How To Improve Your Cartoons

Greetings fellow cartoonist!

Whether you are a student scribbler or a more dedicated doodler, I hope that there is something in this guide for you regardless of how long you have been cartooning.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been drawing anyway, it’s the journey through the wonderful world of cartoons that counts anyway.

In this article I’ll explain some different techniques to help you with your cartooning.

I’ll show you some examples using my own cartoons, and then explain the exercise so that you can try it out for yourself.

The ‘over to you’ section is where you follow along.

I highly recommend drawing along while you’re reading this if possible.

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Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  • Some principles

  • Spot colour

  • Exaggerate

  • Add an animal

  • Guiding the eye

  • Complex and simple

  • Spot colour

  • Add an animal

  • Guiding the eye

  • Recycling

  • Repurposing

  • Everyday situations (make them bizarre)

  • Contrast

  • Ideas from a hat

Meet Gerald the Goat

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Gerald is taking some time off eating the neighbourhood’s flower beds so that he can help illustrate this guide.

Some Principles

This is a skill you can learn - not magic

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When someone pulls ideas out of thin air it’s pretty amazing - and also a little intimidating at the same time. We might wish that we could do that too, that it’s alright for those born with the talent to do that. This can prevent us from even trying in the first place if we think that this is something we’re given, rather than something we’ve earned.

Well, talent is overrated.

Drawing cartoons is a skill. And like any other skill is something we can learn, even if we are starting from scratch.

The Idea Muscle

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One of the key features of this course is the idea of the ‘idea muscle’. Thinking up ideas is like building muscles, it takes some skill and application, but the more you do it the better you become.

Just like when you first go to the gym, or try anything new for the first time, you don’t see a lot of progress at first but if you keep sticking to the system you’ll start to see results.

Step by step, you’ll slowly start to build up your own ‘cartoon idea muscle’ as you try out new ideas and techniques, and practice them. The trick is to keep at it and work the system, the same as you’d follow a routine at the gym.

Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle

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We all start at different levels. The aim is to work on improving your idea generation skills based on where you are today, rather than compared to everyone else.

It doesn’t have to be complicated...or always simple...

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The ideas in this book apply whether your drawing style in minimalistic or more detail-orientated.

For an experiment to get insight into your own style, and into drawing styles in general, try drawing a few pictures in a completely different way. So if you’re a fan of doing simplistic illustrations with a minimum number of pen strokes, try adding more detail, whether to the characters or to the background.

On the other hand if you love doing highly complex drawings rich in detail, do the opposite - try to convey the same idea but in as few lines as possible.

I love doing both simple and complex drawings and find that by doing so I get insights into both styles.

You could even try redrawing one of your existing cartoons in the opposite style.

Spot Colour

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Spot colour really draws attention to a particular area of the drawing that you want to emphasise.

It can be even more dramatic if the rest of the illustration is monochrome - a splash of colour will immediately grab the viewer’s eye and lead it to the spot you want to emphasise.

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For this one the Idea was to portray the group of pelicans ganging up on the woman and her measly catch.

As you can see below, I’d originally drawn the fish grey and it certainly doesn’t stand out at all.

When doing the initial rough sketch I had the dog in a standing position.

Dogs don’t naturally have their paws on top of their heads, but in this case appointing a human mannerism to an animal really helps to get the point across.

Here’s the cartoon as it first appeared.

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To draw attention to the fish, I coloured it orange, and so as not to draw attention away from it made her fishing outfit more drab by swapping out the yellow mac for a grey one, and the bright green boots for black ones.

Remember that the aim of a cartoon is to get an idea across - it doesn’t always have to be done in a completely realistic way.

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Over to you:

Look back over some of your own cartoons. Is there any place where you could add spot colour to enhance the cartoon? Perhaps there is an area where you want to draw the viewer’s attention to.

Exaggerate

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If you’re going to go over the top, go over the top completely

A cartoon really gives you license to stretch things a bit. Because it’s a cartoon, people often expect you to do so, rather than to try and recreate a completely accurate rendering. If people were looking for a 100% realistic image, then they wouldn’t be looking at a cartoon in the first place.

My initial sketch for this cartoon had the woman in a not very dynamic pose, and the dog looking on from the riverbank.

Even though the rod is bent over, it doesn’t really give an idea of the size of the catch, and I wanted to show this, without physically drawing in a fish.

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So I came up with new version, with her kneeling down in the water, oblivious to getting a soaking due to battling the fish, and with the dog now in the water helping out by tugging on the tail of her jacket. I also had her hat flying off and her hair blowing about.

That’s two fishing cartoons so far. You may be wondering if I have a particular interest in angling, but to be honest It’s something I only portray on paper or tablet. I was asked to draw a couple of fishing cartoons a few years ago and discovered that I rather enjoyed it, particularly as it gave me the opportunity to work on natural backgrounds, and developing sky and water techniques. Since then I’ve kept drawing them from time-to-time.

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Why have a woolly mammoth when you could have a woolier one instead?

Try going a bit more ‘over the top’ with your cartoons, you can always reel them in a bit afterwards.

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Do you remember some scenes from classic animated cartoons, such as Tom and Jerry?

There was plenty of over-exaggeration going on there. Try it out and see how it feels.

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Over to you:

For this you could either look back over previous cartoons or try drawing something new. Either way, choose an aspect of the cartoon and really exaggerate it. It might be the character’s action or part of their appearance. Have fun playing around with it, you can always reel it in later.

Add an animal

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People love cartoons of animals whether pets or more wilder stuff. At last estimate there were 139,467,444 million cartoons of cats and dogs.

It’s also popular to have an animal being put into a human situation. Probably the most well-known example of this is The Far Side by Larson.

I’ve a big fan of big cats, leopards in particular, so here are a couple of cartoons featuring the creatures being a bit less shy and elusive than usual.

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Don’t forget that animals come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you can create an interesting effect just by the incongruity of having an creature do a certain activity.

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And of course, adding animals to a human situation immediately makes it unnatural, so why not try something completely bizarre?

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Over to you:

Look over a previous cartoon, either one of yours or someone elses’. Try swapping out one of the existing characters for an animal. You could also try keeping the existing characters as they are and addin an animal.

You could also think of some common cartoon scenes, such as in a restaurant, a couple on a date, a job interview and play around with putting different animals into the scene.

Guiding the eye

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It’s useful to be able to guide the reader’s eye towards a main detail of the cartoon, especially if it isn’t immediately obvious at at first glance. This is a trick that has been used by artists for a long time.

Let’s look at how I helped guide the reader’s eye in the picture below.

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1. The tree branch points towards Nessie.

2. The mountains in the far background form a ‘V’ shape, guiding the eye to what’s beneath.

3. The red spots on Nessie help catch the eye.

4. The fishing rod, catch net handle (5) and dog (6) all point towards Nessie.

It’s useful to be able to guide the reader’s eye towards a main detail of the cartoon, especially if it isn’t immediately obvious at at first glance. This is a trick that has been used by artists for a long time.

Let’s look at how I helped guide the reader’s eye in the picture below.

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For this one I wanted to draw the reader’s attention to the dog pouring water into the boot. The simplest and quickest way to do so was to colour the boots bright red. Spot colour, as mentioned earlier, is a quick way to catch the reader’s eye.

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This is a picture I drew for a ‘word-of-the-day’ challenge. The word featured was ‘charging’, and the idea of using an electric eel came into my mind.

I wanted to connect the eel and the fisher together. One way I did this was to have the red of the belly of the fish connecting with the red of the fisher’s boots.

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For this one the character’s are on the left hand side of the cartoon in drab colours, with the brightly-coloured kite on the right hand side. The cartoon is divided into two halves, with the kite string connecting them.

Over to you:

Look over some of your previous cartoons. Are there any elements you could add that would help to guide the reader’s eye?

Recycling

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You may have recognised one of the characters and the setting from the preceding image from earlier in the guide.

This is an example of how I recycled the cartoon to produce another one. All of the subsequent cartoons where based on the following background.

Extra tip: You can save backgrounds that you like in a folder for future reference.

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I have kept one of the main characters, the woman, the same throughout the different cartoons. However, I could have swapped her out for a different person or animal.

I could also use her again in a different setting.

I could have added other details to the background, added or removed props, changed the weather etc.

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Over to you:

Take one of your existing cartoons. Try swapping out the characters for new ones, or change some of the details. You could also take a character and then place them in a completely new setting.

You don’t even have to draw to play around with this idea. For example, you could try asking how would a business person on the beach, in a sauna, bungee jumping etc.

Repurposing

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In repurposing, you are trying to think about how you can use one object to do a completely different task to the one it’s intended to.

One good example fo this is how in the Flintstones cartoons they are always using different dinosaurs and animals to carry out different tasks and to substitute them for technology.

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Over to you:

What every day objects could be used in a completely different way? Have a quick look around wherever you are sitting at this moment, does anything come to mind?

You could also have fun trying to think up Flintstone-esque alternatives for modern technology.

Everyday situations

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Many cartoons are most effective when they are making some sort of commentary about the everyday world around us. This is the world that we are most familiar and comfortable with, and also usually the world that we are amused or annoyed by.

By thinking more about situation we routinely encounter, we can come up with new ideas for cartoons.

Try putting a twist on a situation. So for example, if washing the dishes is a drag, then how could you think of a more creative way to do so?

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Over to you:

Choose an activity that you do every day. Here are a few suggestions:

  • walking the dog

  • making coffee

  • ironing clothes

  • walking to the train station

Are there any twists you could put on the situation?

Contrast

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Creating a strong contrast between the characters and the background or other elements in the picture can have a powerful impact.

The preceding picture was another cartoon from a ‘word-of-the-day’ challenge. As the word was ‘visible’ I was playing around with idea of the ships being visible to the aircraft, and also the aircraft itself being highly visible due to it’s bright colours. The contrast between the drab colours of the sea and the brightness of the airplane immediately catches the eye.

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For this one I wanted to set the geese, or one of them at least, against the black of the domino.

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Over to you:

Look over some of your previous cartoons. Would a bigger contrast between any of the elements improve the cartoon? If you work digitally, then this is easy to play around with.

Ideas from a hat

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Ideas from a hat is an activity that gets you into the habit of trying to think up some random ideas for different situations.

This was originally an idea to help people come up with on the spot jokes for improvisational comedy workshops.

Tear up a bunch of small pieces of paper, or alternately I’m sure there’s some sort of app that will be able to provide you with random ideas. Write a different prompt word on each piece of paper. Now all you need is a hat or other container

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The examples in this section are all from a cartooning forum that I’m a member of. For several months now we have been participating in a word of the day challenge, all of the words featured being adjectives.

For your own prompts you could try adjectives, or you could common household items, different animals etc. Everyday, draw out a different piece of paper and try to think up an Idea fo a cartoon based on the prompt.

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Over to you:

Grab a hat….and some pieces of paper….jot down a word or phrase on each one…and away you go!

Thanks for reading!

I hope that these techniques have been useful for you. Have fun with your cartooning!

On Wabbits and Wide-Angles

In this article I’m going to look at some different camera angles or shots and how they can be used in cartoons.

Please note that this article is a work in progress, but I thought it important to get it out there and then add to it later on.

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Here’s what we’re going to cover in this article

  • All the different angles

  • Long or Wide shot

  • Very close shot

  • Worm’s eye view

  • Point of view or First person perspective

  • Giving your characters room to breathe

  • Horizon lines

  • Breaking the frame

All the Angles

Let’s start by looking at all the possible angles.

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I’ll look at some of these in a bit more depth below. I’ll add any missing later on.

Long or Wide Shot

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The long or wide shot is used to show the character in relation to their surrounding, to set the context for the cartoon.

The first panel above shows Granny Mills looking annoyed and the reason for her being so

Very close up

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Worm’s eye view

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Point of view or first person perspective

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This puts the reader into the character’s shoes. Can you guess what’s going on in this scene?

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Give your characters room to breathe

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Don’t draw the horizon on the same level

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Breaking the Frame

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For dramatic effect, you can play around with your character’s breaking the frame of the cartoon.

Summary

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Almost time for the rabbit to disappear back down the hat. I hope that what I’ve posted so far has been useful, there’s more to come and so I’ll edit and add again soon.

About Rob

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Hi, I’m Rob and I’ve always enjoyed drawing cartoons ever since I can remember.

Recently I’ve started writing down some ideas and tips to help folks with their own cartooning.

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The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

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Have you ever sat down to do something really important to you, not just an urgent busy thing you have to do, but something that really matters to you....

.....only to find that you just can’t get going - it almost feels as though there is an actual force acting against your best intentions and stopping you from doing your work?

You have just encountered Resistance...and according to Steven Pressfield it is very real indeed. Pressfield always spells Resistance with a capital ‘R’ so as to afford it the respect it deserves, and not to take it lightly.

The War of Art delves into Resistance works against us - and how we can deal with it.

About Steven Pressfield

Before finally figuring Resistance out, Steven Pressfield was a writer who didn’t write, and had carved out a series of shadow careers that had prevented him from committing to what he really wanted to do - to write.

He finally figured out Resistance and ‘The War of Art’ is the first of a series of books he has written on the subject.

I made so many notes when reading this book, but finally managed to decide on six points that particularly resonated with me. I could easily have done ten more...in fact I’m sure thst I’ll return to this book again to review some of the points that didn’t make the A-list this time around.

Definitely tomorrow...

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We all know how tomorrow, or someday never quite seems to come. However, thinking in this way as the advantage of preventing us from facing up to the fact that we are never going to work on our dreams, as we will do so someday.....

Resistance...

What’s coming in the way of us getting down to it right now is Resistance.

Resistance is the force that stops us from getting down to work, particularly if it’s something that’s really important to us.

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Pressfield imagines this as some real, unstoppable force, and compares it to the Teminator, the Alien, and the shark from Jaws. It’s relentless and won’t stop in it’s mission to stop you from doing what you have to do.

I have to admit that I was experiencing some resistance as I sat down to write this. This is one of my favourite books - it means a lot to me - and I was working against a deadline...and yet I still felt this invisible force-field type of effect, that was stopping me from getting down to writing.

Do the work

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So what can you do about Resistance?

Simply sit down right now and get on with your work.

Simple - but not easy.

Clear your desk

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In order to be clear about what we have to do, we have to create aa clear, orderly space for us to do our work. Resistance loves chaos and so we have to do our utmost to keep clutter and bad habits at bay.

Take it a day at a time

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Doing the work is not glamorous - it’s about gritting it out, one day after another.

Why you are here

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It pays to pause for a while and think about this, and see if it resonates with you. If it does - take action.

I’m in a book circle, and every month I draw a new set of booknotes based on the month’s book.

I’ll post future booknotes here in due course.

A selection of other books by Steven Pressfield:

-Turning Pro - Goes into more depth about turning professional.

-Do the Work - Getting stuff done.

All worth checking out!

Best of Illustrated Booknotes

Every month I read a different book and produce a set of Illustrated Booknotes for it. Usually there are five or six illustrated notes, each showing one of the key points I got from the book.

I chose my favourite booknote from each one, not an easy thing to do!, and posted them below along with a link to the full booknotes.

Simplicity Has To Be A Mandate

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Taken from ‘Company of One’ by Paul Jarvis


Effort Counts Twice

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Taken from ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth


Ambition Is The Most Primal And Sacred Fundament Of Our Being

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Taken from ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield


The Universe Is Not Short Of Wake-up Calls. We’re Just Quick To Hit The Snooze Button

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Taken from ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ by Brene Brown


The Moment That One Definitely Commits Oneself, Then Providence Moves Too

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Taken from ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron


Identify The One Big Domino

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Taken from ‘Expert Secrets’ by Russell Brunson


How Much Time Does It Cost?

