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Silent Jaguar
10-02-2004, 09:27 PM
Are there any comic strip artists among us?
What do you use for your equipment?
Any thoughts, ideas or advice for starting out?

LarrySeiler
10-02-2004, 11:32 PM
Jason Seiler...who posts here off and on (see his academy thread below), had two cartoon strips for an international magazine out of Chicago. He is attending the Chicago American Art Academy right now...and his time is a bit limited, but if you email him or ask him in one of his threads...I'm sure he'll be generous in sharing a few things.

One of his strips was "Jiles and Gavin" ..the other was "In Dog Years, We'd Already Be Dead!"

Jason is focusing more these days on high end caricaturing...

I know that Jason did a fair share of water color markers...watercolor with brushes, and some were done coloring with photoshop for certain looks or deadlines to meet.

In fact...I think we have a Wetcanvas Demo published article here yet where I interviewed him. I'll see if I can find it and come back to provide you a link!

Larry

LarrySeiler
10-02-2004, 11:34 PM
Sure enough....found it, here you go! Enjoy.... :wave:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/ArtSchool/Illustration/SeilerCartooning/


Larry

TedDawson
10-03-2004, 09:49 AM
I used to do a syndicated strip called Spooner, and I do a weekly strip for the Air Force Times.

My tools have varied off and on, but mostly I've drawn on smooth Bristol which comes in pads. Strathmore series 500 is best, although I've used 300 mostly because it's commonly stocked in art stores. Inking is done with Speedball India ink and a Hunt 512 nib. Occasionally I'll use a brush or Pitt brush pen. The Pitt pens are pretty good; they have India ink and hold up pretty well. I'll use the medium point for panels. For lettering I've used a Speedball FB6. With Wild Blue I've just been using the small Pitt pen. Original strip size is about 12" X 3 3/8".

Some cartoonists are happy to use the less expensive inkjet or copy paper, like "Tank McNamera." The strips "Nine Chickweed Lane," "Rudy Park" and "Candorville" are drawn with a pen tablet, sketched and inked entirely on the computer. Scott Adams draws "Dilbert" with a felt pen.

As for advice for starting out, consider the market. The syndicates receive about 6,000 submissions every year. They're slowed to releasing one or two new strips a year.

The rates newspapers pay haven't risen since the mid-seventies. To put that in perspective, the median income in 1975 was about $11,000. Most cartoonists start out in about 30 newspapers, which can bring in about that amount. It's doubtful that rates will increase in the foreseeable future. There are certainly plenty of markets that pay more than the average $1 per cartoon that newspapers pay. I was lucky in that I was in several major market papers and international papers which pay more for their comics. There are other factors that can make things difficult, though...

The number of syndicates is decreasing; in fact, the syndicate I started with was bought out by another one six months later. Now there are essentially five: United Media, Universal Press Syndicate, King Features, Creators, Tribune Media. The last two, don't bother submitting to. They haven't had a new feature out in years.

The company that colors, prints and distributes the Sunday comics has a virtual monopoly on the market. It charges cartoonists a percentage to handle and distribute the comics. I had to pay them about $3,500 a year, and I know at least one cartoonist who pays them that much each WEEK. And there's no alternative.

In addition to that, there is a pagination company that took it upon itself to sell the service of coloring daily strips to newspapers. It was several years before cartoonists found out what they were doing. Essentially they color all the comics with the same limited palette, make about a half-million dollars a year from newspapers for this service, and the cartoonists receives nothing for this even if she elects to color the daily strip herself.

I'm not trying to be discouraging, but I think the facts of the business today, which every cartoonist finds out after the fact, create challenges aside from the daunting task of writing and drawing a comic strip 356 days a year. The syndicates aren't too worried because they pull in hundreds of millions just from Peanuts and Garfield. It's not necessary to make money off of newspaper sales.

