Cartooning Professions

cartooning professionsI recently asked a lot of fellow creatives about their chosen cartooning professions.

What I gathered was a wide variety of answers from a cross section of artists which impressed upon me that cartooning involves “creativity”, not to mention a wide variety of other factors such as determination, drive, practice, hope and so on.

To follow are a small sampling of responses I hope might act as a form of inspiration to anyone considering becoming a gag cartoonist, comic strip artist, web cartoonist, comic book illustrator or other such genre you want to follow, involving the field of cartooning.

I had been drawing “funny images” as far back a seven years old. One of the things that compelled me to become a cartoonist early in life was the noticeable lack of comics cartoons and animation that had (positive) images African Americans.

So I have always tried to develop stories and characters that had a person of Color in the lead role.

I created a series of strips called “What Are Friends For?” and later created a social commentary comic that evolved into an editorial cartoon feature that I syndicated nationally.

Even when just doing illustrations in general, I always try to make sure people of Color are featured.


Cartooning professions vary greatly

As a 10 year old I liked drawing, Don Martin and Sergio Aragones so I imitated them. Gradually Warner bros cartoons and artists like Van Gogh and Matisse and Dali forced me into Art School where I wanted to be a ‘real artist’.

This lead to art teaching( to help pay the bills) and at one school i began a daily cartoon in the school bulletin, as a way of promoting staff unity and to relieve stress.

This proved very popular, got me lots of attention so I explored cartooning as a job rather than hobby and the rest is history as they say.

Don’t get any more attention but hey the lifestyle is great.

I’ve yet to make cartooning a career but it’s been a life long passion. It started with my father doctoring greeting cards with cartoon versions of me and my brother.

I would be totally amiss if I didn’t include Charles Schulz and Peanuts.

I still have my ratty Charlie Brown sweatshirt although it’s way to small to wear. Mad magazine would also be a source of inspiration especially the work of Mort Drucker and Jack Davis.

Probably the most influential artist for me has been Honore Daumier.

Ditto on Peanuts, always doodled during school…kept doodling during meetings, Am a full time fine artist, but doing cartoons keeps me sane (especially when painting sales plummet in this economy).

(would like to do a book of collected cartoons. Any preferences on P.O.D. comic publishers?)

There is something very satisfying about creating story lines with pictures and dialog. also you can say stuff as a panda that would get you in trouble if you said it as a person!

I was always interested in drawing and cartoons as a sprog, brought up on a diet of Oor Wullie, the Broons, the Beano and the Dandy, then later the Commando book series.

My history notebook had very little writing in it, mostly it was a running catalog of cartoons, doodles and caricatures interspersed with explosions.

A big influence was an art teacher at school who instilled in me that art in it’s many forms had a value, both financial and spiritual.

My advice to any young aspiring cartoonists would be not to worry too much about having a huge amount of work to show an editor, do something topical and send it in, editors are only interested in what you can do, not what you’ve done.

When I was a kid I was never allowed to go outside and play like other kids, so I started drawing my favorite cartoon characters to amuse myself.

Eventually I began to create my own characters. I never had much encouragement from my family but somehow I stuck with it even though there were a few years in my youth that I never picked up a pencil.

Now finally after years of working non art related jobs I can say that cartooning and creating art is my profession.


How I became a cartoonist

I became a cartoonist because it was the first thing I was absolutely able to do well that got positive reinforcement from family and friends, and made me feel, as a kid, like I had a kind of super power other kids didn’t have.

I grew up in the 60s which I feel were the golden age of TV animation, and was fed a rich diet of Hanna Barbera, Looney Tunes, Terry Tunes, and Jay Ward animation.

The first thing I learned to draw recognizably was Underdog and Fred Flintstone, due in part to the wonderfully simplistic , yet stylized character design of the creators of both shows.

Being able to “draw like my heroes” gave me an instant connection with the cartoons I watched, and made me feel “closer to the action “than those of my peers.

As I got older,a cartooning became wonderfully effective way for me to socialize with others, break down barriers, and promote good will.

Everyone seemed to love cartoons no matter how crudely they were drawn. Cartooning was a way to instantly communicate ideas that would take several paragraphs.

When I started doing semi autobiographical cartoons, I was shocked that people would even be interested enough to want to read them, and that some even resonated with people.

One of my greatest cartooning moments happened in 2010 wen I illustrated a story about a childhood bullying incident that prompted my Dad to try and teach me martial arts.

The story resulted in me winning a free iPad!
Keeping in mind that my comments may help young cartoonists make career decisions, I would say that the best thing about cartooning is the individual nature of it. Online other “traditional” art forms where you MUST get things right(for example, if you’re a landscape artist, your trees better look like trees) cartooning allow you to totally be yourself and carve out a niche.

Regardless of what your point of view is, it seems that there will be SOME kind of audience willing to solicit your work, depending on your marketing, persistence and luck.

It’s something also that artists can start very early and inexpensively. It’s no secret that technology has put everything within reach, whether your thing is cartoon animation, web comics, or character design.

Things couldn’t be better for creative minds, these days.

