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How do I get started?

I started drawing just as soon as I could hold a pencil, but it was not until I became a full time freelancer that I began my career as a cartoonist and humorous illustrator.
Sometimes the hardest part is to know where to begin, so I have set out some guidelines that may help you in your first steps towards an enjoyable and profitable hobby, or even a full time career. Cartooning covers a very wide field but I will touch on just two main areas.
1) Single joke cartoons, with or without a caption.
2) Strip cartoons, with or without dialogue.
So.....You can you draw a little, you have a sense of humour, an ironic wit or a satirical streak in you just waiting to get out! - Then you are going to get a lot of fun and satisfaction out of cartooning and, who knows, one day you may become a top professional!
There are many good books and courses on cartooning. Check out Cartoon World’s Courses Page at http://www.cartoonworld.org/courses just for starters! But my aim here is to get you cartooning right NOW!

Whatever you're into, Jokes - Strips – Comics – Humorous illustration, you will need some basic tools and materials to get started with. There is a huge range to choose from and it can be difficult to know what to buy. You may already have your own favourites, but if not, the following basic materials are what I suggest you begin with:
Pencils – HB or B They give good density, yet will rub out easily.
Putty rubber - (My favourite) and/or a good quality regular rubber such as the Staedtler Mars Plastic.
Pen – A simple dip pen with a Gillott nib of your choice and Pelikan black Indian ink (The classic combination).
Ink – My own favourite over many years is Pelikan Black waterproof Indian Ink. Other excellent makes are Daler-Rowney and Windsor & Newton. Whatever brand you buy just be sure it is Opaque Black Indian Ink.
Brushes – Sable hair brushes are still the best, though expensive.
There are now some excellent alternatives using man made fibres. Get your art shop to advise you. You will need two brushes to start with. A fine sable hair for correcting and highlighting your finished cartoon using process white, and a medium man made fibre brush for painting in solid black areas.
Marker Pens - You may prefer working with fibre or felt tip pens. In which case, I suggest you get three marker pens, one with a broad tip, for filling in solid black areas, a medium for outlines and one with a fine tip for hatching, textures and fine details.
Process White – (Make sure it is Bleed Proof) In tube or bottle form, available from art shops. For correcting errors or highlighting your finished pen and ink cartoons.
Tipp-Ex White Correcting Fluid (from stationers) can also be used for amending finished drawings done with felt, fibre tips or ballpoint pens. It's great at preventing the ink from fibre pens and ballpoints from bleeding through.
Paper - A good quality regular paper obtainable at any stationers, Brilliant White 85 grms weight A4 size or similar, is good to start with for single black/white joke cartoons. You can also use it for strips if you do not draw them too large. This weight paper is thin enough for you to see through when you overlay a drawing, yet thick enough to use for your finished cartoon. If you prefer drawing smaller you can cut the A4 paper in half to use for your single joke cartoons.
Ruler and a set square both in clear plastic.
Scalpel and a packet of spare blades.
Pencil Sharpener. Electric or manual. You may think it’s a luxury, but if you’re going to do a lot of drawing it’s a real time saver.
Drawing board – One that you can angle. Great if you have one, but drawing on A4 size paper to start with you can comfortably work at one corner of the kitchen table if necessary.
Want to know more about materials? Send an e-mail headed Materials to: [email protected]

Now you've got your basic materials sorted, you can start cartooning!
First, get your idea, this can sometimes be the hardest part! – and then sketch it out in pencil. You can use your A4 paper upright or landscape, whichever fits the proportions of your drawing. It is best to leave room for the caption at the bottom, although you can sometimes use speech balloons in the drawing itself. Your idea may not even need a caption, but rely on clever graphics alone to put over the joke. Whatever approach you use keep the drawing simple, highlighting the main thrust of the gag. Remember, as a general rule your drawing will be reduced considerably for publication.
When you are happy with the pencil stage finish off the cartoon in ink or felt tip pen, carefully rubbing out the pencil. This is where a Putty Rubber comes into it’s own, as it lifts off the pencil lines without disturbing the paper surface or the ink, as much as a regular rubber. If you are not happy with the finished result, put a sheet of your drawing paper on top of the cartoon you have just done and ink over it again, making your corrections. Finally, when you have got the wording of your caption just right, letter it neatly in CAPITALS at the bottom of the page about 25ml away from the cartoon so as not to crowd the drawing. Or, scan the drawing into your computer and add the caption, using a programme like Photoshop.

All the above also applies to strip cartoons, plus the fact you usually break up the action into three frames, an intro, a middle and the payoff, so there is much more to work out. Try and get the action to follow and read from left to right and wherever possible keep speech balloons at the top of each frame. If you are using dialogue, be sure the lettering in the balloons is large enough to be clearly legible when your strip is reduced in size for publication. Don’t use full length figures all the time in your strip. A head, or head and shoulders frame can be very effective and look visually interesting, drawing the reader’s eye to the action.
A cartoon strip is usually based around a central character or group of characters, and to convince an editor you can sustain the action over a period of time you will need to produce at least six finished strips and about a dozen more ideas as finished roughs.

