I wanted to show on a proposed page.
The originals were done in watercolor. Unlike how I now color my cartoons using Photoshop.
Keep in mind, this was long before the internet and making a transparency of a cartoon or previously published sample required you to send that chosen work to a photo lab.
In turn, you’d get those transparencies, or “negatives” and ship them to the publisher of the directory you’re going to advertise in.
Of all the aforementioned directories, I believe RSVP is the only one not being published anymore.
Cartoonists can also purchase mailing lists of graphic design firms and advertising agencies through specialized mailing list brokers, in order to mail actual portfolio samples of their cartoon samples and illustrations to.
Direct mail marketing is yet another recommended way in which artists can reach out to find potential clients.
You don’t necessarily have to mail out a complicated color booklet of many mages in order to make art directors aware of who you are.
Postcards are yet another way in which to promote your business to the publishing and professional print market.
The standard size postcard just needs your name, phone number and or email contact and a couple of color samples that represent your best work.
Like advertising your professional illustration service or cartooning services in those big directories, you’ll be taking a gamble, but at least you won’t be competing with any other artists and your samples may land on the desk of an art or creative director who are planning a project.
They see who you are and may call you to submit more samples before being considered for an assignment involving a series of cartoons.
They may need the artwork for a calendar or they may want you to create some comics for an instructional booklet that represents a new product that some company is manufacturing and distributing nationally or worldwide.
Promote Your Cartooning Specialty To Generate Custom Illustration Assignments
The color samples I am providing here act as a small part of my cartoon portfolio and these color illustrations were created for a children’s magazine based in Nashville.
An art director had seen my pages in one of the previously mentioned illustration directories and asked me if I was interested in creating eleven separate custom cartoons for a two page spread about the Bible story pertaining to Jonah And The Whale.
After I accepted her proposal and we negotiated a fee for the project, I began creating these single panel cartoons as rough sketches in black and white line art. I then sent each separate image across for her review by fax.
She then reviewed each panel and told me what to change and modify and show once more before approving the artwork for colorization.
I then added water color wash to each cartoon drawing and back then, was drawing my cartoons on heavier cotton bond typing paper which held up well for adding water colors to.
My water color brands were very basic.
Higgins brand India inks that were simply diluted with various other colors to acquire my preferred colors and density and then brushed into the lines of each drawing using a #2 camel hair brush.
After each illustration was done coloring, the heavy 25% cotton bond paper would of course want to wrinkle a bit with various blends and mixes of colors added, so after they dried well enough, I put each illustration onto a flat ironing board and took a hot iron and flattened out each watercolor until smooth.
A majority of magazines were still having illustrators, graphic design specialists and cartoonists supply them with original artwork and water color images early into the new millennium since many magazine publishers were just adapting to digital technology in their own right.
The cartoons shown here most likely had to have transparancies made for each drawing also.
Now all an illustrator needs to do is scan his original art and color it in on his own desktop and attach the files separately or all of them can be sent in a single folder directly to the art director or creative director’s email address.
The cartoonist can then keep all of his original cartoons in studio along with a digital color file of any artwork involved in a particular assignment they’re involved in.
Launching a Cartoon Catalog online
Having a good collection of your work available to newsletter publishers, magazine publishers and newspapers that may need cartoons is essential in the genre of gag cartooning.
Try to archive your cartoons so they are accessible by categories.
If you have done or work on a lot of medical cartoons, make a catalog or library of those cartoons that are separate from business cartoons and all other titles or types of single panel cartoons you have specialized in.
Sales of gag cartoons will act as ancillary income while you work on contract assignments and do other custom cartoon projects you acquire through self promotion like I have previously mentioned earlier.
By having your own web site, you also show other professionals that you have a “brand”.
Those who find you online will identify with your brand over a period of time.
That specific drawing style you have developed over a period of years will definitely be remembered by editors, authors, art directors and more, who have a need for cartoons and humorous illustrations.
Your cartoon web site will also act as a portfolio. By archiving your work in a certain way, either through galleries or thumbnails set up in a categorized library, those cartoon gags can be shown by you as a reference to creative directors and editors.
