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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. 




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