Where I Write Cartoons – Cartoon Techniques

This year I’m starting something new on the cartoon blog called Tools, Techniques, and the Trade. It’s an occasional in-depth look at the weird world of drawing cartoons for a living.

I’ll explain why my pencils have to be made from California Incense-cedar wood, I’ll show you how my Photoshop Actions work, and how I keep track of thousands of cartoons’ comings and goings. (Also, I love alliteration.)

First up is a look at the various places I write my best cartoons most often.

My Office

Locations for writing cartoons - Office

For years I wrote and drew cartoons at a coffee table in the living room. But when our second child was on the way we moved into a slightly larger house and I grabbed a little room downstairs for my office. It’s basically a closet, but I’ve managed to cram in two sets of bookshelves, two desks, a drafting table, a file cabinet, a taboret, a chair, a stool, and probably a quarter million LEGO in various stages of organization. (I’ll show you some pictures sometime.)

When I write in here it’s mostly at my desk. I stare out my little window and jot things down either on a notepad, or in TextEdit. If I’m really feeling writerly I’ll turn on Coffitivity.

It’s a quiet place, I’m surrounded by cartoons, and I can close the door. If you can wrangle yourself a little office in the basement, I highly recommend it.

The Library

Locations for writing cartoons - Library

The library is a terrific place to find inspiration, and I’m lucky enough that our local library is the second largest public library in the state.

I like to go here, pick up  a few books off the New Reads shelves, grab a few magazines, and set up by the big sculpture-y thing upstairs. There’s a big window with lots of morning light, just enough background noise, and millions of ideas just waiting to be pondered. It’s terrific.

The Gym

Locations for writing cartoons - Gym

This is something I discovered recently when both of the kids were finally old enough to be in school all day. I was looking for some exercise and began hitting tennis balls at a wall after dropping the kids off.

It felt good to get a bit of a workout, but what surprised me was how often cartoons ideas came to me while I hit. And not just cartoon ideas, but business ideas too. (I sussed out most of the details for my cartoon subscriptions at the tennis court.)

Now that it’s winter, and a terrible terrible winter at that, I’ve been going to the gym and writing while on the elliptical or the stairmaster, though not as often as I probably should.

There’s a ton of info on the link between exercise and creativity. It’s definitely worth checking out.


Locations for writing cartoons - Driving

Driving is another one of those quiet reflective times, at least when I’m not shuttling the kids and/or the Mrs. around.

Sometimes I listen to the radio mining for little nuggets to play with, but sometimes I just enjoy the quiet and let things marinate in the ol’ noggin. Often I write like crazy on the drive home from the gym. It’s like a creative supercharging twofer.

But my absolute favorite, best, and most productive cartoon writing location is…

The Shower

Locations for writing cartoons - Shower

The shower is a-maz-ing. I’ve written more ideas in the shower than I can count. In fact I’ve considered putting dry erase markers next to the shampoo. (I’m not kidding.) My buddy Jeff worked in advertising for years and will also tell you his best ideas came to him in the shower.

Apparently this is actually a thing that people have researched:

Seriously, Google “shower creativity” – you’ll be amazed.

Those are my favorite writing locations. Where do you find yourself doing your best writing?

Here’s some more on how I write my cartoons:

And here’s some good general stuff on creativity:



How To Use Cartoons To Instantly Make Any Presentation Awesome!

One of the downsides of working in the business world is the endless meetings that usually involve long, boring presentations. What’s worse is when it’s your turn to stand at the front of the room and subject your coworkers to a lecture featuring the latest analytics from whatever it is you do.

With a cartoon, however, you can spice up your presentations and add a little fun to what may otherwise be mundane subject matter. Here are a few pointers, paired with some cartoons, to make your next presentation a slam dunk:

Beginning Your Presentation

“I know PowerPoints can be boring…”

A cartoon can be great for breaking the ice and letting your colleagues relax. After all, they’re probably not looking forward to this presentation, no matter how “interesting” it may be. By starting out with a funny cartoon that points out what everyone is thinking but no one will say, you let your audience know that you’re on the same page.

Ending Your Presentation

“So what usually happens after one of these presentations is something like this…”

We’ve all done it. Someone has just given a presentation proposing a new idea, and we all head back to the water cooler to discuss just how the plan WON’T work out. The same may be true for the viewers of your presentation, so by ending with a cartoon like this one, you can segue into telling your audience exactly why your idea WILL work.


“I’m sure you all have questions, but let’s try to avoid this type of a situation…”

At the end of every presentation, there’s the much-anticipated Q&A forum that involves a thoughtful discussion regarding the entire team of extraordinary minds. Just kidding. Instead, this period is usually an opportunity for one individual to ask several questions, more or less to show off how smart he/she is. To mitigate these types of situations, use humor to stop the self-indulgent question-askers in their tracks.


“Let’s face it, change can be difficult—and scary.”

In any organization, suggesting any type of change in policy or procedure—even for the better—will inevitably earn backlash from certain individuals. This may be due to a variety of reasons, but is most likely the result of a simple fear of the unknown. There’s no better cure for fear than humor, so use a cartoon to assure everyone that it’s all going to be OK.

Bad News

“Alright, so this might not be the news you wanted to hear, and I’m certainly not happy about it either, but…”

Having to give a presentation is bad enough, but what makes it worse is if you have bad news to share. While negative trends are a part of business, you need to be able to communicate to your colleagues that just because some aspect of your organization isn’t going as planned, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Again, an appropriate cartoon will help to calm some nerves in your audience.


“I know that this is going to take some work and a hefty time investment, but it will all be well worth it.”

If you’re proposing something that is going to take the acceptance and input of your coworkers, you need to let them know that their efforts will be well worth it. And, while we’d all love to be great motivational speakers, it’s often difficult to really get your team up and moving. Make your life a little easier by bringing a cartoon into the mix to lighten the mood


“So, I had this great idea…”

Even if you have an idea that you think is great, it can be hard to get people to accept it. If you’re introducing the next big thing for your company (and they just don’t know it yet), take the edge off by introducing it with a cartoon.

It’s Complicated

“OK, so I realize this may be a little confusing…”

Another tough aspect of giving presentations is that sometimes the subject matter is so specialized to your particular field that others in the audience might not understand what you’re trying to say. Many of your coworkers may be having the same thoughts as the individual in the cartoon above. Using an image like this will help you convey that you realize the complexity of the material, and you’re going to try your best to make it easier to digest.

Things Are Great

“I am happy to inform you that things are looking pretty good…”

The best presentations are those in which you can share good news. However, how can you best communicate just how positive the information is that you’re sharing? With a cartoon like this, you can let your colleagues know: Hey, it’s not so bad!

So, next time you need to give a presentation, try inserting a cartoon. You and your audience will appreciate it.

Mark Anderson is a cartoonist whose cartoons (including those above) are available for purchase at blog.andertoons.com.