Your web site should also have separate pages that consist solely of your best cartoon artwork and illustrations.
I’ve established a few pages throughout my site here, that have previously published samples also. It’s just my way of being able to show publishers I have experience and have a diversity of abilities regarding cartooning.
I always emphasize in my promotions or marketing efforts that I don’t just draw panel cartoons.
If you are an editor or publisher who believes my style will appeal to your readers and enhance the content of your article or feature story, I can help you.
Your cartoon web site and the various portfolio pages and testimonial content you include within the overall scope of your site are going to act in your favor.
Just like a hard copy printed brochure you have sent to art and creative directors, you’re going to want to let your web presentation act in the same way and of course in digital format.
As a creative mind, I consider myself lucky enough to try and think outside the “illustration mindset” or thinking out of the box.
Cartoonists Need To Make The Transition To The Digital Platform
As the digital era began to proliferate, I was still a technophobe the the Nth degree. I actually got into the digital age rather late as some cartoonists were already using desktops to colorize cartoons they were creating and many were launching their own sites.
I realized it would have been a matter of time before I’d lose traction with current clients and future potential editors and others if I didn’t take the leap.
With much trepidation and hesitation, I bought a desktop and literally dove in and at the same time, studied hypertext markup language and coding involved that was necessary for building and launching a cartoon web site.
As with learning actual cartooning techniques, trying to learn hypertext markup language and web editing also presented many stumbling blocks and a lot of frustration.
But I committed myself to learning just like I did for developing a cartooning style.
Cartooning Also Requires Learning Web Design And Search Engine Optimization
It was and still is very time consuming to establish a web presence as search engines continually update their algorithms. This means more learning in the way of search engine optimization for your online portfolio is a must. Knowing how to use keywords and keyword phrases and implement those throughout a site is also essential.
You are also able to turn over all of your design plans and web page layouts to a designer, but keep in mind, at that point is when you lose all control over how your site will look, and how it will perform.
If you’re serious about building, launching and establishing a web property online that will represent your work and what you do and can offer, then try to find a developer who will work one on one with you and understands your vision.
Communicating directly and establishing an understanding between yourself and a decent web designer will be crucial.
Take time to consider the expense as the pricing will vary greatly and it would be difficult to mention a cost here without knowing if you’re thinking about publishing a cartoon illustration site of a few dozen pages or one that consists of several thousand pages.
When I mention “several thousand”, don’t be alarmed. I am simply talking about how the site gets presented to the viewer online.
By that, I mean having the site coded in a way, so your cartoons that appear in a click-through thumbnail gallery for each cartoon, also has a separate page for that same cartoon so when a potential buyer clicks on the image, a separate page opens with various purchasing buttons pertaining to a usage that buyer chooses.
Other things to keep in mind are the kind of web editor you will ultimately use.
WordPress Is A Recommended Web Editor For Cartoonists
Personally, I recommend using WordPress because of it’s flexible use. It is simple in it’s usage and layout and can have a complexity added to it through themes and plugins you decide to use it with.
The ability of adding a “theme” will let you personalize the site to your needs. It’s also a great platform for CMS – content management system – which would allow potential visitors to your site to choose and purchase your cartoons directly, and then they could automatically download the chosen cartoon art for their intended use.
Of course, that part involves coding. This is where a developer will come into the equation if you’re not familiar with coding yourself.
Most likely a PHP developer can code the way your future site will act and respond and ultimately perform for visitors.
For instance, when I first built my site many years ago, long before the internet became more complicated, I was able to find a PHP script developer who helped me with adding a rotation to the daily cartoon I provide visitors to my site.
This same developer authored a snippet of code I can provide interested webmasters and web designers with, who may want to embed my daily auto updating web cartoon on their site with.
That snippet works in conjunction to a similar code on the web server I have my cartoon site hosted on.
Am I confusing you? Believe me, in the beginning I was very confused in all of the technical jargon related to web design and web editing.
