Work as a Cartoonist
Are you a fan of Calvin and Hobbes? Dilbert? Peanuts? The Far Side? Why not follow in the footsteps of Gary Larson, Charles Schulz, Scott Adams, or Bill Watterson and become a cartoonist?
Cartoonists are visual artists who create, draw, and write comics. This two-dimensional illustrated art niche can be seen in newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites, and books. Cartoonists are the masterminds behind comic strips, political cartoons, and comic books. Some cartoonists even expand into graphic novels or animated films and movies.
Cartoonists create humorous or political comics that are enjoyed by people of all ages. They create sequences of drawings with captions in little balloons that make a statement, tell a story, are make us chuckle. Essentially, cartoonists are creative storytellers who use simple drawings and clever captions to make their points.
The first step to becoming a cartoonist is to brainstorm an idea. Ideas come from experiences, friends, newspaper and magazine articles, the Internet, television, or just about anywhere. Next, cartoonists turn those ideas into a storyboard that combines drawing and writing. Aspiring cartoonists need to develop their own unique voice and style in their work. They need to create consistent characters, themes, and stories. Take a look at the work of famous cartoonists to learn from the best.
The majority of cartoonists do both the drawing and writing for their comics, but some work as a team. A good background in drawing is essential, so be sure to perfect your doodling and sketching skills. The drawing and coloring aspect of cartoons can be done by hand or with cartooning specific software.
To become a cartoonist you need to create a cartooning portfolio that highlights your best work. Then publish it anywhere that you can – on your blog, in newspapers, on cartooning websites, in magazines, or via social media. As technology takes over the world, there seem to be an increasing number of opportunities for cartoonists online. Find a way to build a following. Seeing your work in print is incredibly rewarding and will boost your motivation.
With a following you can start to make money as a cartoonist. It takes lots of hard work and a big following to become a syndicated cartoonist. This means your work is published daily via big syndicates like Universal Press Syndicate, United Media, or King Features. If you can get your cartoon work picked up by one of these syndicates you’ve hit the big leagues.
This is also when cartooning can become stressful. Cartoonists are held to strict deadlines. Every cartoon needs an idea, a story, and a finished product. It’s a major process to create one single comic, but as a multimedia professional, cartoonist must consistently create comics all year long. That’s a lot of ideas!
Many cartoonists earn a degree in visual arts, English, or communications, but no formal training is required. Since cartooning is essentially freelance work, rates and pay vary tremendously. Of the approximately 250 syndicated cartoonists in the US, almost all of them are self-employed. These cartoonists make between $54,000 to $75,000 per year. Rates are usually based on a publication’s readership. Many successful cartoonists find other ways to make money too, such as publishing books, calendars, and other products.
As long as cartoonists can meet deadlines, they can work and play on their own schedule. Being a creative storyteller with a consistent voice is challenging, but enjoyable work. Very few people can make a living as a cartoonist, but those who do love it.
If you’re full of ideas, have a natural talent for drawing, and enjoy the freelance lifestyle, then find a cartoonist job. Build your portfolio. Create your characters. Fine tune your voice and style. Get published. Develop a following. Then see where your cartooning talents can take you.
Quick Facts About Cartoonists
Job Title: Cartoonist
Office: Home Office
Description: Create, draw, and write comics
Certifications/Education: No formal training required
Necessary Skills: Idea generation, Drawing skills
Potential Employers: Freelance work
Pay: $54,000 to $75,000 per year