Great cartoonists are found throughout the print and digital medium. I’m writing about one of these great cartoonists in particular in this post and it is none other than George Crenshaw. George was a big inspiration to me and not only that, but a big inspiration based on his in depth track record and background involved in the business of cartooning and marketing cartoons.
As time went on when I got further and further into the business of cartooning and being a cartoonist, I kept coming across George’s cartoons in various newspapers and magazines. His cartooning and drawing style was very refined, unique and highly recognizable.
Great cartoonist – George Crenshaw
Most likely a result of his continuously learning and refining a cartooning style that caught alot of editors and publishers eyes.
It was George who eventually reached out after seeing my single panel cartoons in different trade journals, books and magazines and asked me if I wanted to join him in marketing gag cartoons through his agency called ‘Masters Agency‘.
His agency was a loosely built but very reliable and refined contact list of cartoon markets he had and he agreed to show my stuff along with his and give me a percentage of whatever was accepted and paid for.
It was not long before I began seeing checks arrive for this set of sales or that number of cartoons and I thought it was great. What was equally as impressive was the fact that he could acquire such a reliable list he culled active cartoon markets from and I one day asked how he did this.
Much to my chagrin, he was more than happy to share his secrets. Those of which I will forever be grateful for and I owe him much gratitude. I think it was because of the fact he recognized my ambition for marketing, he liked my work and maybe saw a smidgeon of himself at my stage in the game!
Furthermore, this was long before the digital age, when there was a vast “ocean” of available publishing markets out there from which a cartoonist could show his or her work to.
Full time freelance cartooning involved great effort
There were so many “unknown” or undiscovered potential markets for cartoonists, it was very exhilarating since you never knew from one day to the next if a new client would come along. I learned from George as to how a cartoonist could research for, and locate specific cartoon markets for himself, by using standard industrial classification code research.
Most artists assumed only those magazines you saw in your local book store or magazine stand were what was available, but those were just the tip of the iceberg.
In fact, the general concensus between many full time trade journal cartoonists was to work the “grey market” or the lesser – known publications, letting the beginners or newcomers focus on the obvious.
By working the grey market, the competition was less, and those markets (many who had ample budgets) were always in need of single panel gag cartoons like the well known major magazines. And if you were savvy like George, you could establish your own personal stable of editors and magazines from which to show and submit your work to.
I always wondered how George could consider me, his competition, as part of his marketing plan. Of course it isn’t that I consider my material to be the best, so it had to be the ancillary income George realized he could generate if we joined forces.
A professional cartooning and business relationship was established! There were so many cartoonists who were generous to me though, including Luci Meighan who taught me the value of making up questionnaires and using the newest technology (fax machines) to send out hundreds of queries directly to editors and not rely on marketing information sheets.
Luci had cartoons in virtually every trade magazine at one point in time, and she once told me in a phone conversation about time spent in the early 1970’s in Iran, where she was diligently creating dozens, hundreds of brand new cartoons along with thousands she had on her, to circulate through the mails back to the states and markets that were running her cartoons.
She was with her husband, who was in the oil business and doing some sort of work for a company there. They had to travel to another city within the country and while in transit, were stopped by the Iranian military police for their papers. The story she told me involved them finding boxes of her cartoon originals, all of which they kept.
She told me those were never returned, and hoped they had a good laugh at her expense! Many others helped me along the way, such as Joe Kohl, who was the kindest of souls with whom I kept in close contact with. A well published cartoonist, who also took time to call and talk with me on the phone, fax me markets, mail me his latest book project and give me pointers on how to promote to advertising agencies.
I would call George if I discovered a market and he would sometimes do likewise. Then one day, George approached me about a new book he was compiling and letting alot of his marketing techniques go into a hard cover book.
He asked if he could use some of my promotional samples in this tome, to which I wholeheartedly agreed. It was the only way I thought, which I could return a favor for which I was already grateful for…learning how to market and promote my cartoons.
The market, and the way in which business and self promotion is conducted in the cartoon world has changed drastically with the evolution of the internet and social media, but I still think back with a big grin at the cartoonists like Crenshaw, Luci and Joe Kohl and others who took time to share and allow me to share what I had at that crucial time in my so-called ‘learning curve’.
My message to any new cartoonist is to align yourself with a like minded professional or someone who likes what you do and vice versa. Pour yourself into your work and get lost in it….you’ll be grateful to those people and to yourself for what you’ve done many years later, I can assure you of that! Being a cartoonist is a fun and very self gratifying profession!