If Cartoonists Don’t Have Time To Learn Coding, Hire A Developer
I think you can see there is some complicated web coding knowledge, so as I have previously mentioned, make certain you hire someone. As for hosting your site, there is yet another factor to keep in mind when deciding upon a web host.
Shop around for the right hosting company because you’ll want a lot of disk space that will allow all of your content to reside and perform properly.
A host with little “down time” is also essential. You won’t want your cartoons to go offline at inopportune times when someone could be searching for a certain type of cartoon image or for a service you provide. I’m emphasizing this because security is yet another issue.
Look for a hosting company that is capable of offering you a “https” hosting capability, which stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure.
This is better than the regular “http” appearing before your online cartoon library’s URL because there is an added encryption to their hosting.
Meaning if you provide visitors the ability to enter personal data like credit card numbers into a form you provide so they can buy your cartoons online, it is safer and potential buyers will realize this.
Your potential customers will have more faith in your site and in the overall way you present your cartoons for purchasing and downloading.
Note the “https” on my web address of the page you are reading this on – see that icon that looks like a little lock on the left of the URL address bar?
It signifies a “secure site”. Same thing applies to a site you would build if you want to offer your visitors security when ordering cartoons that you offer.
When you decide to market your cartoons on the internet, consider investing in a personal web domain that identifies with you and your specialty.
Since cartoons are my specialty, I of course was able to secure a domain that contained “cartoons” as a keyword.
It is imperative from a search engine optimization standpoint to use a keyword in your domain. Even a keyword phrase that pertains to your service.
I’m not going to make outright suggestions or list samples here, because you’ll ultimately be the one who goes and decides what domain name to register your site under.
But be certain to think out of the box, and from a creative (and keyword!) standpoint.
There are many domain registrars to choose from as to search out and find and ultimately register your web site’s name with.
Look for a list of services and then take some time to see if that chosen domain will be available for you and then list it and you’ll have your own domain name that pertains for your cartooning service.
Take time to experiment and use some of the domain searches to see if the one you have in mind for your own future web site is actually available. Once you find one that works for you, secure it and register it.
Once you register that domain for your future site, you can then go into planning your entire site / page layout.
Cartooning Is A “Numbers Game” So Offer As Many Of Your Best Cartoons Online
Take your time deciding what cartoons to display and offer, decide what pages to designate as portfolios and be certain you add a separate blog page to document your cartooning related activities and thoughts regarding the business of cartoons and what being a cartoonist means to you and your business.
This way you’ll develop a following and even creative directors may follow your activities if they appreciate your drawings and illustration style.
Other marketing tips you’ll want to follow in order to market your web site and cartoons is to join LinkedIn.
Don’t believe the negative comments that it doesn’t have any useful value. There a reason it’s been around and isn’t going away.
Many professionals on this social media platform are authors and consultants.
This means they write books and give presentations. Who better to promote your cartoons and illustration services to than this professional demographic?!
By setting up your LinkedIn profile, you can also include a link to your web site and cartoon catalogs.
Additionally, once people see you’re accepting new LinkedIn connections, you can approach each invitation as a way to let your new contacts know who you are.
You should definitely have a pre-written thank you note saved on your computer that you can highlight and copy each time and address each one to every new connection you accept.
This pre-written “thank you” will show hyperlinks to your homepage and also links to your portfolio pages and any other interesting tidbits you’d care to give your new professional connection.
If your goal is to become a full time cartoonist and acquire assignments from business professionals on LinkedIn, then join any groups that you see which would potentially benefit you.
You don’t need to blatantly promote your web site to these new contacts or group members but start an interesting conversation in some of the groups and gradually mention yourself being a cartoonist and supply your link that way.
Just be inconspicuous instead of blatant. I think business professionals will notice this and appreciate you from a different perspective.
Social Media Can Benefit Cartoonists Who Use It To Their Advantage
Other aspects to consider once your online presence is established and you want to attract more traffic to the various pages within your site is to send tweets out on Twitter.
So, getting a Twitter account set up will be yet another key in enhancing the visibility and a way to start generating some traffic to your site or pages within the site.
