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.

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.

If you’ve got any questions, then please drop me. A mail at

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