Monday, November 01, 2010

Cartooning 101: The Process

I do mostly Illustration work for a Client of mine, but I had started out doing cartoons for them, namely Safety Manuals in comic book form.  Now, I am an Artist, so love creating in different media, and really enjoy the fact that I get paid to do so.  However, as you may well know, I have a definite soft spot for cartooning.

Recently, in finishing the art for our bi-annual magazine, I was asked by the designers to come up with an illustration for dunnage.  Dunnage is basically packing material used for large scale shipping... as in cargo ships.  Technically, to those in the shipping business, dunnage may be interesting.  Realistically, it is not.  No one, as far as I know, has created fine art where the subject is dunnage. 

Now, Artists need to eat, and buy art supplies, so most of us do not turn down any opportunity.  However, on the subject of illustrating packing material, I told my Client honestly, that I saw no way to create art about dunnage, and make it interesting. I mean, the object of magazine art is to grab the Reader's attention as they're flipping through the pages, and make them stop long enough to appreciate the art and be inspired to read the article.  I did not see that happening in this case.

So, from the figures accompanying this post, you are guessing that I came up with the brilliant idea of using a cartoon for this subject?  Well, not right away.  I actually did a bad thing, and changed the subject, ignored the request, and knowing that the deadline was passing quickly, figured the idea would be dropped, or forgotten. I do not recommend this technique to you!  In my defense, we were past the deadline, and there were several other pieces to create.  I was up every night from 1 to 4 in the morning for a week past the initial deadline, trying to finish enough art for the magazine to be it's best.

The subject of dunnage, however, returned.  And returned.  I couldn't blow it off forever, so it haunted me until it hit me one night, tossing an turning, the above idea for a cartoon.  Many a creative person will tell you that a little alcohol and some tossing and turning in bed, mixed with the desperation of a deadline, can be inspiring.

Right.  Another Yes-it-can-work-but-there-are-no-guarantees idea.  Actually, a good night's sleep and a sober head should be great for ideas, but when the first deadline passes, and the second deadline passes, and you haven't slept for a week and you need a fine beer to relax, well.. sometimes you get lucky.  You also get ideas like The Statue of David, A Blowup Doll, and a Traffic Cone, which can make you shudder in horror in the golden light of daytime.

Then again... I would never have come up with the Statue of David being packaged for shipping over a cup of coffee.  And honestly, I like it.  David is recognizable to most people, not because of the fine workmanship, but for his nudity, unfortunately, but still, recognizable is good.  The blowup doll, and traffic cone are just funny, especially when mixed with a beach ball, a bucket, and some bags of garbage!

So, the process.  Normally I would come up with a few ideas, but the great fear that my Client was going to make me illustrate dunnage made me crank this out on paper (figure 1) in 5 seconds flat, scan it, and email it within 45 seconds of completion.  Lucky for me the Client liked it.

I then made a more detailed sketch (figure 2) which I then emailed to the Client.  He had already given the go ahead, but trust me.... Clients are busy people, and you want to make sure that they know there is a blow up doll in your cartoon BEFORE the issue goes to print.  Once you have the go ahead, you're safe.  If the subject comes up later, you can pray that the words "But you said it was okay!" will save your job.

Finally, I ink the piece, adding a few extras like the rat, and scan it in.  Color and cleanup on the computer, in Adobe Photoshop, and et voila!  A creative solution to illustrating dunnage.

Now, I consider myself blessed and fortunate that I was able to create a cartoon for a serious magazine. Honestly, I wasn't sure my Client would allow such a thing, but here is a very important lesson!

It doesn't hurt to ask.

Half of my Career has come about from me making suggestions or offering alternatives to the status quo.  And in this case I was able to come full circle, and revisit some beloved characters, by drawing a cartoon.

For me that was a thrill that you just can't pay for.

Thanks for reading,    JOHN :0)

PS on my iPod, The Who, Who's Next.  Why did it take me 29 years to buy this album?


Brian Hughes said...

Michelangelo's David and a blow up doll? Who says sex doesn't sell products?

John said...

Hey, hey, Brian! We're talking about suppressed nudity and implied sex only! I think that 'humor' can be used to sell products...

although your audience having a dirty mind may help. :0)