It appears that I will be teaching cartooning at Tsuga Fine Art again and I only have to decide on the dates for it. Wow, my humble gratitude is owed to Jay, Ken, Hannah, Tami, Betsy, Cleo, Izzy, Aria, Eligh, Thalo and Justin for being part of making YOU Can Cartoon happen at all! I am very grateful and I also plan to do some free materials demonstrations so check for those as well.
Despite the degrees to which human and other animal figures are exaggerated in cartoons, what hooks us in and generates our response is our either conscious or unconscious referencing of our own anatomical structure.
Familiarity with natural anatomy, coming from consistent observation and sketchbook practice, enables the artist to enrich their work with dynamic form and communicate ideas more clearly.
Building upon this foundation, the development of characters proceeds.
In much the same way that we exaggerate details from our experiences to add humor or push a story, occasionally resulting in the "tall tale", we exaggerate our physiological form and movement to create interesting characters. Paul Bunyan, the legendary giant lumberjack, may be based on an actual person who lived long ago. This person may have been the biggest person around. Perhaps he was 6' 8" and 250lbs, within the realm of reality but why not, in the story, make him fifty feet tall!?
Judiciously applied exaggeration helps drive interesting cartooning. Illustrate a story of a pillow fight but instead of just drawing figures swinging pillows at one another, draw lots of feathers sticking out of the characters' hair. Add an image of someone lying beneath a pillow with their feet up in the air and, off to the side, a broken lamp.
Observe an elderly man in the park, feeding pigeons, as another hypothetical example. Draw him, observing how he moves in space and how the folds of his clothes operate, how weathered and wrinkled his face is, how the birds react to the move of his arm.
OR, draw him being carried off by a bunch of these birds,...
...while a young child silently watches, surprised. The caption should read: "We're out of peanuts! Just making a run to the store!".
Can't come up with a character out of your head? Here's a jump start: Chop up pictures of people from magazines, separating their torsos, heads, legs, feet, etc. and toss it all up in the air. Assemble random parts together, like Frankenstein, taping them together on the back. Now trace this being with tracing paper and a pencil. You'll see some amusing results.
My rough knowledge of the human figure's structure guides my wrist even when drawing the cartooniest people! The figure is basically a three part "trunk" comprised of the movable masses of head + chest + pelvis, with appendages following. A serious study of the skeletal structure and how it encourages the muscles while accommodating them might strike the cartoon minded novice as unnecessary however when you push yourself further, you not only draw people better, you cartoon better. A committed practice of drawing the human figure in dynamic poses trains your eye, mind and wrist together and stokes your skill in drawing any observable form. Attending live model figure drawing sessions will improve your skill regardless of your focus, cartooning or otherwise. Excellent live model figure sessions* are happening all over Seattle.
Below is an image from George Bridgman whose book, in my opinion, is a great starting point for cartooning students who want to kick it up a notch.
Bridgman's line work has cartoonists' energy. A good cartoon image has flair, directness and "life" in the line-work. Bridgman's blocky, exaggerated interpretations of the figure escort you across that bridge between classical figure study and the cartoon character.
Bridgman, in his anatomical schematics, exaggerates in order to help you feel the figure's contours and they are not to be taken as literal document. People don't look like Bridgman's figures but Bridgman's figures look alive.
We also discussed clothing folds. Accuracy in dropping in the lines representing the folds in a character's attire is important in making the action in an overall comic panel feel right.
*Life drawing groups around Seattle:
There is also an excellent session every Wednesday from 5:00pm - 7:00pm at
Artist & Craftsman Supply in The University District, hosted by Jamie Bollenbach.
Email Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org
I stumbled across this public service message featuring Ben Wicks' cartoon work AND narrated by the man himself. Plus, it's timely, given the weather here in Seattle, so I thought it would be fun and informative to share.
The first week of class went great and I am excited for the next seven sessions. This week's main points:
1) No matter what, make a deal with yourself that you will make even one mark in your sketchbook every single day. It's about consistency and not quality. Don't wait for that special "day off" from work, or that three day weekend, to block out big special blocks of time. Keep your sketchbook with you and make sure you open it daily and simply start drawing something. Even hatch marks, circles...something in it. The next thing you know, that one will be full and you'll be hitting the art supply store for another.
2) Your physiology; the way you are put together, your arm, YOUR wrist, is half of what will make you a unique cartoonist. Consciously practice drawing but don't overthink or force your lines. Don't try to draw like someone else. Just draw. Discussion examples included Ellen Forney's work and that of Bill Watterson and an excercise borrowed from cartooning instruction legend Jack Hamm was shared. Griff also shared John Callahan 's story.
3) Various idea generators or "springboards", for when you are stuck for something to sketch, were discussed and the tried and true mix and match index card imagery / caption exercise was carried out, in search of those unintentional but magically humorous juxtapositions.
4) A large sampling of currently available pens, inks and other tools were passed around and demonstrated.
5) Recommended outside activities: sketch everyday but apply conscious learning (as opposed to doodling while on your phone) and watch the documentary FUNNY BUSINESS.
Here is my first piece, for #inktober52 . The prompt word was FLIGHT. My sketch is also a tip of the hat to the great illustrator Joseph Mugnaini, from whom I took a workshop back in 1987 up in Santa Cruz, California. A fellow alumnus from Coronado High School, David "Froggy" Rodriguez, and I drove from San Diego, up to Santa Cruz and camped out in the woods outside town for the week long duration. In the image below I don't presume to draw anywhere near as good as Joe did but instead I'm trying to, in my mind, return to that classroom in a mental time machine, if you will.
Every day of the five day workshop, Joe, Frog and I had lunch together in the UCSC lunchroom, where Frog and I sat and listened to Joe talk about his love of nature. Joe found Frog's surfing experience interesting and there were many discussions of the oceans and waves and their forms. I remember Joe saying "I am in constant awe of nature".
So this past October was the first time I have participated in INKtober and I really enjoyed it and the commitment I made to stick to the daily drawing and posting was good for me. I really got a lot out of it and my 31 sketches are still viewable on my Instagram www.instagram.com/griffy_the_crusher .
Because I was a participant in Inktober2019 I receive updates in my email and I just saw one a couple days ago from Jake, who, I think, started Inktober and who informs us that he has started an all year long variant where we are all invited to post a WEEKLY sketch (ideally in ink, of course) based off of a weekly word prompt. The first prompt is "FLIGHT"