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Taken from: ‘Digital Minimalism’ by Cal Newport


Creating a Character

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In this article, were going to come up with creating a character from scratch, and then going on to make a more detailed profile for your character.

What if I’ve already got a character?

No problem, I’ll give you some ideas to help develop them. You might find to fun and useful to also try creating a new character from scratch. It’ll give you a chance to play around with a new character, as well as giving you some insights into your existing one.

What we’re going to cover in this article

Meet Gerald the goat

What characters do you know?

Mindmaps

Character profiles

Put yourself in your character’s shoes

Put your character in your shoes

Notes on characters

Beyond this article

First though, a few points to consider

Over to you:

Whenever you see ‘over to you’, that is your cue to pick up your pencil and try out the technique.

Some of the ideas you may have seen before in previous articles, such as ‘how to create a strip cartoon’ While there is some overlap, I hope that you’ll much other useful content as well.

Draw as you go along. If you immediately try out some of the ideas in this articles, then you are more likely to remember them and put them into practice later.

Meet Gerald the Goat

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Gerald the Goat and friends will be popping up to help illustrate some of the ideas in this article. I’ve been drawing the Gerald the Goat strip for about three years now and doing so has certainly helped me to work on my own lettering. They’ll also be some other characters and cartoons to help show key points.

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Here’s how Gerald first appeared.

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And here’s what Gerald evolved into and the characters that later joined the strip.

What cartoon characters are you familiar with already?

Here are a few points to think about:

  • Who is your favourite character, either now or when you were younger?

  • Why did you like them?

  • What stories can you remember them being involved in?

Does the world really need another cartoon cat or dog?

Why not? - There’s plenty of room for other cats and dogs, particularly if you focus on a specific breed or an aspect of behaviour that hasn’t been covered before.

Hopefully this article will help you to differentiate your cat/dog from all the other ones.

Use personal experience to create your character

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You could try using your own personal experience to come up with some ideas for a character

Do you work in an office?

Do you have a particular hobby or interest?

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Do you have a pet?

If so, does that give you any ideas for making a character?

You could also try putting a twist on it. So if you have a dog, then try imagining if your dog was a crocodile instead or some other creature

If you do have a pet, then you have a daily source of different ideas.

Just doodle!

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If you can’t come up with any ideas for a potential character, just start doodle lots and lots of simple characters and see where that leads. Try all different sorts of people and animals. Include types of folks and creatures that you haven’t drawn before and see if that sparks any curiosity.

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You can also think about what personality types, jobs, animals etc. haven’t been used for a character.

Mind map

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Let’s try a mindmap featuring Gerald. I wrote down any particular ideas or situations associated with him that came to mind. It dosen’t matter whether they’re good ideas at this point, the most important thing is to write them down. Don’t pause to think for too long!

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You can choose one of the ideas and do a new mind map to make it even more focused.

Over to you:

Try out your own mindmap featuring your character. Remember don’t pause for thought - write down whatever comes to mind.

Create a character profile

Another really good way to get to know your character is to create a profile/avatar for them.

Here is an example featuring Gerald

Name: Gerald the goat

Where does he/she live?: Stan’ garden (well, he’s supposed to anyway...)

What does he do? Eats things...almost anything, especially people’s flower beds...

What does he like? Eating, butting people

What does he dislike? The bull

Describe personality in a sentence: Gerald is a little bit of anarchy in goat-form.

Here’s a blank profile you can use.

Feel free to add additional information, and to add as much detail as you like. The more detail you add the more richer character you’ll create - and the better you’ll get to know them

Name:

Where does he/she live?

What does he/she do?

What does he/she like?

What does he/she dislike?

Describe his/her personality in a sentence:

Everyday life

Popular cartoons that work well are usually the ones that comment on everyday life and people’s habits and quirks - i.e. thing that we are already very familiar with. You don’t have to think of anything too exotic. Even if you have an exotic setting, you can still have the characters commenting on the everyday nature of that exotic setting.

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You could try picking an everyday setting and then put a twist on it.

Imagine yourself in animal form

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How about trying to imagine yourself in animal form? I’m not talking about anything new-agey here, just an exercise in imagination. Here are a few points you could think about.

What animal would you be?

If it was anything specific like a dog, then what breed of dog?

How would you choose to interact with humans?

Drawing characters

After you’ve created your character, try making a few notes about their appearance to help you for future reference.

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Practice drawing your characters

In a cartoon strip the characters appear from panel to panel, and strip to strip, so it’s important that the characters always look the same to maintain this sense of continuity.

Start to practice drawing your characters again and again in the same pose. Start off by drawing a side profile, as that’s the more useful to draw when having the characters talking with another character

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If you’re working with a drawing tablet, you might be wondering why you don’t simply copy and paste the characters. Drawing the characters helps to build the muscle memory so that you can draw them at will later on. This will also help when you try to draw the characters in new poses, as you will have an instinctive idea of how the characters proportions should look as you’ve previously drawn them a lot.

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Over to you:

Choose an existing character or one you generated from the earlier exercise. Practice drawing them a bunch of times like the examples featuring Gerald and Stan above.

Love drawing cartoons?

Interested in drawing your own cartoons? Sign up for the free Cartoon Tips and Tricks Guide below.

About Rob

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Rob has been drawing cartoons for more years that he can remember. As well as drawing, he runs online courses to help folks draw their own cartoons.

Illustrated Booknotes - Company of One

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Every month I read a different book and produce a series of Illustrated Booknotes from it, along with more general notes.

This month it was the turn of ‘Company of One’ by Paul Jarvis.

I found the book to be highly informative and useful, so I thoroughly recommend picking up your own copy rather than relying on these booknotes alone.

People would rather get electric shocks than simply be alone with their thoughts - study at University of Virginia

By decluttering my thoughts (crating an “in-box zero” for my brain, if you will), I was able to look at my day-to-day business much more clearly because the distractions were now gone. I hadn’t been able to cleary express my reasons for the way I had been working until that moment.

Start small, define growth, and keep learning

Tom has been able to create a stable, long-term business that’s small enough to. handle any economic climate, resilient enough to not have to lean too heavily on a single project or client, and autonomous enough to let him build a life around his work (not the other way around).

As much as I enjoy growing my wealth, I also realise that there’s a point of diminishing returns if I don’t also take care of myself and my well-being.

  • The first trait that resilient people have is an acceptance of reality. They don’t need for things to be a certain way and don’t engage in wishful thinking.

  • The second purpose of resilient people is a sense of purpose - being motivated by a sense of meaning rather than by just money. Although purpose and money are not mutually exclusive, you’re more likely to be resilient when you know that even in awful or stressful situations, you’re working toward a greater and larger good.

  • The last trait of resilient people in a company of one is the ability to adapt when things change - because they invariably do.

What’s difficult to automate is exactly what makes a company of one great: the ability to creatively solve problems in new and unique ways without throwing “more” at the problem.

Autonomy and control

To achieve autonomy as a company of one, you have to be a master at your core skill set.

Google gives its engineers “20 percent time”: they can work on whatever project they want for w0 percent of their time. More than half of the products and projects Google releases were created during this 20 percent time.

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Her work (Kaitlin Maud digital strategist), because she put in the time to become great at it, now revolves around her life.

Sol (Sol Orwell) would rather have ownership of his work and the freedom to not have to fill every minute of every day with his job. Success to him means making a great living, but not at the expense of being able to take long mid-day breaks to walk his dog or attend hourlong dance classes on a Wednesday afternoon.

Achieving control over a company of one requires more than just using the core skill you are hired for. It also requires proficiency at sales, marketing, project management, and client retention.

Speed

Companies of one work best under constraints - because that’s where creativity and ingenuity thrive. Companies like Basecamp have a four-day workweek during the summer because it helps them prioritise what’s important to work on and what they can let go of.

Companies of one question their systems, processes, and structure to become more efficient and to achieve more with the same number of employees and fewer hours of work.

Speed is not merely about frantically working faster. It’s about figuring out the best way to accomplish a task with new and efficient methods. This is the concept at work in the ROWE method (results only work environment): employees no longer have to work a set amount of time, but are rewarded when they finish their tasks faster. By being smarter at getting more work done faster when you work for yourself, you can create a more flexible schedule that fits work into your life in better ways.

Another aspect of speed in a company of one is the ability to pivot quickly when a customer base or market changes.

Facing the limitations of both time and money running out, Stewart’s team (Stewart Butterfield) managed to hyperfocus on a single solution and bring it to market.

Pinboard had kept things simple, played the long game, and ended up winning.

Growth for a company of one can mean simplifying rules and processes, which frees up time to take on either more work or more clients, because tasks can be finished faster. With this goal in mind, companies of one routinely question everything they do. Is this process efficient enough? What steps can be removed and the end result will be the same of better? Is this rule helping or hindering our business?

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Simplicity has to be a mandate

Sean D’Souza feels that his job as a business owner is not to endlessly increase profits, or even to defeat the competition, but instead to create better and better products and services that his customers benefit from in their lives and work.

His work routine revolves mostly around answering questions for his customers in his private message board on his website.

Sean is easily able to meet his $500,000 per year profit goal, not through marketing and promotion, but by paying close attention to his existing customer base. His audience has grown slowly and sustainably because those listeners share his work with their own audiences and contacts - his current customers gladly become his (unpaid) sales force.

Too often businesses forget about their current audience - the people who are already listening, buying, and engaging. These should be the most important people to your business - far more than anyone you wish you were reaching. Whether your audience is ten people, a hundred people, or even a thousand people, if you’re not doing right by them, right now, nothing you do regarding growth or marketing will make a lick of difference. Make sure you’re listening to, communicating with, and helping the people who are already paying attention to you.

Once they won (sports players) they’d let their own ego get in the way of all the talks that had helped them win in the first place - like practice and focus - and instead become lured into more endorsements, more accolades, and more media attention. As a result, they ultimately lost to internal forces, not to competitors.

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OVERHEAD = DEATH

Envy: the ulcer of the soul and of business growth

Envy is based on false comparison

Meditate: to delight in the good fortunes and accomplishments of others.

Determining the right mind-set

To succeed as a company of one, you have to have a real underlying purpose. You why matters as an u seen but ever-present element that drives your business. Your purpose is ore than just a pretty-sounding mission statement on your website; it’s how your business acts and represents itself. And it’s what your business sometimes places above even profit.

As more and more consumers are making purchases related to shared value (even over price) companies are re pounding by aligning their true purpose with how they act at every step along the supply chain.

In a thriving economy people gladly buy products that align with their values, and in a downturn they spend less and do business with companies they respect and trust. So either way, having a purpose is a win.

If your business is fully alligned with your purpose, you’ll be more motivated to keep at it,e Ben during the tough moments.

They were skilled at what they did before they took a leap.

They tested their leap with a smaller jump before they clicked to the top of the highiest platform.

Just as autonomy is achieved through mastery of skills and ownership of an ability to solve problems, so too is passion. Passion doesn’t precede mastery, but follows it.

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With a key trait of a company of one being the speed at which things can happen and be accomplished, productivity is required.

A Microsoft research study found that attempting to focus on more than one priority at a time reduces productivity by as much as 40 percent, which is the cognitive equivalent of pulling an all-nighter. Research done by Hewlett-PAckard found that the IQs of employees who were interrupted by email, calls or messaging were reduced by more than 10 points - which is twice the impact of smoking marijuana.

*Companies of one need to become adept at “single-tasking” - doing one thing for an extended period of time without distraction. This capacity helps you focus on the right tasks, do them after, and do them with less stress.

Fewer distractions means speedier work.

Jason Fried of Baseamp believes that the norm sho9uld be every employee having a full eight hours per day of uninterrupted work to themselves.

As a company of one, it’s easy to mentall eat yourself up for not accomplishing enough during a day. But how often do you take into account how rare it is, between doing your core work and managing you business, to have a full day, every day, to sit and work without interruptions? You may be failing to realise how much of your schedule is taken up with maintenance work or communication.

**If we reframe the question of how we spend our time, however, we can start to figure out how long each of our tasks actually takes. Perhaps we need only four hours a day to get our work done.

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Personality matters

As a company of one, your brand should very much represent some distinct aspect of yourself, while taking into account whom you’re trying to re ach.

Brand personality needs to foster a two-sided relationship - one focused on not just how your business can benefit or gain something from others, but on how others can benefit from having a relationship with your business.

The idea is to showcase those aspects of who you are naturally are as they relate to building fascination with your intended audience.

attention is the most important currency anyone can give a business, and that attention is worth more than revenue or possessions.

Sally Hogshed, best selling business author, contents that the key is to unlearn being boring. That is, you need to learn how to elicit a strong emotional response to your business, and the personality of your brand, because while it’s easy to forget or lose interest in information, it’s much harder to forget strong emotion

Companies of one have to be the pistachio ice cream of their market. For better or worse, peopl either absolutely love pistachio or can’t stand its flavour and weird green colour For its loyal fans, pistachio ice cream stand out, demands attention, and charges a premium.

The best marketing is never just about sellling a product or service, but about taking a stand - showing an audience why they should believe in what you’re marketing enough to want it ay any cost, simply because they agree with what you’re doing.

There’s power in polarisation. If we try to appeal to everyone, we won’t appeal to anyone in particular.

Memorable stories are often driven by a protagonist fighting against an antagonist, giving the audience someone to root for and to root against. After all, there’s not Star Wards without Darth Vader. The same can occur in business: since our brains are wired for relating to and remembering good stories and epic struggles, a company that isn’t telling a compelling story can devolve into boring and forgettable vanilla ice cream

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These days consumers buy and make choices often based on alignment with their own values.

The one customer

UT’s a great feeling when an employee or business owner goes out of their way to be helpful. There’s something quite memorable about a personal touch, or a business taking ownership of a problem and going out of its way to fix ut.

There’s overwhelming,ing evidence that treating customers well. As if they’re your one and only customer, drives value to your bottom line.

*Customer service is a huge differentiating factor in why people choose their places where they want to sp end their money. If you serve your customers well, they in turn become brand evangelists for your company: basically an unpaid ales force that reduces your need to hire more staff.

A study from McKinsey showed that 70 percent of buying experiences are based more on how customers feel that are treated and less on the tangibles of a product.

If you treat customers like they’re your one and only customer, they’ll reciprocate that love for your brand by not only continuing to do business with you, but telling their own networks to do so as well.

The best way to get customers talking about your business to people they know is to make sure they’re happy with what you’re doing for them and how you’re providing help if they need it.

Understanding customers requires not just providing exceptional handling of their support request but then gaining a bigger picture idea abut the types of questions and equestrian that are coming in.

In short, customer happiness is the new marketing. If your customers feel that you are taking care of them, then they’ll tell others.

To be most helpful to your customers, you sometimes have to look beyond the problems they’re presenting to you. The underlying reason customers are asking for help is often not obvious:sometime they’re looking for specific answers, but so,times they’re asking for a certain feature without even being aware that’s what they’re doing.

You have to own your mistakes - even those cause by someone else - by taking personal responsibility for them before someone else blames you for them.

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Your word is a contract

Nicolas exley, a professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago Business School, says that people tend to evaluate each other based on two general dimensions: how interpersonally warm we appear to be, and how competent we seem to be. His work suggest that the way to be positively assessed by others is by making promises and then keeping them.

The best approach is to treat every agreement with a customer as a legally biding contract because, on a societal level, that’s what it is.

Teach everything you know

Brian Clark of Copyblogger

Brian learned that his competitive edge was in his ability to outshare his competition, and that’s what he did with Copyblogger - he shared everything he know about content marketing with a quickly growing audience. Brian believes that building an audience by sharing content with a growing mailing list is a solid business model, in that you can find out exactly what your growing audience wants from you and then build it for them. He learned from Seth Godin that selling to people who truly want to hear from you, because you’ve been sharing with them, is far more effective than interrupting strangers online who don’t know you.

