Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cartoonists' Gear

Above: the "swipe file" or morgue, "where you file material you may use, such as pictures of trees, buildings, guns, animals, people, etc. Clip this material from newspapers and magazines. Keep your "Swipes" up-to-date, you'll use them!" The file has now been replaced by Google images, natch. Cartooning advice from THE EASY WAY TO DRAW CARTOONS,  copyright 1966 by The House of Coins, 1756 First Avenue, NYC 10028.

Cartooning is deceptive. People look at a cartoon, one that you have spent some time creating, and they think it all comes easily. But cartoons, which, as you know, combine writing and art, are not simple. "It's not the ink, it's the THINK," said Bob Montana. 

But, conversely, an artist is only as good as his or her tools.And half of the fun of getting into a hobby is the gear. So let's talk about what you needed in 1966 and compare that to now.

From 1966 booklet THE EASY WAY TO DRAW CARTOONS ("How to draw funny faces ... men ... women ... hands ... feet ... action ... comics ... perspective ... pen and ink"), here are some "Materials of you will need for cartooning."

"Cartooning probably requires less material and material of lower cost than any other highly paid art. Many excellent spot or gag cartoons are rendered on a small piece of bristol board with Higgins American Waterproof India Ink and a pen nib and staff. A sheet of two-ply bristol board may be secured for 40 cents or less. The size is 22" x 28" and 1/4 of this size or a piece of 11" x 14" is generally ample for a spot cartoon. Only a few drops of drawing ink are required from a bottle of Higgins American India Ink purchased for 55 cents. The pen nib and staff may be purchased for 25 cents and, of course, may be used many times."

First up: paper!

No surprises here. Most people use paper. Paper is way cheaper and doesn't crash like a touchpad.

2 or 3 ply bristol.

Above: some of the classic tools' The pencils of different hardness, charcoal, pen nibs & holder, and a felt tip pen (with permanent ink in it).

Brushes are superior to any drawing tool. Able to go from thick to thin, and hold more ink than a nib, they are versatile and, frankly, very tough to master.

Nice to know that erasers have not changed since 1966. 

Above: the white paint is to paint over your mistakes.Wite Out fluid was only in the beginnings of its development in 1966, with the product market rollout by 1971.

Or, if you're using a thick ply Strathmore for your finish, you can gouge out an inking mistake with a razor. I recommend 2 ply bristol; three if you make a lot of boo boos.

The Higgins Ink bottle has not changed as well. Well, the shape is the same but it went from glass to plastic some years ago. Since some of this book is written by Tracy Higgins, President of Higgins Ink, that's the reason the name Higgins is on there you bet!

The pins are to tack the paper to your drawing board.

Let's talk about your cartooning studio.

A fellow told me that as soon as he had about $4000 saved, he was going to buy the cartooning gear he needed. He was going to go top of the line all the way. I suggested that he was putting up an economic roadblock to his career. Hey, it's like the book says above: your studio doesn't have to be fancy! What with scanners going for $40-50, same for a printer, and a used desktop for $200-300 -- he could have all the technology he needed for less than 25% of his budget. Add in an extra $100 for a Web site, and you're good to go.

It's up to you. In the end, the best gear is great to have, but, like Mr. Montana says, it comes down to what you can produce with your mind. Thousands of dollars of great gear can't mask a bad idea, of course.

Above: an uncredited drawing of a cartoonist at his desk from THE EASY WAY TO DRAW CARTOONS. Note the nice shoes and tie!
A big tip of the hat to Tony M. for sharing some scans from this hard to find book.


Brian Fies said...

I would've been right at home in 1966. (Well, I was at home in 1966, but my drawing equipment at the time comprised crayons.)

I've often told people I could set them up with everything they need to be a professional cartoonist for $20. These days that's a bit of a lie: unless you're mailing photocopies in envelopes, you need the scanner, computer, Internet connection etc. you mentioned. But a lot (most?) people have those things anyway. Photoshop is expensive and increasingly necessary, but I think you could still squeak by without it.

Regardless, compared to any other craft/trade/artform/profession, the barriers to entry remain incredibly low.

Brian Fies said...

Meant to add: I wonder if your $4000 friend is looking for an excuse not to sit down and face the blank page. If he really wanted to be a cartoonist, the lack of state-of-the-art equipment wouldn't stop him. He'd be burning through reams of printer paper with ballpoint pens ($5 for the ream, $1 for a pack of pens).

Also appreciate your mention of the brush. I use them, they're not that tough to figure out, but their use seems to be dying out. A pity. Brushes give comics a liveliness of line that I don't think can be duplicated by a pen or computer stylus.

Colin Tedford said...

a piece of 11" x 14" is generally ample for a spot cartoon

Man, that's the size I use for a whole page! And actually I think I'm moving back down to letter-size so I can scan in one shot.

Brandon Graham says, "I drew for years at a time without owning a desk. Be ready to draw anywhere, bust out your best work anytime. The best thing about comics is that it takes no money -- you could steal pens and paper and make the best comic ever sitting on a dumpster."

Brian: I don't think Photoshop's necessary at all for regular ol' B&W cartooning, Might be more needed for super-fancy color / very computer-based business, but I can't speak from experience there. I think the free & unfortunately-named GIMP (Graphic Image Manipulation Program) does the job fine, especially considering the likely "payscale" of a cartoonist.

Colin Tedford said...

Forgot link for GIMP (& apparently "G" is for "GNU", not "graphic").

Mike Lynch said...

Yeah, Brian, I think you're right. My $4000 friend is looking for an excuse to put off going from a hobbyist cartoonist to a full-time one.

Colin, when someone comes into my studio for the first time, they ask, "Where is your drawing table?" Like Mr. Graham, I draw on a board in my lap. I started doing it when living in a small NYC apt. Years back when I visited Stan Goldberg's studio I found out he draws the same way!

Colin Tedford said...

Mike: I always like hearing about other cartoonists with un-fancy habits! I prefer to draw on a table (a small TV tray is fine), but am known to lap-draw now & then.