I’m not currently a professional cartoonist. I’ve followed newspaper comics years ago — enjoyed strips (just to name a few) such as “B.C.,” “Wizard of Id,” “Tumbleweeds,” Peanuts — used to read lots of peanuts books growing up.

More recent years, I was introduced to Opus the penguin and started drawing and developing my own penguin characters.

Drawing in a cartoon style just comes natural for me. Right now, I make my own greeting cards for family and friends.

Well, I started drawing at age five. Yeah, yeah copying the comics and all. I would make people laugh in school and get myself out of trouble with bullies by drawing pictures.

I’ve been doing magazine cartoons for 30 years now. I also start doing humorous illustration for articles, covers etc. Sometimes having 4 jobs due on the same day!

Then I discover the work of Jack Davis. I followed his work while doing my own and learning from him.

In 1988 through the Graphic Artist’s Guild I had Jack come to my home town and give a talk on his work. We worked on a poster together for the show.

Since then he’s become a friend of mine. He’s one of the best, sweetest, guys I know, and a real talent to boot! The other influence on my work was Sam Gross.

I have followed his work since National Lampoon. The wash tones in his cartoons are cool. His gag cartoons are great! He bought a copy of my first book.

I currently have two collections of my work out and Sam was nice enough two give me a plug for the back my second book. Other cartoonists I admire are Steve Brodner, Bud Blake, Mort Drucker and Bob Clark.

Great question. I had Peanuts bedspreads and curtains in my room when I was but a lad, and I, like so many, started drawing Snoopy. It just grew from there.

I got away from if for a lot of years of military service, then got back into it and love every minute I get to draw and come up with goofy gags.

A scientific longitudinal study was conducted that showed all real cartoonists suffer from having had serious head injuries as a children…

Im sure im not the only one with a tale like this. I always drew but in high school i started doing doodles of teachers, coaches, friends parents, folk like that and my friends all got a kick out of it.

After a while the subjects i was drawing even loved the cartoons. My high school yearbook even had a four page spread of my drawings of the entire faculty(on an odd side note a faculty that included James Gandolfini’s father who was a hell of a guy who really helped an awkward scrawny freshman playing organized football for the first time in his life).

My mother, who god bless her, endured more comic book conventions than any 50 year old woman should was always very encouraging too.

Without my knowing she began sending some of my drawings to various publishers newspapers and other outlets. These weren’t all caricatures though.

As fun as that was my real joy was to create and so i did comic strips all the time.

I always loved Calvin and Hobbes, so at first i sort of imitated that strip.

More specifically the spaceman spiff ones. As i grew i found my own style and voice and all that jazz. So one day ib college i come home and my mother shows me a letter that one of my strips would be published.

I was thrilled and very surprised. Well after that i had a modicum of success and was thinking i could actually make a career out of this.

Fast forward a year though and my mother got cancer and needed a lot of help.

Add to that my Father had been very ill since i was in 6 th grade and time to draw got very sparse.

I’m trying to get back into doing cartoons for a living these days, but as an 18 year old kid who just stumbled into some success i made very few contacts and learned little about the business side of cartoons.

I still draw them for myself some local businesses and some random clients but looking to try and do more. Thanks for starting this so i can get some ideas and advice on how to make it happen.

I loved the idea of being able to draw anyone or anything doing anything I could dream up, and it was an easy way for an Air Force Brat to make new friends in new schools.

Mad Magazine in the 1950’s, simple as that. They embraced nonsense, satire, and a clever use of words with images. George Herriman was a great influence with Krazy Kat as well as Walt Kelly and Pogo.

Both strips are a masterful blend of art and words.Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut were influences also. Like music it gave me the chance to experiment and explore new ways of communicating ideas in a unique setting.

And it became addictive as new characters emerged,many from ideas from friends who were standing around with money and a desire to have one of my “doodles.”

Money was a facilitator but not the main motivation, creativity in words and pictures and the relationship between became an addiction of the noblest sort.

I live for creativity in any endeavor I wish to explore and watching creations fall out of a pen was delightful.

I was interested in drawing from an early age. I started to think visually early on.

I remember we had to draw Jesus’s mallet in Kindergarten. All of my colleagues drew the mallet as they knew it to be, seeing two faces.

I drew it as i saw it, with one face. The teacher said something to congratulate me. Such incidents propel you along a drawing vocation.

What compelled me….you mean what the hell was I thinking? It was the pull of making money vs. doing what you love. I have always loved cartooning in virtually every form because it is so immediate and fresh.

It’s smart. It’s witty, it’s fun. It’s also an incredible way to communicate quickly and passionately.

I think that’s why I went for it.

One day a light bulb emerged in a balloon over my head and I flipped over backwards and muttered “#@%^&!!” when it dawned on me that I could be charging $$$ for what I had always done for free! POW! SHAZAM!

Here’s the short version: To be a cartoonist has always been a lifelong dream, from the moment I could pick up a pencil.

I really got the bug in college when my cartoon character won Homecoming King at the University of Nebraska in the mid ’70s. People loved my strip and said I was speaking the “truth”.