Twitter can be a valuable tool for cartoonists if utilized properly. By “properly”, I’m saying to use hashtags in your tweets and if you include cartoons in your tweets, you’ll also be able to pick 10 people to send that particular cartoon to, aside from the tweet itself.
This can potentially increase traffic to your site, if not raise some awareness for your tweet and the content that makes up the tweet.
I’ve focused on a couple important social media sites and don’t need to mention any of the obvious others as I believe you get what I am trying to emphasize.
Use social media to your advantage, as far as generating traffic back to what you’re wanting people to see.
As for generating more traffic, consider the focus of your site. Are you offering single panel gag cartoons?
You may want to write every so often about your previous experiences dealing with magazine editors.
Many cartoonists will find this interesting from a creative standpoint and will appreciate a fellow cartoonist’s efforts.
I know myself, that when I read an article by another cartoonist as to how he entered the cartooning field and what his stumbling blocks were, I always am interested in reading through the entire article or story.
If the content is plastered with a lot of good cartoons, I also am interested and it keeps my attention level amplified and it’s more enjoyable. These kinds of articles are inspiring and thought provoking.
You will also want to continually write about the cartoon world and your experiences in the business.
It may even be a positive consideration to include articles written not just by you, but by other cartoonists. As this is actually cartooning seen from a different creative person’s viewpoint, and guest articles are another positive part of the cartoonist blogosphere.
Launch Your Own Cartoon Ebook Which Also Acts As A Portfolio
before leaving my suggestions about an online cartoon catalog to your decision making, one cool way to grab the attention of a cartooning fans and aficionado is to offer a free cartoon e-book.
I currently allow people to view free cartoons appearing in my cartoon e-book that is chock full of color cartoons throughout the collection and at the same time it acts as an enhancement to my portfolio samples found in my cartooning services section.
To see the samples I am referring to, look at my cartoon ebook and if you have a few extra dollars, simply purchase the publication to download to any device you own!
As I have mentioned earlier, becoming a cartoonist doesn’t necessarily mean drawing super heroes, or cute dogs or cats in a comic strip.
Cartooning: A Cornucopia Of Different Facets Of Creativity
The field can take you into many areas and those include: gag cartooning, graphic novelist, comics journalist, greeting card illustrator, comic book illustrator, humorous illustrator (books, magazines and web), animation, story board illustrations and syndication.
When I mention syndication, I am not just referring to the creation of a comic strip or single panel comic like The Far Side.
Other aspects where a cartoonist might excel or find interesting are in self syndication.
By self syndicating your cartoons, you’d be bypassing anything having to do with a syndicate editor or with the syndicate’s sales people and technical issues relating to supplying your work to them and reaching out directly on your own to the various newspaper editors across the country with your cartoon concept.
How you do this will most likely be through sending promotional packets of your cartoon feature that give detailed background information on each character and several week’s worth of samples in that same packet of information.
You’ll have to go out and ask various local print shops in your area for price quotations to have these sample packets printed, folded and collated.
Overall, self syndication is no easy task. Probably why most artists never make the attempt.
For those stubborn minded creatives (like me!) who do want to tackle it, be ready for tedious days and nights laying out mock ups of your pages, looking at them and rearranging them until you feel satisfied the overall booklet of samples will make sense and be easy to understand for the newspaper editor who receives it.
Mind you, if you’re a first time self syndicator, you are advised to start small and by small, I mean, trying your cartoon promotion with weekly newspapers.
Most of these small town papers have an average weekly circulation or readership of one thousand to 2,500 subscribers per week.
In larger populated regions of the country, there are larger circulations of these weeklies that can reach ten thousand to fifteen thousand readers.
Self Syndicating Cartoon Panels And Comic Strips Is Difficult But Doable
Papers like these are usually distributed on Wednesdays and some on Thursdays.
I also mention offering your comic feature to weekly editors because most newspaper syndicates are busy promoting Garfield, Lio and Baby Blues to the daily newspaper publishing market.
By no means am I guaranteeing you will have an easier sell to the weekly newspaper market.
As of this writing, the economy has affected the newspaper publishing industry to such a degree that editors and publishers have become fickle over the content they decide to offer their readers.