Each product was based on direct intel from interacting with and listening to the audience consuming the content that Brian was sharing. This “education through content” built the necessary trust to turn into sales.

To stand out and build an audience as a company of one, you have to out-teach and outshare the competition, not outscale them. This approach has several positive outcomes.

  1. Audience sees you as a teacher and perceives you to be the expert on the subject matter. They’ll begin to trust your insights, and you’ll become the first person they turn to.

  2. The chance to show your audience the benefits of what you’re selling. Give them the information they need, in a genuine, compelling, and educational way, and letting them come to their own decision about whether such a purchase is right for them.

  3. By educating new customers on how best to sue your product or service and showing them how to get the most out of it or how to be the most successful with it, you’ll also ensure that they’ll become long-term customers and tell others about their positive experience.

  4. Except for certain proprietary information - like your unexecuted ideas, business strategies, or patentable technologies - most ideas or processes don’t need to be kept under lock and key. Being transparent in almost all areas, while running your company aboveboard, can only help build trust with your customers.

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Ideas along are worthless

*Ideas aren’t a valid currency. Execution is the only valid currency in business.

*An idea alone is worthless because it stands outside of execution.

The purpose of a copyright is not to protect the idea but to protect the execution - the months of research and writing.

*Sharing your ideas far and wide helps build not just a following for what you’re selling but a movement around that core values and thinking that your product stands for.

*At the core of many massive, profitable, global companies is an old idea executed exceptionally well. Facebook is a digital meeting place, Uber takes people from A to B. None of these are billion-dollar ideas; rather they’re billion-dollar executions of ideas.

That’s why companies of one shouldn’t worry about sharing their ideas, as long as they’re taking care of execution and their ideas are not proprietary.

*By focusing a lot of time and energy on protecting ideas instead of sharing them, you run the risk of not letting them get better through critical feedback from others. Even sharing your business idea with potential customers has its benefits, as thy weigh in early, before you’ve invested a lot of time or resources, and help you shape and position the idea into an even better execution.

The downside of sharing is...nothing

Jessica Abel - comic book artist, writer and teacher

She benefits as much as her students as she cou;don’t offer students a great class without teaching it he first time and then learning from heir feedback

Customer education - providing an audience with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to become an informed buyer - is one of the most important parts of a sales cycle. Too often we’re so close to what we’re selling that we assume others are also experts on it, or know what we know, but most of the time that’s not the case. Customers don’t always know what they don’t know, or don’t know enough about something to realise how useful or beneficial that information could be to them or their own business.

Sharing vital information on a product or a service provides a new customer with key insights into how to use it and get the most out of it; you may even show people ways to use what you sell that they hadn’t thought of. The lack of this kind of sharing can lead to customer frustration or distrust.

As a company of one, what you teach people about your product c an and will set you apart. So, for example, if you sell mailing list software, be sure to teach your clients about the importance of email marketing. If you sell luggage, teach travel hacks.

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Teaching builds authority

By building authority, you can stand out in any industry because both your peers and customers turn to you for expertise, regardless of the size of your company. Word of mouth happens, Google links to you favorably, you’re invited to speaking gigs and so on - all because your expertise is valued.

If you think of leaders in your industry, you can see that those people have an image of authority - like Debbie Millman in the field of Graphic Design.

We look to these people for answers, we learn from them, and if we’re part of the audience they’re teaching, we probably buy from them as well.

It’s not enough to just tell people you’re an authority - you’ve got to demonstrate your actual expertise by sharing what you know and teaching others. You build authority not by propping yourself up, but by teaching your audience and customers - so that they truly learn, understand, and succeed. When you make that happen consistently, you’re building and establishing the right kind of authority.

Teaching your expertise positions you as an authority simply by virtue of the fact that you’re showing someone else how to do something. People can be guarded if they think they’re being sold to. But more often than not, customers will engage and open up if they feel like they’re learning something useful. The more you teach, the more your audience will see you as an expert. Then, when it comes time to buy something, they’ll find that they want to pay for more of that expertise.

A study done in 2009 by neuroscientist Greg Berns at Emory University found that the decision-making centers of our brain slow down or shit off when we are receiving wanted advice from experts. Customers consistently rate experts as the most trusted spokespeople, far above typical CEOs or celebrities.

Basecamp has no internal goals or quota around conversions or customer growth - its only mandate is to outshare and out-teach everyone else by writing books, speaking at conferences etc.

The reason these kinds of experts stand out, regardless of which industry they’re in, is because they teach what they know. They share and give away their ideas freely. They don’t worry about whether someone will steak their innovation for a produce, service, or book - they just work at executing and sharing ideas better and faster than anyone else, in their own unique style and with their own unique personality. And this approach leads to business success.

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Teaching builds trust and expertise like nothing else.

When someone’s receptive to what you’re teaching, they inherently trust the information you’re sharing. If you can consistently give your audience useful, relevant and timely knowledge (through your mailing list, speaking events, website etc) they’ll begin to lean on you for more information.

Teaching doesn’t require its of time, resources or even money - it can be as simple as sharing what you know with the people who are listening.

Properly utilising trust and scale

Glen Urban has found that there are three aspects of trust:

  • Confidence - I believe what you say

  • Competence - I believe you have the skills. To do what you say

  • Benevolence - I believe you are acting on my behalf

Trust by proxy - if your good friend tells you that a product is worth buying, you’ll listen because you trust your friend; some of that trust is then. passed on to the product they’re recommending.

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According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from family or friends over any other form of advertising.

A study at Texas Tech found that while 83 percent of customers are willing to provide referrals, only 20 percent do so.

I doubled the amount of sharing for one of my products by automatically sending an email a week after purchase asking customers, if pleased with hat they purchased, to share their satisfaction with others - using links with rewritten content provided.

If you ask for a testimonial as soon as a project is finished, the client has rarely had enough time to collect any results-based data. By following up a few weeks or months later, you can garner far better stories from clients to use in your marketing efforts.

By creating a schedule for following up with contented clients, you can turn referrals into a real strategy instead of simply refreshing your inbox and hoping each day that one will come in.

**Marketing is simply building a sense of trust and empathy with a specific group of people by consistently communicating with them.

For someone to want to buy your product, they have to feel that you understand their needs and have a solution for them.

Trust is more easily established within a smaller customer base because it’s easier to stand out as an expert or to gather referrals that hold weight from other industry experts in that niche.

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Out-share and out-teach everyone else.

The more specific you are with who your products or services are for, the more you can build trust with that particular audience. The paradox of focusing on a niche is that the more specific you are, the easier it is to sell to that group and the more likely it is that you can charge a premium for being that focused. With that kind of focus in. mind, you can get to know the specifics of your nice better, learn how to serve customers more effectively, and build a reputation for yourself in that smaller niche

Trust has to be totally baked into every aspect of not only what you sell, but how you sell and support it.

Launching and iterating in tiny steps

Aim to be profitable as quickly as possible

Getting your product or service released as soon as possible, even if it’s small, is both financially wise and educational, since a quick release can also serve as a perfect learning experience. The first version of a product doesn’t need to be huge - it simply needs to solve on problem well and leave your customers feeling better than before they purchased it.

Finding a simple solution to a big or complicated problem is your strongest asset as a company of one.

Unsplash (royalty-free stock photographs) steamed by buying a cheap theme and uploading ten high-resolution images taken by a local photographer. Within three hours, the first low-fi version was launched. They did the work manually until a callable system was absolutely required.

Offer service/course as a one-on-one service first. You make money straightway, can learn from it, and can scale up later.

Launch quickly - and launch often

The cofounder Of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, has said that if you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, then you’ve launched too late.

Jim Collins, best-selling author of Good to Great, studies 1,435 companies over a forty-year span. He found that every great company that’s very profitable and successful started out as simply good enough to launch.

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The hidden value of relationships

If your business is constantly selling and constantly pushing its wares, people instinctively start to avoid your business or stop responding to your emails. But if you use your platform to teac, empower, and make customer’s lives or businesses better, you are seen a a trusted adviser, not as a shady or slick salesperson. This is why Chris (Brogan) promotes friends and people he finds who are doing interesting works without being asked to. He creates relationships by constantly thinking: Who do I know who could benefit from connecting with this person?

If you have a mailing list of 1,000 people and most of them reply to your newsletters, you’ll be able to read and personally reply to each reader.

Chris Brown believes that real connections are built when companies share a simple message, repeatedly, through their actions. Long before they ask for a sale, these companies articulate their message by sharing who they serve, and why.

Think of social capital as like a bank balance. If you’re always asking people to buy your products or doing nothing but promoting your business and its products on social media, your balance will hit zero or you may even be quickly overdrawn.

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Honestly consider two questions.

  1. In the beginning, can you reduce any of your expenses so that you can do less work to be profitable?

  2. How likely is it that you’ll get the nu,bear of customers you need each month to be profitable?

Another factor related to money is how you spend your time. Every day you spend developing a product is a day you aren’t really making any money from it.

How can you get an initial version of your product to market quickly to start building revenue?

About 90% of all businesses worldwide that are more than 100 years old are Japanese. They have fewer than 300 employers.

Becoming too small to fail.

With bigger scale come bigger dangers, bigger risks, and much work to become and remain profitable. Instead you can focus on building something that, in effect, is too small to fail. You can adapt a company of one to ride out recessions, adjust to changing customer motivations, and ignore competition by being smaller, more focused, and in need of much less to turn a profit

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About Rob

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Hi! I’ve been drawing cartoons for more years than I can think of.

You might be wondering why I choose octopuses th help illustrate this article.

I recently watch a documentary about a Canadian marine biologist who kept an octopus in a tank in his home so that he could study it more closely. It was absolutely fascinating, and one of the things I learnt about was that octopus are solitary creatures. Seeing as the title of the book was ‘A Company of One’, the idea of using the octopus as the main character sprang to mind.

I hopethese Illustrated Booknotes have been useful for you. I can create Illustrated Booknotes, or other personalized cartoons for you do. Drop me a mail and we’ll talk.

Illustrated Booknotes - Grit by Angela Duckworth

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“Part I - What grit it and why it matters

 

Showing up

They were constantly driven to improve…the highly accomplished were paragons of perseverance. Their passion was enduring.

 

What matters is grit

 

No other commonly measured personality trait - including extroversion, emotional stability, and conscientiousness - was as effective as Grit in predicting job retention.

 

Grit predicts success

 

Grit is separate from talent

 

Distracted by talent

 

I'd been distracted by talent.

 

If they mustered sufficient effort over time they'd get to where they needed; They were all talented enough.

 

 

one more…one more…one more…

 

 

Figure out how to sustain effort just a little longer

 

 

"I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did not differ much intellect, only in zeal and hard work" - Darwin

 

Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources. - William James”

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“William James

Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources. - William James”

“the human individual lives usually far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum."

 "The plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use."

By shining our spotlight on talent, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows. We inadvertently send the message that these other factors - including Grit - don't matter as much as they really do.”

“Focus on talent distracts us from something that is at least as important, and that is effort.

 Effort counts twice”

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“As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.

If we overemphasize talent, we underemphasize everything else.

 The most human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.

 "Superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and then fitted together in a synthesized whole. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any one of those actions; only the fact that they are done consistently and correctly, and all together, produce excellence." [check author of quote]

The minimal talent needed to succeed in swimming is lower than we think.

 "The main thing is greatness is doable. Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable."

A high level of performance is, in fact, an accretion of mundane acts.”

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“No one can see in the work of the artist how it has become" - Nietzsche

 

"Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius," Nietzsche said. "For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking...To call someone divine means: 'here there is no need to compete.'"

 

In other words, mythologizing natural talent lets us all off the hook. It lets us relax into the status quo.

 

"Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became 'geniuses'....They all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole." - Nietzsche”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

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“Talent x effort = skill

 

Skill x effort = achievement

 

Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort.

 

Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them.

 

When you consider individuals in identical circumstances, what each achieves depends on just two things, talent and effort. Talent - how fast we improve in skill - absolutely matters. But effort factors into the calculations twice, not once. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive.”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

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“The first 10,000 pots are difficult and then it gets a little easier."

 

 

 

 

"I rewrote everything...I began to take my lack of talent seriously." - John Irving.

 

"To do anything really well, you have to overextend yourself...In my case, I learned that I just had to pay twice as much attention. I came to appreciate that in doing something over and over again, something that was never natural becomes almost second nature. You learn that you have the capacity for that, and that it doesn't come overnight." - Irving

 

"I have confidence in my stamina to go over something again and again no matter how difficult it is." - Irving”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

Will Smith

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“I've never really viewed myself as particularly talented....Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic." - Will Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accomplishment is very much about going the distance

 

"The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I'm not afraid to die on the treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me. You might be all of those things. You got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there' s two things:”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

“You're getting off first, or I'm going to die. It's really that simple." - Will Smith

 

Harvard researchers knew that running hard was not just a function of aerobic capacity and muscle strength, but also the extent to which "a subject is willing to push himself or has a tendency to quit before the punishment becomes too severe.”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

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“When it comes to how we fare in the Marathon of life, efforts counts tremendously.”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

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“Eighty percent of success in life is showing up." - Woody Allen

 

 

Staying on the treadmill is one thing, and I do think it's related to staying true to our commitments even when we're not comfortable. But getting back on the treadmill the next day eager to try again, is in my view even more reflective of grit. Because when you don't come back the next day - when you permanently turn your back on a commitment - your effort plummets to zero. As a consequence, your skills stop improving, and at the same time, you stop producing anything with whatever skills you have.

 

 

 

 

[image for below?]

 

Any coach or athlete will tell you, consistency of effort over the long run is everything.”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

“Many of us, it seems, quit what we start far too early and far too often. Even more than the effort a gritty person puts in on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next, ready to get on that treadmill and keep going.

 

"The separation of talent and skill is one of the most misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft." - Will Smith

 

Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. With effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn't. With effort, talent becomes skill, and at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.

 

 

How gritty are you?

There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really out really hard problems, it all takes time - longer than most people imagine. And you've got to apply those skills and produce goods and services that are valuable to people. Rome wasn't built in a day.

 

[image: shortcuts?]

 

Grit is about[…]”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

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“Do you have a life philosophy?" - Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks coach

 

He's asking what you're trying to get out of life.

 

Do things better than they've ever been done before - Pete Carroll’s philosophy

 

"You've got to have a philosophy." ...a philosophy that would drive all my actions

 

Although a team has to do a million things well, figuring out the overarching vision is of utmost importance. - Coach John Wooden

 

"A clear, well-defined philosophy gives you the guidelines and boundaries that keep you on track."

 

The higher the goal, the more it's an end in itself, and the less it's merely a means to an end.

 

Seaver aimed to pitch "the best I possibly can day after day, year after year." Here is how that intention gave meaning and structure to all his lower-order goals.

 

"Pitching is what makes me happy. I've devoted my life to it...I've made up my mind what I want to do. I'm happy when I pitch well so I only do things that help me be happy."

 

What I mean by passion is not just that you have something you care about. What I mean is that you care about the same[…]”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

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“Positive fantasizing - indulging in visions of a positive future without figuring out how to get there, chiefly by considering what obstacles stand in the way, has short-term payoffs, but long-term costs. In the short-term, you feel pretty good about your aspiration to be a doctor. In the long-term, you live with the disappointment of not having achieved your goal.”

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“Warren Buffets simple three-step process for prioritizing

 

Write down list of 25 career goals.

