Tag Archives: writing

The Slip

25 Sep

“I have a terrific idea for a comic!” I say to myself as I’m hopping out of the shower, slipping on the wet tile because I forgot to put a towel down.

I stagger a bit to the bathroom sink trying to keep my balance.  Desperately, I try to locate a pen and a piece of paper – ANY paper – so I can jot my idea down before I forget it or in case it’s lost from amnesia because I did eventually slip and bash my head into the countertop.

In a frenzy I manage to make it to the nearest cupboard, that wasn’t in the bathroom, but close.  I find a pencil, a piece of scrap paper and I write down the idea.



The Write Idea

16 Jul

As a cartoonist there are really two main objectives to my job:  draw and write.

There are obviously other objectives as well; such as entertain, tell a story, create nonsense – you know – lots of things.  It varies depending on the goal of the cartoon.  If I’m creating work for the newspaper, it’ll be different than one for a client that has a particular objective in mind.

I stand by my work.  If you are professional at anything, you have to, right?  I’ve been cartooning now for a long time and honestly feel I have a good grip on how to do what I do.  That being said, the one area I feel best about when cartooning is writing.

Writing is essential, and in my opinion, the most important part of being a cartoonist.

Writing also constitutes as ideas.

Trust me – there are hundreds – no, THOUSANDS of people that can draw better than me.

I’m envious of a lot of work from gag cartoonists such as Charles Addams or a great caricature artist like Tom Richmond.  Their art is amazing.  I strive to get to that level – and they set the bar very high.

That being said, there are hundreds (and, I’m guessing, TENS of thousands) of people that can probably write better than me.  (Don’t believe me?  Read a few of the lackluster blog posts on this site.)

The goal as a cartoonist is to combine the two into a polished cartoon.

But let’s start with writing….

I feel my writing and ideas are the strongest part of my work.

In my personal opinion, they’re not always reflected in my daily cartoons (lots of my gag cartoons can be similar to ones you’ve seen before).  Though I try every day to create new gags, unbeknownst to me, sometimes I’ll stumble on the same premise that was done before.  Or, if it is something original, I’ll notice it being used down the line somewhere else.  I believe this is the case in music, movies and almost all forms of entertainment. (Did you hear about the recent Led Zeppelin lawsuit?)

The areas of writing I feel I really excel is when it comes to a.) my own projects and b.) custom work.

I’ll start with my own projects.

What I mean by those are my own books and art that I create for hopefully future publications.  Its things that I have the freedom to write and draw whatever I want (not that I don’t anyway, but I am a little limited when it comes to a single box gag cartoon).  I’ve actually gotten better over the recent years with this.  I tried a graphic novel several years ago, and have gone back to it, but it’s TOTALLY written different.  The first version, the writing kinda – well – stunk.

Now to custom work.

This is work where I’m hired on to create something for someone or something.

If I’m given a topic or an idea, I can usually take that topic and idea and run with it.  Somehow, I’m very good with coming up with – not one – but numerous ideas.

When a client that I work with contacts me about coming up with something for something, I’ll often pitch them anywhere from 5-15 rough thoughts.  I can come up with them rather quickly, which is good.

It does happen that NONE of those thoughts will be any good, but more often than not, at least ONE hits the mark.  Sometimes, the client will go with ALL of them as well – if I’m lucky (and that’s a rare occasion).

And with all of this cartoons contain VISUAL WRITING.  It’s where there is no actual writing, but the visual is the joke.  Still, that has to start off by being written down as an idea.  Some might say sketched, but I still call it writing.  Any idea is written mentally first.

I believe it’s taken me my whole life to get to this point where I can write and come up with ideas rather quickly and accurately.  That’s why I’d never do anything pay by the hour.  I can get somehting thought of in a few minutes sometimes, so I’d make practically nothing.  But, what does it matter?  If it’s good – it’s good.  Just like if you go to a mechanic for a car repair and it only takes them a minute to tighten a bolt but they charge you hundreds of dollars.  The fact is, YOU didn’t know how to do it and the mechanic was skilled in that area and could do it quick.  Time isn’t a factor to cost with some things.

This isn’t always the case.  No, no, no…

I’ve had times where I do struggle to think of even one idea.

What I’ve discovered with client work is I do great under pressure.  That NEED to think of something solid is more relevant in a small time frame compared to my regular work – where I can go about things more casually.