I have a friend who does a weekly comic strip for an alternative newspaper, and he makes more from that than several syndicated cartoonists I know. Of course, the potential is still high for a syndicated strip, but one has to be in it for the long haul. Since it's always necessary to do other work, the work of the strip always suffers, as can be seen on the comics pages, and the best writers and artists are working for Hollywood and whatnot.

Everyone who does a comic strip does it mostly because they just enjoy it. And they want to get their work out to a large audience because they believe they have somethin to say. There's no other medium that gives you an audience that size. More people read Doonesbury than watch all three major networks combined. There's nothing else I'll ever do that will give me a readership in the hundreds of thousands. It's an amazing opportunity and huge responsibility, I think, and I'm surprised so many cartoonists squander it.

There are maybe 300 syndicated cartoonists in the world. It's a tough market to break into. But it's not impossible, if I could do it. My gripe is not that the market is bad, but that it's not improving and there are no signs that it will. Unlike every other field of cartooning, comic strip artists are not taking any control over their work or establishing influences within the management or publishing arenas. Until they do, collectively, things will continue going downhill.

I bet you're sorry you asked! Somebody shoulda warned you I was in here

;)

Silent Jaguar
10-04-2004, 12:44 AM
I bet you're sorry you asked! Somebody shoulda warned you I was in here

;)

Not really. I frequently read yours and Larry's articles. You two give good advice, although yours are bleak scenarios. By absolute chance I became an editorial cartoonist two years ago, having never drawn a full cartoon prior, when I was asked to draw cartoons for a newspaper. Originally I applied for an editorial's assistant job at the paper when the editor noticed I was an artist and asked if I could draw cartoons. I didn't know if I could, but I said 'yes' anyway. (What's the worst that could happen, right?) She asked me to draw a subject for the editoral and have it to her by Monday. I did it and got the job, and still draw the cartoons today.
Before then (and still do today) I made my money by painting.
My point is- I don't have one.
Now, I want to become a comic strip artist, and need advice.
Thank you!
:wave:

TedDawson
10-04-2004, 03:15 AM
An editorial cartoonist! I admire you... that's a job I'd love to have, and it's a challenging job.

As for doing a comic strip, the syndicates like to see 24 to 36 finishe daily strips. You can send photocopies; I sent four to a page, at about the size they'd appear in the newspapers. Sending Sundays aren't necessary but you can. Include a cover letter and resume. You can include a character description sheet, but they should be able to get that by reading the strips.

I recommend having a second batch ready after you send the first. It takes anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks to receive a response. If you get rejection letters, then you'll already have your next submission ready before you feel dejected; if they like it, they'll want to see if you can be consistent, and you'll be ready for them. Even if you get a rejection letter, they may be waiting to see if you send more; they don't know if it took a person two years to draw 36 strips or if you can knock them out daily.

My philosophy is that each individual strip must be able to stand on its own and represent the comic as a whole.

The syndicates tend to avoid serial comics,unfortunately. If that's what you do, though, do it anyway.

You can find each syndicate's submission guidelines on their respective websites.

If you have any other questions, I'll be happy to answer them the best I can.

Ted

TedDawson
10-04-2004, 09:36 AM
You might also look up a book called, "Your Career in the Comics" by Lee Nordling. It's probably the best book out there on the subject of syndication.

Silent Jaguar
10-04-2004, 10:31 AM
An editorial cartoonist! I admire you... that's a job I'd love to have, and it's a challenging job.


Ted
Thank you!

I really appreciate your advice.

It was so comical to me, as it is not something you'd ever expect to hear on an interview. You're sitting there trying to keep your cool and answer the questions professionally, I hear an excited interviewer: "You're an artist? Can you draw cartoons?" Totally shocked I said yes.

I had two days (Saturday and Sunday) to figure out what the heck an editorial cartoonist was and draw a cartoon. But only had one day to figure out what materials to use and get books at the library, because everything closed on Sunday. http://www.cagle.com gave me the best advice and daily cartoon examples. I purchased bristol board paper, but nobody had advice on pens, so I bought Pilot Precision ball pens, which I never would have chose had I known about Microns.

