How to Become a Slightly Warped Cartoonist: Part 1

Anybody Can Draw for The New Yorker

The most frequent question cartoonists are asked is, “Do you draw for the New Yorker?”

“Of course,” I reply. “All good cartoonists draw for the New Yorker. I’ve even drawn covers for them. However, they’ve never had the good sense to buy any of my work.”

Fortunately for me, hundreds of other magazines have.

You don’t have to be able to draw well to be a successful cartoonist. I can’t draw well. Well, maybe now I can, but I certainly couldn’t when I started cartooning professionally in 1981. I only took one art course in college and I flunked it. My professor said all of my proportions were off. You might notice that my characters’ noses are drawn in proportion to my character’s feet. “Picasso’s proportions were off,” I said. “You’re not Picasso,” he replied.

Africa Cartoon 0001

The 1st cartoon I drew as a Professional Cartoonist.
Buy Africa Cartoon 0001

I cringe when I look at the first cartoon I drew as a “professional cartoonist.” My professor was right. I’m no Picasso.

I got the idea for it while watching the 1939 movie, Stanley and Livingstone. Stanley, played by Spencer Tracy, was a reporter and his editor said he assumed he had proof that he’d found Dr. Livingstone. ***Poof*** One sick idea popped into my slightly warped brain.

As awful as this cartoon is, I actually managed to sell it for $20 to the InTowner, a neighborhood magazine in Washington D.C. where I was living at the time. It was my first sale. It was also my only sale for six months.

Malcolm Gladwell says in his book, Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. He says that yes, Mozart was a virtuoso as a child, but he started practicing early–probably sometime in his second trimester.

Ooops, Galdwell did mention Mozart, but he didn’t say anything about him playing in the womb. That came to me just now while I was typing and, well, funny-absurd thoughts are always pounding on my skull demanding to be let out, so I let it out.

And if Mozart did practice in the womb, think of his poor mom. And what if she’d been pregnant with a whole string quartet? But I digress.

Here’s another beheading related cartoon. This one I did at about the 10,000 hour mark in my career.

Video Cartoon 5631

The 5631st Cartoon I Drew
Buy Video Cartoon 5631

Of the two cartoons, I’ll give you one guess as to which one is more marketable.

So step one in becoming a successful cartoonist: draw for 10,000 hours.

In tomorrow’s post I’ll tell you the second most frequent question a cartoonist is asked.

Commission a Cartoon