Tag Archives: cartoonist

Cartoon Museum? Yes!

10 Dec

This past Thursday on a cold, windy day, my family and I decided to get out of town and take a trip east to Columbus, Ohio. It’s only about an hour away from our home in Dayton, so it’s a nice little getaway.

Though it’s always nice to take random road trips, on this one we had a mission: Go to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University.


I get irritated at myself on the little things I miss out on. Here is a museum for cartoonists – and I NEVER went to it until this visit. I mean, a museum dedicated to my industry in my own backyard and – for some reason or another – it’s my first time going there. SMH




So You Want To Be A Cartoonist? Part 1

11 Sep


I guess you’re reading this because you’re thinking of getting into cartooning, right?  Or, maybe you’re just bored and the other blogs on your reading list are reruns.  Whatever the case may be, I decided to start a new series about becoming a cartoonist.  I’m not sure how long it’s going to be or anything like that.  I’m just going to start – and finish – when necessary.


Well. Inkwell, that is.

18 Dec

A subject never much discussed in the cartoonist profession is this:  Inkwells.

What is an inkwell?

As an old-fashioned (I hate that phrase, but I guess it applies here) illustrator, I prefer using a dip-pen and black India ink with all of my work.  This day and age, many cartoonists use digital line drawing instead.  And yeah, I’m not there yet.  It’s either because I’ve never honestly tried the digital method of drawing or because I like having originals lying around the studio.  Whatever the reason, I like my way of doing things.

Using a dip-pen and ink requires something to hold the ink in.  That, my friends, is an inkwell.  Make sense?  Sure.

So, for years I’ve used just a plastic container that the original ink arrived in.  It’s worked.  But, they’ve been hard to clean and not exactly pleasant to look at.  And trust me – they MUST be cleaned.  The ink gets very blotchy and gooey after awhile.  After numerous dabs of putting the nibs on the pen onto paper, the paper scraps sometimes sticks and then ends up in the ink.  It looks like a tar pit after awhile.


Above:  Hard to see, but that’s a plastic, black inkwell there smothered in ink.

I decided to go all-out and buy myself a nice new inkwell.

It’s glass and looks like something from the 1700’s.  And I like it.


Above:  My spiffy-new glass inkwell.

I’ve already noticed a difference in ease with use.  And it’s clear so I can see what’s doing down there and when I may have to clean the sucker out.


Above: The spiffy-new inkwell in its new home.

When I mentioned before about there not being much discussion among cartoonists I was right.  I’ve tried searching the internet to see what some of the pros are using for inkwells and couldn’t find anything.  I probably should’ve just asked one or two of them, but that would require an email.  And I haven’t asked any of the ones I know since I typically don’t think about inkwells in mid-discussion.

If you’re not a cartoonist, this may have been quite an uninteresting post.  But, either way, now you know about the magic of an inkwell and what they do.  You can run out and tell all your friends or try using one yourself.  They’re fun, frustrating, messy and used to be a mandatory product.  I use one daily.  Will I ever go digital?  I don’t know.  Does digital come with an inkwell?


I’m hoping it continues to work (ink) well.

One Peek

21 Oct

It’s absolutely none of my business, but I’d love to see what some other cartoonists make.

Why do I say that?

Well, I’m just curious.  As this industry (the cartooning industry, of course) evolves, I’m constantly searching out the best direction to go with my work.  I have thousands of gag cartoons that have been produced through the years, a few graphic novel ideas, strip features that have come and gone and also have been thinking about creating a more teen book (think ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid‘ type).  With all that being said, everything I do takes time to produce.  What should I focus on?

Need to Focus copy (1)

For example, there are cartoonists out there that produce nothing but graphic novels.  Okay.  That’s great.  But I wonder if that’s how they make all their income?  Just off that?  I do know – from experience –  a book has to sell EXCEPTIONALLY well for it to bring in even a few bucks.  Yet, from my view point with Facebook and being online, it doesn’t seem like these cartoonists I speak of could possibly pull that off (but they look like they are online).  That being said, I know of a few that probably are.  But, most of them?  Eh, not too sure.  I also don’t get to see their pay stubs, so who knows.  I just hear about them locking themselves in a room for six months completing the thing and I think to myself, Who can afford to do that?

