Rick London On Cartooning

by Rick London

In the past decade, hundreds of people ask me how to get into cartooning, or some similar artistic endeavor, especially if, like me, art is not their strongest skill. Before I entered “the trade”, I too, was curious about how a number seemed to “sneak in” these so called “glamor-fields” and many who had not been trained in the arts.

Another non-artist in a world that involves artistic-skills was Yves St. Laurent who never drew one of his designs and was the only major designer not to do so, yet remains a household word even today. Walt Disney could draw, but knew others were better so farmed that out. Disney was also so broke when he conceived his Magic Kingdom idea, he couldn’t even afford art supplies, and so from him bending paperclips, came Mickey Mouse and the gang.

Obstacles and disappointments will become your “friends”. Unless you won the lottery or your uncle as rich as Bill Gates left you the entire empire, you are going to be relying on your own resourcefulness, blood, sweat, tears, and surrounding yourself with talents bigger than yours, who believe in your vision. Disney had a disdain for bankers and wrote about it often. I can see his side of the story, but on the other hand, can see the banker’s point of view.

The bankers were just being “smart”, or so they thought. Here came a stranger off the street wanting a few million to launch a Magic Kingdom run by a mouse with large ears, I might have thought twice as well. The reality is, unless very well-established, art projects and banking do not mix very well. Bankers and venture capitalists prefer more tangible items. So chances are, you may find yourself going it alone, until you are established. Then they come running to you.

The fact is, there is no right or wrong path in entering cartooning or any other field. There are some “good weaponry of preparedness” that might help see you through it. Of course education is number one, either from an institution or books. Though it seems formal education is the better instructor, I have seen successful people get it from books. Find a mentor or mentors and get as much information as possible. Don’t know someone who has been in the field? Google names of famous people in your field. You would be surprised how many of them will make themselves accessible to you.

Charlie Brown creator Charles “Sparky” Schulz was “my rock” for awhile and took his time generously with me over the phone. So were a number of single-panel offbeat cartoon creators such as “Rubes” creator Leigh Rubin, “Speed Bump” creator Dave Coverly, “Close To Home” producer Jon McPherson, and others.

Feel a bit shy calling on the masters? Contact the S.B.A. (Small Business Administration) and they will put you in touch with a SCORE mentor or mentors. They have some of the best. I did a bit of both, utilizing the SBA resources after I decided to go into licensing the images of our cartoons onto products.

You may not become “an overnight success”, or then again you just might. It surely did not happen to me. I can’t even begin to list all the obstacles, challenges, learning experiences, strange jobs I had to hold, etc. to keep me, and Londons Times Cartoons afloat while in the learning process. I can look back a decade, and decidedly say, “It was not only worth it, I would do it again in a ‘Dallas minute”.

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