CAREER DEVELOPMENT / MAY. 23, 2014
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How to become a Cartoonist

If you have a talent for drawing and wish to be in a career that provides you with a medium to express yourself, you may consider becoming a Cartoonist. It is a good paying job for artists and gives you a platform to showcase your talents to a wide audience.

A cartoonist is a visual artist who crafts 2-dimensional art forms/cartoons to be used for entertainment, political commentary or advertising.

Job Responsibilities

As a cartoonist, you are expected to perform various tasks such as:

  • Craft cartoons from personal perspective
  • Comment on current events through your work
  • Confer with clients for the incorporation of their ideas into the artwork
  • Develop animated narration sequences
  • Generate ideas from context
  • Sketch rough drafts and submit to editor for approval
  • Participate in the storyboard, typesetting and editing process of animation
  • Assist in story development, directing, cinematography and editing
  • Make changes to drawings if needed
  • Work with publications to ensure the cartoon reproduces well on paper and make further revisions as necessary
  • Utilize computer software or hand render drawings in accordance with preference
  • Develop and draw comic strips on a regular basis for national or local publications
  • Meet deadlines consistently in anticipation of press time

Hours and environment

As most cartoonists are self-employed, they work from home and decide their own working hours. They may have to work long hours in order to meet deadlines. If employed under a contract, they may work in a well-lit open plan office or studio.

Salary Expectations

As per getsmart.com, most cartoonists work on a freelance basis and are paid an agreed fee for each commission, which varies widely.

 New freelance cartoonists 

£15,000 per year 

 Experienced cartoonists

 £30,000 - £50,000 per year

 Established cartoonists

 Up to £100,000 a year

Education and Entry Requirements

To become a cartoonist, you don’t need any formal education or specific training. You may master the art through books, DVDs and other educational materials. It is advisable to enroll in one of the many cartooning programs offered by colleges, universities, art institutions and other postsecondary institutions. These programs are useful to develop professional skills, create a portfolio, exhibit your work and find internships/ employment after course completion.

You may enroll for any of the following in a subject related to an art and design, such as illustration, fine art or graphic design:

  • One or two year certificate programs
  • Foundation degree or diploma courses
  • Degree courses
  • Summer workshops

It is vital that you possess a strong portfolio of quality work, high level of illustration ability, and an extensive experience in the field.

You need a minimum of one A-level, including an art and design subject, a relevant BTEC National Award or BTEC Diploma in foundation studies (art and design) to be eligible for a foundation degree. The courses are usually full time over two years.

The requirement for degree courses is usually at least two A-levels including an art and design subject, plus five GCSEs (A*-C), or equivalent. You may require the BTEC Diploma in foundation studies (art and design) or an equivalent art foundation course. Courses are usually full time over three years.

You may enroll for any of the two available specialized degree courses in:

  • Swindon College: Degree in illustration (sequential and narrative)
  • North Wales School of Art and Design: Degree in illustration for graphic novels

Training

To further enhance your professional skills, you may take a relevant postgraduate degree, for example in illustration, sequential design and illustration, and animation. The eligibility criterion is generally a first degree in an appropriate subject and a comprehensive portfolio.

You may join the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain and the Professional Cartoonists' Organisation (PCO) to build professional contacts and keep up to date with trends.

You may also consider joining The Cartoon Museum in London for a program in public lectures and events. The British Cartoonists' Association, with the Cartoon Museum, runs the annual Young Cartoonist of the Year competition.

Necessary Skills

To become a successful cartoonist, it is required that you possess:

  • Excellent artistic and drawing skills
  • Sound technical know-how
  • Creative thinking, originality and imagination
  • Passion for art and graphic designing
  • Understanding of the tools and mediums involved in cartooning
  • Have wit and a good sense of humor
  • Writing talent
  • Impeccable communication skills
  • Knowledge of current events and happenings around the world

Employment Outlook

Cartoonists are generally self-employed. You may also find employment in a variety of establishments such as:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Greeting cards companies
  • Comic books publishers
  • Graphic novels publishers
  • Movie production houses
  • Computer gaming

Career Prospects

Success in this profession largely depends upon building a strong reputation and huge fan following. After gaining skills of the job, you may specialize in a particular area of work, such as political cartoons, comic work or animation. There are numerous opportunities to conduct workshops in schools, libraries or museums or at cartoon conventions.

Career Tips

There are certain tips you must consider following so as to build following and promote your work:

  • Maintain a webpage
  • Send replies to messages from fans
  • Offer merchandise related to your cartoons such as t-shirts, mugs, greeting cards, books, etc

If you feel you have it in you to amuse, entertain and educate readers through your artwork, this can be a creative and financially rewarding career choice.

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