How to Draw Cartoons

I get quite a few emails from aspiring artists and cartoonists looking for direction on how to either improve their drawing style or how to get started in the craft of cartooning.  I generally have one cartoon drawing instruction resource that I send them to because it’s the one that has helped me out the most.  The resource is all the books Christopher Hart has published. This guy is great for people looking to improve or learn how to draw cartoons no matter what style you’re interested in learning. Here is an example of a recent email correspondence I had with an aspiring cartoonist.

Hey Brad,
I sketch cartoons and do personalized portraits, babies and stuff like that. When it comes to cartoons there’s not much I can’t draw but, my creativity is weak. My brother is a comedian and we have decided to start making a cartoon comic strip for the local paper and see how it does. The jokes are great but, i need some helping with creating some characters for the story line. If you can assist me in this please let me know.

Thank you,

Here is my response with links to the books I recommended to him…

Hey Andrew, thanks for the note. The best direction I can point you in is to a guy named Christopher Hart and his great instruction books, here are some links….

This is the book I would start you with: "Drawing on the Funny Side of the Brain"

And here are the rest of his books, all are really great and helpful. –

Hope this helps!

Christopher Hart also has a website –

Top 10 Lies told to Beginning Artists, Designers, & Illustrators…

Mark W. Lewis has written a great article on the Top 10 Lies told to Beginning Artists and Designers. I think I’ve heard a variation of every single one. Below is the list… be sure to visit his original article where he goes into more detail on each item.

  1. “Do this one cheap (or free) and we’ll make it up on the next one.”
  2. “We never pay a cent until we see the final product.”
  3. “Do this for us and you’ll get great exposure! The jobs will just pour in!”
  4. On looking at sketches or concepts: “Well, we aren’t sure if we want to use you yet, but leave your material here so I can talk to my partner/investor/wife/clergy.”
  5. “Well, the job isn’t CANCELLED, just delayed. Keep the account open and we’ll continue in a month or two.”
  6. “Contract? We don’t need no stinking contact! Aren’t we friends?”
  7. “Send me a bill after the work goes to press.”
  8. “The last guy did it for XXX dollars.”
  9. “Our budget is XXX dollars, firm.
  10. “We are having financial problems. Give us the work, we’ll make some money and then we’ll pay you.”

All of the above are huge red flags so if you experience any or all, don’t walk away…. RUN.

Thanks Mark.

Blog Writing Round-Up!

Even though I draw funny little pictures for a living I’m always on the lookout for good advice when it comes to improving my writing skills. Here are a few helpful resources I refer to on a regular basis that keep me moving forward when the spark gets choked. If you know of any other good writing resources that would compliment this list, please feel free share them in the comment area below. Thanks!

Writing Articles:
Ten Tips for Great Blog Writing
Find Your Voice
Getting Started On a Paper
47 key tips from the World’s best BLOGGERS

Downloadable PDF eBooks:
MYCPS by Ken Evoy
Viral Copy – Trading Words for Traffic by Brian Clark
Turn Words into Traffic and Video by Jim Edward’s

Books on Writing:
Writing With Power by Peter Elbow
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
The Right to Write by Julia Cameron
On Writing by Stephen King

Use A Felt Nib on your Wacom Tablet Pen for More Drawing Control

Wacom Tablets are great but no matter what anyone says, they are no substitute for real life paper and pencil… not even close. I hear the Cintiq bridges this gap considerably but until I can afford the $2500 price tag, I’ll have to keep going on the rumor.

The biggest factor that makes drawing on a Wacom Tablet so difficult is the lack of pen control, the surface is just too darn slippery and it doesn’t feel natural. I may as well be drawing on a ceramic tile with a greasy plastic spoon…. Okay it’s not that bad, but it does get frustrating when you have to “undo45 times in a row.

However there is a way to improve the feel of the drawing surface… did you know you can buy felt-tip replacement nibs for your pen?? Oh yes, these are awesome. They have a marker-like feel which creates friction and causes “drag” so you gain much more control than you have with the standard plastic nibs. Almost feels like real paper.

They come in 5-packs for only $4.95 on the Wacom Direct Site. It’s a bargain steal for the difference it makes.

You still here?
[phpbay] tablet pen nib, 3, “”, “”[/phpbay]

[tags]wacom, tablet, cintiq, drawing[/tags]

Audit Your Computer Workstation!

If you’re anything like me and work way too many hours on the computer, you’ve no doubt experienced some kind of chronic pain as a result. I’m constantly adjusting my workspace trying to find that holy grail of perfect pain-free workstation symmetry.

Although my run with physical therapy helped me a great deal to get through some severe pain resulting from long-time neglect, I tend to find myself slipping back into bad habits without realizing it. Until the pain slowly creeps back in, of course. I recently stumbled upon a great little checklist and information page that has some excellent tips on the subject. I felt better within 10 minutes after making just a couple of minor adjustments.