At the library I checked out a book by Doug Marlette "In Your Face" and read it cover to cover, laughing my tush off. Come Sunday was sitting hunched over, drawing the cartoon. On Monday I was hired. I guess there is a shortage of cartoonists where I live. ;)

Silent Jaguar
10-04-2004, 09:28 PM
Do you know what type of brushes to use for fine line work with india ink?

TedDawson
10-04-2004, 11:15 PM
Boy, I can't imagine there being a shortage of cartoonists anywhere, at least as far as the job market goes! I used to have that kind of dream... "Oh, you're a cartoonist? Why, that's exactly what we need!" Now it's more like, "Oh. You're a cartoonist. Why would we need that exactly?"

By far the brush I hear mentioned most is the Winsor & Newton Series 7 sable brushes. The size kinda depends, but probably an 0 or 1. One thing about India ink and brushes is if the ink gets up into where the glue holds the hairs in, it'll ruin the brush over a short period of time, so getting that part clean too with soap and water is important.

Silent Jaguar
10-05-2004, 12:15 AM
Boy, I can't imagine there being a shortage of cartoonists anywhere, at least as far as the job market goes! I used to have that kind of dream... "Oh, you're a cartoonist? Why, that's exactly what we need!" Now it's more like, "Oh. You're a cartoonist. Why would we need that exactly?"

By far the brush I hear mentioned most is the Winsor & Newton Series 7 sable brushes. The size kinda depends, but probably an 0 or 1. One thing about India ink and brushes is if the ink gets up into where the glue holds the hairs in, it'll ruin the brush over a short period of time, so getting that part clean too with soap and water is important.

KISS, KISS, KISS, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
There are a plethora of freakin' brushes out there and you just saved many humans a bunch of time and money. :D

Silent Jaguar
10-05-2004, 12:58 AM
Boy, I can't imagine there being a shortage of cartoonists anywhere, at least as far as the job market goes! I used to have that kind of dream... "Oh, you're a cartoonist? Why, that's exactly what we need!" Now it's more like, "Oh. You're a cartoonist. Why would we need that exactly?"


Where I live, cartooning (comic strip or editorial) isn't a very popular line of work, at least not at the schools I grew up with or college I went to. Of course there are the major professional cartoonists here such as Lalo Alcaraz of L.A. Weekly and Jeff Danziger of the L.A. Times Syndicate. Most of the cartoonists I've met were animators for Disney and Warner Bros., and comic book artists.

But cartoonists in general just aren't pouring into So Cal (not that I've noticed) like actors, models, animators, painters and illustrators do. In fact, I haven't met an editorial or comic strip cartoonist before, ever. And the other fact is the paper I work for has been in circulation since the 1940s, and (as far as I've researched) never had an editorial cartoonist. This should tell you a bit about this area.

Silent Jaguar
10-05-2004, 12:13 PM
Articles that sum up general Cali cartoonist thinking:

http://info.detnews.com/aaec/story/details.cfm?id=380
http://www.cagle.com/tax/

Slim pickings on So Cal's Cartoonist Society Web page http://www.thecartoonist.com/sccs/sccs.html

I was hoping to prove myself wrong!

MichaelFraley
08-13-2008, 07:48 PM
Even though this is an older thread, I thought that I would make my own contribution to it. A lifetime ago, I wrote and drew a comic-book series for an independent publisher that lasted much longer than most of the other independent houses. I've also illustrated three books, have served as an editorial cartoonist, etc. So much for my own background. I just want to say a few things about tools, both traditional and electronic.

The classic drawing surface is bristol board - smooth or vellum surface, usually. Alex Kotzky, the artist who originated the "Apt. 3-G" soap opera strip, used the smooth board. Hal Foster, who drew "Prince Valiant," used the vellum surface. I love the work of both artists.

