Monday, February 09, 2009

How Do You Come Up with All Those Cartoon Ideas?

One of the questions I get asked is about cartoon ideas; how do you get 'em? Where do they come from? I don't have a good, blanket answer. But I can offer up three examples below from a blog entry I wrote on March 2, 2006:

How Do You Come Up with All Those Cartoon Ideas?

"Let me ask you something. Where do you get your material?"

"I hear a voice."

"What kind of voice?"

"A man's voice, but he speaks in German so I have to get a translator."

OK, that's the way that Seinfeld said it. That's entertaining, but not helpful.

A lot of it is habit, so says fellow cartoonist Randy Glasbergen. Things happen. You start to "think funny." And I don't just mean putting baloney slices in your shoes.*

I was lost in JFK. I couldn't find an information booth for the longest time. It seemed like I was in an uninhabited sector of the airport. I finally find this little counter. The sign said INFORMATION, but no one was there. I looked around. There was only one person I could see: a woman, a passenger I guess, reading People magazine. So, the only information near the information booth about JLo. The cartoon appeared in Punch magazine, back when it was around.

I had to come up with some law cartoons. I had no ideas. I started to think of the most tried and true cartoon cliches in magazine cartooning. You know: the two guys on shackled on the dungeon wall, caveman inventing the wheel, talking dogs, etc. And then I drew a desert island, and then doodled people on it. And then I thought, who are these people? Well, it was pretty easy to draw a dozen and call them "the most sequestered jury." The fact that they're part of some silly tour came a little later. This was sold to the second market I sent it to.

One day I was reading the NY Times Book Review. I don't remember where I was, but maybe it was in the bathroom. The writer was fond of using the above kinda phrases. Putting the words in the kids mouth made it all look pretentious and silly. An editor did too, so that one sold. Mrs. Berg, by the way, was the name of my first grade teacher.

A lot of my time is spent doodling or looking at the wall. I don't know where ideas come from, but they can be teased out. And you can make money from them.

*Steve Martin

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