Friday, January 30, 2009


According to the submission guidelines put out by King Features Syndicate, "Very few aspiring cartoonists pay enough attention to their lettering. The words need to be lettered neatly, and large enough that readers can read them without difficulty". The standard variety falls somewhere between very clear handwriting and a draftman's lettering. Checkout you local newspaper's comic page. There you will find a volumnous textbook of lettering. You will notice varied styles. yet each style fits the particular strip inwhich it appears.

Size of lettering is rarely done smaller than 1/8" or larger than 1/4". My standard size for lettering is 3/16" with a line space of 1/16"

Rather than try and measure with a ruler and/or straight edge, I use an 'Ames Lettering Guide'. This tool is used for ruling parallel, horizontal guidelines in pencil by means of regularly spaced holes for your pencil. They are fairly inexpensive, come with instructions and are simple to use.

One important rule to remember; all letters are usually "CAPS" and are sans-sarif (without sarifs- the little crossbars on the I and J). Note that the sample above has a sarif on the "J". Keeping or leaving it is a matter of preference. I prefer not to use it but thought I would include it to show the difference.

There is a wide variety of items used for lettering, from brushes and felt markers to an actual tool known as a "Leroy Lettering Set". My favorite is a Micron 08 felt marker, manufactured by Pigma. There is a large selection of books about lettering at your friendly neighborhood art store. I recommend checking them out. Also, checkout your local library. Its amazing what you can find! Another great source for searching for samples of lettering is right at your finger tips. Your computor!
Above is a sample of the most used style.
One thing to always remember..practice!!!! Everyday and every chance you get. it isn't like riding a bike, trust me.
Next; Laying out and inking your cartoon

Christmas toon

Better late than never.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Holiday cartoon

I know it actually isn't as bad as depicted in the cartoon but it sure is starting to feel this way!
Next: Lettering

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Secret revealed

Just thought I would let everyone know why I have gotten so slow posting on my blog.


Sorry its taking so long to set everything up. But then I realized you guys haven't seen the holiday toons because the computor was down so, while I get stuff together for future postings relating to our current project please enjoy "Cartoons From Holidays (just) Past" Enjoy!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Preparing your panels

Most daily comic strips are drawn 12 3/4” wide by 4” tall. Single panel cartoons are drawn 7” square.

You can draw larger or smaller than that, as long as your cartoons are in proportion to that size. When drawn in these measurements reducing by 50% will produce the proper measurement for printing..

The larger size of the original is done to make drawing easier for the artist as well as improve quality after reduction as it will be smaller, and cleaner.
Next: Lettering

Monday, January 19, 2009

Personalities and appearance, creating and drawing your characters

Of all the characters who make up “The Grand Life” the ones that gave me the most trouble were Violet and George., but for two different reasons. The rest of the cast were taken from life, whole and as they are. Violet, on the other hand, was a combination of my ex-wife Janice, my mother-in-law Myrtiss and my step mother Phyllis.

I knew who George was from the get-go, I just wasn’t sure of how he would look. I knew he would be over-weight, and either balding or grayish.
I am posting drawings of the early George to show how appearances can change. The different stages of George took several weeks of drawing and erasing before I was finally happy with the character.

Do not be disappointed or discouraged if it takes longer. I had a preconceived image in my head and it still took awhile.
Sorry it is taking so long between posts but I have had to persue files I thought I would never need, thank God I am like my Mother and never throw anything away.
Next: Now the fun begins! Preparing your panels, single and strip.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Grand Life: from conception to delivery

As I mentioned in the previous post, almost all cartoon strips evolve through time and often share little with the finished printed product. My strip, “The Grand Life” lends testimony to that statement. Originally titled, “Blind Allie”, it centered around a young teen who was visually impaired. Basically, it dealt with him, his friends, Frog and Tiny and their antics.

I found the concept unique and exciting, but after awhile ideas didn’t come so easy and situations I believed to be hilarious, others found offensive. Eventually, I put “Blind Allie” away and resumed work on “Duck’n Out”.

My wife Sheri, sensing I wasn’t happy with the way things were going suggested I turn my life into a strip. We talked and it started to make sense. There is a rule in writing, “write what you know.” We had just moved from Mississippi (after Katrina) where we (Sheri, Breanna, Gizmo and myself) lived with my daughter Tracy, her two children, Connor and Alexandra, her husband, his parents and my ex-wife. What a group!

“The Grand Life” began to write itself, while some of the incidences are exaggerated, 99% are based on actual events. I think that’s what makes it so much fun to write and draw. For it to work, that what it has to be; Fun!

Above are two different cartoons each done as “Blind Allie” and later re-done as “The Grand Life”.
Next: Personalities and appearance, creating and drawing your characters

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Developing Ideas and Characters

The term “Comic Strip” usually brings to mind such favorites as “Garfield”, “Dilbert”, “Blondie”, “Peanuts” and so on, but there are other types of strips that are not comic in structure or story; Adventure, Genre (soap opera), action, advertising, horror, etc.

Seldom, if ever, does a concept for a comic strip come to the writer/artist/creator whole and complete as it appears in print. It goes through changes as characters are developed and relationships are established. Each episode may be self-contained but usually there will be a certain amount of continuity in terms of settings, characters, etc, this gives the artist/writer an opportunity to create an entire universe of relationships among the characters and their environment.

