Working Professionally as a Cartoonist

A few things that I’ve learned over the years that have crystalized through teaching…

• Devote your time to sharpening your art skills AND your business skills – trends, networking, contracts, etcetera all.

• Don’t pigeonhole yourself to one small aspect of the art form, like limiting yourself to just comics. Remember that Michelangelo wanted to devote himself to sculpture when he was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel.

• The people who succeed are generally the people who are working their asses off. Surround yourself with people like this, people who commit themselves fully and are getting their work out into the world. They’ll generally be better than you which is a GOOD thing – that way the bar keeps getting raised.

• Working hard isn’t enough, you have to work smart as well. You have to create work that’s marketable – that will suit the needs of someone who will then pay you.

• Working long hours with no sleep to meet deadlines isn’t the answer. Your career is a marathon, not a fifty yard dash. Eat right, exercise and sleep regularly like your parents told you to.

• Start now (yesterday is even better). Research the jobs you want, look at the submission guidelines (and follow them METICULOUSLY), then work up samples that will blow the competition out of the water. Follow Steve Martin’s advice to those aspiring to enter the entertainment field – “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

• To cap this off… If you treat your skills as a hobby then that’s where they’ll stay, as a hobby – and that’s FINE as long as that’s your conscious decision – but if you want to have it as your career then you need to get on board and on track.

And that’s…

For more info, check out the following links:

The Business of Cartooning

Comics – Pricing your Work

Things to Consider When Commissioning Artwork

Work for Hire – The Fallout

Homage or Swipe?

Comics – Tools of the Trade

Photo Booth Quick Tip


When you wish upon a star…

Convention Prep – AHHHHH!!!

Networking and the High Cost of Comic Conventions

Graphic Novels

Comic Book Podcasts

Intro to Anime – sorely needed…

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Frank Cummings 1959-2014


Sad news, Cracked and Blondie artist Frank Cummings has passed away.

From John Marshall’s Facebok page (Blondie’s head artist):

    It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our dear friend and colleague Frank Cummings. Frank has been a working commercial artist for over 30 years. His early career was spent working in newspaper and advertising agency art departments. In 1992, he self-published JAB, a regional (southeast) illustrated satire/humor magazine. By 1995, the magazine had caught the eye of exercise guru Richard Simmons and national humor mag, Cracked. Frank spent the next nine years producing Richard’s monthly newsletter, Richard Simmons & Friends, and illustrating monthly movie parodies for Cracked. In 2004, Frank was hired by King Features Syndicate and Blondie, to be the assistant artist (to head artist John Marshall) on Blondie. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.
The Blondie team: Frank Cummings, Dean Young and John Marshall.

The Blondie team: Frank Cummings, Dean Young and John Marshall.

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Sally Forth: The Beach House – Day 1

Prepare yourself for the HORROR!

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Sally Forth Drop Panel Party

Time for more Sally Forth drop panels!

Note: Comic Strips are formatted different ways for different size requirements. The “drop panel” is a panel or tier of the strip that can be omitted because of size restrictions without affecting the gag or storyline.

For example, Here’s the Sunday strip for April 6, 2014 with the drop panel…


And without…


This time the drop panels are from April to June of 2014.
To see the previous batch, just go to my previous post.

April 6, 2014

April 6, 2014

April 13, 2014

April 13, 2014

April 20, 2014

April 20, 2014

April 27, 2014

April 27, 2014

May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014

May 11, 2014

May 11, 2014

May 18, 2014

May 18, 2014

May 25, 2014

May 25, 2014

June 1, 2014

June 1, 2014

June 8, 2014

June 8, 2014

June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014

June 22, 2014

June 22, 2014

June 29, 2014

June 29, 2014


Unabashed plug time!

If Sally Forth isn’t in your local paper you can check it out online at…


A yearlong subscription to all of King Features’ comics (new and vintage) plus two years worth of archives for every single strip is a pittance at $19.99 a year. Unsure? Try a 7 day trial subscription for free.

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Mark McMurray – Zombie War

In 1991 Kevin Eastman, Tom Skulan and Eric Talbot came out with the comic book mini-series Zombie War – and in October of 2013, the series was re-released by IDW.


Friend and fellow Kubert School alumnus Mark McMurray provided the original stellar cover pencils for the series (over Eastman layouts).

20-year-old Xerox copies from Mark's files. Click on image to see larger.

20-year-old Xerox copies from Mark’s files.
Click on image to see larger.

Unfortunately, Mark was never given credit for his work for the reissue.