This includes comics and cartoons, written columns, soduko and crosswords and the like.
Your idea or comic feature has to have a good set of parameters around the writing, followed by a decently well drawn cartoon feature that has identifiable characters readers can relate to.
As I also write this, another aspect of the economy that may affect the newspaper publishing market are potential tariffs imposed on paper production.
Specifically newsprint that many publishers get from Canada. If you are looking into self syndicating your cartoon panel or comic strip, it may benefit you to pick up the phone and talk with a few newspapers editors.
By asking questions to editors and newspaper production people you will get some insight as to what they say about the current market.
When it comes to cartooning and being in business for one’s own self, it pays to ask questions in advance so you can have all of your bases covered.
The Writing Involved In Cartoon Humor Is More Important Than The Art Of The Cartoons
Writing will always trump art when it comes to comic strips and cartoon panels but keep in mind it is advised to offer something that isn’t going to bore an editor or show him or her something they’ve already seen or are familiar with.
On average, weekly newspapers pay around twenty five to thirty dollars per month.
Some daily papers which have a small circulation are paying much less than this fee to big syndicates for popular comic strips.
At the same time you have to consider the fact that these dailies are running a dozen to 20 separate comic strips per day on their comics page in the back of the paper.
So in essence, this is yet another fact that approaching weekly papers may be the better route for you to take when offering your talents.
The next aspect of self syndication of cartoons that you will want to take into consideration is selling or actual distribution of your feature.
I previously spoke about promotional packets and brochures with samples of your work that you want editors to see.
Mind you, when I was self syndicating cartoon packages to weekly newspapers, postage rates were relatively low. In fact, very cheap!
I could buy a bulk mailing permit to save even more in postage but bulk mail permits now require the sender (you, the cartoonist) a lot more work and attention to detail where you need to sort your pieces by specific region, of course state and then zip codes.
It also requires bagging or packaging everything in separate bundles and so much more.
If you decide to go this route, study the guidelines and restrictions involved in order to mail out your cartoon portfolio brochures for these purposes.
This is why it may be yet another better idea to get out on the road to personally approach people face to face.
Small town newspaper editors are busy, but have time to briefly discuss things with the public, and you may find it easier to drive your state, or region of the country (even plan a cross-country promotional tour!) in which you live and simply promote your cartoons this way!
Many are saying newspapers are dead or the print market is on it’s way out.
But for those nay-sayers, be true to your inner-cartoonist and don’t stop believing in yourself and what you can do in the field of becoming a self syndicator.
It will cost you money in actually printing thousands of brochures and it will cost you a specific amount of money in mailing labels with the addresses of editors and there are other expenditures to consider.
Take into consideration that if you decide to promote face to face, you will undoubtedly need money for gasoline (roughly three dollars per gallon right now), food and lodging.
Then there is the wear and tear on your vehicle (and your body and mind!). So from this standpoint, weigh your options.
You just may revert back to the politically correct mindset and simply mail your work to the big syndicates.
What I currently do today when I offer cartoons for newspapers, is to provide them electronically in numbers that the publisher requests, and negotiate a fee based on their circulation.
I can truly say that after drawing and offering cartoons on a professional basis now for forty years, there will still be a need for editors and publishers of weekly and daily newspapers to acquire a resource for cartoons. Be certain the service you provide is the one!
Alas, there are not many newspaper feature syndicates, and those that do accept cartoon feature proposals, you may be requested to email your work only.
If you do email your work, it is best to show it in PDF format, along with a decent page of information that outlines the cartoon or strip, each character involved and what your future ambitions are with the overall direction you want the comic to go.
Of course, nothing I mention here sounds easy and that’s my point. You control the direction you want to take when it comes to this avenue of your cartoon business.
Cartooning itself, the drawing part comes easy…it’s fun and most cartoonists enjoy what they do.
However in this new era of technology, we also need to be marketers, salesmen and ultimately self-promotion specialists.
Another avenue cartoonists may want to consider are creating custom comic strips like the sample I am posting above.
Custom comic strips don’t have to be intended for newspapers. Proof being, I have done many customized comic strips for magazines.
