Today’s Gag

November 14, 2014
1411:Bitcoin-BlogCopyright © 2014 Jim Sizemore.
Thanks to Florance Newman for this cartoon idea.

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Today’s Gag

January 25, 2010

The Serious Cartoonist

32Copyright © 2010 Jim Sizemore.

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https://jimsizemore.cartoonstock.com/license-options-full/jsin


The Gag Process

March 9, 2009

How To Draw A “Gag” Cartoon

When meeting someone for the first time I’ve noticed that a quick way to dampen—or drown—any hope of a conversation is to answer their question, “What do you do?” by admitting that I’m a cartoonist. Blurting it out that way is usually followed by deep silence, or at most a single comment such as, “Gee, I’ve never met one of those before.” Most folks do not have a followup when they hear what I do. Occasionally, though, they ask questions such as “How do you get your ideas?” or “Which comes first, the caption or the drawing?” or “How long does it take to draw a cartoon?” Kids, I have found, get right to the point—they want to know: “How much money to you make for a cartoon?”

Even when I’m with someone who has known me for years, talking about the uncommon thing I do for a living can be awkward for both parties. For example, each year when I go for my eye exam the doctor asks, after checking my folder for clues as to my interests, “Still drawing your little cartoons?” I answer in the affirmative even while being slightly offended by the rote way he asks. Then the good doc changes the subject by telling me a story I’ve heard many times before about his experiences as a Flight Surgeon in the U.S. Air Force, and I’m relieved to not have to talk about my trade.

The fact is, I do like to talk about what I do with people who are sincerely interested, so I’ve decided to use this post to answer some of the questions people might want to know about the craft of gag cartooning, things they can use to help them come up with queries of their own the next time they run into a cartoonist at a cocktail party on in a redneck bar.

So, using the gag cartoon I did just last week, here is a short primer on how I approach my “little” craft.

1. Rough Sketch

demo-12

This is an example of a first attempt to get the idea down, the so-called “thinking with a pencil” phase. These days I do all my hand-drawing, start to finish, in blue pencil on 9″ X 12″ tracing paper. And if there’s a caption, I’m still rewriting it, too.

2. Second Draft & Shading Test

demo-21

After tracing over the first draft to clean it up a bit, I like to play around with possible shading ideas. And I’m still fiddling with the caption.

3. Inked Line Draft

demo-31

Using another sheet of tracing paper, I ink the lines I want to have in the final art. (Sometimes I don’t use ink at all and settle for the pencil lines.) I can afford to be pretty sloppy at this point because I know everything I do is subject to change later on in the process, after I’ve scanned the image.

4. Inked & Shaded Draft

demo-4b

Still using my trusty blue pencil, and the second draft as a guide, I shade in the areas selected. Now I’m ready to scan the image into Photoshop.

5. Comprehensive Draft

demo-51

Once I have a high resolution copy in my computer, I switch from color mode to gray scale and adjust the “levels”—the value scale from white to black—keeping as many of the grays as possible. Then it’s just a matter of making scores of small and large adjustments to come to a satisfactory final image, hopefully one that retains the feeling of being completely hand-drawn. I call this combination of hand and computer work “pencil painting.” Then I add the final version of the caption, upload the image to CartoonStock.com in London, and post a copy here on DoodleMeister. (You may want to compare the comprehensive draft above with the final art, below.)

6. Final Art

demo-61

If you have questions about my gag cartooning process, or about cartooning in general, add a comment below. I’ll be happy to answer even if I have to make something up. (The original March 6 post featuring this cartoon may be seen directly below.)

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.


Today’s Gag

February 23, 2009
0902ethicsblogCopyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.

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Double Future

October 29, 2008

One Saturday morning in 1944, when I was seven years old, my half-sister took me shopping at Cross Street Market in South Baltimore. By the time we got back out onto South Charles Street, she had the handles of two large cloth bags of fresh meat and vegetables in one hand, and was struggling to control me with the other. I had stopped in my tracks and was looking up at the Garden Theater marquee across the street, testing my new reading skills: “Double Future,” I said. “What’s that?”

