I sometimes get asked for advice from aspiring cartoonists. As someone who has a passion for the art, history, process, writing – all aspects of cartooning, I’m happy to offer whatever guidance I can.
Recently, I was approached by a young lady who told me she wanted to be a cartoonist. She had brought a small portfolio of sketches, all of which I thought were very good. She appeared to be sincere, enthusiastic, and looking for clues as to what to do next. She also had the added challenge of family urging her NOT to pursue it.
Here’s what I said, keeping in mind that this is one opinion in a veritable sea of opinions. After many years of experience and observation, these were the aspects I thought she’d be wise to consider:
This is a tough, and sometimes contentious one. There are many, many benefits to attending art school. But will art school prepare you for the realities of life in a very competitive, entrepreneurial market-place? Since I did not attend art school, my impressions come from the feedback of a number of people who have. I look at it mathematically. How much will it cost you to complete your degree? I’ve heard figures as high as a quarter-million dollars. Once you have your degree, and you’re ready to enter the market, what jobs can you reasonably expect to obtain? If you intend to remain independent, how much work will you be able to produce and sell in your first year? If you have substantial school loan debt, it’s critical to add the numbers.
Can you become a skilled, competent artist without art school? Absolutely. If you know the specific area of art you’re interested in, there are many low to no cost learning resources. Here’s a few examples I’ve found:
Illustrationclass.com – This is a series of tutorials provided by prolific illustrator extraordinaire, Von Glitschka. Von has a large number of resources and tutorials on working with Adobe Illustrator and drawing with vector.
Art Graphica – there are some fantastic tutorials on sketching, watercolors, painting, and so much more – very useful!
Youtube – There are literally innumerable video tutorials on art and cartooning available for free on Youtube. Here’s two of my favorites:
Education Aside, What’s Next:
First, your education never really ends, but we’ll move onto the application side of cartooning. Assuming you’ve developed your art sufficiently so that it’s comparable quality-wise to what you see out there, let’s have a look at some potential markets. In my opinion, getting your work published, and having those credits associated with your name is very helpful. Many editors will want to know that you’ve been published before – it takes away a degree of risk for them.
I would recommend starting in your own backyard – local town, village, and city newspapers, weeklies, periodicals, etc. are always looking for content from local sources. Email, call, or stop in (be advised, many editors are VERY busy, so a pre-set appointment might be the courteous way to go) to the office of these local publications and ask if they might be interested in cartoons from a local artist. It may not pay very well, but you’ll gain an audience quickly and begin the long process of building a dedicated following. Moving outside the local markets, here’s some national publications where other cartoonist’s earned their first and many subsequent sales – and here’s a bit of advice that is time-tested by far more prolific, talented, and widely published cartoonists than me – try to produce a minimum of 6-12 new cartoons each and every week to submit to cartoon markets. You’ll be building your inventory of cartoons, you’ll be improving your writing and art, you’ll be getting your name more widely known, and with a degree of mathematical certainty, you start building your list of published credits and establishing relationships with the editors you want to work with:
The Funny Times: A newspaper filled to the gills with cartoons and humorous articles – what better market to approach? The pay is $25 to $40 per cartoon and many of the great gag cartoonists appear in its pages regularly. They accept hard copy submissions only and require a self-addressed, stamped envelope for their response.
American Legion Magazine: The magazine for the national organization, American Legion Magazine seeks family-friendly color cartoons that can be submitted by email or hard copy. Pay is (I believe) $125 per cartoon.
Saturday Evening Post: The magazine best known for its Norman Rockwell covers, Saturday Evening Post seeks family-friendly, general interest cartoons. I believe the pay to be $125 per cartoon.
If there’s any one bit of advice I would consider absolutely critical as you begin approaching the various markets, it’s to expect and accept rejection. Remember, YOU aren’t being rejected – just the cartoons. And it may not have anything to do with the quality of our work – it may have gotten rejected for a host of reasons that had nothing to do with your work. It’s just a part of the process, so keep writing, drawing and submitting!
In the next entry, I’ll continue this article with more and bigger markets, websites, social networking and much, much more – stay tuned!