It is most important that you protect the characters and cartoon strips you create. So before you start sending your work out you should take the following simple precautions. After photocopying your original drawings which you have signed addressed and dated, mail the originals to yourself Recorded Delivery. When you receive the envelope do not open it, but file it away carefully. If you ever have to prove authorship you have the first originals in an independently time and date stamped envelope as proof of when and where you created them. All it has cost you is postage. Also, protect your copyright when you send out cartoon characters and strips you have created by writing on the drawings neatly in small letters the following wording: © copyright 2007 ‘your name’. The year shows in which year you did the drawing.
To find out more about copyright and legal protection for cartoonists and artists see info Sheet #2 Copyright, available in the members area.

What about colour? I hear you say. Well, for a beginner this can be a bit tricky. It is so easy to ruin a good black and white drawing by adding colour in the wrong way. As you get more proficient in black and white you will find handling colour becomes easier. If you feel confident enough to experiment, I suggest you start by using it sparingly. As a general rule keep colours pale and limit the range you use so they compliment the drawing rather than distracting from it. A great way to work with colour is to scan your line art into your computer and then using a programme like Photoshop or Illustrator experiment with different colour combinations. I find it a good idea to always colour in your main characters first. Then take a good look at your drawing before you add more colour to it.
A New Info Sheet "Discover Colour" - How to use and apply colour more effectively and how to create stunning colour strips - coming soon.

Try to observe people and details, this helps to make your cartoons and characters more convincing and interesting. If you are not already a ‘People Watcher’ then become one. Keep a small sketchbook with you and, whenever you can, try to jot down things of interest and character types from real life, even if you’ve never done this before. You will be surprised how much it will help your drawing!
Newspapers, magazines, comics, humour magazines, special interest publications, trade publications, house journals, company newsletters, advertising agencies, film animation and production companies, the list of markets for your work is almost endless. Humorous book publishers, greetings cards and calendar companies all use cartoons of various sorts and styles. Your local newspaper my be interested in a regular cartoon or strip. If you have a great strip idea a syndication company may give you a contract. You can also send your work to a cartoon agent who might sign you up. Have a look in our Online Contact Directory at http://www.cartoonworld.org and you will see some of the many markets where you can sell your work.

It’s important to present yourself and your work professionally so
you will need to design a simple letterhead and compliments slip with your name and all your contact details. You should then write a brief letter, which you will be enclosing with each batch of cartoons. Something along these lines:
Dear Cartoon Editor, (or their name if you know it)
I enclose 6 cartoons for consideration in your publication and an SAE for the return of any not selected.
Yours sincerely,
Your name
You can then photocopy or print this out from your computer each time you send out a mailing, just adding in the name and address of the Editor and publication, the number of cartoons you are sending and sign and date it. This will look business-like and save you a great deal of time, which you can then spend cartooning! Remember to keep a copy of every letter you send out. You will also need envelopes size 324mm x 229mm (C4) to take your A4 size cartoons unfolded, or smaller if you are working to less than that size. Always enclose a stamped addressed envelope for the return of your work. You can modify the above system for your computer and send everything out via email if that suits you better. It's also miles cheaper too!
This brings me to the topic of ‘Rejection’. Make no mistake, you may have your work returned without a single sale on many occasions. You have to cope with rejection and not let it get you down. It may help you to know that we have all received those ‘Sorry not quite’...rejection slips on many occasions, so don’t take it too much to heart.
For more information on how to successfully promote yourself and your work, see info sheet#4 Marketing Yourself.

Check prices and terms before you start sending out material. Try to avoid those that pay on publication only. You might have to wait months for payment. The best markets are those that pay on acceptance. Do not send out your originals. Make good quality photocopies instead.
Put your contact details on the back of each photocopy together with a reference or code number. Example AB/1 for your first cartoon then AB/2 and so on. Remember to code your retained original cartoon as well. As a general rule send between 6 to 12 cartoons in a batch each month and enclose a stamped addressed envelope for their return. While they are with an editor keep drawing, so that you have more material to send out by the time they come back. Keep a log of where you send each batch so you do not mail an editor cartoons he has already seen. Try and get the name and position of the person you are sending to. Failing that, address your envelope to ‘The Cartoon Editor.’
More and more publications are accepting submissions via Fax and E-mail so check this out first before sending material by ‘snail mail’ as it will save you time and money.
You can easily get into a muddle after a few weeks, so set up a simple filing system and a mailing logbook and stick to it!
Bill Asprey
Cartoon World
P.S. For more information and help about any aspect of cartooning E-mail me at: [email protected] or post questions on our Blog at http://www.cartoonworld.org


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