And syndication these days.  I’m not even sure if a syndicated cartoonist is doing all that well financially.  Newspapers continue to decline and the market is dismal.  BUT, I do know there are full time syndicated cartoonists out there.  And I’ve taken my shot of syndicating my work (in fact, I currently have yet ANOTHER submission out there).  I’m syndicated online, and honestly, it’s not enough money to keep the lights on.  It pays – but not a ton.  I have to have other work included.  I’m talking about print syndication here.

Then there are these web cartoonist that say they’re producing enough income to support themselves.  I know some are – but I wonder how much?  I swear most of them have web skills to enable them to come up on search results and so-forth to bring in the readers.  But I don’t know for sure.  I’m just guessing.

I ask the question about how much certain cartoonists are making because I do have a lot I want to do and sometimes you have to sacrifice one project for another.  I wonder what I should maybe focus on at times.

A lot of my current work brings in income from a tiny bit here, a bundle there and a sprinkle from that over there.  I have a lot of different sources (syndication, self-syndication, greeting cards, book sales, licensing, client work, the occasional magazine sale and selling original work).  I’d love to have a more solid, consistent ground for it.

Of course, I have to love what I do as well.  And don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t do something if I hated it.  I find I enjoy new areas though of all forms of cartooning, so my niche is really anything I focus on.  And even with that, I’ll probably always still do my daily gag cartoons (I’m just rather fond of them).

If there are cartoonists out there making a pretty consistent, solid amount off a certain product, I’d like to know what.  And maybe I would devote more time to that area.  Cartooning – though it’s a passion – it is a business too, you know.

You can never compare your income to someone else – and I’m not.  But if I could just once – just ONCE – have a peek inside the bank account of every cartoonist out there, I wouldn’t be as curious and might give me a better idea of where to take my own skills.

I might find that I’m doing everything the right direction already.


Elance Experiment

9 Jun

Last year, I tried a little experiment.

Since I was working on developing my own site at the time that would feature my work, I decided to give Elance a try.  What is Elance?  Well, it’s a place for customers to hire freelancers.  That includes cartoonists.

Eh, why not?  Seemed legit.

I put together an online portfolio with all the bells and whistles featuring my best work.  It looked good, if I say so myself.  Yeah, I spent some time on it.  Didn’t just toss it all on there like a Jackson Pollock.

How the site works is, once you have your portfolio and personal stuff up there, they “verify” that you’re a  real person by doing a quick Skype interview.  That took a second and then I was an official Elancer.

From there, you can view projects.  For example, I would type in the keyword ‘cartooning’ and it would pull-up all the people out there looking to hire a cartoonist for something.

“Great!” I thought.  “This could be fun.”

When you find a client and a project that looks like something up your alley, you bid on it.  You quote them, basically.

Here, you can do it by an hourly rate or by a flat fee.  Or, the client sets it either/or so you don’t have a choice.

Sound exciting with potential?  Sure.

First off, I bid on a lot of projects.  I was very professional about it and bid what a professional should.  I wasn’t always cheap – but fair.

When I have a client, it’s not just about creating a pretty picture.  I ask questions.  I do MORE than just draw things.  I learn what the illustration is for.  Where it will be presented/displayed?  What is your goal for it?  How can this be the most effective?  I really dig-into my clients head so that I produce quality work.

Elance though, has a higher ratio of non-professionals.  And the clients can get someone much cheaper than me.  Some “cartoonists” will quote rates cheaper than what the 5-year-old down the street makes on her lemonade stand.

Lemonade Stand (1)

And so, people looking to hire a cartoonist tend to go that route – the cheaper.  Or, they would argue with me on why I’m so expensive.

My response is I’m not just a “for hire”.  I’m actually a partner with you on your project seeing the BIG picture of what all you’re trying to do.  I base my rates around my experience and professionalism.

Anyway, I think you get the idea.  It wasn’t for me.

I know some people out there can eek out a good living on Elance, but from what I hear, you must take a bunch of cheap projects first before making something of yourself and getting to the point where you can quote a bit higher.  I’m sure that’s not always the case, but generally, that’s what I’ve read via online.

You see, you’re rated on there as well.  Every customer can rate you 1-5 stars for your work and leave feedback.  So, once you have a dozen or more ratings, you’re a bit more established and can maybe quote more.  I’m not sure, but I’ve read a few things that basically say the same thing.

