Doing an editorial cartoon for a local weekly is no different from doing one for a national daily except that the national newspapers want political comments and the locals usually require cartoons based around local events and the people who participate in them.
The first thing I do upon being sent a story is to think how I can make this normal situation silly. Is there a twist that I can put upon something that is perfectly normal, some would say even mundane?
Most people would freeze at the thought of producing something even remotely entertaining on a theme like 'running down a street with a torch' . But we cartoonists have a whole pack of aces up our sleeves. We can use devices like set characters that the readers are familiar with or situations that they instantly recognise.
But for this particular cartoon I fell back on an old favourite bug bear of mine and societies at large. The Ayatollah's at Health and Safety . That bastion of our communities that see all fun things through a set of rose tinted demonic spectacles: 'All fun should be stamped out' Put that in Latin and I think you'll have their motto. Any way, I digress. Back onto the tutorial on how I create an editorial cartoon.
Once I've sat staring into blank space for a while, ideas start to germinate and swirl around my mind. Silly situations appear and then, click! I snatch one out of the air and start moving possibilities around in my head; I play with punch lines and situations until I have something I can work with.
I know it sounds odd, but its the honest truth. People are for ever asking cartoonists how they get their ideas, and we are usually at a loss to describe the process. But if I'm honest, this is the best way I can describe my personal writing process. It may not be the same for all cartoonists, but this has always worked for me and I've produced thousands of gags, stories, situations and spoofs using it.
Next I rough the idea up (see above) and email it over to Darren, the features editor. He looks at it and sends it back with any corrections or suggestions.
Then its time to start:
I draw a panel at 16 by 16 cms, which will reduce proportionately to fit into a newspaper column. And then it's onto the pencilling
I lay the characters out loosely with a HB propelling pencil.
Firstly I decide where the characters are to be best placed for the action or situation that the gag dictates.
After this I build in the background. Because it's a spot cartoon and will be reduced very heavily to fit within the newspapers tight editorial space constraints, I have to keep the background to a minimum for economy and legibility.
I put these in all of my editorial cartoons for a very simple reason: Because the editors have to juggle with what little space they are given for actual news, it isn't always possible to run the cartoon along side its corresponding story. And because the cartoon can find itself four of five pages from the feature it represents, and if the reader comes across it in this way, they need to know what the story is all about; hence the little news board with its tight and succinct description.
Now its onto the inking.
I use a medium thick Sharpie for the outside lines. I used to use pen and ink and before that I'd render the outlines with a brush. But nowadays it works better with the Sharpie and it certainly saves time; a very important factor when you're talking about newspaper deadlines
After the main body of the outlining is completed I use a fine pen to put in the smaller details.
This can have a very pleasant look as the thick outlines, when balanced correctly with the thin lines, can make for a very pleasing effect.
Almost done now.
Last but not least, I sign the cartoon. I use the large Sharpie again, mainly because my signature lends itself to the bold look and anyway, I want people to see my name.
Its not necessary to write it perfectly legibly as most newspapers will typeset the caption once they've dropped the cartoon into its slot.
That and the fact that cartoonists are notorious for their spelling mistakes---ask any editor.
But it's always important to do your best and make an effort at getting it right.
Okay. That's it. That is how I produce an editorial cartoon. Next week I will be showing you how I coloured this cartoon and prepared it in Photoshop, ready to be sent off to the Doncaster Free Press.
So until next week. Happy drawing, or at least happy reading of my cartoons.
PS Other tutorials, both video and written, can be found by clicking on the 'tutorials' tab at the top of this page. And if you like what you see, then please keep coming back for more tutorials, samples of my work, silly true stories and snippets of my life and thoughts.
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