“It’s ‘feature,’ not ‘future,'” my sister said. “It means you get two movies for the price of one.” It was common in those days for a country boy my age, new to the big city, to be ignorant in such worldly matters. My family had moved to Baltimore from Virginia the year before so that my father, a carpenter, could find work in the shipyards. “What’s a movie?” I asked. Pulling me along toward Hanover Street and home, my sister explained as best she could. To keep me moving, she promised to take me soon to see my first “moving picture show.”

I can’t remember if my sister kept that promise, but someone must have, because I’ve been going to movies ever since. In subsequent years I saw many shows at that very same Garden Theater. One Saturday morning show at the Garden stands out in my mind. It was 1950 or ’51, I was 13 or 14, and by then, of course, I had been allowed to attend movies alone for some time. I was sitting where I always did, in the very last row with my back against the wall. (I could never understand why many of the kids crowded close to the front of the theater—some so near the screen that they had to look straight up to see the distorted images moving in the light.) The newsreel was on. Pictures of tanks going into combat over hilly terrain; soldiers, their rifles at the ready, running alongside the metal monsters. I don’t remember the exact words, but the narrator was saying something like: “On May 15, U. S. tanks crossed the 38th Parallel and penetrated 13 miles into North Korea.” Music swelled, then died. More pictures, the camera keeping well back from the action, detached. The film showed men being wounded and killed, but from so far away it was oddly glorious and didn’t look to be at all painful.

I had joined the line in front of the theater at 9 o’clock that morning, and the box office began selling tickets at 10. The newsreel began minutes after I was seated, and we kids were on good behavior during it. But when the Technicolor cartoon flashed on the screen, we let go, responding to the animated antics with hand clapping, screaming and stamping feet. We hooted the villain—Bluto—and cheered the exploits of the hero—Popeye. Some of the kids left their seats and ran up and down the aisles. Spitballs, like fireflies, traced beautiful arcs through the projected light.

After the cartoon, a technical hitch caused a delay while the projectionist tried to get the weekly serial installment of “Captain America” started. We quickly grew restless again, yelling, firing cap pistols, and popping air-filled popcorn bags. Again we stamped our feet, this time in unison, louder and louder, until it sounded like a herd of angry elephants in a Tarzan movie crossing a wooden bridge. When the harried man in the projection booth finally got the film going, he turned the sound up to compete with our noise. We called him and raised him. After several noise level exchanges, the clamor became deafening. Then, suddenly, the screen went black and the soundtrack silent. The house lights came up and the squat, serious-looking theater manager marched down the aisle to the stage. He raised his arms and yelled, “Just hold it!” The screaming and stamping of feet quickly diminished to an angry murmur. The manager smiled. “Now, here’s how it’s gonna be,” he said. “The movie is over . . . ” A few kids started yelling again, but without much support they quickly dropped it. The manager continued, “The movie will be over—unless things get under control around here.” He looked slowly around the theater, concentrating his glare on each one of us individually it seemed. “The law is clear,” he said. “I don’t have to show no movie to no unruly mob.” The murmur of young voices now included quite a few clear “Yes sirs.” The manager smiled and signaled the projectionist, and the rest of the program was screened without further trouble.

We enjoyed the serial and the two-reel comedy—”Joe Dokes Behind the Eight Ball,” if I remember correctly—and we soon became absorbed in the main feature. It was “Breakthrough,” a war drama that followed the development of a group of infantrymen from basic training through the Allied invasion of France. Like the newsreel, it had a narrator (Frank Lovejoy, one of the stars of the move itself), and, as young recruits ran an obstacle course, he was saying, “It was not just another training exercise. Whatever was coming, we knew it was going to be big—with a capital ‘B’.”

Lovejoy was a tough sergeant who helped a young officer—Lieutenant Mallory, played by John Agar—adjust to the problems of combat command. I was drawn in. The movie was like music to me, it bypassed my rational mind and acted directly on my emotions, and I became lost in the romantic vision of men at war. Even when the camera came in close on the make-believe wounded and dying men, there was nothing gory about it—no blood. The young men lying in the arms of their buddies and reciting their last words were heroic figures.