Look at my custom color strip called Grain Wranglers which I had created to the specifications for the editor of a magazine.
If you want to focus your cartooning abilities on the magazine market, gag cartoons are not the only features used in print publications and trade journals.
Editors may also consider comics trips (possibly as features) and editors may also request you to do special drawings for print advertising in the magazine or possibly for their web site.
Focus your efforts and promotional efforts accordingly.
Combining all of these aspects is sacrosanct to being a new age cartoonist! More excellent syndicated cartoonist information can be found on other informative websites and blogs so take your time to browse carefully, based on your interest in the cartoon world.
Cartoons used in various forms of advertising
Many times I have questioned myself how gag cartoons can be used aside from just being feature material or filler material.
Since I just recapped syndication, it has come to mind that actual newspaper ads would be yet another ideal way in which this form of cartooning could be applied.
I easily overlook various facts concerning cartoon usage until it smacks me along side the head, but I recall many times, my gag panels have appeared embedded within advertising copy for a specific service or business.
This applies to cartoons being used in both newspaper advertisements and magazine ads.
As such, I recall a particular plumbing cartoon of mine which was used to promote an HVAC / plumbing business and an editor asked if he could use it in a display ad for a regular advertising client he had in his newspaper.
He even re-captioned cartoons I offered on my site that worked well with some of his client’s display ads.
A sample is appearing in this section that ought to help provide you with a better insight into what I refer to.
Aside from the newspaper business running cartoons in various forms of display advertising, this same discipline can apply to magazines.
A dental magazine editor that was running my dental cartoons had contacted me directly with information regarding a client who advertised in his magazine.
That specific ad client asked if I could contact him to discuss a series of custom cartoon illustrations that pertained to a software they wanted to promote.
He gave me the concept and I then created rough sketched artwork around that given concept and would show it for his approval.
When he approved the final rough sketched cartoon artwork, I would then finish the drawing in ink and send the finished cartoons for his including in each ad that appeared in the magazine.
To provide you with some additional insight into this, I’ll include a sample page on how the cartoons ran.
All of this can easily be done for many additional forms of advertising. Not just newspaper and magazine advertising but also newsletter ads, social media advertising such as in Facebook ads, digital banner ads and more.
If you have an extensive collection of cartoon material that you’ve produced, you may just be sitting on a gold mine. Think about ways in which those cartoon panels could assist advertisers who might need them.
Don’t think just “advertisers” per se, also consider marketers or people in promotional ventures who may find a good use for your cartoons.
The uses are endless. Such as a medical cartoon used on a poster that can be used for promoting a blood drive by a hospital.
This is where a communications manager might be an ideal recipient for one of your promotional cartoon brochures.
Communications managers are people assigned by hospitals, marketing firms, corporations of all types, and more.
A communications manager who’s job it is to promote events, gatherings and to promote a product or service that is offered, may be an ideal candidate for your services.
Especially if they have a sense of humor and a creative mind. Maybe they see some of your cartoons on your web site that could be licensed for a greeting card series to show their customers and clients they appreciate them.
keep this in mind because you just don’t know what the next day may hold in regards to your cartoons or services. The “ebb and flow” theory will always be a part of cartooning!
I’ve also had cartoons used in other ways such as small business applications.
I once purchased mailing labels of businesses and used those labels to mail out brochures with samples of my work to manufacturing companies.
It just so happened a particular response came from a New Jersey based company that specialized in producing pet supplies like gold fish bowls and dog dishes.
The owner planned a series of descriptive ads he planned to mail out in his region and those same cartoons were to appear in his packaging on instructional or descriptive booklets for the products in question.
He supplied me with ideas that I illustrated small cartoon characters around, such as happy looking tropical fish and puppy dogs drinking water or eating pet food from his bowls.
I still recall his name to this very day although he passed away about one and a half years into our business relationship.
In those days, I relied on the fax machine and Fedex in getting cartoon projects and even though there was no Photoshop or a computer in my cartoon studio, I can’t complain.
It was a great way for getting work to clients, and showing clients rough sketches via fax. My computer was out of sight out of mind!