The newspaper syndicates said I needed to broaden my experiences beyond college if I wanted to appear in daily newspapers. In my quest to experience life to understand “truth” so I could reflect life in a comic strip, I got into all sorts of things … some good, some bad.

Bottom line is, I was never able to syndicate, but along the way I eventually gave up all my desires (including cartooning) and I placed my total trust in Christ.

Ironically the very next day, I walked across the street from my apartment looking for work and stepped into an audio/visual production company.

It turns out they were looking for a cartoonist to replace someone who left 3 months earlier. They hired me that very day.

I learned the commercial art business from these folks and a year or so later branched out on my own.

Christian ministries and publishing companies began hiring me to do work for them and that’s when I realized God had called me to create cartoons to be a communication vehicle for spreading “God’s Truths”.

God couldn’t open up this calling for me until he had me. Once he had me the doors began opening everywhere.

Early inspiration for me was Charles Schulz and his cast of characters in Peanuts. Even as a kid, I loved the simplicity of his line work and how his commentary was often both funny and thought-provoking.

As an adult, I added Gary Larson and Bill Watterson–for very different reasons–to my personal holy trinity of cartoonists.

To this day, I have a hardback series of the complete works of Calvin & Hobbs tucked under my bed stand, so that if I am unable to fall right off to sleep, I can fill my mind with the wonderful visuals and writing that Watterson blessed us with.

Then when I am ready to drift off, I’m in a much better mood.

It is a misconception to think that a “real” cartoonist draws everything straight from his or her head.

Many, if not most, make good use of reference material while creating our cartoons. If I have to draw something that I am not intimately familiar with, I’ll usually be able to find an photo or three online and start drawing the thing–sometimes even tracing it–until my comfort level is such that I can relax artistically and depart from a strict rendering to a looser abstract that fits my cartooning style.

Using photographic references as a launching point while taking care not to lift someone else’s work, I think, is not an uncommon practice.

That’s sort of what happens when nude models are hired for drawing classes–right? Just don’t try to lay tracing paper over a nude model because they really don’t like that…and please don’t ask me how I know this.

As a child I was always drawing, just like any number of us, but at the age of twelve I was literally ‘discovered’ on the streets of NY and from that day have been a professional ‘toonist.

I barely remember life before I was pro.

I’m a Christian bible artist, working in the UK. I started drawing pretty much before I would walk! Have been drawing ever since.

I’ve worked on a turkey farm, been to university, thought I’d become a geologist & tried graphic design. I couldn’t find my place in the world; my niche.

But along came God & an opportunity to draw Bible Cartoons & now I not only know the Lord of the Universe, I also have a great niche to live in too! Bible Cartoons has provided me with my place in the world, cartooning is what I was born for.

Now I’m on a mission to illustrate every chapter of the Bible in order to help people connect with the Word of God.

There are lots of visual learners (like me) who don’t get as much from just hearing a sermon at church. So my Bible Cartoons can be used to spice up preachers sermons & make the Bible accessible to visual learners too.

They are also used by Sunday School teachers & teachers who provide RE lessons at school.

I wanted to be an illustrator like Norman Rockwell, but when I got to art school, I found out the illustrators were starving to death because the camera had completely taken over advertising and publishing.

I decided to be a cartoonist because the anarchy of it appealed to me, plus, I always liked making people laugh. I started doing cartoons for greeting card companies in art school and it pretty much paid my way through school, not to mention my first house.

Chicago was a fabulous cartoon market, probably still is.

As far back as i can remember I’ve always been a cartoonist; since the age of 5.

My first day of kindergarten at P.S. 260 in Brooklyn, NY the teacher had us draw pictures and I was drawing a picture of a T-Rex fighting a brontosaurus and the teacher looked over my shoulder and left the class and came back with the other kindergarten teachers and I was removed from the class and placed in 1st grade. In 2nd grade I had a drawing exhibited at a children’s exhibit in the Brooklyn Museum of Modern Art.

As a teenager my uncle showed me a comic strip I drew when I was 7. Even though I could do fine art I was more compelled to do cartoons since I loved watching cartoons on TV. This is a no-brainer. I can’t see myself doing anything else!.

I think I was born a cartoonist. I’ve been drawing cartoons and comic strips since I could hold a crayon.

I’ve tried “real jobs” but have never been able to “be” anything else. I used to get in trouble at my ‘real’ jobs because I would create comic strips featuring my coworkers (I was “Dilbert” before Dilbert was Dilbert!)

My “niche” is horse humor, so I target that industry. As a lifelong horse lover and owner, I’ve got an endless supply of material.

This is just a small cross section of ways artists were impressed by other cartoonists and how they eventually meandered into the field of cartooning.

An old saying is “Let your conscience be your guide” and if you are young and impressionable, I’ve always suggested to those wanting to get into this business to start sketching and drawing early and don’t quit.

It can be a very self-satisfying profession to those who have the tenacity and drive to succeed in one way or another. There are areas of comic book illustration, greeting card illustration, comics strip illustration, package design and so many other avenues to follow! Don’t stop drawing…….