 

2. Circle the 5 highest priority goals.

 

3. Avoid the other 20 goals at all cost.

 

Any successful person to decides what to do in part by deciding what not to do.”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

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“When you have to divide your actions among a number of very different high-level career goals, you extremely conflicted. You need one internal compass.

 

Improvise, adapt, overcome." Motto of the Green Berets.

 

He didn't just want to be funny for a living, he wanted to be among the best cartoonists in the world. - Bob Mankoff

 

The one thing all the cartoons had in common was they made the reader think.

 

What mattered was that style was, in some very deep and idiosyncratic way, an expression of the individual cartoonist.

 

"I thought, 'I can do this, I can do this. You're I had complete confidence." He knew he could draw cartoons that would make people think, and he knew he could develop his own style: "I worked through various styles. Eventually I did my dot style."

 

Between 1974 and 1977 Bob was rejected by the New Yorker about two thousand times.

 

In his role of editor and mentor, Bob advises aspiring cartoonists to submit their drawings in batches of ten, "because in cartooning, as in life, nine out of ten things never work out.”

“Giving up on lower-level goals is not only forgivable, it's sometimes absolutely necessary.

 

The higher-level the goal, the more sense it makes to be stubborn.

 

My compass once I found all the parts and put it together, keeps pointing me in the same direction, week after month after year.

 

The relationship between intelligence and eminence was exceedingly slight.

 

Persistence of motive

 

" high but not the highest intelligence, combined with the greatest degree of persistence, will achieve greater eminence than the highest degree of intelligence with somewhat less persistence.

 

Grit grows

 

Almost all human traits are polygenic, meaning that traits are influenced by more than one gene.

 

As a species we're getting better and better at abstract reasoning.

 

One thing that makes you better at basketball is playing with kids who are just a little more skilled.

 

Either small environmental differences, or genetic ones, can trigger a virtuous circle. Either way, the effects are multiplied socially, through culture, because each of us enriches the environment of all of us.

 

[image: virtuous circle]

 

Grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment, and learn to tell the difference between low[…]”

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“Lectures don't have half the effect of consequences.

 

A good place to start to understand is where you are today. If you're not as gritty as you want to be, ask yourself why.

 

The higher level of the goal in question, the more stubborn they are in seeing it through. Most important, paragons of grit don't swap compasses: when it comes to the one, singularly important aim that guides almost everything else they do.

 

 

 

 

The psychological assets that mature paragons of grit have in common.

 

1. First comes interest

 

2. Next comes the capacity to practice

 

3. Third is purpose

 

4. Hope

 

 

 

The psychological assets that mature paragons of grit have in common.

 

First comes interest. Passion comes with intrinsically enjoying what you do.

 

2. Next comes the capacity to practice. One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. So, after you've discovered and developed interest in a particular area, you must devote yourself to the sort of focused, full-hearted challenge exceeding skill practice that leads to mastery. You must zero in on your weaknesses, and you must do so over and over again, for hours a day[…]”

“Whatever it is you want to do, you'll find in life that if you're not passionate about what it is you're working on, you won't be able to stick with it. - Jeff Bezos

 

I love what I do

 

I'm so lucky, I get up every morning looking forward to work. I can't wait to get into the studio, I can't wait to get onto the next project.

 

Research shows that people are enormously more satisfied with their jobs when they do something that fits their personal interests.

 

Very few people end up loving what they do for a living.

 

Most grit paragons I’ve interviewed told me they spent years exploring different interests, and the one that eventually came to occupy all of their waking (and some sleeping) thoughts wasn't recognizably their life's destiny on first acquaintance.

 

“There are a lot of things where the subtleties and exhilarations come with sticking at it for a while, getting elbow-deep into something. A lot of things seem uninteresting and superficial until you start doing them and, after a while, you realize that there are so many facets you didn't know at the start, and you can never fully solve the problem[…]”

“Deliberate practice

 

Even the most complex and creative of human abilities can be broken down into its component skills, each of which can be practiced, practiced, practiced.”

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“People often assume that you have to have great hands to become a surgeon, but it's not true.” What’s more important is practicing this one difficult thing day and night for years on end.” Atul Gawande, surgeon

 

“…And I think magic, whether I’m holding my breath or shuffling a deck of cards, is pretty simple. It's practice, it's training, and it’s experimenting, while pushing through the pain to be the best that I can be. And that's what magic is to me.” - David Blaine

 

[image: David Blaine?]

 

Deliberate practice is experienced as supremely effortful

 

Grittier adults reported experiencing more flow.

 

The primary motivation for doing deliberate practice is to improve your skill

 

Deliberate practice is for preparation, and flow is for performance

 

Work fiercely hard at every single practice

 

Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show you the highlight of what they've become.”

“Deliberate practice can be extremely positive - not just in the long term but in the moment.

 

The alternative to deliberate practice - mindlessly going through the emotions without improvement - can be it's own form of suffering.

 

There's solid scientific evidence that the subjective experience of effort - what it feels like to work hard - can and does change, she. For example, effort is rewarded in some way

 

How can you get the most out of deliberate practice and - because you’ve earned it - experience more flow?

 

First, know the science.

 

Each of the basic requirements of deliberate practice is unremarkable:

 

-a clearly defined stretch goal

-Full concentration and effort

-Immediate and informative feedback

-Repetition with reflection and refinement

 

Second, make it a habit

 

Figure out when you're most comfortable doing deliberate practice. Once you've made your selection, do deliberate practice then and there everyday. Why? Because routines are a godsend when doing something hard

 

Third, change the way you experience it.

 

 

‘if you try, you can learn to embrace challenge, rather than fear it. You can do all things you're supposed to do during deliberate practice - a clear goal, feedback, all of it - and still feel great while you're doing it….it’s[…]”

“if you try, you can learn to embrace challenge, rather than fear it. You can do all things you're supposed to do during deliberate practice - a clear goal, feedback, all of it - and still feel great while you're doing it….it’s all about in-the-moment self-awareness without judgement….it’s about relieving yourself of the judgment that gets in the way of enjoying the challenge’

 

Purpose

 

Interest is one source of passion. Purpose - the intention to contribute to the well-being of others - is another. The mature passions of gritty people depend on both.

 

The common sequence is to start out with a relatively self-orientated interest, then learn self-disciplined practice, and finally, integrate that work with an other-centered purpose.

 

When I talk to grit paragons, and they tell me what they're pursuing has purpose, they mean something much deeper than mere intention. They're not just goal-oriented; the nature of their goals is special.

 

The long days and evenings of toil, the setbacks and disappointments and struggle, the sacrifice- all this is worth it because, ultimately, their efforts pay dividends to other people. At its core, the idea of purpose is the idea that what

“The long days and evenings of toil, the setbacks and disappointments and struggle, the sacrifice- all this is worth it because, ultimately, their efforts pay dividends to other people. At its core, the idea of purpose is the idea that what we do matters to people other than ourselves.

 

I wake up every morning with a sense of purpose.

 

Grittier people are dramatically more motivated than others to seek a meaningful, other-centered life.

 

If you take a moment to reflect on the times in your life when you've really been at your best - when you've risen to the challenges before you, finding strength to do what might have seemed impossible - you’ll realize that the goals you achieved were connected in some way, shape, or form to the benefit of other people.

 

In one study, adults who felt their work was a calling missed at least a third fewer days of work than those with a job or career.”

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“All of us are looking for daily meaning as well as daily bread…for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying - Terkel

 

Most of us are looking for a calling, not a job.

 

Whatever you do - whether you're a janitor or the CEO - you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values.

 

It took him years to interstate his personal interest in mindfulness with the other-centered purpose of helping people lead healthier, happier lives.

 

Only when interest and purpose melded did he feel like he was doing what he'd been out on the planet to do.

 

Leaders and employees who keep both personal and pro social interests in mind do better in the long run than those who are 100 percent selfishly motivated.

 

Only they enjoyed the work did the desire to help others result in more effort

 

‘We always persevered. We didn't give in to obstacles. There was no way we were going to let ourselves fail’

“You have to believe that your efforts will not be in vain’

 

‘There's no reserve in me - whatever I have. I'm willing to give t- you or anyone else’

 

How to cultivate a sense of purpose - three recommendations

 

Reflecting on how the work you're already doing can make a positive contribution to society

 

2. Think about how in small but meaningful ways, you can change your current work to enhance its connection to your core values

 

3. Finding inspiration in a purposeful role model

 

Hope

 

Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling that tomorrow

 

The flip side of learned helplessness is learned optimism

 

I won’t quit in response to adversity

 

Optimists habitually search for temporary and specific causes of their suffering, whereas pessimists assume permanent and pervasive causes are to blame.”

“If you're a pessimist you might say I screw everything up. Or: I’m a loser. These explanations are all permanent; there's not much you can do to change them. They're also pervasive; they're likely to influence lots of life situations, not just your job performance. Permanent and pervasive explanations for adversity turn minor complications into major catastrophes. They make it seem logical to give up. If, on the other hand, you’re an optimist, you might say, I mismanaged my time. Or: I didn’t work efficiently because of distractions. These explanations are all temporary and specific; their “fixability” motivates you to start cleaning them away as problems.

 

“Well, I don’t really think in terms of disappointment. I tend to think that everything that happens is something I can learn from. I tend to think, ‘Well okay, that didn't go so well, but I guess I will just carry on.’”

 

 

Teachers who have an optimistic way of interpreting adversity have more grit than their more pessimistic counterparts, and grit, in turn, predicts better teaching. For instance, an optimistic teacher might keep looking for ways to help an uncooperative student, whereas a pessimist might assume there was nothing more to be done.

“When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can't be found, you guarantee they won't.

 

“Whether you think you can, or think you can't - you’re right.” - Henry Ford

 

[image: Henry Ford?]

 

They’d learned to interpret failure as a cue to try harder rather than as confirmation that they lacked the ability to succeed.”

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“People of all ages carry around in their minds private theories about how the world works.

[image: people with different theories]

 

With a fixed mindset, you're likely to interpret these setbacks as evidence that, after all, you don't have “the right stuff” - you're not good enough. With a growth mindset, you believe you an learn to do better.

 

Consider, for example, what people said to you when, as a child, you did something really well. Were you praised for your talent? Or were you praised for your effort? Either way, chances are you use the same language today when evaluating victories and defeats.”

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them” - James Baldwin

 

It's easy to make the mistake of changing what we say without changing our body language, facial expressions, and behavior.

 

Watch for mismatches between our words and actions. When we slip up - and we will - we can simply acknowledge that it's hard to move away fro a fixed, pessimistic view of the world.

 

“I used to use the word complacency to describe the ones who didn't work out, but the more I reflect on it, the more I realize that's not quite it. It's really a belief that ‘I can't learn anymore. I am what I am. This is how I do things.’” Bill McNabb

 

“ I really do think people develop theories about themselves and the world, and it determines what they do.” McNabb

 

When you have setbacks and failures, you can't overreact to them. You need to step back, analyze them, and learn from them. But you also need to stay optimistic.

 

“If you have an appraisal, a thought, a belief - whatever you want to call it - that says, ‘wait a minute, I can do something about this! or ‘This really isn't so bad!’ or whatever, then these inhibitory structures in the cortex are activated. They send a message: ‘Cool it down there! Don't get so activated. There's something we can do.’”

 

A fixed mindset about ability leads to pessimistic explanations of adversity, and that, in turn, leads to both giving up on challenges and avoiding them in the first place. In contrast, a growth mindset leads to optimistic ways of explaining adversity, and that, in turn, leads to perseverance and seeking out new challenges that will ultimately make you even stronger.

 

“Growth mindset -> optimistic self-talk -> perseverance over adversity”

Excerpt From

Grit - Angela Duckworth 3 ePub

Original Text By Author, Illustrations By Rob

This material may be protected by copyright.

“Growth mindset -> optimistic self-talk -> perseverance over adversity”

“My recommendation for teaching yourself hope is to take each step in the sequence above and ask, What can I do to boost this one?

 

Like a muscle that eats stronger with use, the brain changes itself when you struggle to master a new challenge. In fact, there's never a time in life when the brain is completely fixed.

 

My next suggestion is to practice optimistic self-talk.

 

You can modify your self-talk, and you can learn to not let it interfere with you moving towards your goals. With practice and guidance, you can change the way you think, feel, and most important, act when the going gets rough.

 

Part III - Growiinng grit from the outside in

 

Parenting for grit

 

“You cannot quit. You have the ability, so you need to go back and work this out.”

 

If you want to bring forth grit in your child, first ask how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals

 

“He created an environment in which it was not only possible but easy to move through ten years of career development every year.”

 

“…not to tangle up my ego in the code I write”

 

“The playing fields of grit

 

“…what we have tended to find is that all that energy, drive, and commitment - all that grit - that was developed through athletics can almost always be transferred to something else.”

 

“…most people are born with tremendous potential. The real question is whether they're encouraged to employ their good old-fashioned hard work”

“and their grit, if you will, to it's maximum. In the end, those are the people who seem to be the most successful.”

 

Without directly experiencing the connection between effort and reward, animals, whether they're rats or people, default to laziness. Calorie-burning effort is, after all, something evolution has shaped us to avoid whenever possible.

 

A hard thing is something that requires daily deliberate practice.

 

You can quit, but you can't quit until the season is over.

 

A culture of grit

 

If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you're a leader, and want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture.

 

“…when you go to a place where basically everybody you know is getting up at four in the morning to go to practice, that's just what you do. It's now big deal. It becomes a habit.”

 

“…there's a hard way to get grit and an easy way. The hard way is to do it by yourself. The easy way is to use conformity - the basic human drive to fit in - because if you're around a lot of people who are gritty, you're going to act grittier.”

“Over time and under the right circumstances, the norms and values of the group to which we belong become our own. We internalize them. We carry them with us. The way we do things around here and why eventually becomes The way I do things and why.

 

And that's exactly why culture and identity are so critical to understanding how gritty people live their lives. The logic of anticipated costs and benefits doesn't explain their choices very well. The logic of identity does.

 

 

 

 

“I simply wasn't going to fail because I didn't care or didn't try. That's not who I am.”

 

 

 

“Failures are going to happen, and how you deal with them may be the most important thing in whether you succeed. You need fierce resolve. You need to take responsibility. You call it grit. I call it fortitude.”

About Rob

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Hi, I’m Rob and I love drawing cartoons. I’ve been putting together these Illustrated Booknotes for a while now, and I’d be happy to do some illustrations for you too.

Lettering for cartoon strips

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Suki was working on her cartoon strip. She really enjoyed the drawing part, however, she sometimes found the lettering a bit tricky.

It often looked like a spider had dipped it’s toes in ink and crawled across the page. She was annoyed because felt like her lettering was letting the drawing down.

Maybe you’ve sometimes shared similar frustrations to Suki.

And it’s definitely a shame for a cartoon to be let down by dodgy lettering.

Her writing was less legible than a time-pressed doctor who drunk too many cappuccinos.

Don’t want to let the lettering spoil a good cartoon.

If you’re working digitally, then there’s less pressure than before as it is so easy to instantly erase mistakes. Working in layers enables you to use guidelines to help keep things straight, and you can also easily change the position of the text.

This article will help you out with your lettering and also look at the use of speech bubbles and other effects

What we’re going to cover in this article:

  • Flex your writing muscle

  • Put yourself in your reader’s shoes

  • How we read dialogue

  • Handwrite or set lettering?

  • Use guidelines

  • Balloons

  • Let your lettering breathe

  • Making speech more dramatic

  • Editing

Whenever you see ‘over to you’, that is your cue to pick up your pencil and try out the technique.

Some of the ideas you may have seen before in previous articles, such as ‘how to create a strip cartoon’ While there is some overlap, I hope that you’ll much other useful content as well.

Draw as you go along. If you immediately try out some of the ideas in this articles, then you are more likely to remember them and put them into practice later.