The computer has changed marketing and self promoting my cartooning business and services greatly, and having said that, I can’t see working any other way.
Technology has simplified the cartoonist’s work ethic in an unusual way. Even though comic strip creators have deadlines imposed upon them through their syndicates, they can still get final art to their cartoon syndicate in seconds if they need to.
I often wonder how the likes of cartoonist George Herriman or Chester Gould would think of the current state of technology cartoonists currently have at their disposal.
Coloring cartoon strips and comic panels isn’t done in Buffalo, New York like it’s been in the past for most syndicates.
Each respective comic strip artist can now colorize his or her own work in studio. So that too, has impacted syndication in a certain way.
Syndicates now offer cartoons online and GoComics is the biggest name that’s recognizable.
But in looking back to other uses that can be applied to cartoons, cartoonists can now post their work on their own web sites and promote it accordingly.
Promoting My Cartoons and Services Through A personal Print Catalog
Being a full time cartoonist I will try other in depth ways of getting my work in front of the right people and it does require some intense planning, looking into your financial expenditures and a lot of patience.
I say this, simply because you want to cover all of your bases in advance, so you don’t get frustrated early into a plan such as printing your own cartoon catalog, the cost for contact names you’ll want to receive it, and mailing.
What is a “cartoon catalog” you ask? Simply put, it’s just like the digital collection of my respective works I keep online via my DansCartoons web site.
Only of course, it is a hard copy printed booklet like some of the glossy catalog print versions you get for sporting goods and fishing gear or your Cabelas catalogs for example.
Think about your online cartoon site, only in print format. I once published my own regional comic books. I located a very reputable and well known printer in the city of Ripon, Wisconsin.
This same printing plant published many underground comic books and series of comics for a well known cartoonist at that time.
I literally found them through word of mouth and since I lived within reasonable driving distance, I went to the plant, spoke with the manager (Holly) about pricing and specifics like shipping the comics etc.
The cartoonist who was printing a lot of his own books here at that time was Denis Kitchen.
I was impressed and I have that type of mindset of “if he can do it, I can do it” so to speak! So there I was, thinking in my marketer’s mind on how I should start of of it and plan things out.
Now, instead of regional comic books I had printed here, why not actual catalogs of cartoon images I make available?
At that same time, I can let the front and back covers act as additional portfolios for color images to represent my color work.
On the inside of each front and back cover, provide personal background information on my cartooning business and services, and perhaps a photograph with some personal and professional or biographical information etc.
Then on the very first page I can offer up pricing information on the printed cartoons and illustration samples I would offer for licensing and direct the recipient to the respective web page for each cartoon that is sampled in the catalog?
Of course you may be curious as to how I’d actually get twenty five thousand books to each art director or editor or creative director who I would target for receiving this catalog.
I would provide all of the physical mailing address on compact disc which I’d purchase from my favorite list broker.
My particular list broker has been my go-to resource for many many years and I’ve purchased pressure sensitive mailing labels from them in the past, including fax business cards many years ago when I was using faxing for self promotional projects.
Unlike having printed brochures I’d personally send on a smaller scale (through the U.S. postal service), a project involving tens of thousands of printed catalogs requires the printer of your choice to actually print the recipient’s name and physical address separately.
This is done by having those addresses printed directly onto the cover of each single one of the thousands of catalog covers you’ll be planning to have your printer publish.
Seek out a list broker on your own. I feel it better not to list who I use, since it may not be the right broker for you, price wise.
And I simply feel it’s better to follow your own intuitive creative insights and see who’s out there that will fit your needs and budget you have available.
When it comes to budgeting, don’t forget, if you’re broke you can apply for a business loan through your bank.
Have you got a credit card that is considered a “business card” you can use for charges such as printing, fuel for using your vehicle to get to and fro?
And there is potential to look into what are called Small Business Administration loans.
And don’t forget anything you do in the way of a business card or credit card may offer you “bonus points” for every expenditure.
If you build up enough, this will allow you to buy new printers or copiers.
