Thursday, April 24, 2014


"Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn."

Advice is great. You can ask anyone -- a relative, a friend, a complete stranger -- and usually they will have some on hand to give to you.

Since I draw cartoons full-time, sometimes people ask how they, too, can become cartoonists.

"How can I succeed?"

I have some advice, but first, below is a video. That's not me in the video. No, no, no. It's not me. I found it on YouTube. That's an illustrator named Dan Page. I don't know Dan.

What's YOUR definition of success? I am going to assume that you want to succeed commercially, OK? You want to be paid for drawing.

You want to make a living from being a cartoonist.

Now, Dan is right that you need a portfolio. But the people at ExpertVillage, who, I assume, spent good money to get this fellow propped up in front of the camera, did not get the right guy for their How to Succeed as an Artist video. Here is his sum up:
  • build up portfolio,
  • submit your work to the "different groups or companies,"
  • you will receive "an opportunity,"
  • and from there, it's all what you do with it.

Above: Diane Franklin as Monique Junot from BETTER OFF DEAD.

I couldn't help but think of BETTER OFF DEAD's lead character Lane Meyer (John Cusack) who, when asking for guidance on skiing the difficult K-12 slope in the movie, was told advice so general (see that opening quote from Charles DuMar and Monique Junot above) that it was useless.

You have to seize the opportunity, like Dan says, but -- like one of the commenters on YouTube wrote -- "Isn't that how to become a successful anything? This is so general that it doesn't help anyone."

And that's why I'm here.

First off, talent is cheap. I can walk into any art school and see lots of people better than me. Most of those art students will not succeed. This is because talent has little to do with success.

How do you get that opportunity? You know, the one where Dan makes a fist and "seize that opportunity" right at 1:28?

Your talent may help, but persistence is key.

If you want to draw single panel magazine gag cartoons, draw 20 every week, throw away the weak ones and mail the rest of them out. Do this every week.

When I started I knew NOBODY. No editors, no other cartoonists. And I didn't know what I was doing. I got addresses from the magazines I looked at in the library and the bookstore. I took the addresses from the masthead of the magazine. It took me 6 months, but I began selling.

Do you want to draw comic books? Graphic novels? Comic book conventions always have an "artists alley," where you can meet professionals.

Meeting professionals at conventions is the best. I was just in Portsmouth for a comics convention last month and met a good number of pros and soon-to-be pros who were there. Very friendly get together.

Advice from a friend or teacher can be helpful-- but to meet and talk with a professional is sooo much better. Especially if you are looking to be come like them; to make a living from drawing and writing.

That said, I'll be starting up cartoon classes locally in Southern New Hampshire next month. And if there are snow days and no classes, well then -- we'll all ski the dang K-12 together, OK? Not successfully right off the bat, but maybe by July … ?

-- Originally from ye olde Mike Lynch Cartoons Blog 12/29/08.

1 comment:

Brian Fies said...

Of course you remember Steve Martin's advice on "How to be a millionaire and never pay taxes": "OK, first, get a million dollars. Then...."