Being a cartoonist can allow for a lot of personal freedom in your career as well as a creative outlet. Cartoonists are often self-employed and must promote their work to have steady income. It requires both drawing skills and business savvy to find the right job. Drawings that convey wit and humor about politics, life, work or whatever your subject must be matched with a publication or online forum interested in your style and content.
A background in illustration is a traditional career route and many cartoonists in this field obtain a fine arts degree, honing their drawing skills to produce unique, branded work. If you are interested in animation then you need skills in graphic design, fine arts and animation. According to 2010 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, illustrators with bachelor's degree made on average $58,510 per year and fine artists averaged $48,300, according to 2008 BLS data.
Design and Conceptualization
A cartoonist's work may appear in magazines, graphic novels, online publications or newspapers. For many cartoonists, the goal is to have a serial weekly or monthly cartoon, however, early on in your career you might work for clients doing one-off projects. Cartoonists might illustrate book covers, provide illustrations for articles, or design a logo for a business. Listen closely to your clients' needs and request samples of what they like to avoid disappointing them and losing clients. Each medium has specific requirements of size, space, style and content that must be considered to complete the job.
Creating your comic is the fun part. Once you know your audience and subject you can begin with your tools of choice. While newspaper cartoons are often still completed freehand, it is becoming more common to use computer software for illustration and animation. Cartoonists can be qualified as either illustrators or animators depending on their skill sets. Illustrators generally need top-notch freehand drawing skills, while animators need advanced computer and graphic design skills. Having knowledge of both areas can open up more job opportunities in print and film projects.
Getting Your Work Out There
Getting your work out there can be difficult on your own. Some comic book companies hire cartoonists to carry on existing long-running comics but there are also other avenues you can take. Many cartoonists sell their work piece-by-piece or through self-published graphic novels. It is also possible to get an agent to help you get your work in the right hands for possible syndication and book deals.
While some cartoonists come from an arts background, a knowledge of journalism, publishing and political science can also be valuable educational options. Keep doing your own creative cartoons alongside your commercial work. These distinctive style will be more valuable as you build a name for yourself.
- Education Portal: Cartoonist
- State University.com: Cartoonist and Animator
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Craft And Fine Artists
- Art Bistro: 8 Steps To Becoming An Illustrator
- Education Portal: Illustration and Drawing
- School of Visual Arts: Cartooning
- School of Visual Arts: Gainful Employment Data
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Multimedia Artists and Illustrators
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Artist
- The Animation Guild: Contracts and Wages
Grace Bordelon is a public relations professional, teacher and writer. She owns her own boutique public relations firm that specializes in the advertising, gaming and software industries. She also teaches at a major design school for fine artists, commercial artists and graphic designers. Bordelon holds a B.A. in international economics and an M.A. in English from Bard College.