What You Wanted to Know About a Career as a Cartoonist--Part II
Cartoon Careers Revisited
In part one of last week's article on What You Wanted to Know about a Career as a Cartoonist, we were given some real-world practical advice from Chris Browne, cartoonist for Hagar the Horrible, a nationally syndicated comic strip.
Mr. Browne suggested that a firm grounding in education can be very helpful in preparing for a career as a cartoonist.
Attending a graphic design school or college of the arts may provide budding cartoonists the needed fundamentals of understanding and developing proper drawing techniques.
For graphic designers or illustrators who do not plan on making cartooning a career, picking up skills in cartooning can still be of benefit for the times when something unique or unusual is needed for a design project. Check with your graphic design college to see what courses are available in cartooning.
Here are some of the top traits that professional cartoonists have in common:
* Original Ideas - The real star of a good comic strip is the message it is able to communicate to the audience. Your comic strip may be political, humorous, thought provoking or warm-hearted but if it cannot convey your ideas in an entertaining or novel way, it may be difficult to gather a loyal following for your strip.
You'll also need a great volume of ideas to fuel your comic strip. Are you able to consistently produce good ideas for your comic strip on a daily basis and under tight deadlines? Many syndicated comic strips must be submitted at least a month ahead of time before they are published.
* Persistence - Breaking into the world of cartooning can be a challenging if not arduous journey. Becoming a professional cartoonist means a strong desire to succeed and a talent for amusing people through insight, commentary or humor. But these traits are only a part of the equation.
Chris Browne says aspiring cartoonists must also be persistent in going after contacts and developing strong professional networks.
"It's the easiest thing in the world to slow down, or to become overwhelmed by the void. Don't. Keep moving forward. Make a call, make a contract, go sit in a magazine's lobby, drop off copies of your work, take an editor out for coffee, hang with other cartoonists, try everything...
"If you do manage to swing a meeting with an a.d. (art director), listen to what she/he is saying, ask questions, look for opportunities. If nothing happens, see if you can come back in a month and pitch more material."
Charles Schulz, the creator of the popular Peanuts comic strip, once advised another cartoonist to not fall in love with an idea, but to get the idea through the character of the comic strip.
Is your character an optimist, a victim of circumstance, an observer of life or an activist? The character of your comic strip can guide you in the overall theme of where it is going and what sorts of ideas are appropriate for it.
The Life of a Cartoonist
Professional cartoonists work well under pressure, are fairly self-disciplined and have the ability to draw content for a comic strip weeks in advance. Cartooning can be highly satisfying as a creative outlet for the artist and as a means to entertain the public.
Chris Browne said:
"Cartooning can be a solitary occupation at times, but it can be a great one as well."
A cartoonists' salary can fluctuate widely due to the success of the comic strip, marketing deals related to merchandising, movies, and book deals. But the average salary of a cartoonist, based upon a sampling of 3,410 cartoonists, is about $40,000 per year in base pay.
Sign up with professional cartoonists organizations to get connected with other cartoonists in order to gain insight and advice. With a lot of persistence, talent and just a bit of luck you may be on your way to a successfully published cartoon strip!