Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Sketchbook Process

I spent the early part of this week drawing and redrawing. Last week I wrote a lot of cartoons. Well, actually, I sketch them in a notebook. Years ago, I started the sketchbook process. I spent C$13 on this pad. (I bought it at the Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, while on vacation.) It was the first pad.

On each page, I divide it into a dozen squares and, being a thrifty sort, I draw on both sides of the paper. That's why the paper is a honking 110 lb.; a very thick page. It's almost, but not quite, poster board quality. So -- 50 spiral-bound pages, 2 dozen images a page -- well, that's a large quantity of cartoons I can put in the drawing pad. (After yesterday's bad math blog entry, I'm wary of anything, even simple multiplication.) I hand draw the squares. You can see how wobbly they are.

I used to draw on pieces of paper and, being a poor housekeeper, the papers would scatter and I would lose them in my tiny apt. Making an investment in one bound book of blank paper was, at the time, a big decision. I knew from previous experience that even a bad idea could be looked at a little later and, after a bit of tinkering, make it into a better idea. But not being able to lay my hands on old sketches was driving me crazy.

For me, I produce a lot of, for lack of a better word, garbage: bad ideas, stillborn cartoons, cliched captions, bizarre nonsensical situations. Producing the stuff that doesn't work is part of the process. It was daunting to draw what I knew was not that good stuff on this nice paper. But I forged ahead. And, for me, it's been very helpful. Sometimes I'll look at a cartoon that I drew last month, and see that it's funny. Or I'll see some tortured, long-winded line from months ago and figure out a quick way to cut it to a precise, funny line.

I don't know why it works like this. My process is not the be all and end all. It's what works for me. One cartoonist I know just writes the captions on a piece of paper. For me, I need the image and the words together.

Eldon Dedini said in a Cartoonist PROfiles interview, "To be truthful, it's still a mystery to me. And it's the mystery that makes it interesting .... Maybe if I knew more about it, I'd lose the touch."

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