Practical Cartoon Advice

Hanging CatOK, there’s all sorts of articles, blog entries and whatnot out there to advise and inspire people who want to draw cartoons. And for the most part, they’re all pretty much the same.

  • Draw a lot
  • Read a lot of cartoons
  • Don’t give up

And, you know, it’s all good advice, but I think you could change a few words, add a few thousand more, and you’d have pretty much every self-help book clogging your local Barnes and Noble.

So, I’m going to give some real practical advice that other cartoonists aren’t going to tell you. It’s not pretty, but it’s all good to know:

  • Don’t Ask For Help – Stop emailing other cartoonists and asking for advice. Even if you get good advice, it may not be the advice you really need. The best thing you can do is try, fail, and try again until you get it right.
  • Get a Mac – I know, you know your way around a PC, and Macs are expensive and all that, but it’s worth it. Time is going to be short at first, and you need to be writing and drawing, not worrying about viruses and blue screens of death.
  • Don’t Quit Your Day Job – At least not for a good while. I know you hate it, and it’s crushing your soul, but you need the bread. Draw and write in the mornings before work, at lunch, and at night. When no one’s looking at work, you can work on your…
  • Blog – Websites take some time and money to get set up. Blogs don’t require a lot of programming know-how to get running. It’s a good way to build an online presence on the cheap.
  • Don’t Send Cartoons About Wolves in Traps Gnawing Off their Own Legs to the ASPCA – Been there, done that.
  • Writing Carries Bad Art – There’s no secret here, you need to be funny. No one buys a cartoon because that horse really really looks like a horse. Actively work on writing funnier. You can do it in your head while appearing to read that memo at work. See a pattern here?
  • It’s Not Like it Was in the Old Days – Plenty of guys are gonna tell you how bad the markets are now, and you used to be able to feed a family of 15 off of one cartoon sale to Collier’s, blah blah blah blah… The markets are there.
  • You’re Going to Fail – A lot. Like any sales gig it’s mostly about numbers. Suck it up, draw more cartoons, and mail them out.

There you have it; real, honest, and most importantly, usable advice, None of that mamby pamby “something that sparks inside of you and ignites a fire in your belly that you know is there” crap.

Be funny, draw fast, and be professional.

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12 thoughts on “Practical Cartoon Advice”

  1. Hmmm…If you're not supposed to ask a cartoonist for help, is it safe to read this post? 🙂

    Seriously, I think you offer some real words of wisdom here! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Some good advice, Mark. (Which is why I linked to this blog today.) I agree with a lot of it. "You're Going to Fail" is the most real, slap-in-the-face kind of advice. Only the pros get up and get going, time after time after time. You gotta love cartooning with your very soul.

  3. The "blue screen of death" (freezed & crashes) haven't been a problem with PCs for years, and there are hundreds of good anti-virus products for PCs, many free or very reasonably priced.

    Your intent is good but you are repeating out-of-date info which might discourage kids or encourage them to spend money they don't have. The "need" for a mac to do creative work is highly overrated; both I (an artist) and my husband (a musician) found that the much wider variety of software available to us was a great creative *asset* when we got a PC laptop a year ago; now we both use PC laptops and the mac mostly gathers dust.

  4. You know, I was once like you. And I guess I was always sort of a closet-Mac-wannabe, but, honestly, after 3 years of reformatting my hard drives every 3 months, it's a joy to just have things work. (BTW, I had every anti-virus program under the sun, and only PC-cillin ever really worked to any real degree for me.)

    That being said, I don't think you need to get a new Mac. They seem to hold up well for a long time, and you certainly don't need the latest Photoshop. I'd say PS6 for a start, PS7 if you're a bad speller like me.

    And, to be honest, you don't NEED a Mac, but it's just my cartoon/business life so much easier, I had to throw it in there.

    I think the first computer I had was an e-machine that it took me 4 months to talk my wife into getting. I got a scanner, a printer, a CRT monitor and the computer all for about $500 after the slew of rebates. It got me started…

    Wow, am I rambling!

  5. No, you don't understand. We *have* a mac. We just don't use it anymore. We have *had* other macs. I'm not a "closet-mac-wannabe". Please re-read my comment. I am saying we found the PCs *better* for creative work. It does happen, honest. I am saying the creator+computer connection is a personal thing; and it bothers me a bit when creative people say to young creative people, "Get A Mac" as a slogan, credo or mantra. It's more complex than that. Please don't discourage young people with information ("Blue Screen of Death") that just isn't accurate anymore.

    Love the toons, love the blog.

  6. For me, it wasn't a matter of how it worked, it was if it worked. I had more trouble with XP and viruses than I could stand anymore.

    It was purely a business decision. If I could have had a stable working envirnoment I probably would still have my awesome old 17" Toshiba laptop, and maybe it was me, but I just couldn't justify the time investment anymore.

    Anyway… I don't wanna get into a Mac vs.PC thing. Like you said, it's a personal thing.

    Whatever you can afford up front is what you need to use, but I found once I could afford it, the Mac made better business sense for me.

  7. This is exactly what I was looking for today, thank you for sharing such great advice! I love your work. I will be linking to your site if that's OK, I'll try and spread the word.



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