About Terry LaBan
Terry Speaks!
So You Want To Be a Cartoonist
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High Class Caricature by Terry LaBan

King Features Syndicate


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So You Want To Be a Cartoonist, continued


Hanging our with other aspiring cartoonists isn't just fun, it'll help build your career. Find like-minded souls in your town and get together with them. You won't feel like such a freak and you'll learn a lot from each other. If you're lucky, you may find yourself part of a genuine scene, or even an artistic movement. If nothing else, you'll form friendships that will last for years and connections which will lead to unexpected opportunities. And don't neglect to go to events like comic book conventions. Editors are more inclined to work with people they've met, even if that means just shaking hands at a crowded table.

Choose Your Influences Carefully

I rarely see this mentioned in cartooning advice books, but it's important. True, to some extent, it's impossible to control what influences you--we like what we like. But be aware that once you incorporate an influence, it can be extremely hard to eradicate. If you're overly influenced by work that's too commonplace or unfashionable, it can seriously impact your ability to find an audience. Pay attention to what you think looks cool or cutting edge, and try to see what directions the kind of cartooning you want to do is going. And acquire an encyclopedic knowledge of past cartoon styles--often the old things are just the ticket to something attractive and new.

Work Well On Your Own

Generally, cartoonists are by themselves a lot, which can be a problem if you really like to spending part of each day socializing with the guy in the next cubicle. It's also essential to be a self-starter and a disciplined worker--if you need a boss to motivate you, cartooning is going to be a tough go. Personally, I like to work alone and if I don't stick to a fairly rigid daily schedule, I have anxiety attacks, so getting my work done isn't generally a problem. But even I, a confirmed introvert, sometimes get sick of the isolation. It is wise for the full time cartoonist to find regular activities outside the studio, better still to have a spouse or family. If you're lucky enough to find a partner who supports your weird career choice, or even better, helps support you, do not, under any circumstances, leave them.

Learn to Love Your Demons

You're going to be spending a lot of time with them. They can either make you a star or kick your ass.

Never, Ever, Miss a Deadline

Deadlines are sacred and cartoonists who miss them don't stay cartoonists for long. There is no excuse, including hungry dogs and dead grandmas, for not turning in work when you said you would.

Draw Cute Girls

Yeah, it sounds sexist, but it's a fact: if you draw ugly girls, no one, man, woman or child, will want to read you. Kids, men, old ladies, animals--draw them however you want. But figure out how to make your girls cute. I know, you can probably think of a super-successful cartoon somewhere in which the girls are homely. Hey, whatever. It's your life.

Of course there's a lot more advice I could give to the aspiring funny-nose jockey, and if I think of it, I'll add it to this page. Hopefully, I haven't been too negative, a tendency I have to watch for. The fact is, there are worse fates than spending your life living out your childhood dreams, even if they don't play out exactly the way you imagined they would at age 8(and that sometimes happens too!) With a supportive family, a few good friends, steady work and a daily dose of fresh air, it is possible for full-time cartoonists to lead relatively pleasant lives. If you have the urge, don't let fear stop you. As the Butthole Surfers once said, it's better to regret what you did do than what you didn't, so grab a pencil or a Wacom tablet and get to work. None of us, really, can afford to waste any more time.