All this being said, writing is definitely my strong point compared to the actual art.  I say that because it’s worked well with clients, publications and I’ve been told that by, let’s just say, industry leaders that know what they’re talking about.  Also, more than not, it’s my writing that has been published in places like MAD Magazine – not my cartoons.

Am I the best writer?  Oh, c’mon now.  I already mention there are MANY others I feel that are better.  My grammar isn’t always perfect, punchlines sometimes fall flat and even I get the occasional writers block.  However, I’m happy that I can combine the whole package together with cartoon art.

This hasn’t always been the case.  It has taken decades of scribbling on notebooks at school to locking myself in my studio churning the brain cells in my head to think of something.  I believe anyone can get good at practically anything after awhile.  So, I attribute it all to lots of practice ever since that first box of crayons.

All this being said, I’m proud of my work and I have very high standards for what I produce.  I wouldn’t send a client crap.  If I’m not happy with it, it’s not going to see the light of day.

I’d like to say I’m up there when it comes to creative writing.  Or hell – make it easy….When it comes to cartooning writing.  That’s where I’m alright.

If you’re good at something, I would try for it, but you don’t have to be the best at it to make it work.  A lot of times it’s numerous things combined that can make something happen.  I know that’s the case with cartooning for, not just me, but most professional cartoonists – and almost any profession.  Not once have I seen a comic with the BEST art and BEST writing of all-time (which is going to be different depending on your own perspective).

Just take your strongest attribute (for me it’s writing) and add another element that you’re good at (and for me, I CAN draw) to put something together.  Of course, try to improve upon everything as you go along and bada-bing!  you might have something.

I might not be the best at both writing and drawing, but if I can hit that sweet spot that is close and have them meet in the middle, I have the write idea.

For more information about custom cartoon work, please visit www.natefakescartoons.com

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.

Taking Advantage

23 Oct

I mentioned earlier this week about waking up early and writing.  Well, I’m happy to say I’ve been waking up early – just not always writing.  Plans changed a bit when I thought about it more.

With a newborn on the way anytime now, I’ve been waking up around 6 am.  However, when it dawned on me that this might be my last chance in years to sleep in, I’ve been opting for staying in my cozy bed.  I give my snooze button a fist-bump and venture back into slumberland.

Counting Sheep Baby (1)

I know it sounds like an excuse, but it’s one of those pros vs. cons situations.  I really feel like I might regret it later on in life if I actually did wake-up early and didn’t take advantage of the sleeping in.  At least I can look back on this time and feel like I made it worthwhile.  And I get to leave a nice dent in my pillow while I’m at it.

Writing is definitely worthwhile, too.  So, when baby Ella arrives, I plan on sticking with – well – my plan.  Early writing.  Even when I have nothing to say.

So for now, you may seen afternoon writings (like today).  Or, the occasional no-writings.  If my daughter is anything like she is right now in mom’s belly, she’s a night owl.  That means random posts at anytime between midnight and 4 am.  We’ll call them can’t sleep writings.

I only have a few days – possibly weeks – of sleeping in.  I’m taking advantage.  Those zzzz’s days are numbered.  Luckily, the number of posts are not.

Is Good Grammar Dead?

20 Oct

I like to think that my grammar is pretty decent.  Sure, it’s not perfect.  I’d love to have a proofreader sitting on my shoulder when I write.  If I think of my writing and give it a score, I’d say I’m around 75% correct with using good grammar most of the time.  Yes, I slip up.  It’s often times on my cartoons.  And if you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll notice there are some common grammatical errors.  There will probably be a few in this post.

The more and more everyone is into the quick gratification of texting, Facebook statuses and typing without thinking twice, I wonder:  Is Good Grammar Dead?

I’m not a Grammar Nazi.  Trust me – I’m not (again, since I’m so imperfect when it comes to my own writing).  However, I do have a fine-line where bad grammar does get to me.  Like, when it’s really bad.

It’s funny to me because on social media, you often read these political posts or argumentative stuff, and the person trying to make a statement can’t even grammatically use ‘there’ and ‘their’ correctly.  But they think their right when making a statement.  I find that ironic.

Does anyone even care though?

At this rate and the way things are going, is grammar something that eventually will disappear and we’ll just type or write whatever we want without any grammatical correctness?

The evidence out there is showing that perhaps there will be a point where there is no such thing as “correct” grammar.  Again, just look at your Facebook feed.  You could probably spend hours combing trying to correct the incorrect grammar with the statuses from just the last 5 minutes.  Much of it is cringe-worthy.