When the movie ended and the theater lights came up, I stayed scrunched in my seat, legs hugged to my chest, chin resting on my knees, watching the credits roll. All around me, kids stood and stretched and yawned and greeted each other, then began filing toward the exits. I remained staring intently at the screen, reading the names of each person who helped make the movie. And I was trying to decide if I should stay to see the entire program a second time.

Double Future was originally published, in a slightly different form and under a slightly different title (and without these illustrations), in the Baltimore Sunday Sun Magazine on February 1, 1981.

Copyright © 2008 Jim Sizemore.


Marginalia

August 27, 2008

This Doodling Life

If you’re at all like me you love to write in the margins of books, or doodle there, or both. (And what’s the difference?) And if you are really, really like me, the marginal writing and/or doodling may or may not have anything to do with the text printed on that particular page, or in the book generally. Our mad jottings may be provoked by what the author has written, but in many cases—especially when it comes to the visual doodles—the connection, if any, will be all but undetectable. While reading the fascinating essays in The Writing Life, pictured here (click for a larger view), in addition to the usual underlinings and asterisk-starring, I found myself in some sort of creative zone and doing an instant doodle on five different pages. These quick images, thematically connected, will lead off the series in which I’ll present full pages of text on which I’ve sketched and/or written something, plus I’ll add speculative comments about what I think the image may or may not mean. I’ll also include comments on, and quotes from, the essay I was reading; a sort of short essay about the essay. And of course, as always, you’ll be encouraged to comment and make of it all what you will. The first Marginalia begins below.

The Dance Story

The ecstatic cartoon guy above may visually represent the feeling a man has while he’s in the “dance zone” at a wedding reception, fully in that happy moment and in sync with his partner and the music—or it may simply show him home alone and transported by rock and roll on the radio. If either situation is true, though, you may ask what it has to do with Jonathan Raban’s essay “Notes From The Road,” on the final page of which we find the image? Why did the essay reader (me) choose to doodle that particular figure in that particular spot? Or was it a conscious choice at all?

The Raban essay, collected in The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think and Work, has not one word to say about dance, dancers or dancing. The essay is, for the most part, simply about making notes. Specifically, it’s about the obsessive note-taking done by many “serious” writers. For example, here is Raban on the writer as he dines alone: “So it’s scribble, scribble, scribble all through dinner. Into the notebook go long descriptions of landscape and character; some fuzzy intellection; scraps of conversation; diagrammatic drawings; paras from the local paper; weather notes; shopping lists; inventories of interiors (the sad cafe gets grimly itemized); skeletal anecdotes; names of birds, trees and plants, culled from the wonderfully useful Peterson guides; phone numbers of people whom I’ll never call; the daily target-practice of a dozen or so experimental similes.”

That last bit is so good it deserves repeating: ” . . . the daily target-practice of a dozen or so experimental similes.” Any of us who write know how true that is, how we struggle to find just the right word or phrase, and how it just comes to us sometimes from we know not where. So of course the essay is also very much about the act of writing, which often feeds off, if not directly from, those random notes. Later in his text Raban ties the note-taking habit in with writing a particular book, but comes at that issue from an interesting angle. He says: ” . . . the act of writing itself unlocks the memory-bank, and discovers things that are neither in the notebooks nor to be found in the writer’s conscious memory.” Then he goes on, quoting the painter Jean Francois Millet: “‘One man may paint a picture from a careful drawing made on the spot, and another may paint the same scene from memory, from a brief but strong impression; and the last may succeed better in giving the character, the physiognomy of the place, though all the details may be inexact.'”

In his essay Jonathan Raban appears to be saying that the best writing, or at least the best parts of a writer’s output—especially its most creative aspect—is free-form, intuitive and impressionistic. If that is what he means, I agree. And with my small impressionistic doodle above, I claim that it’s exactly the same for a guy (or gal) on a dance floor.

Copyright © 2008 Jim Sizemore.


Today’s Gag

July 21, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Jim Sizemore.

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