I actually ended up with a few projects.  And they were fairly quoted and after talking with the clients they realized who they were dealing with – someone who actually cares and doesn’t just want a job.  Again, that’s not every cartoonist out there on Elance.  I’m sure some are like me and really do care – and quote low.  But, if that’s the case, they should quote more if they’re professional.

The ONE big mistake I made was actually taking a per hour job once.

Why is that a mistake?

I saw a great cartoon awhile back that illustrated the point.  I might have the wording off a bit, but it was something like this:  It had an artist go up to a client and say, “Here you go.” holding up a completed illustration.  The client says, “That only took you about 15 minutes.  Why should I pay you?”.  The artist then says, “It took me decades to get to the point where I could complete it in 15 minutes.”

I can work quickly.  And professionally.  But, it wasn’t easy to get to that point.

So, back to my hourly job I took.

I took it because it wasn’t major – it was a t-shirt design.  Also, I quoted $28 an hour and got accepted for that.

HOWEVER, going back to how quickly I work.

I was able to execute this project at a pretty fast pace from conception of the gag to the actual illustration.

When you work hourly on Elance, you set a timer up that automatically takes screen-shots of your computer.  Which is kind of lame considering not much of my work was on the computer – only the Photoshop part.

I’m an honest person, so I didn’t just let the timer go while I didn’t work.  I took the job and that was that.

At any rate, I was able to complete this very quick and only made just a little chunk o’ change.

I go back to that cartoon I saw about working quickly and I’ll probably never do an hourly project again – unless it’s something like teaching or where it would make sense.

After a few months, I ended up deleting and cancelling my Elance account.  It just wasn’t professional to have – in my opinion.  I saw a lot of amateurs and clients that didn’t want quality over value.  Not saying some of these people that quoted lower than me couldn’t draw better than me.  Actually, a lot of them were stellar and could illustrate a lot better than I could on some parts.  BUT, for what they quoted, they’re not getting paid what they should.  And I’m not sure about the “extra mile” they go for clients as well.  I like having a personal one-on-one relationship.  My clients should have my cell phone number – and I believe they all do.

Is Elance a good starting point?

I’ve quoted lower prices to clients before if it was a long-term project or something that I felt was worth it.   That being said, I did have several clients that did pay what I felt it was worth on Elance also.  What I think Elance DOES do well is it gives you the experience of negotiating rates, handling clients and fine-tuning communicating with customers that you might work with.  I guess I don’t highly recommend it, but it might be a good place to get your toes wet as a cartoonist.

I just found it exhausting and not worth my time.  This was when I didn’t have a site of my own up and it was a temporary “fix” (I thought).

So, it might be worth experimenting with to find out if Elance is right for you – or not.  But in the long-run, I’d get away from it and create your own identity and not be labeled an Elancer.



Digital Cartoons for Newspapers and Profit

27 Oct

I’m pretty sure every print newspaper on earth is trying to figure out this whole digital transition thing.  And so are the syndicates that provide comics for newspapers.  Creators need to profit, newspapers need to profit and so-on.

Eureka!  I thought of a solution (well, at least for comics)!

How about this:

Any subscriber that has a digital subscription to the newspaper can build their own comics page – for a small fee added in with subscription cost?

In other words, have a digital store (like GoComics) where there are professional comics to choose from.  From that, the user can add any comics they want to their digital newspaper, and it will all be included.  Maybe have a “featured” comic on the page as well so new comics can be introduced from time to time.

And for a fee – I’m talking relatively cheap.  Like, enough to make the customer think it’s really worth it.  Just like an I-Tune.  Each comic is a separate fee.  Not the comics page as a whole – but by comic.

I hate seeing all the free content offered online – and something has got to give eventually.  It’s hurting business, and newspapers are butchering themselves by offering so much free content.  I think people would actually pay for comic strips they like – and newspapers they like – as long as the quality is worth the cost.

GoComics offers free subscriptions, or for a cheap price, you can get a GoComics account without any advertisements.  I would love to see this separated into newspaper markets so content is delivered via your newspaper instead of having to create a GoComics account – or both.

I believe King Features offers a comics page to newspaper sites, but it seems to be offered free of charge to the public.  I’m sure they (King Features) charges the newspapers to use their comics option, but is it really as good of a profit as charging individual customers?