Meet Gerald the Goat

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Goat and friends will be popping up to help illustrate some of the ideas in this article. I’ve been drawing the Gerald the Goat strip for about three years now and doing so has certainly helped me to work on my own lettering. They’ll also be some other characters and cartoons to help show key points.

Remember that cartooning is all about exaggerating things, often something common that appears in every day life and then putting a twist on it.

Rewrite:

Suitable lettering can add much to the effectiveness of a cartoon. It can emphasize the spirit of the cartoon and give tone to the drawing. So likewise, it is possible to ruin a fine comic strip with poor lettering. For lettering, a steady hand is necessary. Copy alphabets over and over until the technique is mastered.

There is no standard style of lettering for cartoons.

Flex your writing muscle

Writing is a skill that can be developed like any other, I’m certainly still developing mine.

The more you practice your writing, the better it will get.

Don’t settle for the first draft that you come up with.

It’s also a good idea to return to your writing later on after having taken a break and re-read it to see if it still makes sense and flows well.

Put yourself in your reader’s shoes

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Imagine that you are the reader, encountering your strip for the first time. Does the writing make sense to you? Does it flow well?

Here’s a check list you could try:

  • How is the grammar?

  • How is the spelling?

  • Does the writing flow well?

  • Are there any words you could remove?

  • Will your reader be able to understand everything?

Try writing different versions - don’t settle for the first draft

[IMAGE: speech balloons....image of actual balloons maybe modifying Gerlad pic and maybe having wow! On it]

Lettering/speech bubbles

Words and pictures work together

In any sort of cartoon, words and pictures work together to get the idea or gag across, and shouldn’t be considered separately. So it’s a good idea to put as much care into the dialogue as the drawing of the characters.

Before you start drawing your first cartoon, have the script drafted out and some rough sketches for each frame.

Do your lettering first, and then draw the speech or thought balloon around it.

Handwrite or use set lettering?

It doesn’t matter whether you handwrite your own lettering or use the lettering in an app such Procreate or Sketches.

For the Gerald the Goat strip, I still use a font called ‘Chelsea’ from Sketches (check name)

I draw the strip in Procreate and then do the lettering in Sketches and import it as a transparent layer into Procreate.

Be careful not to cram too much writing into one bubble.

Different fonts can really change the tone of the cartoon.

The more text you have, the less space available for the art - and vice versa.

Experiment with using different fonts, font sizes, placing the text is different places within the frame.

Try many different ones until you come up with a style that suits you.

Use guidelines

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The beauty of working in layers is that it is easy to draw some guidelines to help keep your writing straight. You’ll notice that the lines are perfectly aligned, however, the writing is a lot straighter than it would have been if done entirely freehand.

I find that that the more I draw freehand, the easier it becomes to keep it straight.

Balloons

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Aaaa

Let your lettering breathe

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Make sure to leave some space between your lettering and the surrounding speech/thought bubble so that it is easy to read.

Don’t write too many words in the bubble, as it can become too crowded and difficult to read.

Draft your speech bubbles, the same way you’d draft a drawing. Look over your writing and see if there are any unnecessary words you could remove. Don’t always settle for the first version.

[DRAW IMAGE TO ILLUSTRATE UNNECESSARY WORDS]

Don’t draw the bubble too close to your character’s mouth.

To rewrite:

‘A’ begins the conversation as his speech is at the top of the frame. At the end of the sentence, the eye naturally flows to the second bubble belonging to the other character. The first speaker’s second bubble is joined to the first by a path dispelling the need for two pointers heading for one head.

Making speech more dramatic/dramatic effects

Expression through bubbles

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No touching!

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Avoid having the balloons touch each other, they cause visual dissonance (can I rewrite this?)

A brief interlude…

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…with a tap-dancing spider…

Whispering

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You can show the character whispering by drawing the balloon with a dashed stroke.

About Rob

Rob has been drawing cartoons for more years that he can remember. As well as drawing, he runs some online course to help folks draw their own cartoons.

How we read dialogue

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We read dialogue from left to right or top to bottom.

Thought balloons

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Thought balloons. These usually have three bubbles of diminishing size that reach towards the character’s head.

Joining balloons with connectors

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You can use this when the conversation goes back and forth between two characters.

You can also use it when a character says two separate ideas after each other.

[image to show this?]

Summary

  • Flex your writing muscle

  • Put yourself in your reader’s shoes

  • How we read dialogue

  • Handwrite or set lettering?

  • Use guidelines

  • Balloons

  • Let your lettering breathe

  • Making speech more dramatic

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About Rob

Rob has been drawing cartoons for more years that he can remember. As well as drawing, he runs some online course to help folks draw their own cartoons.

Headless Cartoons

Headless Cartoons?

What on earth do I mean by that?

Are you about to encounter a bunch of illustrations featuring monsters or something far grimmer?

Not at all...although the odd monster or two may appear....

By ‘headless’ I mean viewing the world from a first-person point of view.

There are quite a number of first person shooter games, and you may also have used sports videos on YouTube of people using a GoPro camera to take video while they are skydiving, mountain biking or some other adventurous activity.

The pictures are all arranged in pairs of cartoons.

The first cartoon is from a first person perspective, whether from a human or animal point of a view.

The second cartoon is from a third person perspective and reveals the complete scene.

When you see the first cartoon in a pair, pause over it and try to figure out who is looking, before moving onto the second. There’s usually a clue in the pic to help you figure out what is going on.

Tangled Tagliatelle

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Alas, the perils of long hair and noodles...

Who’s Scoping Who?

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I was playing around with the idea of trying to incorporate some sort of tunnel into a picture when I came up with the idea of the bird peering into the telescope.

Battered Brolly

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This picture evolved from a previous one I did featuring a lady wrestling with a brolly on a windy day. It was based on an advertisement I spied while leafing through some copies of Vogue magazine from the 1970’s.

Nest Material?

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A wig is surely an ideal nest liner for an enterprising eagle.

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I Spy Lunch

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I got the idea for this one while sitting at park bench in Tokyo. The crows there are pretty confident and soon work out whether the humans are likely to offer them something. Usually in Tokyo though they operate as a group (to use the collective noun for a group of crows - a murder)

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Never Forget?

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This was such a fun one to draw. I’m not sure how I ended up drawing the chap in a sort of rather natty 1920s get up. Maybe it was after watching a clip of Harold Lloyd.

In A Hole

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This is another one that was inspired by a photograph, in this case the reflection of a mouse in a cat’s eye.

Who’s Bathing Who?

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I think that this was the first time I’d drawn a Red Setter, hopefully it won’t be the last - such beautiful dogs. An old high school friend used to have one, slightly better behaved that this example I might add.

Writing gags for strip cartoons

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Shelly was scratching her head trying to think up some ideas to draw. While she had no problem at all doodling way and thinking up characters, she found it difficult to come up with funny situations to put them in.

She occasionally came up with an idea or two, but they seemed to be very fleeting - and they did appear weren’t always that good.

What she would really like to do would be able to generate a steady stream of ideas at will.

Maybe you’ve experienced similar difficulties to Shelly, and have also done your fair share of starting at a blank screen or piece of paper waiting for inspiration to strike...and waiting...and waiting...

This is a common problem, whether it’s thinking up jokes or something to write. Writers have struggled with writer’s block since quill was first put to parchment, and artist’s complain about the muse having abandoned them.

But what if you didn’t have to go through cartoonist’s block every time to sit down to draw.

What if you could have a steady stream of ideas to choose from, I mean coming up with one or two ideas isn’t much, what you really need is a whole bunch of ideas to choose from, so you have a greater chance of coming up. with some funny ones.

This article will give you a bunch of idea generation techniques for you to try out for yourself. And I do say ‘try out’, rather than simply read. I highly recommend trying out some of these techniques for yourself as you read along.

Some of the ideas you may have seen before in previous articles, such as ‘how to create a strip cartoon’ While there is some overlap, I hope that you’ll much other useful content as well.

Meet Gerald the Goat

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Gerald the Goat and friends are some of the characters who’ll be popping up to illustrate some of the ideas covered in this article.

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Gerald first appeared about threeyears ago. At first most of the gags were about his attempts to eat flowers. However as I drew the strip more and more I realised that I would have to start generating a variety of different ideas if I wanted to keep up interest in the strip, both for myself and for the reader.

Remember that cartooning is all about exaggerating things, often something common that appears in every day life and then putting a twist on it.

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Over to you

Whenever you see ‘over to you’, that is your cue to pick up your pencil and try out the technique.

This process is not necessarily easy, just as when you start exercise of any sort, however it is not supposed to be a hard slog either. If you put in a little time and do the some of the exercises consistently you’ll start to see results.

During this article we’ll cover the following points:

  1. Coming up with ideas for the opening, middle, and end panels

  2. Adding an antagonist

  3. Story arcs

  4. Creating problems for your characters

  5. Think bizaare

  6. Mind maps

  7. Creating a character profile

  8. Putting yourself into y our character’s shoes - and your character into your own

  9. Ask 5 whys

  10. Listen to your characters

  11. Everyday life

  12. Make a list of questions about your character

  13. Add a new character

  14. Change the setting

Don’t break the chain

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The most important thing is to get into the habit of coming up with ideas everyday. You may not come up with many particularly good ideas, but that’s not the point - the point is to come up with lots and lots of ideas so as to increase the odds that some of them will be good.

This guy knows a few things about writing gags.

This guy knows a few things about writing gags.

Jerry Seinfeld, creator of Seinfeld, was a very successful joke writing, but he was also a very consistent one.

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most well known comedians in the wold, due to the massive success of the Seinfeld tv show. What a lot of folks don’t realise however is that he has been consistently coming up with jokes for a long time - and not just the stuff you see on the tv show.

Here’s a method that he uses when writing gags.

Get a calendar and hang it on the wall. You could also so this on. Your phone or tablet, but I think it’s more effective if they calendar is in sight all the time.

For each day that you write a gag, put a big red X on that day.

After a few days, there will be a chain of Xs. All you have to do now is not break the chain - in order words, write a gag every single day.

It didn’t matter whether Seinfeld as motivated or not, all that mattered to him was not breaking the chain.

The most important thing is to get into the habit of coming up with ideas everyday. You may not come up with many particularly good ideas, but that’s not the point - the point is to come up with lots and lots of ideas so as to increase the odds that some of them will be good.

Over to you:

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Go set up your own gag calendar. Come up with a gag everyday, and put an ‘X’ on the calendar. Remember that the ‘X’ is for a gag, it doesn’t matter if it’s a good or bad gag.

It’s not rocket surgery

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This is a skill that can be learned like any other skill - you just have to put in the practice.

Some people seem to think that you have to have a special talent to be able to write gags for cartoons, and if they don’t have it, then it’s something that they simply can’t do.

Learning to write gags is a skill that can be learned like any other, you just have to learn how and then to put n the practice. This article will give you some techniques to help you come up with ideas and then the rest is up to you.

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Some people seem to think that you have to have a special talent to be able to write gags for cartoons, and if they don’t have it, then it’s something that they simply can’t do.

Learning to write gags is a skill that can be learned like any other, you just have to learn how and then to put n the practice. This article will give you some techniques to help you come up with ideas and then the rest is up to you.

Go for quantity…quality will follow

An important think to remember is that we are not aiming to produce great ideas, but to simply comes up with lots and lots of ideas. The more ideas you come up with, the more it increasing your chances of creating some good ones.

Also, the more you practice thinking up gags, the better you will become at it anyway.

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Idea muscle

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One of the key features of this article is the idea of the ‘idea muscle’. Thinking up ideas is like building muscles, it takes some skill and application, but the more you do it the better you become.

This process is not necessarily easy, just as when you start exercise of any sort, however it is not supposed to be a hard slog either. If you put in a little time and do the some of the exercises consistently you’ll start to see results.

Mind Maps

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You can choose one of the ideas and do a new Mind Map based on it to narrow down even further.

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Over to you:

Try a Mind Map with one of your own characters. Remember: don’t pause for thougt, write down whatever comes to mind.

Opening panel method

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This is a way to get started on a strip when we haven’t yet got an idea for the ending. Draw a situation with one or more characters in the first panel and what comes to mind for the rest of the strip.

Over to you:

Use this blank template to quickly draw your character starting something in the opening panel. There are two strips to try.

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Middle panel method

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For this one draw something happening in the middle frame and see if that sparks any ideas for either the punchline or the opening. Here is the blank template again.

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End panel method

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This is the reverse of the starting frame method. This time you trying to think of the gag or punch line last and then work backwards to think up the rest of the cartoon.

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Add an antagonist

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One way you can create tension in your stories is to add a antagonist.

What is an antagonist?

An antagonist is someone who gets in the way of your hero/main character/ antagonist achieving their goal. Check I may have this the wrong way around

I originally created a bull as a supporting character for Gerald and to act as an antagonist. I got quite a few ideas from using the character, but it seemed quite smart in a way, as all the bull seemed to do was chase Gerald. ALso, bulls aren’t natural predators of goats, and at the end of the day, a goat is fast enough to run away or agile enough to jump over th nearest fence or hedge.

So I thought it would be far more interesting to introduce an antagonist who could actually eat Gerald, an animal that would do so in the wild. So I came up the idea of having a leopard escape from the zoo.

So that this wasn’t merely a one-off story idea, I thought that I could make it an reoccurring character by having subsequent breakouts from the zoo.

Over to you:

Think of an antagonist for your character. In fact, think of five different ones and then choose one that you think has the most potential to develop ideas/annoy your character.

*add some of the strip featuring Gerald and the snow leopard. I could also use this as an example of a story arc.

Story arc

Problem: a leopard has escaped from the zoo

Using this scenario, it’s possible to crate a bunch of individual strips. Let’s explore some ideas.

Here are a few questions you could ask/answer

  • How does the leopard escape?

  • How do people react to the escape?

  • What happens when Gerald encounters the leopard for the first time?

  • How does Gerald escape form the leopard?

  • How does Gerald try to capture the leopard?

  • Who else tries to capture the leopard?

  • What happens when they try to capture the leopard?

  • How is the leopard returned to the zoo?

  • What happens after the leopard has returned to the zoo, either to Gerald, the leopard, another character etc.

if you have other characters, then you can include them in this process

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Problem method

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What problems might your hero face?

What might get in the way of them achieving their goal?

With the problem method, you pose a problem for your character to overcome.

Let’s look at a few problems that are standing in Gerald’s way.

First, let’s think up some desires that he might have.

Desire: wants to eat the flowers

Desire: wants to find somewhere dry to sleep.

Desire: wants to avoid having a bath

Now let’s think of some possible problems that might stand in the way.

Think Bizarre!

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A cartoon gives you license to push the boundaries and portray things in a different way from regular art.

If you’re trying to come up with an idea, then think about how bizarre the situation could be.

For example, Gerald is intending to eat the flower bed, but what bizarre thing could be lurking in it?

How about a triffid?

Could it be some other common garden creature but made way more unusual than normal?

Create a character profile

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Another really good way to get to know your character is to create a profile/avatar for them.

Here is an example featuring Gerald

Name: Gerald the goat

Where does he/she live?: Stan’ garden (well, he’s supposed to anyway...)

What does he do? Eats things...almost anything, especially people’s flower beds...

What does he like? Eating, butting people

What does he dislike? The bull

Describe personality in a sentence: Gerald is a little bit of anarchy in goat-form.

Over to you:

Here’s a blank profile you can use.

Feel free to add additional information, and to add as much detail as you like. The more detail you add the more richer character you’ll create - and the better you’ll get to know them. This will make it more likely to think up funny situations them.

Name:

Where does he/she live?

What does he/she do?

What does he/she like?

What does he/she dislike?

