Skip to main content

The Compelling Characters of Cartoon and Illustrations: how I try to draw.

When we read a book such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for instance; we will conjure up various images of Victor Frankenstein, even though the classic black and white film uses a mad scientist archetype, which however, is not in the novel at all. Regardless, there's nothing wrong with borrowing this popular movie icon to fit Shelley's story if you read it. Either way, the point is, Victor Frankenstein, like many fictional literary characters, tax our imaginations, we take on the job of visualising or bringing characters to life through interpretation—this is where the work of the author ends and where we begin. The cartoonist and illustrator does exactly the same when drawing up a character from imagination, or when capturing a person on paper. Symbols, pop culture, stereotypes, tropes and memes are all tools of an artist. For example, you've likely seen the comparative caricatures of Trump make an impact by amalgamating him with a spoilt tantruming child or cry baby? This man has been symbolised, depicted and postured more than most political figures I can think of, to be honest. He's also a great cartoon to study in the pursuit of understanding what makes a compelling cartoon or caricature. The best advice I could offer a fellow hobbyist or amature cartoonist would be to participate in arty circles within social media: instagram has a supportive community of fantastic artists of various demographics. It is easy to use and all you need to do is follow people or hashtags. So many techniques are out there: zoomer and millennial cartooning is breaking, the conceptual space is changing the game and publishers need to recognise this—I respect how artists are unapologetically take drawing comedy to new places. 

At the start of my drawing processes however, there always comes a haze, the blurry raw idea, the gist of what I want to express. What do you want to draw up? Let's say, in this instance we want to make a visual joke about conservative MPs speaking favourably of cutting disability benefits. I'd immediately start by exploring the stereotype storeroom or the pop culture cupboard, especially if I'm weaponising the cartoon: posh suites for Tory Toffs, the chained ghost of Thatcher, Scrooge or tiny Tim if it's Christmas, maybe the Times newspaper, large noses with which they peer down at their lesser humans, smugness and excess wealth, finding ammunition is harsh but effective. To sufficiently resonate the finer notes, a detailed image is best in my opinion; a picture that paints more than a thousand words has substance. In my head, a location, composition and action is required before I proceed. When I do, graphite pencils (if black and white) or blue erasable (for a colour image) would be used to establish rough outlines, capturing the characters expressions. I try to empathise with my characters as I draw their expressions (I even pull faces to get a feel); articulating a drawings thoughts as best as I can, a bit like sketching an interpretation of a book character. Before Anthony Hopkins immortalised Hannibal Lecter back in the nineties, the character was also raw and multifaceted in his book form (ignoring Brian Cox's performance in manhunter).  Realistic type cartoons are more time consuming and some may argue that they're unnecessary for a simple gag, which are mostly centred on a quick laugh or a smile. This is why Garfield doesn't have a highly detailed coat and ultra realistic facial features, he's a well designed and simplified cartoon. I would draw the previously mentioned Tory cartoon with such detail and moderate realism. I still find myself toiling over my own simple cartoons, a simple line can say a lot. Vicariously, I always want my character to engage with readers; essentially, these drawings become my actors making me some kind of director. 

Popular posts from this blog

Vladek Spiegelman, Maus.

•Vladek Spiegelman•Vladek Spiegelman •Vladek• •Vladek Spiegelman• •Vladek Spiegelman• •Vladek Spiegelman• Years ago, Art Spiegelman set to work, hoping to create a personal meaningful book; a comic book, depicting the horrendous experiences endured by his family in Poland during the late thirties and WWII. The book shows Art taking direct accounts and reflections from his father, Vladek; who had first hand memories of what life was like during that time. Throughout the story, we see that Vladek Spiegelman did not share his information with his son as smoothly as he could have at times. The Holocaust, the survival strategies used in his Jewish community, every part of it holds a sobering sadness and a warning that such evil once existed. The Art of Art This is not just Schindlers List crossed with the Beano. Admittedly, I remember opening Maus for the first time. After reading many modern comic books, which are now created by multiple collaboraters who utilise excellent com

Do transformational archetypes reflect who we are?

Hulk •Batman •Dr.Who •Darth Vader •Buddha •Scrooge •Arthur Fleck/Joker •Werewolves •Norse Gods •Changelings • F ilms, Books, T.V Boxed sets, have so many transitional archetypes,  such as the bibles fall of Lucifer, along with the spiritual transformation of the disciples,  there's the u-turn of Saul to Paul, who was temporarily blinded by the divine light of the alleged resurrected Christ. We see change themes in various super hero origin stories, including that of Bruce Banner/Hulk or Bruce Wayne, the Batman. Other examples include Beauty and the Beast, or the story of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader, and everyone knows Doctor Who, the regenerating time lord. Our mythology and lore across Europe, has shape-shifting pagan gods along with werewolves and vampires. Further east the narrative of the Buddha's awakening is easy to find. We could compile a huge list.  However,  transformation, the complete alteration of a person  in  the mundane world we live in, doesn

Philosophy to Physics: a character development of God and the origin of life

    God•Creation•Evolution• God•Creation•Evolution• God•Creation•Evolution• God•Creation•Evolution• The Beginning... We have always wanted answers and human imagination has never failed to offer them. Years ago, even during the era of Socrates, philosophers debated life and its mysteries. Aristotle, born 384 BC, had all things resulting from his prime mover – a force of movement shifting throughout the world and the cosmos. What he meant by its movement was not exclusively a linear sense but also multi-directional like fire, melting metal, expansion of forces, explosions etcetera. Heraclitus, born circa 535 BC, interested in metaphysical thought, developed two similar ideas, Panta Rhei, literally meaning everything flows. An appreciation of impermanence through change and the concept of the Logos (our potential human capacity to link with the logic/common sense of the natural world). Heraclitus acknowledged we all have some degree of knowledge and clarity of thought, but he