Even new software or lcd computer screens for your business. As for finding contact names or mailing lists for a project such as sending out a printed catalog, your due diligence is required.
Just look up “list brokers” or “mailing list brokerage firms”. There are many across the country…even in Canada.
Once you pinpoint one that you feel is interesting and may fit your needs and budget, ask questions and explain what you’re planning. These people would be happy to have you as a customer.
Many brokerages will be more than happy to answer any and all questions based on what you describe.
Look at having your own printed catalog of cartoons and illustration services as an enhancement to anything else you’re currently doing to promote your cartooning business.
Whether it be online, or via sending out cartoon promotional brochures or even making cold-calls using the telephone.
You may be running a page or a spread in an illustration directory and also first class mailing any and all additional color brochures they supplied.
In addition, you probably have an online cartoon library that is propagating on the web.
You may even be making cold calls to editors at magazines or art and creative directors at advertising agencies or graphic design firms while you’re planning this particular printed cartoon catalog!
I realize it all sounds overwhelming and even difficult and costly. Actually it is but there is a saying “only the strong survive”. How do you stay competitive in a jungle of competition?
You stay strong, and in doing so it means you need to promote, advertise and get the word out about who you are and what you do.
Eventually, your name and cartoon drawing style will gradually embed itself in people’s minds, they’ll see your drawing style and it will gradually make an indelible impression on the right people.
An art director or editor or creative director at a publishing company will eventually contact you!
I make no guarantees, but no one guaranteed me anything either, as I ventured blindly into self promoting my cartoon work. What I am trying to emphasize are “odds”.
Eventually, the odds will be in your favor as you play the numbers game.
Especially if you have a decent drawing style and it’s consistent and makes that impression on the right person.
In order to achieve your proposed cost expenditures, plan out spending on paper and see what your budget allows. If you need to start out small, so be it.
I actually applied for a business card and after a year or two I requested an additional line of credit on that card in order to have ample money in advance to fit a decent promotion.
This is something I had done many years ago when I promoted myself one year in three illustration directories.
I looked at it in a way that was similar to mailing out gag cartoons many years ago to the magazine and newsletter market.
Sample Gag Cartoons In Gallery Below Shows The Kinds If Cartoon Humor I Circulated To The Magazine Market
I first began with keeping ten submissions of cartoons in circulation with 10 cartoons per submission (or 100 cartoons total) to ten different magazines.
Then fast forward another year where I had 30 submissions of cartoons at 10 gag cartoons per batch (or 300 cartoons total) to thirty different publications.
Eventually I was nearing 2,000 separate cartoons in motion so this is what I always try to emphasize…work with the odds in your favor! And do this with self-promoting your cartoons and / or illustration service.
Now, more than ever we are in a competitive business with the instantaneous way that the internet works. I’ve learned from keeping in touch with other fellow cartoonists who make cartoons, we all have specific techniques or disciplines we follow.
Keep In Touch With Fellow Cartoonists Will Help You Learn How Others Develop A Discipline
One artist friend who is a cartoon maker told me:
I myself, was never able to perfect perfect pen lines and in fact, had trouble using some pens including rapidograph. On the other hand, my current technique seems to work well.
I still draw by hand in pencil as the rough stage, but then I scan it into Photoshop and export it to Flash. Using Flash drawing tools I can then create very smooth, sharp lines.
Finally I export it back to Photoshop for coloring. I use a wacom, but one of the old ones where you don’t draw directly to the tablet but rather draw on the tablet while looking to the side at the computer screen.
It’s tricky to coordinate that way, but with practice you can do it. I have a newer Wacom which I can use to draw directly, but the image appears so small onscreen I find it harder than just the older Wacom method. I have a pen stylus and a mouse for these.
And believe it or not, after much practice I find I can actually draw with a mouse.
On my old cartoons I still scan them into Photoshop, often the finished cartoons. I may edit out some elements (such as outdated tv sets) and import new elements to replace them, and I use a cartoon-style computer font for lettering.
This is why I emphasize to reach out to fellow cartoonists and cartoon makers when you have questions. Don’t be surprised by getting a quick and in-depth response!