It is often working overtime and the stress of deadline situations that force people to ignore and work through their pain and discomfort. It is very important that once you start to notice some pain or discomfort to be very careful.

Pain that goes away over night is usually a sign of fatigue, pain that is continuous and does not go away over night is more serious and should be attended to immediately… It is much easier to treat and recover from a pain episode the earlier you are treated. Ignoring pain can lead to serious injury.

Here’s the link… I was hoping that at the end of the page there would be a “submit’ button to click and it would take the information I entered via the check boxes and magically give me a personal assessment of what my problems specifically are. It’s simple to figure it out manually just by addressing all of your “No’s” but I like “easy” buttons. :-)

Computer Workstation Self-Audit Checklist

Break the Chain… PLEASE!

For some reason I’ve been getting an unGodly amount of forwarded email chain letters, poems, and jokes lately so I decided I should finally take the time to write an “informational” email to family and friends on my contact list. I actually have some “Chonic Forwarders” in this list (who btw never use BCC) but I haven’t asked them to stop before now because I’ve always been afraid of hurting someones feelings.

Well, thanks to this recent barrage of junk and the following paragraph from a BreakThe article, I have now conquered this fear.

“Do not get defensive in return, this will only make them more defensive and escalate matters. To make them understand your point, you have to help deflect their guilt/doubt. Tell them that you appreciate them thinking of you, but it embarrasses you to see your friends falling for hoaxes, lies and half-truths. They did what they believed was right and you’re doing what you think is right.”

I’m glad I got over this fear because every time I get one of these things it causes me severe pain knowing my email address has once again been exposed to any possible number of spammers or shady third-party characters out there as it gets forwarded along to the rest of the universe.

So – I spent some time this morning carefully crafting an email that hopefully will not be taken the wrong way by someone who might be having a sensitive day. I included a copy of the email below, if you are in a similar situation please feel free to use it freely yourself if so desired. (but of course, use bcc :-)

Continue reading “Break the Chain… PLEASE!”

Graphic Artists and Repetitive Motion Injuries.

This past year I’ve been battling aches and pains as a result of working behind a computer for over 6 years. Yep, the years of abuse have finally caught up with me and it’s official… at 30 years old, I’m no longer a spring chicken.

In my research to figure out what my specific ailments were caused by, I didn’t find a whole lot of help out there when it comes to the graphics community. Most everything out there is geared for typists and carpel tunnel syndrome…. The Graphics Artist Guild had probably the best information on the subject with this article: “Repetetive Motion Injuries – Symptoms and the Proper Work Place Set-up.” Here’s an excerpt:

Tens of thousands of injuries each year are caused by repetitive motions. There are different ways injuries can happen, but they all result from stress or strain imposed on some part of the body from a tasks repetitive nature. This includes typing, computer mouse use and recurring motions such as twisting, turning and grasping.

Repetitive Motion Injuries can be quite painful and become progressively worse without treatment, possibly resulting in complete loss of function in the affected area. Tingling, numbness, or pain in the affected area, and loss of flexibility or strength are common symptoms. Hands, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders and backs are the most common areas affected.

wacom intuos 3 graphics tablet for computer drawingThe majority of my problem was caused by working waaaaaay too many hours using a Wacom Intuos 2 Graphics Tablet on a desk that was about 6 inches too high with a non-adjustable chair. As a result my shoulder was in constant strain and tension along with the ongoing mental stress of self-employment and looming project deadlines. Not a good combination. I worked like this for well over a year and never really gave the discomfort much of a second thought, just par for the course with this line of work I figured. That is until it started to effect the muscles down the center of my body that are right next to my lungs and ribcage. That got my attention.

The pain was incredible and I was more than a little concerned because it didn’t feel like it was being caused by my tablet/computer use. They call it “Referred Pain” which is pain or discomfort in one area that’s caused by a chain reaction from another area. After a couple of doctors visits and a couple of x-rays to rule out lung cancer, the next logical step was physical therapy.

I was not at all looking forward to taking time out of my day a few times a week to play around with rubber band exercise equipment, but I’ve had great results from it. I’m on week 7 and I feel as though my shoulder is back to about 90%. Along with physical therapy however, comes a lifestyle change that I’m struggling to maintain and probably always will. New changes include the following:

  • Good Posture. No more slouching, sitting up straight is everything.
  • No more 16-18 hour days behind the desk.
  • Breaks. One at least every hour or so. This has been the toughest because you risk losing the “flow.”
  • Exercise. Even if its just a daily 15 minute walk.
  • Stretching. Specific stretches to my unique issues has helped tremendously.
  • Alternate between the mouse and tablet when possible.

So I guess with all that said, the best advice I can give to you is this: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, and don’t ignore discomfort. Everyone needs to find the right ergonomics setup for their individual situation. Pain is there for a reason… to warn you that something is not right.

Anyone out there with a similar experience? I’d love to hear about it.