Describe his/her personality in a sentence

Put yourself into your character’s shoes

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Spend a few minutes over this and really try and put yourself into your characters shoes. Look at the character’s profile, and also any cartoons that you drew previously and feature the same character.

How do you think they might act?

Put your character into your shoes

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What do you find funny?

How about your own sense of humour? What situations do you find funny?

Does this give you any ideas that you could apply. To your character?

How would your character respond to everyday events in your own life? It doesn’t have to be anything big or special , think of the everyday routine.

Character profiles

Emotions

Not sure if this idea works...

Give an emotion to your character

Generating ideas from your cast of characters

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Having a cast of characters makes it a lot easier to think up ideas for cartoons, as there is plentiful chance for interaction between them. You can also have a character have a certain personality trait.

Gerald

Gerald likes to eat...anything really...particularly flowers...and especially prize-winners at the annual flower show from which he's received a lifetime bad.

Gerald is from a lineage of mountain goats, known for their love of high places and leaping ability. What isn't clear is about how he developed his voracious appetite which shows no signs of diminishing.

Aside from eating, Gerald likes to butt things and avoid taking baths.

Stan

Stan bought Gerald from a country fair when he was a kid and lost control of him minutes later.

Stan considers himself to be an animal lover, although this is sometimes put to the test when Gerald has eaten whatever has just been planted in the garden.

An enthusiastic, if usually unsuccessful cook, Stan is always working on his next "big idea".

Granny Mills

It is uncertain how old Granny Mills is as it appears as though she's been lying about her age for decades.

She has been involved in a long-running feud with her neighbours ever since their ginger tom cat ate her canary. She now likes to "borrow" pets from the zoo.

Granny Mills likes to practice a particularly boisterous form of bingo, enjoys taking care of her grand daughter, and has never drank a half in an exceeddingly long life.

Little Ivy

Little Ivy is Granny Mills' grand daughter.

She loves animals, but all creatures regardless of their species or size tend to get called "nice doggy".

Her parents often leave her in the care of her Granny, which might not happen so much if they were aware of some of the old lady's antics.

Rex the police dog

The town's long-suffering law enforcement.

Rex has reconciled himself to the fact that with the likes of Gerald and Granny Mills around the best he can hope for is some state of near-anarchy.

He often wonders whether he should have been a sniffer dog or even herded sheep for a living instead.

The Bull

Gerald's nemesis.

Upon first encounter Gerald assumed that with it's horns the bull was some species of super-goat.

It was on that same day that Gerald learnt how fast he could run.

Over to you:

If you already have a cast of characters, then think about what personality traits each character represents.

If you don’t have a cast of characters, then create a new one. Creating new characters is very playful, so make sure you have some fun doing it!

Give your main character a break

If you have a cast of supporting characters you then have the option of giving your main character a break from time to time. This can help to keep your main character fresh, and well as giving your supporting characters thee chance to shine and develop. In the case of Gerlad the goat, sometimes Gerald doesn’t appear at all.

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Ask 5 whys

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Think of a either a situation or a mood that your character is in.

Now ask why and note down the answer.

Ask why again.

Keep going until you have asked five times and you have drilled down into the root of the situation.

Here’s an example.

Gerald is annoyed.

Why is he annoyed?

The neighbour has erected a new fence he can’t leap over.

Why did the neighbour erect the fence?

Because Gerald kept jumping into the garden.

Why did Gerald keep jumping into the garden?

Because of the neighbour’s prize-winning flower bed.

Why does Gerald want to eat the flower bed?

Because they won ‘best flower bed in Britain competition’

Why did they win?

Because the flowers are an ultra-rare strain of outdoor orchid.

You might come up fifth an idea before you get to the end fo the process of asking why fives times.

Listen to the characters

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Imagine your characters carrying out conversations with each other, or thinking about different events. You could even try putting yourself into one of the characters shoes and joining in the conversation itself. Think of this as playful, rather than silly.

Try day-dreaming and putting yourself into the characters shoes. Imagine what you might do if you were in their place.

Everyday life

Popular cartoons that work well are usually the ones that comment on everyday life and people’s habits and quirks - i.e. thing that we are already very familiar with. You don’t have to think of anything too exotic. Even if you have an exotic setting, you can still have the characters commenting on the everyday nature of that exotic setting.

Other situations

What other every day situations can you think up?

They might include: catching a train, waiting in a queue, getting wet in the rain etc.

Just doodle!

If you can’t come up with any ideas, start doodling your characters in funny situations and see what ideas that might spark. Don’t forget that a cartoon gives you a licence to exaggerate the characters and their setting.

Collect different situations to use

As you keep drawing your characters you’ll come across situations that can be recycled and used again and again. In the case of Gerald the goat, this would include his attempts to eat flower beds, running away from the bull etc.

You can keep a note of these situations and bring them out from time to time if you are stuck for ideas.

Make a list of questions about your character

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Here are a few examples featuring Gerald the goat.

-What does he want to eat?

-How is he going to get the food?

-What might stop him from getting the food?

-what might happen after he gets the food?

Over to you:

What question could you ask about your own character?

Everyday life

Popular cartoons that work well are usually the ones that comment on everyday life and people’s habits and quirks - i.e. thing that we are already very familiar with. You don’t have to think of anything too exotic. Even if you have an exotic setting, you can still have the characters commenting on the everyday nature of that exotic setting.

Introduce a new character or element or change the background

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The character might only make a temporary appearance.

One device that I use for the Gerlad the Goat strip is to introduce occasional characters by means of the local zoo. The strip is set in a town and the town zoo has

How can your cast of characters interact with each other?

If you choose your cast of characters Wright, then it’ll g a long way towards helping you think up ideas.

This is how Gerald started out

He was originally a supporting character in a series of very simple cartoons featuring Stan.

Here is the very first cartoon that he appeared in.

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After I drew him a few more times I decided that I was more interested in making him a main character. I kept Stan and he now became a supporting character.

You don’t have to create this many characters.

Over to you

Think of three different supporting characters.

What is their connection to your main character?

Change the setting

You could also try changing the setting of your cartoon. While you may not want to completely uproot your characters ad move them to an entirely new setting, you could try taking them on holiday as a means to introduce. A new setting, Ideads and background.

Aftwards, think about what ideas from the new setting might carry on back over into their daily life.

For example, Gerald goes to the seaside

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What could he do there?

What could he eat there?

What trouble could he get into there?

Etc.

Over to you:

Can you think of a new situation to put your characters into?

Beyond this article

Aside from the ideas and techniques mentioned in this article, what else could you do to help your own idea generation process in the future?

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for articles on how to think up ideas, whether specifically for cartoons or not.

You could also try reverse-engineering ideas that first appeared in other sources. There is a great tradition in art of borrowing ideas from others sources. Remember to make it your own.

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Remember that the idea is not to come up with great gags, the idea is to generate lots and lots of gags. The. More you do so, the greater the odds of coming up with great gags.

Summary

Let’s look at some of the main ideas covered in this article.

  • don’t break the chain - write a cartoon gag everyday, don’t miss a single one!

  • idea muscle - it can be grown like any other muscle, but you have to use it

  • panel techniques - Using the opening, middle and end panels to suggest ideas for the rest of the strip

  • add an antagonist - use the antagonist to make your main character’s life more challenging

  • problem method - create problems for your characters to solve

Over to you:

Remember all the ‘over to you’ sections throughout this article? Now it really is over t o you to see what you can come up with by yourself now. Remember that you’ve go to put in the time and practice if you want to get better at generating your own cartoon ideas.

Have patience - and keep going

Call to action

I hope that you’ve found this article useful.

If you’d like to learn further about creating ideas for cartoons, then click here to get the free guide to ‘How to never runout of ideas - how to generate your own ideas for cartoon drawings’

By the end of the day you can have tried out a technique or two and come up with some ideas for yourself - hopefully you will have already done so while reading this article.

About Rob

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Rob has been drawing cartoons for more years that he can remember. As well as drawing, he runs some online course to help folks draw their own cartoons.

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The Epic Guide to Lousy Stock Images

Spot the lousy stock image

…and who knows why some images are chosen…

…and who knows why some images are chosen…

...it’s not hard to do...

Something about the fakeness of it all seems to leap out of the screen at you.

Actually, ‘leap out’ is the wrong phrase as standard stock images never leap out of screens - they don’t get attention and definitely wet your appetite for reading any further.

In a wonderful world full of exhilarating images and eye-grabbing graphics, standard stock images remain beige and vanilla

Spot the difference

Even business-type images can be jazzed up a little…

Even business-type images can be jazzed up a little…

...between an images that’s worth a second glance and something that’s worth less than a goldfish attention span moment in time to look over.

You can see the difference instantly.

In a split second you know whether an image is insipid or intriguing, lame or likeable, or bland or brilliant.

And you’re not the only one who knows this. Everyone knows this instinctively - you don’t have to analyse it even for a moment.

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...or lack of that’s gone into selecting that particular image.

You can tell yourself when looking at an article whether someone has put the time, effort, and energy into something truly worth reading.

And if you know, your audience knows.

That includes spotting the obviously bog-standard stock images chosen without much thought and slapped on top of your writing to put off anyone from wanting to read on.

If the image smacks of unoriginality, then is the viewer really going to spend the extra time going to the trouble of reading any further?

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Spot the frog

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As this fine froggy fellow demonstrates, a striking image grabs the attention, is interesting to look at, and stands apart from standard stock images.

Don’t poison your hard-scribbled writing with a lame pic.

Get something that really hops off the screen and makes your audience spot the difference between your content and everyone elses’.

Stock Images, Stressed Workers, and Sea Monsters

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In the wonderful and weird world of business stock images, one of the popular genres is stressed workers.

Maybe it’s the fact that in so many images they have to adopt perma-grins, stare intently into the prosperous business future, and be so annoyingly over-enthusiastic that has led them to being stressed out in other pictures.

Let’s take the example of Jason, who is surrounded by 101 co-workers, (well four actually, but you get the idea....) all pressing him him with things to do by yesterday.

There’s calls to answer, reports to go over, and perhaps even someone’ cat to feed. I am not sure what the cat is doing in the office, but that’s for another day....

Jason’s friend, BIll, tries to help out by offering a stress-reducing donut.....

The doughnut on top of three cans of Red Bull probably wasn’t going to help much…

The doughnut on top of three cans of Red Bull probably wasn’t going to help much…

How he is managing to stay up on the ceiling like that is anyone’s guess...

Instituting ‘bring your pet to work day’ on Fridays was turning out to be a mistake.

Instituting ‘bring your pet to work day’ on Fridays was turning out to be a mistake.

Now he’s stressed due to the fact that he’s about to become a giants squids lunch.

In a recent survey, six out of ten office workers said that being eaten by a giant sea monster would be a stressful event. The other four said that it would come as welcome relief.

In the same building as Jason’s office, is the office of John. Here he is looking stressed and flanked by two towering piles of paperwork.

He was beginning to regret blowing his last bonus on his mohican.

He was beginning to regret blowing his last bonus on his mohican.

Not only are there piles of work to do building up, but also his desk has been infested by weasels.

 

He always hated it when this happened.

He always hated it when this happened.

Of course, some folks would say that they have the odd rodent or two in their own office, but that they’re usually of the shirt and tie wearing variety.

Let’s move down the corridor and look in at Sheila.

The paperless office wasn’t really coming along.

The paperless office wasn’t really coming along.

 Sheila is stressed due to her messy desk.

 

That reminded her that she really must get around to apologising too her neighbours for what happened to their pug.

That reminded her that she really must get around to apologising too her neighbours for what happened to their pug.

Fortunately for her, her pet anaconda, Bob, has volunteered to eat the files. She is considering asking him to consume her boss as well, but is concerned that it might effect her bonus.

Finding the right stock image can be a bit of a stressful experience. Especially when you have to wade the cheesy swamp that is sometimes business stock images.

There are so many images to plough through, some of them might be actually quite good - but it might take you an age to find them.

Even if you do find a suitable image, it might be already in use on a bunch of others sites. The most commonly seen images are the ones that pop up in the first few search results. So you’re going to have to put in a bit more work if you want yourself to stand out.

One easy way of standing out is simply to have your images drawn for you.

Unique images that are tailoring specifically to suit you and your message.

You can even have pictures featuring weasels, giant squid and other such strange critters if you so desire....even such pics might not be as strange of some of the business images you can already see!

Thumbs down to crap stock images

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This is Bill. He’s a character in the strange world of business stock images. A land where everyone is happy in meetings, gaze forwards to the future, or use their laptops in strange locations.

Bill is giving the thumbs up. We don’t know why he’s doing so, but he’s doing it with great enthusiasm regardless.

A lot of folks in business stock images do things that are quite difficult to explain.

....and that’s why such images can look quite unnatural...

When was the last time you saw someone actually give the thumbs up in an office, whether in real life or on TV?

Let’s look at some other examples of thumb raising folks.

 

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 Neil kept his two thumbs up for way too long, which enabled Doris to take advantage of the situation and get him to help her with her knitting.

Now let’s take a glance at Neil’s colleague, Bob.

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Bob was so bored posing for inane stock images that he created his own thumb puppets to amuse himself.

He now has 1.2 million subscribers on YouTube, a book contract, and a TV show deal. He hopes that this result in his manager noticing and offering him a promotion.

 Of course for some, ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ reminds them of scenes from gladiator movies.

Movies always make things look pretty glamorous

It was difficult back in the day...

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 Roman Emperor Rigorus Spankikus once had his graphic designer exiled due to a partuculary lame PR campaign that failed to endear the Emperor to his subjects.

But spare a thought for those who can’t give either a thumbs up or down.

 

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 It must be frustrating for weasels...

If they ever want to enter the world of business, not only do they have to develop more intelligence but also evolve opposing thumbs.

 Using run-of-the-mill business stock images might seem to be an easier option, but it might result in your readers giving your content the thumbs down or not even bothering to read it in the first place.

Our attention goes to images, and so if it looks as though not much effort and imagination has gone into selecting visuals, why bother actually reading the rest?

How about yourself?

Are you attracted by such images

What would you think of someone using them on a site or article you’re reading?

Probably not much... 

 ...so it’s worthwhile spending a bit of time to find some interesting images. 

Surfing By the Surf

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Another one of those aspirational stock images that look a bit odd is the person using the laptop on the beach.

Here’s a woman perched on a rock working away on her laptop - maybe beavering away setting up a location independent business.

 Isn’t she concerned about getting sand in it?

Or the general rule about not letting computers get too close to water...

 However, this image doesn’t reveal the full story behind the scene…

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Only half an hour later her tranquility was interrupted by a group of hungry pelicans hoping to scrounge some fish....or to get her to place an order with Uber eats...

What else might intrude on her tranquil typing?

 Or what might she be missing out on having her eyes clued to the screen while sitting in such a tranquil setting?

 

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Suit you?

Even odder is someone wearing a business suit while working away on the beach.

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This chap was either so keen to get down to work that he forgot to roll his trousers up, or so absorbed in his task that he didn’t notice the incoming tide.

Maybe he needs someone or some thing to remind him that it’s not all work..work..work

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 That’s a mere drop on the ocean of odd images, there’s sure to be plenty more come in with the next tide, but not necessarily any that are really relevant to your situation.

So next time you’re selecting an image to use, you might want to pause and think if it’s really suitable or whether it should released and returned to the sea of odd stock images.

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 One image that popped up while researching this article was that of a business woman, in full office attire, fishing. It kind of made me curious whether she was fishing for anything in particular or had merely popped out during this lunch break for some relaxation.

Why fake stock images are bad - and what to do about it

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We’ve all seen stock images that seem a bit lame, but you may not have appreciated how odd and unnatural sme of them are until you take a closer look....