Higgins black india ink is the old standard, but I think they must have reformulated their ink at some point, because it doesn't seem as dark as it used to be. As a result, artists tended to migrate to Higgins Black Magic india ink. I still tend to use Higgins Black Magic, though for brush work I love using Yasumoto sumi ink (pre-made or ground from sumi ink sticks).

Brushes: again, the classic choice is a red sable round, size #2 or #3. I've used synthetic brushes too, and they do fine and tend not to split as easily as sables. My brush of choice is usually a Japanese sumi brush, though - it's the old Lou Fine and Will Eisner brush used on "The Spirit" and other comics from the Eisner stable in the 1940's. Pitt brush pens have been mentioned in this thread too, and it's true that their foam "brush" tips hold up well. As a matter of fact, I've found that their ink supply is pretty easy to refill. You take the cap off of the back end of the barrel and CAREFULLY pour in a small amount of Rapidograph technical pen ink. I've made the same handful of Pitt brush markers last four or five years this way.

Pens: the most easily available traditional tools are the Hunt croquill dip pen nibs. They come in a variety of sizes, and so you can feel free to find what works best for you. If you prefer a marker, choose something that is archival, since lots of markers fade away to nothing pretty easily. I saw an original "Annie" strip by Leonard Starr that was done with regular felt tip pens, and it had deteriorated BADLY. If I have to use a marker, I prefer the Sakura Pigma Micron technical markers, which come in a wide variety of sizes. I would always warn people to stay away from Sharpies. They're super convenient, but they're generally made for plastic or metal surfaces, not paper. I've seen the paper used for some of my older drawings turn an ugly shade of yellow thanks to using Sharpies.

Digital tools: Some strips only use digital tools for lettering captions - such as "The Phantom." For these strips, the dialogue is printed out and pasted on the artwork. A related practise is to scan in the artwork and typeset the captions and cartoon "balloons" in a program such as Adobe Illustrator. It is an industry standard to digitally colour comics in Adobe Photoshop these days. Other comics, such as "Blondie" and "Boondocks," have been created totally on the computer for years, using programs such as Illustrator and pressure sensitive digital pens (Wacom is probably the best known brand for these).

Much more could (and should) be said, but I'd probably better stop right now!

Adriantmax
08-19-2008, 03:26 AM
I've recently been looking at pen and ink and bought a Rotring art pen. Was a little disappointed since I was really looking for something like a speedball dip pen sketch nib on a cartridge/resevoire handle. The Art pen was too rigid to get much variety in the line.

Anyone know of alternatives to the artpen that do have a nice flexible nib?

MichaelFraley
08-28-2008, 11:00 AM
I've recently been looking at pen and ink and bought a Rotring art pen. Was a little disappointed since I was really looking for something like a speedball dip pen sketch nib on a cartridge/resevoire handle. The Art pen was too rigid to get much variety in the line.

Anyone know of alternatives to the artpen that do have a nice flexible nib?

In the early 1990's I worked exclusively with old fountain pens (the kind that use a bladder, not a cartridge) and found that they did the job nicely. Rotring's technical pen ink should work nicely in those. In particular, I used a fine point pen for the general drawing and a medium point for my lettering. If you look at the construction of a fountain pen nib, it's very close to the way a dip pen is made. I eventually just wore those pens out and never replaced them - not because I found anything better, but because I just wanted to use different tools.

Adriantmax
09-01-2008, 12:10 PM
Thanks for the tip, gives me something new to keep an eye out for in the local antique and thrift stores :)

pencilpusherdave
09-04-2008, 03:58 PM
I've used alot of pens and wasn't happy with any of them totally. Then I found Faber Castell Pitt pens in a 4 pens set. They work pretty good for most everything I do. I am not a comic strip artist per se, but I draw cartoons that I make into t-shirts, and the drawings I do by hand are then scanned into the computor. Alot of the pens I tried looked washed out or broken when they were scanned, but the Faber pens work well. They are clean and easy to take care of. What else could ya ask for?