IDW's info on their website as of June 2014.

IDW’s info on their website as of June 2014.

I had been in contact with IDW in hopes of clearing this up, but enough time has passed without any resolution that I’m posting it here so proper credit can be given.


To see more of Mark’s work, check out this Flash Gordon Sunday page, or his website at:

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Comics – Tools of the Trade

Addendum to Jim Keefe’s lecture for the Graphic Novel Illustration class
at the University of Minnesota – 6/24/2014.
Class Instructors: Rowan and Bly Pope

Can’t stress enough that this is the equipment I currently have that works for me
(and my budget).

I love pen and ink so I personally don’t see the need to invest in a cintiq at the moment, but that’s not to say I don’t use digital (as seen by the intuous5 shown below) or that I wouldn’t down the line.

Find what what works best for you, but don’t get mired down in the familiar. Try new tools (cutting edge and old school) and keep experimenting.

15″ MacBookPro and intuous5 Touch Medium pen tablet.

Artograph Lightpad A940.

Mustek A3 2400S flatbed scanner.
Nice and big so it fits the pages I’m working on.


Side note: Recently got the Epson Work Force 7520.
Scans 11″ x 17″, plus it prints up to 13″ x 19″. I’ll give more info on performance once I’ve had it awhile.

Drawing and Inking Materials:
One of the better books out there regarding this subject is Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel & Matt Madden.


Chapter 8, Inking with a nib pen, is worth the price of admission in and of itself. If you want a world of knowledge go buy it. I’m going to concern myself here with the tools I’m presently using.

Side note: There’s a number of other books I could recommend – but that’s for another post…



From left to right…

3h for light sketching and blocking in shapes.
2b for tightening up drawing.
Pental Twist Erase with HB lead for a clean line.

Kneaded eraser.
white drafting eraser.
X-acto knife (for removing ink by cutting away layer of bristol paper).
Whetstone for sharpening X-acto blades.

Triangle, ruler and T-square.
Tape to hold art in place.
And above tape, piece of paper to have under your hand when penciling or inking.

I also have a larger T-square and ruler – but the smaller size comes in pretty handy.

From left to right…

B6 and C5 lettering nibs.
Japanese G NG-3.
Hunt 513 EF.

Winsor & Newton (In partnership with Blick) Round #1.
Winsor & Newton Series 7 #2.


From left to right…

Kohinoor Rapidograph 2/.60.
Kohinoor Rapidograph 1/.50.
Presto fine point correction pen.

Inks, Paper and Odds & Ends
Ink Paper

For inks I love FW’s black acrylic for how dark it goes down, but lately I have been using Speedball super black as it’s comparable and comes in a big bottle (thus saving me money).

For Flash Gordon I used both 1-ply and 2-ply vellum. Of late I’ve been using 2-ply smooth (or plate).

Underneath is an Alvin green cutting mat – very handy for not only cutting, but for tacking things up as well.


Last but not least…
Inking templates: Circle, oval and a set of french curves.
Erasing shield (bottom right hand corner).
Ames guide for lettering (to the left of erasing shield).

Not pictured.
For inking, a water jar, rag, paper towels and some scrap bristol are also a necessity.

I can’t stress enough that the items listed above are not the only ones I own or use. For instance, I have a number of different inking and lettering nibs, the ones pictured are just the nibs I am currently using the most. Check back in a year and you’d probably see some slight variations in what’s shown above.


Parting Thought: Getting the Work Done
Colleen Doran has a great blog post in regards to time management which I found essential reading. Check it out.

My two cents worth can be found on my post regarding procrastination.

I’ll end with a few words from Zak Sally. I first met Zak while teaching at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He’s a great teacher in that he has the rare ability to make lightbulbs go off in your head where you didn’t even know you were in the dark in the first place. Here he talks about one of his favorite artists, Kim Deitch.

Kim Deitch at his drawing board.

Kim Deitch at his drawing board.

Kim Deitch, he puts in 40 hours a week. He doesn’t put in 40 hours dicking around… Not time thinking about drawing. Not time thinking about when you’re going to draw. Not time drawing but then you get up and look for reference. It’s straight up time sitting there working on it is what he marks down. That’s huge for comics people. It’s putting your ass in the seat and keeping it there. It’s amazing the stuff you can do in an hour if you’re working the whole hour.”

– Zak Sally from Documenting the History of Minnesota Comics
by Britt Aamodt and Barbara Schulz.

All for now – deadlines looming…

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John Buscema Inking

John Buscema inking tips from How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way.

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