One of the most important things to do, even before laying out your first panel, is to draw your characters every day. Get to know them. After a while they will become as familiar to you as if they were real. Presented here are three forms my single panel cartoon, “Outside the Box” took before it was something I was happy with (each form had its fans but the first person you have to please is yourself, since you will be working with it everyday).

The first was “Great Ducks through History” which garnered for me my first batch of rejection slips. Soon to follow was, “Duck’n Out”, which added many more slips. Last came, “Outside the Box” which received its share, but is currently awaiting an opening in The Frederick News-Post.

The moral to this post is….Do not give up! A rejection slip is not a failure! It is simply one less rung on your ladder to success!

Next; The Grand Life; Developing a character, from conception to delivery.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Art Equipment; Tools of the Trade

In my opinion, there has not been a better tool for drawing than a number 2 pencil, and the best thing about the computer is the massive amount of printing paper available to sketch on. But that is just me. Unfortunately, syndicates find the two unacceptable. So we must yield to their desires…snobs!!

I will list the necessary items that you will need to produce a professional looking cartoon and a brief explanation as to why they’re necessary.

Until you know what type of strip you want to do, it would be advisable to use the number 2 pencil and the printer paper mentioned above. The supplies listed below are not cheap so you won’t want to waste them.

All items listed can be found at any art store but I have found most can be purchased at Wal-Mart or K-Mart. The higher priced items can be purchased later.

It is unnecessary, at the moment, to list ALL the tools you will need, but we will list them as the need arises. We will discuss the items that you will need to begin. I’m sure your wallet will appreciate it in time.

To begin you will want to buy a drawing board. Its compact size and portability will come in handy. A good size is 24” x 36”, with collapsible or folding legs. The tilted surface will save your back and you will be able to work longer with more comfort. Add a comfortable chair.
If the drawing board mentioned above does not come with a straight edge you will want to purchase a T-square used to draw horizontal straight lines in parallel.

2 clear, plastic triangles measuring 12” of 14”. One should be a 45 degree-45 degree-90 degree triangle, the other a 30 degree-60 degree-90 degree triangle.

Because most cartoonists work with human expression and gestures, a useful tool is a small simple mirror.

A dusting brush, useful for sweeping eraser rubbings and such from your work, as the hand can smudge and soil your work.

Pencils, several should be blue drafting pencils, since they do not reproduce or copy they need not be erased. Other useful pencils are the usual range of drawing pencils. Remember, the softer the lead the darker the line. I have found the most often used for cartooning layouts are the “HB” and “F”, and a pencil sharpener.

A kneaded eraser; a soft, pliable gray eraser.

Drafting tape, this holds the paper to the table just as regular masking tape but will not harm the paper when removed. Last, but not least, a swivel lamp.

Since I did not intend to write a book I will cover more items later as the need arises, such as: pens, inks, illustration paper, knives, brushes, shading overlays, tracing paper, etc.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me at the address below. or

Next: Developing ideas and characters

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Beginning your cartoon

To most of us the phrase "cartoon" brings to mind the image of a single square illustration of a humorous nature. This can also be said of the "comic strip", where several panels are placed side by side. While both are similar in nature, structurally, they are quite different.
Most often the "single panel" is used for one-line jokes (the "punch line" being delivered below the panel depicting the "set up") as well as political humor where the caption and/or set up is usually contained within the panel.
On the other hand, the comic strip is a story told in several "scenes" or panels. Usually, the strip deals with reoccurring characters and running story lines that are told with dialogue balloons contained with-in the panels.
It is hard to say which is most important; the writing or the artwork. There are times when a weak story or joke is lifted up out of mediocrity by bizarre or ridiculously funny artwork. Sometimes just the opposite can be the case.
We are going to deal mostly with the artwork, but we will attempt to touch on writing. I have found the best tool for writing dialogue and depicting situations is to always carry something with me that will allow me to remember ideas. In my case, and I know it would work well for others, is to carry a small tape recorder.
Talk to friends, go to the mall and watch people. You will be amazed! I've even gone so far as to talk to people at the store or at the doctors office, explaining to them what I do and was even further amazed at how quick people would tell me of situations their kids have put then through. Some you won't be able to have printed in a family newspaper, but then, that is why God invented Playboy.
Most of the time our own families are a mother-lode of material. Trust me, of this, I know what I speak!!
Have Fun!! That's what its all about!!
Tomorrow; Art equipment, the tools of the trade

Monday, January 5, 2009

Creating a cartoon strip; from conception to submission.

To begin, I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and is having a great New Year.
While Sheri, Breanna and I were visiting my son Tom and his wife Christine in Las Vegas for the Holidays (their very generous gift to us for Christmas), I was fortunate to meet a young lady who has visited this blog, and called me on a promise I made back when I started it.
It seems Wendy, the young lady mentioned above, besides having excellent taste in cartoons and blogs, has a brother who is interested in cartooning but lacks the knowledge of producing a strip for syndication.
She thought that my promise to discuss how to develope a strip from conception to submission to a syndicate might be of interest to him and possibly others.
So, that is what we will explore for the next week or so, or however long it takes.
I hope you will find it of interest. Please, feel free to utilize whatever advice and ideas you find useful. Also, your input is appreciated. If you have any additional information you would like to add please post them to the blog under "comments" or write to me directly, using the addresses shown below, and I will post them for you.
As in all subjects, no one knows everything so, if you find an error or have a question I have not addressed, let me know and I will do my best to find the answer to your question or correct the error.
Thanks Wendy!!
Tom Holloway