Style Over Time

A customer at our favorite cartoon website, bought these two cartoons today:



The first one is a cartoon from early on in my career – about 6 months in.

The second is very recent.

It just floors me how much my style has changed in the last 9 years. Honestly, they look as if they were done by two different artists.

It’s weird to see such a stark contrast in one’s own work, but the old stuff still sells, so who am I to complain!

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Part of being a cartoonist is drawing holiday cartoons during the Spring and/or Summer months.

Generally magazines, greeting cards and such are working at least 6 months ahead if not more, so I get to ponder jokes about Santa Claus while I’m getting the grill ready to go for the season.

It’s weird, but you get used to it.

Recently I’ve been selling more and more greeting cards, and unlike most of my gag markets, they require color. I normally re-ink the cartoon from scratch rather than trying to remove my gray shading in Photoshop. I find it comes out a lot cleaner.

Anyway, a card company bought some of my older Thanksgiving stuff and I ran into sort of a weird little problem. Here’s the original art as I submitted it:


(You can go here for the gag…)

This one is from much earlier in my cartooning career before my current style had set in.

Note the lack of noses on some characters, and the awkward nose experimentation on the others. The whole thing is kinda on a goofy angle too. And why I chose to cut the door on the left at that conspicuous angle I don’t quite know.

Anyway, here’s the problem: The greeting card company liked the cartoon and bought it, but I don’t draw that way anymore. Do I redraw it in my current style, or redo what I’d done before, even though I’m not happy with the art?

In the end I decided to keep the same angles and basic composition, but updated the characters and line to my current style. Here’s the line art:


And here it is in color:


Not bad in the end, but it does make you rethink sending out older art. Sure it’s salable, but do I want the hassle?

I know some cartoonists go back and redo older cartoons in their current styles, but, honestly, once I’m done with a cartoon I don’t even like revisiting it to color it for a paying client.

Anyway, here’s hoping they like the final product…

See some thanksgiving cartoons at Andertoons

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Cartoon Rhinoplasty

Yesterday I had this very entry discussing my characters’ early lack of noses ready to go when, at about 6:00 AM or so, I thought I might do something a little more green for St. Patrick’s Day. I postponed the nose blog for Friday and didn’t give it another thought.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday’s Cathy-related posting over at Mark Heath’s Frog Blog popped up!

Here’s a quote:

Though Cathy lacks a nose, I wonder how many people notice? Cartoon faces can be very spare, but they’ll almost always need two things: eyes and a mouth… As long as the reader has eyes to connect with, and a mouth to study for emotional cues, the character is as real as a mirror-image.

How weird is that?! What are the odds of two cartoonists named Mark writing blogs about cartoons and their lack of noses on the very same day?!

Now I sort of wish I’d have left yesterday’s blog go out as scheduled.

Well, anyway, here it is:

I didn’t used to draw noses.

Obviously my style has evolved quite a bit in the years I’ve been drawing cartoons for a living, but I think the inclusion of noses have probably been the biggest single change.

I just could never get them to look quite right, and after some semi-regular sales, I just sort of figured it was part of what made my cartoons unique.

I’d draw them occasionally if I absolutely had to have people in profile, but they always look uncomfortable and out of place.

I picked out a couple of similar cartoons to illustrate the point, or the lack thereof. (You can click on each cartoon to see larger versions.)


This is what I call the early nose or “no nose” version.

Early Noses

Not only is there no nose, but the mouth is contained entirely in the face and the head is basically just a simple circle. All in all, not that far removed from stick people.


Here’s my experimental or middle nose period.

Middle Noses

The mouth has more of a Simpsons overbite vibe, and the head is looking more like a head, but the nose is even more awkward than simply leaving it off in the first place.

If you look closely, you can see the line for the nose is slightly thinner than the rest of the face. Definitely less confidence here.


And here’s where we are today…

Current Noses

Although my mother has referred to them as looking too “wtichy,” I really like them. I think they add a nice angular touch to a more naturally rounded head and better looking mouth.

So why so long to draw decent noses, or even noses at all? Got me.

I do have a not insignificant schnozz, but I’ve never been that concerned about it.

I think it was one of those things I had trouble with and simply avoided as long as I could. But, in the end, I think I’ve hit my style right on the nose.