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Creating A Cartoon

1205 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  GAT
From time to time, folks as me how I create my cartoons. I sold my first cartoon during the late 80s.... primarily to small publications. In those days, the publications did not publish cartoons in color so my first cartoons were in B&W and normally just simple line drawings. If I wanted to shade the cartoon, I'd use different hues of grey felt markers.

Everything was done on typing paper. Oddly enough, there was no size requirements. Usually, I draw them in a 5X7 blue line box. The scanners at the time wouldn't record the blue line but it helped me visualize how the image would look in the frame they'd always add.

When they started accepting color cartoons, that created a problem. I tried using colored felt pens but I couldn't accomplish a flat, consistent color as you see in print.

About the time the publications decided to use color, I was into computers and someone suggested I buy a scanner -- which were very expensive at the time. Once I scanned the images, I could color them with Photoshop -- which fortunately for me was offering the program for PCs and not just Apple computers. I ended up with one of the first Photoshop programs sold for PC use.

I also purchased a Wacom digital pen and pad and figured I'd create the entire cartoon on the computer. I gave it a try and the results looked like crap. I could never adjust to using a digital pen on a plastic pad. I do use the digital pen to make adjustments and corrects to the cartoons when I have them on file in the computer.

So, after years and years of messing around, this is the system I use to create the cartoons you see in magazines.

Stage 1:
I start with a drawing pad and a standard #2 pencil. I pencil the idea on the pad then use an ink pen to make the corrections I desire:

Human body Jaw Cartoon Mammal Gesture

Stage 2:
I erase the pencil lines so I end up with a line drawing for scanning then I scan the image into the computer:

Head Hand Arm Leg Vertebrate

Stage 3:

Once I have the line imagine in the computer, I use the digital pen to make changes I desire and use Photoshop to start adding color:

Head Hand Arm Leg Cartoon

Final Stage:
Once I've finished adding color and dinking around with lighting and saturation, I add the gag-line text to the cartoon. As the publications change the completed size of the cartoon to fit available space, they normally remove the text and print the gag-line to match the size they end up using.

Organ Cartoon Jaw Organism Rectangle

That's it... Bottom line... nope, I don't use a computer to create the entire cartoon.... it would certainly eliminate a number of steps if I did!
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Do you usually have the joke in mind first? Have I missed the monthly cartoons?
That's neat! Thanks for taking the time to explain.
Do you usually have the joke in mind first? Have I missed the monthly cartoons?
Yes, I start with an idea ... then I figure out if I can draw it :) The ideas for a cartoon is the hardest part. I normally get them from the oddest situations... some that have nothing to do with flyfishing. Many I get from my fishing buddies or my wife. Sometimes the editor of Fly Fisherman Magazine will e-mail me with a specific request or a basic idea and I come up with something that fits.

I stopped posting monthly cartoons. Instead, I drop them into threads that include the same subject of the 'toon.
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Love the behind the scenes look at your work and mindset.

The process of creation is often as fascinating as the results.

Great work!

Thank you for sharing !
Excellent GAT!...I enjoy cartooning/illustrating myself. I do however work on a computer and Wacom Cintiq using Photoshop at work. At home or out and about I can't beat an ol' pencil and paper for sketching. I've seen a real change in the creative field through out the years and still enjoy the traditional ways but take advantage of the forgiving digital tools. Keep on creating!!!
I have wished I could draw or paint my entire life, but such talents eluded me. Thanks for the inside look into how you create your work, Gene.
I have wished I could draw or paint my entire life, but such talents eluded me.
Cartoons are for those of use who can't really draw worth a damn ...the artwork just needs to be funny.:)
Any cartoon or other "artwork" I ever attempted was "funny" . . . looking & usually followed by "What is it supposed to be?" . . .
I once had an editor turn down my cartoon submissions by actually telling me "they look funny" WTF???? I'm serious. That's what they said. :confused: I thought that was the point!!!

My pot of gold was selling cartoons to Field & Stream. They paid me more for one cartoon than some flyfishing publications paid me for full length articles. The editor would only buy from a small group of cartoonists (they are called the stable) and after about a year of sending them cartoons and receiving them back rejected... they finally bought one. They sent a contract back the same as they require for articles. From then on, I was "in" and they bought my cartoons.

I have no idea how I ended up in the stable for Field & Stream... evidently someone must have died!

Unfortunately, they changed managing editors and he dropped all but one cartoonist -- a guy in New York City who also sold to The New Yorker (the office for F&S was located in downtown NYC).... eventually, he even dropped him so now there are no cartoons in Field & Stream.

Sigh. Such is the life when you're trying to make money selling freelance.
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