Thursday, December 13, 2012

Scholarship in Cartooning

Above: Quick --tell me: who is this a caricature of?

I've met hundreds of people who tell me they are cartoonists. That's how they describe themselves. Some of them are professionals, who make a living from cartooning, others are on their way there. At least that's the plan. "I am a cartoonist," they say.

Anyway, a lot of people, regardless of making money from their cartoons, call themselves professional cartoonists.

Cartooning's not like, let's say, podiatry or being a dentist. There's no standard of scholarship in cartooning; there's no federal or local licensing standard for a cartoonist. And my opinion doesn't matter. People have to like your work -- enough to part with money -- and that puts you on the road to being pro.

Which brings me to the above drawing.

One kinda cartoonist a lot of people know is the caricaturist. I see caricature artists at a lot of events.

If you want to come down to sheer numbers, there must be more people practicing Bad Caricature than good. I know some great caricaturists (Mort Drucker, John Reiner, Tom Richmond, Sam Viviano) and I have no idea how they do what they do -- and how they do it so seemingly effortlessly. I admire their work immensely.

At the yearly local county fair, there's always a caricature artist. He's of the big-head-teensy-body school of style. That's OK, if you like that sort of thing. And the drawings are, uh, usually OK. I mean, they know how to draw fat people not-so-fat and ugly people not-so-ugly, etc.

Still, I don't know how this caricature business works. I guess you put out your WILL DRAW YOUR CARICATURE $20 shingle, and then, sit back and see who parts with their money.

And now there are these stick figure things, like the one above I nicked from a friend's MySpace page. They all look like Matt Feazel cartoons (a guy whose work I admire) or like Jeff Kinney drew them (ditto). And I see them on cars. They cost a couple of dollars per figure if you want to buy them for your car, by the way. And people do. Some businessman is getting rich.

And then some businessmen skimp, which brings me to the image at the top.

THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, the one from the 1970s, is out on DVD. Seeing the images is what started this rant. I rented the first disc of the second season which has these menu pages:

OK, who ARE these people?

From the sitcomicsonline descrip:

The main menu screen is a very interesting one. [That's damning with the faintest of praise now isn't it? - Mike] Each disc (and disc side) has a different design featuring a drawing of two (or more) of the regular cast members (caricatures, I think) [The poor guy isn't even sure what to call them - Mike] on a different background drawn to look like a set. Disc 1/Side A features drawings of Carol, Emily and Bob. Disc 1/Side B features Howard and Jerry. Disc 2/Side A features Howard, Carol and Bob, Disc 2/Side B features Emily and Jerry. Disc 3/Side A features Jerry, Bob and Emily, Disc 3/Side B features Howard and Carol.

It's just astonishingly feeble work. Heaven knows what the story is behind these illustrations. Maybe the DVD people had an employee whose brother's cousin knew a kid who would do it for free. I don't know. Hard to believe that this art was accepted. It's ugly and it sure looks wrong.

But the way to making money -- becoming a pro -- is to get money for your work.

You can, to paraphrase the 2000 Year Old Man, put you hand on a rock and look up the sky and proclaim TODAY I AM A CARTOONIST and, well, there you have it. And then you go on LiveJournal or DeviantArt or Wordpress and start "publishing."

Sometimes I hear that when you criticize, you are not being supportive. This is fine for a toddler, but this is the real world and you gotta draw Bob Newhart like Bob Newhart, OK?


-- This was en edited version of a 2009 blog entry.


Jim Keefe said...

Bob Newhart?!

Jim Keefe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Asin said...

It's O.K., Mike. They can't hear you as they don't have ears. With the possible exception of Suzanne Pleshette but she seems to be suffering from a mastoid problem.

Jessica Kirby said...

The caricatures look like someone used a real picture, shrunk the faces then cut & pasted over a cartoon figure. I agree with you on all points. Plus, I think those stick figures on cars are stupid, just like honor students.

Jason Bradley said...

I think they're just supposed to be fun. They look like little paper puppets. I don't think they're supposed to be the Sistine Chapel ceiling. If they're not your taste that's fine. I don't know the show or the people so it looks like a drawing to me. I recognize figures color and shapes. Enough information has been received to understand a basic scene. The only thing then is the criteria. It's not very realistic. Was it supposed to be? It's not very intricate. Was it supposed to be? It captures my attention for a second but I probably wouldn't hang it on my wall. If that was the criteria: check. Maybe they are able to draw really realistic and just don't because they like this style so much. I don't know from this artwork. If I wanted that style for something again would I contact that artist? yes. If I didn't want that style would I contact them? no. I guess that says it all.

Dan Reynolds said...

I'm not sure if I'm a professional cartoonist. Oh, I make a living by doing what I do, but what level makes me a PRO? People who are doctors say they "practice", but how does that make their patients feel? Do you really want some guy who calls himself a doctor practicing on on you? Sure, practice may make perfect....eventually, but in the interim, it may also kill you.

So, am I a PRO? Know one sent me a certificate. Am I only a practicing cartoonist? Lots of people probably hate my work. Does that make me a menace to the cartooning world? And if I had a certificate of cartooning, would I lose my license for coloring outside the lines or leaving a sponge inside a cartoon character who is getting operated on?

I have no awards as a cartoonist. I have never entered a contest to win award. My understand is that if you want to win a cartoonist award, you going to have to put your name in. That seems more like a lottery to me. If I win an award I want it to be because someone else thought my work merited it. Not because I think I should have one. Heck, EVERY person who draws cartoons thinks they should win an award - that's what they draw cartoons because they think they're good - otherwise why would they even bother doing it. If you sing like fingernails on a blackboard, are you going to try to go professional? Well, maybe if you're tone deaf, I imagine.

Well, PRO not PRO. Who knows. I just keep drawing and make a living at what I love to do. I'll let other cypher whether I'm a pro or if I'm any good. Maybe I really just suck at it and I'm too stupid to know it.

Smeghead2068 said...

That was Newhart?? Thought is was Dwight Shrute.

Mike Shapiro said...

Hey Mike, I always love catching up on your blog. It's really great!

Since I do magazine cartoons as well as live caricatures I thought I'd speak out in defense of the guy at the fair you see every year.

You know how it's easy for some to blow off a successfully drawn magazine cartoon without any idea of the skill and hard work put into it? The same goes for live caricature. Here in the DC-Baltimore area the level of skill of some of the caricature artists I work with is really, really impressive. When you take into account that the artist is often freezing cold, unbearably hot, or dealing with a subject that, at 2:30 in the AM, wont stop talking, moving, and wants to be drawn exactly the way they looked before they put on 20 lbs and cut their hair, well, it can be tough to judge unless you've been there.

As for the Bob Newhart drawings-it's possible that at the 11th hour the AD insisted that the artist scrap his usual style and do everything over so it looks more like Southpark and have it in 9am the next morning. You never know.

Just my two cents.

-Mike Shapiro