Again, does anyone care?

I do.  To a point, I actually do.

I think having decent grammar at least gives a persons writing a solid foundation.  At least it’s a good starting point.  When giving up on that, it can make an individual look – well – stupid.  Let’s be honest.

And depending how well your grammar is, an English Major may consider even a person like me ‘stupid’ considering some of the mistakes I make.  However, I’m proud to say that at least I try.  Even on Facebook, if I leave a status, I double-check to make sure it’s as accurate to the point where I think it’s right (even if it’s not).

So, I believe I’m about 75% correct with good grammar the majority of the time.  I hate to say it, but it seems like the general public might be below that.  I guess that makes me pretty happy with my writing in general.  Yes, having a proofreader will be miraculous, but since it’s me, I’ll do what I can.  I’ll have the occasional oopsy daisy – but that’s life.

If anything, let’s just hope the obituary for when Grammar does pass away is correctly written.

Another Week-In-Review

15 May

Do worms swim?bod150509

My first comic in this week-in-review will pose that question.  My instinct is that they probably do not enjoy swimming.  In fact, water in general is probably quite terrifying considering the fate of many of their comrades due to fishing.  However, hey, if Jimmy did open up a business like this, I’m guessing this would be the outcome.  I do know that they’re all about things underground – not above.

My next cartoon of the week took awhile for me to piece together.

bod150510I wanted to make sure I had the best caption on it (I call it Quality Control).  And I think I achieved that goal.  But, there were a few different angles I could’ve went with it.  When mentioning the word pact, I often think of nations or countries forming one.  So, I almost created a president or military-type person in the cartoon.  At the end though, I went with an average Joe.

I think it turned out well.

Is it my favorite of the week?  Eh, I can’t say that about it.  BUT, my next cartoon might be.

This was another Reader’s Digest rejection.  bod150511

I’ve forgotten my keys on many occasions.  One time, right when I was packing up for vacation, I had my car loaded up and was ready to go.  Once I shut my trunk though, I discovered my keys weren’t in my pocket.  And my car doors were locked.  Therefore, it put a damper on the start of a great vacation.

If one forgets the keys to heaven (if keys are required), that might be a bit more devastating.bod150512

And now to another Dr. cartoon.

I’ve been producing quite a few medical comics recently.  Why?  Honestly, they sell.  The medical profession is a good market that purchases my cartoons for use via licensing them.  So, I create as many as I can.  That being said, I try not to saturate my dailies with them because we all like a little variety, right?

Anyhow, the original caption on this cartoon read, “It’s way too good, son.  It needs to be much more illegible if you ever want to become a doctor.”

I thought that was a bit too long, so I shortened it to what you see now.  Better?  Well, I’d like to think so.  (But then again, I say that about all my work.)

bod150513I always have a weird time drawing animals in awkward situations – such as in the next cartoon.

Obviously, cows can’t stand or hold their bellies.  So, when drawing this, I realize anatomically – it’s not realistic.  That makes it weird to draw.

Luckily in my profession, I’m not drawing accurate anatomically correct images for science books, so I can get away with it.

bod150514And now onto skating.

I’m not sure if this guy would make a great father figure or not.  But, his figure eights are okay – I guess.

This cartoon originally had a black ink outline for the eight.  But, with my outstanding digital skills, I traced over that with a lighter color to give it that ice-look.

Actually, I could use some work on my digital capabilities.  If you look closely, that’s a pretty wobbly figure eight.  Therefore, that’s why I mentioned this guys figure eight is just…okay.  It could be better.  Maybe he could be a better father figure, too?  (Okay, I can’t be that harsh on the guy.)

bod150515The last cartoon of this week required some help with a ruler sitting at my drawing table.

Drawing golf clubs isn’t as easy as you think.

I had to make those lines as straight as possible.  Normally, I like the more organic look and DON’T use a ruler in many images that require straight lines.  On this occasion I did.  If I drew a wobbly golf club, I’m sure I’d get some viewer mail pointing out my flaws.

It requires a steady hand and after a few cups of coffee, that’s not always easy.  So, this was a challenging cartoon, but I think I made it decent.  And a Golf Club sounds like a fun time to par-take in.

Well, that is it for my week-in-review!

Enjoy those above ground pools as the weather warms up.  Don’t have one?  Maybe consider buying one from Jimmy.




Creating Time or Creating?

11 Mar

Last Friday I woke up to – shall we say – almost a feeling of sand in my throat, gasping and a runny nose that gave Niagara Falls a run for its money.  I was sick.

