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On Becoming A Cartoonist

Dec 25, 2007
Someone once told me there are two things to consider when thinking of becoming a cartoonist: 1. You must be funny and 2 You must know how to draw.

Though the jury is still out whether I am funny, I know for a fact that I cannot draw a straight line. So I felt certainly given the advice I was given, no matter how many funny concepts and concepts I'd written, I would probably never be a contender. Then I met the late Marc Cohen online, a close friend of Peanut's creator Charles Schulz who advised me that many cartoons were done by teams of artists and writers. As I researched this even further, this was confirmed by top single-panel syndicated cartoonists Dave Coverly (Speed Bump), Leigh Rubin (Rubes) and John McPherson (Close To Home). Oddly enough, it was the bigger cartoonists, the one's who were "superstars" who spent their generous time talking to me about the business. By the time I finished learning from them, my confidence was up. That was April of 1997.

Starting even the most socially acceptable stable business can be difficult. Imagine a 44 year old who couldn't do much else well deciding cartooning would be his way up the corporate ladder, so to speak. That is the beginning of my story. It goes downhill from there.

I also can't tell you how many times I nearly "threw in the towel". A day did not go by that I was not certain I could never do this again. In 2001, I suffered a major heart attack, and was for certain I would never create again. Oddly enough, the opposite happened. I was more productive than ever after that event.

No neon light went on that said, "You've made it. Artists will start seeking you out now. They simply did. It was a process. It was slow. But it happened.

So do you have to draw to be a cartoonist? See above text. Of course not.

Not all cartoons are meant to be funny. However, if you are billing your cartoon as a funny one, I might suggest you either be funny, or have a funny ghost writer.

One does not have to stop with a cartoon site. There are ways to produce revenue from them, such as making Ecards, creating a membership site, or selling the cartoons to magazines and newspapers, but the big money is in merchandising and licensing, that is, creating products, or letting others do it, with permission to use your cartoon images.

So what do you have to do to become a cartoonist? First get organized. Have a plan. If you are like me, a writer, and not an artist, you *must* believe in your humor. If you don't, it will suffer and so will those who have to view it.

I have framed so many letters from New York agents whom I mailed early on. Some were form rejection letters and some were downright nasty. I can remember one, "What do I need with another failed cartoonist"? I am so glad I kept that one.

When I started Londons Times Cartoons I could not afford a private domain so I put it up on a free web host with more pop-up ads than images. I was ridiculed in my community incessantly. It was brutal. I persisted. I learned that was the key as much as talent if not more so.

If you have been a starving artist or writer for seven years, you know what to expect. It is not fun, but it is familiar. Suddenly success comes and you don't know how to act. My advice, don't buy a new red Mercedes convertible just yet. But be prepared. If you've put in the legwork and laid the foundation, you may just be one of the 1% or so who "make it".

All this is due to persistence. And now we have Ezines, blogs and other media available to us that Charles Schulz did not.

Like my mom, a former schoolteacher, words, and the turning of a phrase was important. Mom was right. More right than I knew at the time

Once upon a time only the Rockefellers, Perots, Rothchilds and others had access to very important business tools. As you can see, that is no longer the case.

It is the First Amendment in full action, no doubt. Express yourself. Be creative. Make a hobby or business out of it. You will see what great therapy it truly is. Good luck
About the Author
4.5 million visitors click on Londons Times Cartoons by Rick London each year at offbeat cartoons and his new unique comic merchandise gift shop, Londons Times Superstore, and new cartoon clothing line store Rick Londonwear. He launched his venture in an old warehouse in Ms. in 1997.
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