...it might be the unnervingly bleached teeth, the business suits that look as though have just come off the rack and then been pressed a dozen times, or the ever-so perfectly organised mess.

Perfect is one word that springs to mind, everything has been so precisely and carefully organised to create a setting and models that look as though the dust never settles on them, no coffee is ever spilt, and none of those cheesy smiles ever slip.

Perhaps there exists somewhere an alternate plane of existence where people actually look like this, but I’m sure that you’ve never seen anyone resembling these characters in everyday life. I mean where are the crumbs from the coffee break cookies, the desks that look like someone has actually done some work at them, and the variety of expressions on folks faces?

It all looks a bit fake, and if it looks fake, then what does this say about the person or company that chose to use such fake-looking images?

It’s not as though there aren’t enough images to choose from.

Let’s look at a couple of examples from a business theme.

We’ll also look at how some of these images can be made more interesting by inserting a goat into the proceedings.

Almost any situation can be made more interesting by inserting a goat into it, however, for this article we’ll limit it to office settings.

 

 Fake image number #1 - the office team high-fiving each other.

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This group of happy meeting attendees are so busy high-fiving each other that they fail to notice Gerald the Goat sneaking in to raid the fruit bowl.

Yay! Go team! They’ve obviously just achieved some important goal such as setting a new record for length of time in having their grins fixed in place.

Err....people just aren’t that happy at meetings....I mean where is the guy who is fighting to stay awake? The woman gazing off into the distance daydreaming about something to take her mind of things? The guy who is just not having a bad day....

 

 Fake image #2 - business people leaping in the air.

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Either individually or as a team, there are lots of folks leaping about. What do the offices below make of al the commotion going on?

Why are these two jumping in the air? Is there any good reason?

Is it normal to be airborne in the office?

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Now there’s a good reason to be airborne...

 Fake image #3 - person holding tablet doing work

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This one usually comes with a big smile as well, rather than a look puzzlement that often comes when trying to figure out a new app.

By the way, I don’t only draw goats...geese can be equally disruptive...

Maybe these images will serve as a warning or a wake-up call not to use such images yourself.

Nobody likes things that are fake, whether it’s photos, people or goods.

You are not fake. And you certainly don’t want to come across as fake. So why use fake images?

But it’s not just about the fakeness, it’s about the fact that such pics are not much fun at all. I mean it’s hard enough to get someone’s attention in the first place, so the last thing you want to do have boring pics act as a huge damp squib to your writing.

Amusing images that compliment your writing can have a huge impact on your audience in terms of whether your message sticks around or if they share it with friends.

Finding good images though can take so doing, and certainly take a chunk of time - which is why many folks opt for the easier option of using ready to hand stock images. The trouble is, a lot of those images have already been used by others, as well as the before mentioned fakery associated with such images.

So it would be great if you could have an easy-to-hand source of fun and eye-catching images to use.

Cartoons would be a neat alternative - quirky amusing ones, like the pics above. 

Hmm...so where do such cartoons lurk? 

‘Well, you could try using a cartoonist.

 

Do You Gaze Past Stock Images?

(Or Using Monsters in Marketing)

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 One of the more perplexing and unnatural business stock image genres is that of the person or persons staring off into the future.

Often these folks have semi-mystical look on the face,  no doubt enraptured by future business glories laying ahead. Alternatively, they sport an inane grin, perhaps as as a result of thinking ahead to what they’ll get up to after work.

Such folks can be found either inside the office or outside, sometimes in front of an impressive building or on a street corner.

Don’t they ever get cautioned for loitering?

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

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 These pair of business bods were so busy gazing off into the future that they were completely obvious to the present moment and thus failed to notice Vognor the Terrible alighting upon the top of their office building.

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This chap paused while crossing a bridge to fixate on some vision of tomorrow, Perhaps the river inspired him to stop and ponder what might lie upstream in life.

 

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Unfortunately for him, one of Vognor’s fellow monsters, Krakus the Lamentable, was very much focused on the present moment and what to have for lunch.

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 These three colleagues are peering so far ahead that they need binoculars...which won’t help them much against Gladys the Flatulent(not all monsters have terrible sounding names) who is creeping up behind them..

It’s not a good idea to spend too much time in the future at the expense of the present moment.

Nor is it a good idea to use cheesy stock images that look as though you haven’t put much thought or effort into them. Your readers will likely gaze on past your content if they see too many lame images.

So it pays to spend a bit more time and attention when choosing images, so that your readers will spend a bit more time and attention on your content. 

On brief cases and the battle of Hastings

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If Gerald can’t work out the combination lock then he’ll probably just eat his way through the case…

Another delve into the weird and wonderful world of business stock images.

Time to take a look at the business man or woman’s weapon of choice - the briefcase.

‘Man with briefcase/clutching briefcase’ is one of those sub-genres of odd business stock images. Sometimes they’re hanging onto the case for dear life…

Hold on there!

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Here’s a man clutching a briefcase. Is he using it to ward off an assailant’s weapon?

Fortunately Harold has remembered to bring along his battle-plan, carried as ever in his trusty briefcase.

Fortunately Harold has remembered to bring along his battle-plan, carried as ever in his trusty briefcase.

Perhaps if King Harold had had a briefcase at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, then he wouldn’t have been struck by an arrow and the Anglo-Saxons might have repelled the Norman Invasion.

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It could have turned out very differently for William and Normans…he might have been forced to re-train as a sales rep instead of completing the invasion of Britain.

Are you still clutching onto using dodgy stock images?

Don’t.

For want of a better image your entire article could be rescued.

Not that there:s anything wrong with your article, post, or writing in general - it’s just that people won’t bother reading it if you are using tired old stock images.

Even a business person holding a briefcase can be livened up with that personal touch…

…this may the first time that a Dalmatian has appeared in a business stock image.

…this may the first time that a Dalmatian has appeared in a business stock image.

…this may be the first time that a Dalmatian has appeared in a ‘business stock image’…

Get On The Case

…and use some images that really go with your writing and help to raise your reader’s curiosity about what you have to say.

I’ll keep it brief

I draw lots of cartoons - some silly and others not. I can draw unique images for you too. These pictures can really capture what you have to say, as well as capturing your reader’s attention. It also makes your site or post a lot more fun to look at!

I can liven things up a bit.

Let’s be a bit more creative...

From stodgy to stock to imaginative images - I can do the same for you. Drop me a mail.

Drawing Fishing Cartoons

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It was a slow day on the riverbank, the fish weren’t biting, and so Suki thought that this was the ideal chance to doodle a few ideas for cartoons.

This article will give you a whole bunch of ideas to help you create your own fishing cartoons.

Here is what we’re going to cover during this article.

  1. Directing attention

  2. Using spot colour

  3. Contrast

  4. Action off the page

  5. Odd one out

  6. What could go wrong?

  7. Add an antagonist

  8. Think bizarre!

  9. Apply constraints

  10. Add an animal

  11. What about the elements?

  12. Start now - and finish later

  13. Borrow from the movies

Over to you

Wherever you see ‘over to you’, this is your cue to pick up a pencil and to try out some of the ideas for yourself. It’s far more effective if you try things out as you read them, rather that wait until later. Not only do you get the chance to do a bit of doodling, but it will also help you to better remember the ideas in the writing.

The irony about me drawing fishing cartoons is that I don’t actually fish. Well, not not anyway. I used to fish a bit.

So how did I end up drawing fishing cartoons then?

It all started off when a client asked me to draw a couple of fishing cartoons.I enjoyed the challenge, as it was a subject matter that I hadn’t covered before.

I also saw it as a means to practice working on drawing water and nature backgrounds.

One thing lead to another and I soon found myself knocking out occasional fishing pictures.

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To help the characters to stand out more, I made the rocks in the foreground and the cliff top in the background almost black.

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Directing the attention.

In this cartoon I wanted to use some of the elements of the cartoon to lead the reader’s eye towards Nessie in the background.

Before scrolling down, what elements in the picture can you see that might direct your own attention towards Nessie?

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  • The tree branch points towards Nessie.

  • The mountain forms a ‘V’ and points towards Nessie.

  • The red spots on Nessie catch the eye.

  • The rod and keep net handle point towards her.

  • The dog also points in that direction.

I could have made the red spots brighter to help her stand out. I could also have made the water and background darker so that she stands out better.

Over to you

Choose one of your own cartoons.

  • What element of the cartoon is vital to the idea?

  • How are you currently directing the reader’s attention to that element?

  • How could you better direct their attention?

Using spot colour

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This was the first version of the cartoon. I realised though that the fish was grey and just didn’t catch the eye. The eye was also drawn by a variety of brighter colours in the picture, such as the pink of the pelicans bills, and the bright colours of the fisher’s outfit.

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To remedy this, I coloured the fish orange, and gave the fisher a more drab outfit.

Over to you

Look at one of your own cartoons. Could you use spot colour to better catch your reader’s attention?

Contrast

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This started out life as part of a ‘word of the day’ challenge from a cartoon circle that I’m a member of. I was playing around with someone being becalmed in a boat, and also with the expression “the calm before the storm”, so I thought that I’d combine the two ideas into the one cartoon.

Over to you

How could you contast two different elements in one of your own cartoons?

Action off the page

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To emphasise the curiosity about what it is lurking in the water, I thought I’d add more than. One character peering into the waves at the end of the jetty. Originally it was the woman and the dog, but then I thought I’d add the pelican and the sea lion as well.

The sea lion looks a little apprehensive, and seeing as they are normally of course completely at home in the water, it also adds to the curiosity about what it might be in the water that causes it to be out of the wet.

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Similar to the above, I leave it up the reader’s imagination as to what might be on the the other end of the fishing line.

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Here’s the cartoon as I first sketched it out. As you can see, in comparison it’s to very dynamic at all. Even though the rod is benign, there’s no real tension or movement in the either the scene or the fisher.

Over to you

One way you could play around with this is to take one of your existing cartoons and then imagine that part of the action is happening off the page. Now edit or redraw the cartoon like that.

Odd one out

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I’ve used the underlying idea behind this one a few times before of having a person looking in the wrong place, or dressed completely unsuitably for the activity they’re currently engaged in

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I got the idea for this one after stumbling across stock image featuring someone in business attire fishing.

I liked the idea of someone popping out in their lunch break to do a pot of fishing. I also liked the contrast of her in her pinstripe business suit but with fishing boots on her feet.

Over to you

Think about ‘odd things out’ or ‘odd person out’ in your own cartoons.

Here are a few examples of this in different situations

  • Someone wearing a brightly coloured suit at a business meeting

  • A chihuahua being used as a guard dog

  • One house in a row being completely different

  • What could go wrong?

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A good question to pose to generate some gags, is ‘What could go wrong?’

Regardless of whatever the situation actually is, think of all the things that might go wrong, big or small.

Here are a few possibilities related to fishing

Over to you

You can either use an existing character or a new one for this. Think of a situation for your character, it could be taking the dog for a walk, or catching the train to work.

Next, think about what could go wrong with that situation. At first you’ll probably think of obvious things, such as the dog not wanting to go out for a walk, or the train being late. Push yourself to think of more interesting and unusual reasons for things going wrong.

Remember that it’s a cartoon - so you have a license to make things a bit bizarre.

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I got this idea from an image that has appeared in many posters and pictures over the years, of a kingfisher sat on top of a no fishing sign.

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I am very fond of drawing pelicans and I think that this might be the picture where they first appeared. The original title of this was ‘waiting for the catch’ or ‘waiting for supper’

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Less than ideal weather has appeared a few times in the cartoons.

While the fisher doesn’t seem to be too perturbed, her dog doesn’t look over happy and the pelicans look a little non-plussed as well.

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Add an antagonist.

I wanted to explore the idea of adding an antagonist to the picture.

I did a quick mind map.

I settled on the otter for a couple of reasons. I liked the idea of having a mischievous character, and I also hadn’t drawn otters before, so it gave me the perfect opportunity to learn how to do so.

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I also liked the idea of having the Labrador dozing peacefully on the river bank, completely oblivious to all the excitement going on around him.

Think bizarre!

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This is one of the more bizarre fishing cartoons that I’ve come up with.

You are probably scratching your head over what a honey badger is doing in a fishing cartoon. That is Reggie the honey badger who appears along with Suki in a completely different set of cartoons as supporting characters to Lionel Peabody - the absent-minded naturalist. If you have a regular character, then it can be a lot of fun to try and feature them in a completely different type of cartoon than the one in which they usually inhabit. You can also try taking supporting characters, Suki in this case, and making here the main character. This is pretty much what has happened in the fishing cartoons, as she seems to appear more than any other character.

Apply constraints

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In the rock pool

One recent idea that I’ve had, after finding a book in about rock pools and simultaneously finding a bunch of videos on Youtube about exploring rock pools, was the idea of exploring what could be found in the pool.

A rock pool is a lot more contained environment than either a river or sea, and sometimes it’s good to apply some constraints to force creativity.

Over to you:

What constraints could you apply with your own cartoons?

Add an animal

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I read about Newfoundland dogs being bred to help fishermen, and seeing as I’d never drawn the breed before thought it would be a good opportunity to do so. I might explore the idea of having the Newfoundland appear in subsequent cartoons. They seem to have a lot of character and as they are powerful swimmers, are ideal to feature in cartoons by the water.

You’ll notice that the woman has appeared in some of the other cartoons in this article. Her name is Suki and appears in the fishing cartoons from time to time, usually in her ‘uniform’ of orange woolly hat, yellow mac and green waders.

What about the elements?

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This is another one featuring more extreme weather. You might be wondering why there is a goat in the picture. This is a recurring character, Gerald the Goat, for appears in a lot of my cartoons from time to time. Taken out of this context, it doesn’t really make much sense to have a goat in the frame, however, you could think about how you could add a more unsual character to prop, or even setting to the cartoon.

Keeping on the subject of fishing, what unusual setting could there be?

Fishing in a washing-up bowl

Fishing in a puddle

Fishing in a desert

Fishing in some sort of strange boat

Fishing in the middle of a city - actually this happens in Tokyo at fishing ponds

Get started - and finish later

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This one is incomplete at the moment. I started drawing it without a clear end in mind. I liked the idea of having a very stormy scene, with the waves beating up and a driving rain.

How could I finish the cartoon?

Let’s look at some ideas.

Borrow from the movies

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In this one I’m paraphrasing the line from the movie ‘Jaws’ “You’re going to need a bigger boat” uttered by Richard Dreyfus’ character upon seeing the great white shark for the first time.

Over to you

Are there any lines from movies that you could use directly or paraphrase in anyway?

Summary - article in a nutshell

Let’s look at some of the main ideas covered in this article.

  • Directing attention - write a cartoon gag everyday, don’t miss a single one!

  • Using spot colour - it can be grown like any other muscle, but you have to use it

  • Contrast - use the antagonist to make your main character’s life more challenging

  • Action off the page - leave out some of the information, so that the reader has to fill in the gap with their imagination

  • Odd one out - what person or thing would look out of place in the scene

  • What could go wrong? - think of all the things that could go wrong with a situation

  • Add an antagonist - add a new person or creature to create problems for your character

  • Think bizarre! - exaggerate your cartoons - make them odder

  • Apply constraints - have a restrained setting for your cartoon

  • Add an animal - add a creature (anything you like) and see what results

  • What about the elements?

  • Start now - and finish later

  • Borrow from the movies

Over to you

Remember all the ‘over to you’ sections throughout this article? Now it really is over to you to see what you can come up with by yourself now. Remember that you’ve go to put in the time and practice if you want to get better at generating your own cartoon ideas.

Have patience - and keep going!

What’s next?

I hope that you’ve found this article useful.