The frustrating thing about it all was I hardly ever get sick.  I take pretty decent care of myself, but yeah, somehow I caught this vicious, nasty thing that had control of my life for the following three days.

Fever, cold-sweats and all.Head Cold copy

I felt like death warmed over a pressure cooker.

At any rate, I’m feeling better.  Sure, I still have the persistent little cough that comes with these type of things, but no – I’m doing well.  Even ran for 45 minutes today on the treadmill and ventured out in the beautiful Dayton, Ohio countryside downtown amongst the mills, construction and brown Miami River.

So, okay.  What does this have to do with anything?

Due to being sick, I have felt massively behind with my work.  I’m nowhere near financially where I want to be and getting that virus or whatever it was really took its toll on what was supposed to be a productive three days.  Yes, I’m behind.

And that’s where time comes into play.

How to catch-up.  And with that, how to spend the few hours in a day that I have to get caught-up.

Do I be creative?  That includes writing, drawing, etc.  The whole artistic work that keeps this well-oiled machine churning out material.

Or, do I work on pitching ideas, finding clients – marketing?

How about coming up with new solutions to my money issues I’m having this month?  Maybe invent a new platform for cartoons?

Or I could quite simply order a pizza and take time picking out toppings?  (Okay, not a great idea considering I’m on the mend – but a tasty option, indeed.)

It’s a struggle for me to figure out where to devote time.  Especially when I’m behind and not quite sure what parts of my work to neglect and what parts to nurture.  (Maybe this is why I don’t have children.)

I always have a constant battle of what is more important to do with my energy, hours and what is humanly possible without going insane.

Obviously, without the actual content (cartoons/illustrations), everything is meaningless.  So, I tend to always give that first priority.  But with that, the prerequisite is typically writing.

Writing can be scary.

If you write, you know that.

I spent over two hours today staring at a wall.  Not one idea came out of it.

Usually when that happens, a few days later, I’ll do the same thing and get a week’s worth of material.

But you see, there is two hours out of my day.  I could’ve been drawing, coloring, marketing, etc.  Was that two hours wasted?  No.  Trust me, it’s part of the process.

Now though, I must make-up those two hours since I’m behind already.

Maybe I could try to fish for new clients?  But, that takes awhile….

And cue the cold-sweat.  It’s not from my fever anymore, but the anxiety about what to do with myself.

Okay, I’m not going to go on-and-on, but you get the whole picture.

It’s can be tough to figure out.  And since I’m bad at math, the proper equation never usually comes to me.

You’re probably wondering to yourself, “Well, Nate, if you’re so far behind, what are you doing writing a blog post?”

Things like writing blog posts (which is totally different than writing a premise for cartoons staring at a blank wall) are important as well to clear my head.  It will help me figure out how to catch-up and what all I need to do.  So, this whole 45 minutes or however long it takes to write this is pretty helpful in the long-run.  I get to sit, relax and, when complete, let you – as the poor reader – soak it all in.  Some people take walks, others watch Super Soul Sunday on the ‘OWN‘ network and others read.  I write (badly, sometimes, at that).

Whether I got sick or not, I have this struggle of how to devote my time.  At one point (in fact, very recently) I had a schedule basically made out.  It was done by day, by hour and quite specific.  It works good until life happens.  Or you get a client that you need to spend gobs more energy or time on than first anticipated.  So, that schedule went into the trash.

The important thing is that it DOES all come together at some point in time.

I always feel behind.

There are sometimes brief glimpses in my imagination where I envision myself completely caught up with my duties as an artist and then…..then I wake up and realize it was just a devastating dream.  Probably from the NyQuil.

I could actually work 24/7 and still have more to do if this were possible.  I have books I want to complete, clients I want to pitch, ideas I want to write and a whole circus of thoughts in my tiny little head.

Also, I’m fully aware that life is short.  Time is limited.  Use it wisely.  Me?  I’m trying to fit it ALL in.  Unfortunately, I have probably over a century of things that I’m trying to accomplish.  With all this to, there is that personal time with family, friends and doing random things.  I do fit that in.

Again, though, it usually all works out in the end.  I guess I’m devoting my time right, right?

So, getting sick doesn’t stop me.  Now that I’m feeling better, stuff is getting done.  And (cough) as long as it doesn’t come back to haunt me, I should be okay.

As nasty as I got it and felt bad, thinking too hard about where to spend your hours can be just as sickening.