How to Draw Cartoons > Cartoon Practice

Drawing requires greater freedom of movement than writing - more variety in length, direction and character of lines. Practice exercises with pen or brush are to the artist what scales are to the musician.

Practice with pen and brush in order to become familiar with your tools. Learn to hold them without cramping the fingers. Try different sizes of pens and brushes. Spend some time to look at other people's cartoons to get ideas. Practice first with pen, then with brush, without any pencil guide lines, except for this: place pencil dots a short distance apart. Connect the dots by one smooth, straight stroke, holding pen or brush to an even value. Place the dots farther and farther apart, learning to draw long, even lines freely. Then try curves of great variety in width and direction. See how many tones of gray you can build by varying width of lines and distance between the lines.

Stipple is done by dotting the paper surface with the pen, taking care to avoid a stiff, straight-line effect. Use stipple only in small areas. It is apt to be mechanical in appearance and is tedious work.

In spatter work the areas which are not to be spattered are first carefully covered with paper or high-quality rubber cement which can later be peeled off. One way to spatter is to dip a toothbrush in black waterproof drawing ink. Hold the brush nearly horizontal, bristles up. Then stroke the bristles toward you with a match or toothpick. When they are released, the bristles snap tiny drops of ink on the exposed paper.

Your Reference File

"Morgue" is the newspaper term for a classified file of clippings. An artist will find it helpful to accumulate such a file. A source file stimulates the imagination. That usually results in the creation of original ideas. The morgue serves as a ready source of pictorial information. For instance, suppose you want to draw a picture of a policeman, a postman, and a motorman. Do you know by heart the exact uniform each wears? Even though, as a cartoonist, you must simplify, you will need to have the few essential details correct.

Turn to your morgue which you will have classified in your own way. Maybe these figures will be filed under "Uniforms," or maybe they'll be under "civil service." As you clip, date the items which constantly change in appearance, such as uniforms, airplanes, automobiles, and styles in clothes and furniture. You will need an ordinary mail-order catalogue, too. It gives a great variety of pictures and details which are invaluable. Better yet, it is indexed.

Below are shown a variety of objects, typical of the sort of things you should file. These may be used to start your own file. Collect clippings from everything you dare to cut up. Your file cannot grow too large. But you must make careful subdivisions and classifications as it grows.

Many times I things seem simple, and you think you can draw them from memory. But you need more reference than you know, for accuracy of detail. Try it. Draw some of these pictures from memory. Then correct your sketches from the copy. You will be surprised at the number of changes you will make.

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Cartoon Composition

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