Something that I could foresee in the future?  Yes.  But, I hope it happens sooner than later. Or something similar to my idea.  (And I say it’s my idea because I haven’t heard of this before, but I could be wrong.)

I really do think something will have to give soon with newspapers and the comics that come with them.  Digital is becoming more and more popular.  I believe people also have a strong physical attachment to the print edition as well.  So, I’m hoping both mediums come out shining!  I don’t really care how my comics are delivered (print or digital) as long as creators that work on them professionally (like myself) can be compensated (that goes for you too, writers and reporters).

Something to think about.

Getting To Know…You?

26 Oct

One thing about being a cartoonist – it’s sheltered. At least I feel that way sometimes. Hence, the going out on Sunday’s for football, friends coming out on the weekends and my love for road trips. Along with the solitaire process of cartooning though, is joy of working with yourself – which I like. No, I’m not humming, “Oh, I’m lonely…so lonely” in my head (I’m not, really). However, I feel like I should probably associate with – well – fellow cartoonist more and get out of this sheltered work environment and share it with others in the same boat.

I’ll admit – I get a bit jealous when I see all of these cartoon functions on Facebook that I don’t partake in. I’m in Florida, and rarely does much come down my way. I can’t afford these trips to go see people either (cartoonist). So, really, all I know a lot of my colleagues from is internet and social media. I’d love to do some good PR though and meet people I admire and would probably get along with great. Often, I wonder how all these other cartoonist make it to see each other so often? Do they fork up the cash and pay their own way or is a lot of it all sponsored (which I suspect it is a lot of times)?

And like I mentioned, I get out and do things. Actually, a lot. I have a very active social life – but not with cartoonist.

One thing I’ve found is there are a few levels with a lot of people in my field in which I DON’T connect too well with many of the others. In fact, mentioning this might lose me some fans or friends. Not sure. But, I’m an honest guy. So, let me be the first to tell you – I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, I don’t like superhero comics and I’m not too hip on Comic-Cons. Let me bullet these:

  • Stars Wars series was good, but after one viewing, that’s all I need. Entertaining films, but I’ve seen better.
  • I never read any superhero comics growing up. I respect the art and writing that goes into them, but I just never could enjoy them nearly as much as cartoons out of the newspaper. Or Garfield (that silly fat cat – always cracked me up!).
  • And Comic-Cons? I don’t know. I just really am not too eager to go to one. I WOULD someday love to give a presentation or speak at one if Break of Day makes it into the limelight. That would be cool. Everything else…I can’t say I’d love. Although, I’m not knocking them. I’ve yet to go to one, so that could be part of the problem.

Other than those things, I think I’d have a lot in common with many ‘toonist. Yes, it would be great to meet some, and just not talk about those things – if they’re into them, of course.

And I mention that because it seems like the percentage of cartoonist crave those things. I’ve seen it on Facebook, websites and everywhere else cartoonist mention things. I’d compare it to Babe Ruth saying he doesn’t enjoy chewing tobacco, ladies and homeruns. Not that I’m the Babe Ruth of the cartoon world, but you get my drift.

I met some during my internship at MAD Magazine (which I’ll do a whole other blog on someday), but at that time in my life, I was so focused on STAYING at MAD, I had a hard time being myself. It was one of those experiences where I was trying way too hard to fit in, that I actually ended up not fitting in too well on many levels. However, at the end, I still associate with many of the great people I met there. A few of them though I’d love to get to know better and actually reconnect today.

Another reason to connect with cartoonist, is I find myself hating to talk shop to the general public or friends. Nobody “gets it” what I do exactly. To most, I’m sure they picture me in my PJ’s, eating donuts and sitting on the couch drawing funny pictures. Nobody really understands how hard it is to draw funny pictures, write good ideas and churn out material on a regular basis. It’s not easy – it’s work. Hard work. I don’t think anyone but other cartoonist understand.

So, even though I’m not a huge Star Wars guy and everything – it would be great to venture off the computer and have interpersonal communications with a lot of the cartoonist I see daily – online.

I’ll stop making excuses and end up on a road trip out to where they all meet up at sometime. Meanwhile, I’ll just type this post in my little shelter.

Above: A shelter. Possibly the same one Nate typed this post from.