Cartooning Dos and Don’ts (Advice to a Young Cartoonist)

Andertoonsmailbox-2 1Got this email from a young cartoonist a while back:

My name is (name omitted) , and I just graduated from Baylor University in May with a degree in English Lit. While there, I also cartooned for our campus paper, The Lariat, for a good five semesters or so. I just narrowly missed getting to work with our new assistant media adviser, (name omitted), but she has mentioned that she knew you from school and that you’re open to advising students looking into cartooning as a field. To that end, I’m writing to see if you have any practical advice on making a living off of drawing. I’ve visited Andertoons and read your FAQ (so trust me, I plan to “draw, draw, draw”!). But do you have any stories or advice regarding the path you took? Maybe mistakes you learned from or things you got a jump on? I figure any advice I can get from those who have gone before would be super-valuable.

I’ve offered cartooning advice before, and regular readers will know that I don’t often tend to wax poetic about art and inspiration and all. I’m assuming that’s a given.

When I look back, the help I needed most starting out was nuts and bolts advice. So, some cartooning Dos and Don’ts for you:

DON’T – Bet it all on syndication

That’s not to say that the syndicates aren’t all very nice, but it seems there’s fewer and fewer breakout strips, and the newspaper industry isn’t in the best of health anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s always room at the top (and I haven’t looked at your work) but the odds are pretty long on making a good long term living with a syndicated strip. You might be better served to…

DO – Promote yourself

I’m going to assume that your cartoons are really good, so that means you’re about a third of the way there. Get a website working well and get it noticed. Blog. Tweet.

Look at your competition and see what they’re doing and do it better and more often. Eventually you won’t have to do as much of this, but count on thinking about it a lot for the next year at least. That being said…

DON’T – Create only what you think will sell

Doing what you think will sell because you need/want to make money is the wrong way to go. It comes off false and readers sense it. That being said, trying to sell ninja princess bunny cartoons to business publications or professionals looking to pep up a powerpoint isn’t a good idea either.

There’s a fine line between acknowledging available markets and creating appropriate material for them, and cynically creating cartoons leveraged more toward sales than humor. Do what you think is funny while keeping an eye on the markets. You’ll be happier, funnier and make more in the long run.


DO – Be a business

Learn what an invoice is and make yours clear and professional. Get up to speed on some basic accounting. Invest in good materials and equipment. Have your W9 ready to fax over.

Be professional on the phone. To a client you shouldn’t be Johnny Someguywhocandraw, you should be Johnny Inc., who knows what they’re doing.

OK, that’s about he best cartoon advice I can give. There’s a ton of other really good cartooning blogs out there for more help and inspiration.

Good luck!

Andertoons at Small Business Trends


Yes, I am an expert.


…at least according to the very good folks over at Small Business Trends, who’ve been kind enough to bestow that title on me in exchange for the occasional business cartoon.

Check out today’s cartoon, my bio, and Anita’s really nice intro.

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LEGO Cartoon 1 (#5961)

I’ve been looking for something different to create with my LEGOs as of late. Batman stuff and spaceships are fine and all, but I really wanted to try something more unique.

I don’t know why it took me so long to start digging into my cartoons, but here’s my first effort:

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Here’s the cartoon it’s based on:


And here’s some close-ups:

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BTW, that caption is actually engraved into that brick. Cool huh?

Here’s the LEGO specific AutoCAD I started with:


Anyway, I’ll be putting some more pics up over at Flickr in the next few days. Feel free to stop by and check it out.

Hope you like it! More to come soon!

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The Bonnie Hunt Show

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My wife and I aren’t celebrity people. We don’t care who’s cheating on who’s newborn and all that.

That being said, we have discussed more than once a few select celebs that we think would be interesting/fun enough to have over for dinner.

Bonnie Hunt is probably #1 on the list. There’s a midwestern-ness about her that we just adore.

Anyway, she’s got a new daytime talk show, The Bonnie Hunt Show, coming out this fall and here’s hoping her lots of luck and success!

(More on Bonnie here…)

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