Evolution of a “Gag” Idea

December 20, 2016

The above sketch is the first sloppy glimmer of a cartoon idea, one I thought worth developing. (Click images to enlarge.) Note that in this early stage I’m already making edits to the caption. By the end of the process, the idea suggested by the doodle will become something else altogether.

Once I have a visual idea, I use tracing paper to refine the image. My goal is to sharpen the drawing without losing the vitality of the original, something I find difficult to achieve. Here I’m also using the side of my pencil lead to freely suggest a possible shading scheme for the final drawing. (I use blue pencil because it’s cleaner to work with than graphite.) Meanwhile, I’ve also begun to play with a very different idea for the caption. It’s not unusual for one of my cartoon ideas to change by a word or two, but for the caption to do a complete flip — as happened in this case — is rare.

Back to the drawing. In stage three of the process I go over the lines, this time in ink, still trying to keep the image as “spontaneous” as possible. My line work generally fails to express the illusion of volume and shape that I’m after, so I add shading with a black Prismacolor pencil. After working a bit more to sharpen the new caption, I scan the inked image into Photoshop for the final cleanup. My goal is to make the corrections, additions, deletions, size changes, etc., appear to be as “natural” — as un-computer-like — as possible.

And finally, here’s the finished cartoon. You’ll notice that I’ve decided to go with the second, “too old for me” version of the caption, which I’m convinced is the better punchline. But I could be wrong. What do you think—did I make the right choice?

This is an edited re-post from March 6, 2013
Copyright © 2016 Jim Sizemore.

Based On Real People

February 27, 2013

This is an edited re-post from June 20, 2008

My Sunday “Lonely Guy” activity is to read the New York Times and watch C-Span 2 Book TV, muted. If I glance something interesting on the screen — Christopher Hitchens, say, ranting about why we should be in Iraq — I may bring up the sound. That seldom happens. Most Sundays, only the rustle of newsprint is heard in my living room. Sometimes, though, the thing on TV that catches my eye is the shape of a nose, or a hairstyle, or an odd mouth and I feel a powerful urge to draw it — and the rest of the head. So I open my sketchbook, select a soft pencil from the coffee mug on the table by my chair, and set out to prove once again that I’m not only the world’s worst caricaturist, but should also get a medal for being the slowest. Of course, the nice thing about sketching talking heads on TV is they hold still for long periods, which means I can take all the time I need to get it wrong.

I have no idea why I doodled all that stuff on the sides, or wrote “The Other End” at the bottom, but I do enjoy making those little “drop” shadows under the letters. The thing that drives me mad, though, is that I have no memory of who most of the people are. (Memo to self: Keep better sketchbook notes). All I know for sure is that these folks appeared on C-Span 2 sometime in December, 2006. Also, I’m pretty sure the guy on the top left is a well-known newsman, one of the Kalb brothers, but which one? And the blond woman near the bottom of the left column is an expert on world religions. Interesting face, and I loved the informed talk she gave (I have the sound up while I sketch). Of course, all this assumes that I managed a passing likeness of at least those two.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.

Speedball Artist Set No. 5

November 16, 2011

This brief story takes place in the mid-1950s. A girl, age 10 or 11, whose mother teaches piano, gets a huge crush on her mother’s beautiful thirteen-year-old student. While waiting for her piano lesson, the older girl entertains her young admirer by drawing wonderful  cartoon “pin-ups” of nude women. To make these mesmerizing sketches of the female form, the teenager employs tools from her “Speedball Artist Set No. 5,”  which comes in a compact 3.5″  x  7″ red, white and blue cardboard box, with lid copy that reads, in part, “Pocket Size for Students and Professional Artists.” Noting all this, our clever younger heroine also falls in love with the lettering and sketching kit. She arranges to get an identical one for her birthday only days later. (Click images to enlarge them.)

The Speedball kit includes a folded 6″ x 4″ four page Principles of Pen Drawing brochure jammed-packed with useful information for the beginner or the professional artist. So one can easily understand why, aside from the array of intriguing pen holders and pen points —not to mention the shapely female form of the small bottle of waterproof black India ink — the young girl finds it all just too, too attractive to resist.

Cover 1 and 4

Pages 2 and 3

For easier reading, I’ve retyped the drawing tips.

Figure A — Here is an unusually interesting sky technique which distinguishes the artist’s work. The drifting lines and absence of harsh cloud outlines gives a true feeling of atmospheric perspective. Hunt 104 and 102 pens were used.

Figure B — Here the artist demonstrates his knowledge of line, freely conceived, bold and open. Study of this example of bold outline can teach us to realize, as each line is crisply drawn, what its precise value in the total finished pen drawing will be. Hunt 102 and 108 pens were used.

Figure C — Cross-Hatching. Note how sparingly cross-hatching is used. In its application texture and tonal values produce the shape and feel of canvas. The highlights and direction and length of the single lines should be carefully studied to get the relaxed portion of the sails. This is a good demonstration of the quality of line, its combination, or contrasting of line values, and directions as serving the additional function of expressing texture and color. Hunt 102, 107, and 108 pens were used.

Figure D — The Structure of Background. The simplified vertical lines with a minimum of cross-hatching which characterizes the background. The mast itself is treated with strong cross-hatching which moves it forward in proper relation to the background. Hunt 102 and 107 pens were used.

Figure E — Modeling and strong highlights dominate this portion of our study. Note the highlighting of the ropes and the curving side of the barkatine, the heavy blacks in the deep shadows at ship’s bottom. Hunt 102 and 108 pens were used.

Figure F — Here we have an effective combination of stipple both light and heavy, with corresponding undefined and decisive lines to give us the feeling of ground around the wharf. Hunt 102, 107, and 108 pens were used. (Copy writer Earl Horter was an illustrator/painter 1881-1940.)

The young girl, sad to say, eventually gives up trying to master hand lettering — she now says that practicing the strokes proved to be just too, too boring. However, she loves the feel of  the crowquill drawing pens from the kit and, with time, becomes skilled at sketching natural scenes in pen and ink. (And, happily for me, she gives up her girly crushes and substitutes boy crushes instead.)