If you’d like to learn further about creating ideas for cartoons, then click here to get the free guide to ‘How to never runout of ideas - how to generate your own ideas for cartoon drawings’

By the end of the day you can have tried out a technique or two and come up with some ideas for yourself - hopefully you will have already done so while reading this article.

If you’re interested in the ideas

About Rob

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Rob has been drawing cartoons for more years that he can remember. As well as drawing, he runs some online course to help folks draw their own cartoons.

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How to Draw a Strip Cartoon

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Would you like to be able to draw your own cartoon strip?

We’re all familiar with classic comic strips such as Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes, and we may even have pinned examples of them up on your fridge or at work - in the case of Dilbert.

You may have your own personal favourite that you’ve been following for ages and have gotten to know the characters quite well.

Maybe you’ve fancied drawing your own one, but have been put off by thought that it’s too difficult or takes too much time. It certainly more complex than drawing a single one-off gag cartoon, but there’s no need to be put off.

No fear!

What if drawing your own strip cartoon turned out to be not as much hassle as you initially thought?

This guide will break it down and take you through all the stages you need to create your own cartoon.

If you get the chance, you’re encouraged to draw along as you read this article.

Whenever you see a ‘over to you’ heading, that’s your cue to think, make notes or doodle.

It’s more effective to do this as you read along, as you can try it out on the spot. We often read things and intend to return to them later only for life to get in the way.

There will be some handy free tips/key points as we go along

Meet Gerald the Goat

To look at comic strips, we’re going to enlist the help of Gerald the Goat and Stan.

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I’ve been drawing the Gerald the Goat strip for a couple of years now. I’m going to use some examples from it to illustrate this article.

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What is a strip cartoon?

First, before we get started creating, what exactly is a strip cartoon?

A strip cartoon is a short series of panels, usually three or four, that communicate a brief story -usually ending with a punch line.

Most strips have recurring characters and some feature an underlying storyline that continues from strip to strip.

As the readers learn more about the characters lives as the story develops over time, a strong bond develops between them.

Readers often have their favourite cartoon strip and the connection they have to it can spread over years in the case of a long running strip.

Can connect with and develop a strong bond between the characters and the readers. The readers get to know more and more about the characters over time, as the story continues.

A strip cartoon doesn’t have to be overly humorous. Fred Basset is a good example of a strip that has a very gentle sense of humour, and relies more on observation of the dog and his family’s lives, rather than strong gags

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Let’s keep it simple at first

First of all, let’s keep it simple by creating a one-off strip cartoon. They’ll be some suggestions for developing your characters and storylines later on.

When creating a strip, the first thing to think up is the setting, and then put to together a cast of characters.

Alternatively you could create a distinct character and then work out what location/setting they inhabit.

Settings

Popular settings include:

-Kids life (Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts)

-Work (Dilbert)

Over to you:

Think of three possible settings for your cartoon.

Characters

With any cartoon you need some characters. You’ll need at least at least two so that they can interact with each other.

Let’s look at some common pairings.

Garfield: Garfield (pet) and Jon (owner)

Peanuts: Snoopy (pet) and Charlie Brown (owner)

Over to you:

Can you think up any other pairings?

Here are a few:

-Boss and co-workers

-boyfriend and girlfriend

-cat and dog

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But I can’t draw!

You may be thinking, this is nice but I can’t draw.

Well, what do you mean ‘I can’t draw?’

I find that when people say that they can’t draw, ‘can’t’ can mean a bunch of things from ‘can’t find one end of a pencil from another’ to ‘I’m not as good as a professional cartoonist’. I’m guessing that if you’ve found this article then at least you know how to draw a little bit.

You don’t have to be a great artist to produce a strip cartoon.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here - there’s plenty of room for another cat or dog cartoon.

Besides, we’re not aiming for perfection to dazzling artwork here - we’re simply aiming to introduce you to the wonderful world of strip cartoons.

Use personal experience to create a character pair

You could try using your own personal experience to come up with some ideas for characters.

Do you have a pet of your own?

Do you work in an office?

Do you have a particular hobby or interest?

Just doodle!

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If you can’t come up with any ideas for a potential character, just start doodle lots and lots of simple characters and see where that leads.

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If one in particular strikes, then doodle lots of variants of it until one sticks.

Coming up with stories

Now that you have a couple of characters we have to think up a story for them.

Let’s think of some common situations for the character.

But first, let me mention…

The idea muscle

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One of the key features of this article is the idea of the ‘idea muscle’. Thinking up ideas is like building muscles, it takes some skill and application, but the more you do it the better you become.

This process is not necessarily easy, just as when you start exercise of any sort, however it is not supposed to be a hard slog either. If you put in a little time and do the some of the exercises consistently you’ll start to see results.

Mindmap

Let’s try a mindmap featuring Gerald. I wrote down any particular ideas or situations associated with him that came to mind. It dosen’t matter whether they’re good ideas at this point, the most important thing is to write them down. Don’t pause to think for too long!

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You can choose one of the ideas and do a new mind map to make it even more focused.

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Over to you:

Try out your own mindmap featuring your character. Remember don’t pause for thought - write down whatever comes to mind.

Create a character profile

Another really good way to get to know your character is to create a profile/avatar for them.

Here is an example featuring Gerald

Name: Gerald the goat

Where does he/she live?: Stan’ garden (well, he’s supposed to anyway...)

What does he do? Eats things...almost anything, especially people’s flower beds...

What does he like? Eating, butting people

What does he dislike? The bull

Describe personality in a sentence: Gerald is a little bit of anarchy in goat-form.

Here’s a blank profile you can use. Feel free to add additional information, and to add as much detail as you like. The more detail you add the more richer character you’ll create - and the better you’ll get to know them

Name:

Where does he/she live?

What does he/she do?

What does he/she like?

What does he/she dislike?

Describe his/her personality in a sentence:

Get started

The most important thing about trying to create to strip cartoon is to simply get started. Try doodling lots of characters and see which ones appeal to you.

One way to force yourself to do this, is to set a timer for a couple of minutes and doodle as many different characters as you can during that time. You can set yourself a theme if you want to narrow it down, such as animals or children.

Drawing characters

After you’ve created your character, try making a few notes about their appearance to help you for future reference.

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Practice drawing your characters

In a cartoon strip the characters appear from panel to panel, and strip to strip, so it’s important that the characters always look the same to maintain this sense of continuity.

Start to practice drawing your characters again and again in the same pose. Start off by drawing a side profile, as that’s the more useful to draw when having the characters talking with another character

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If you’re working with a drawing tablet, you might be wondering why you don’t simply copy and paste the characters. Drawing the characters helps to build the muscle memory so that you can draw them at will later on. This will also help when you try to draw the characters in new poses,

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as you will have an instinctive idea of how the characters proportions should look even you’ve previously drawn them a lot.

Over to you:

Choose an existing character or one you generated from the earlier exercise. Practice drawing them a bunch of times like the examples featuring Gerald and Stan above.

Expressions and Mannerisms

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Imagine your characters carrying out conversations with each other, or thinking about different events. You could even try putting yourself into one of the characters shoes and joining in the conversation itself. Think of this as playful, rather than silly.

Try day-dreaming and putting yourself into the characters shoes. Imagine what you might do if you were in their place.

Everyday life

Popular cartoons that work well are usually the ones that comment on everyday life and people’s habits and quirks - i.e. thing that we are already very familiar with. You don’t have to think of anything too exotic. Even if you have an exotic setting, you can still have the characters commenting on the everyday nature of that exotic setting.

Other situations

What other every day situations can you think up?

They might include: catching a train, waiting in a queue, getting wet in the rain etc.

Just doodle!

If you can’t come up with any ideas, start doodling your characters in funny situations and see what ideas that might spark. Don’t forget that a cartoon gives you a licence to exaggerate the characters and their setting.

Collect different situations to use

As you keep drawing your characters you’ll come across situations that can be recycled and used again and again. In the case of Gerald the goat, this would include his attempts to eat flower beds, running away from the bull etc.

You can keep a note of these situations and bring them out from time to time if you are stuck for ideas.

Make a list of questions about your character

Here are a few examples featuring Gerald the goat.

-What does he want to eat?

-How is he going to get the food?

-What might stop him from getting the food?

-what might happen after he gets the food?

Everyday life

Popular cartoons that work well are usually the ones that comment on everyday life and people’s habits and quirks - i.e. thing that we are already very familiar with. You don’t have to think of anything too exotic. Even if you have an exotic setting, you can still have the characters commenting on the everyday nature of that exotic setting.

Opening panel method

This is a way to get started on a strip when we haven’t yet got an idea for the ending. Draw a situation with one or more characters in the first panel and what comes to mind for the rest of the strip.

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Closing frame method

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This is the reverse of the starting frame method. This time you trying to think of the gag or punch line last and then work backwards to think up the rest of the cartoon.

Middle frame method

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For this one draw something happening in the middle frame and see if that sparks any ideas for either the punchline or the opening.

Layout

Composition

The composition of your cartoon is how your arrange your characters, any props and the setting throughout the strip. It’s important to think about how clear the composition is, as if it is muddle then it makes it hard for your reader to understand what is going on or what the gag is.

A reader only scans the cartoon with their eyes for a brief moment, and will only spend a couple of seconds trying to work out what is going on in the cartoon. So you have to make sure that the composition of your cartoon gets the idea across to the reader immediately.

Try to convey a lot of information with the minimum amount of lines and detail

Don’t get distracted

Don’t worry at first about what size you should draw the strip. Draw your characters and their setting at whatever size feel comfortable for you. You can experiment with the size of the strip later on.

Be careful not to spend too much time over particulars such as what equipment to use or how the cartoon finally finally look when polished. This can distract away form the most important task of all - to start drawing your cartoon.

To add:

background

colour

frames

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Make sure your character’s eyes are looking in the right direction.

Settings

The setting for your characters can be simple - the most important thing is to set the scene quickly so that your readers know what is going on.

Backgrounds need to give enough detail to help set the story, but not too much so as to distract from the characters and the story.

Foreground, mid-ground, background

How you position characters within the frames changes the message and the feel of the story.

To re-write:

The foreground tends to lead the viewer into the picture and conveniently frames the setting with a window-like boundary that assist focus. Most of the cartoon’s action, dialogue and interaction reside in the midground. It is also where a full, objective overview of the setting can be made. The background establishes the setting by anchoring its features. The placement of the horizon line here determines scale, depth and perspective, unifying all the elements of the picture and ensuring that their juxtaposition makes sense.

The important point about drawing the setting is to only include what is necessary to tell the story.

We are so familiar with a range of surroundings - our homes, offices, shops and streets - that it does not require many everyday objects to set a scene.

As long as your readers already know the context of the cartoon, then you don’t need to include so much detail

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A squiggle could represent a row of trees, rectangles with some simple markings show a row of buildings, a TV shows a living room, some simple desks an office.

Think about what the minimum number of clues you need to set the scene.

As you draw everyday objects, add them to your reference library. You can refer to them again and again in the future.

Lettering/speech bubbles

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We read dialogue from left to right or top to bottom.

Words and pictures work together

In any sort of cartoon, words and pictures work together to get the idea or gag across, and shouldn’t be considered separately.

A character’s facial expression speaks as much as the words that come out of it.

Before you start drawing your first cartoon, have the script drafted out and some rough sketches for each frame

Do your lettering first, and then draw the speech or thought bubble around it.

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It doesn’t matter whether you handwrite your own lettering or use the lettering in an app such Procreate or Sketches.

Be careful not to cram too much writing into one bubble.

Different fonts can really change the tone of the cartoon.

The more text you have, the less space available for the art - and vice versa.

Experiment with using different fonts, font sizes, placing the text is different places within the frame.

Try many different ones until you come up with a style that suits you.

Let your lettering breath

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Make sure to leave some space between your lettering and the surrounding speech/thought bubble so that it is easy to read.

Don’t write too many words in the bubble, as it can become too crowded and difficult to read.

Draft your speech bubbles, the same way you’d draft a drawing. Look over your writing and see if there are any unnecessary words you could remove. Don’t always settle for the first version.

To rewrite:

‘A’ begins the conversation as his speech is at the top of the frame. At the end of the sentence, the eye naturally flows to the second bubble belonging to the other character. The first speaker’s second bubble is joined to the first by a path dispelling the need for two pointers heading for one head.

Expression through bubbles

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Speech bubbles can be made more dramatic with jagged edges

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It may be necessary for a character to make a longer speech and you may wish to. Adopt a device for effective splitting to allow the character and the reader a break.

Continuing your strip

How can I keep the strip going?

It can be quite a daunting thought, trying to maintain a cartoon strip. However, with a little planning there’s not reason for this to be the case.

It’s good to have a set process in hand/system to follow to ensure that you turn your strip on a weekly basis or however often you want to produce it.

How can I keep creating new ideas?

As you get to know your characters and their world more and more you’ll find that they take on a life of their own and ideas will start to appear automatically. This doesn’t always mean that it will be easy to come up with ideas, but some ideas will present themselves of their own accord.

Once you get a good idea for a story arc, then plots will come from that that you can use in individual strips.

How can I make it more efficient?

I think that it’s very useful to plan out your story line in advance

There can be some reoccurring story lines. Gerald has to have a bath, Gerald attempting to break into the annual garden show etc.

Get to know your characters

As the creator of the strip, you should get to know all of your characters really well. Unless you know your characters intimately and they come alive for you - there’s not way they’ll be able to come alive for your readers.

Story arcs

*As a cartoon strip is usually a series of ongoing stories, how can you generate some ideas for stories that will produce lots of ideas for individual strips?

What could be the basis of an ongoing story?

Let’s look at an example.

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A leopard has escaped from the zoo.

What are some ideas that could form the basis of individual strips?

-the leopard tres to catch Gerald

-Gerald has to escape from the leopard

-Gerald has to hide from the leopard

-Gerald tries to reason with the Leopard

-Rex the police dog (a supporting character talks with the leopard)

-Gerald tries to capture the leopard

-Gerald fails to capture the leopard - and the subsequent consequence

-Someone else captures the leopard

-The leopard is captured

-the leopard goes back to the zoo

-Gerald visits the leopard in the zoo.

Over to you

What I’ve for your characters could produce a good story?

Here are a few ideas:

-someone going on a blind date

-a new person joining the office

-a new pet joining the family

-a dog wants to play

-it’s a really rainy day

Creating a cast of characters

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Over to you:

Build up a reference library

To help make drawing your strip more efficient in the future, collect different backgrounds that you can re use form time to time. This also applies to everyday objects as well.

Word Of The Day Challenge

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Here is a challenge you can try, to help you get into the habit of thinking up ideas for cartoons on a daily basis.

Get a calendar, either paper or digital.

Write a different adjective for every day of the month.

Each day, try to think of a cartoon to illustrate that day’s word.

Try to stretch yourself by coming up with several ideas for the same adjective. The first idea that pops into mind is not always the one that we settle on using.

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Think about how the word could have different interpretations.

For example, “stormy” could refer to stormy weather, or it might also be a somewhat fiery relationship. You might also want to think about any associated phases and sayings such as “storm in a teacup” or “the calm before the storm.

Try using a thesaurus as well to give you ideas.

You could also try doing a mind map to see what ideas that might lead to.

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Remember, it’s not about thinking up great ideas - it’s about practising the habit of thinking of ideas.

The more you practice thinking up ideas, the more you increase the chances of thinking up good ones.

The examples in this section are all from a cartooning forum that I’m a member of. For several months now we have been participating in a word of the day challenge, all of the words featured being adjectives.

For your own prompts you could try adjectives, or you could common household items, different animals etc. Everyday, draw out a different piece of paper and try to think up an Idea fo a cartoon based on the prompt

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Illustrated Booknotes