Don’t ask me what it is that fascinates me so much with the English language but it is more like “a friend” than “a thing to speak”. Why is that? I’ve theorized numerous reasons.
I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that when working in the arts, language is one’s finest arsenal. The ability of ones work has a direct correlation with ones ability to master the English language (if the artist/or writer lives in America).
I’d every bit as much enjoy spending a night reading a thesaurus or dictionary than Fitzgerald or Faulkner.
The English language is extremely generous in its flexibility, its puns, its double entendres, etc.
Why does that fascinate me? When I first began to learn the “cartoon business” if one can call it a business, I contacted some of t he greatest cartoonists on the planet; Charles Schulz, Dave Coverly, Leigh Rubin etc. I guess my autism came in handy in that I didn’t realize one was not supposed to do that.
I also contacted some others who were not quite as far up on the ladder wrung as they were. Most of them wouldn’t give me the time of day.
But Schulz, Coverly, Rubin, Jon McPherson and a few others chatted for hours with me. How did I find them? With some it was not easy. With others, their friends “gave them up” but it took some time talking to them before they came to the conclusion I was no stalker or worse. I simply wanted to learn the business.
All of the great ones had vocabularies similar to Shakespeare. I wanted that for myself. They taught me that reading, (even dictionaries) was a way to accomplish that, or not necessarily accomplish it, but get better at it. And if one was better at it, one had a leading edge over the competition in cartooning.
I didn’t realize how important that was until I learned that on any given day, there are approximately 100,000 cartoon properties on the Internet competing with each other.
So, though I can draw (a little), I cannot draw to the level of what I wanted my cartoon to be. Sparky (Schulz) told me that about 30% of all the cartoons we see in papers are team efforts, and suggested I write them and “blueprint them”, that is, explain them in detail to the team artist. If that team artist is good, he/she will understand your vision. I went through about 100+ illustrators the first few years. It went from “artistic differences” to “I want to own the entire cartoon; you only write it” etc. But my mentors suggested I carry on and continue finding talent. They told me the more cartoons I had, the more likely I was to find better talent.
And that became the truth.
A funny thing. Dave Coverly is syndicated by Creators Syndicate and considered one of the best if not the best offbeat cartoonist who draws his own cartoon (in the world). I always got along with Dave; and he knew I had launched Londons Times in an abandoned tin shed in my own hometown because nobody would rent or sell to me. They thought I was nuts (and starting a cartoon at age 44 didn’t help deter that theory). Dave didn’t care. He loved talking about things I also loved to talk about….creative ideas, cartoons, humor, dogs, cats, nature etc. We could chat forever it seemed.
About 2 months ago, a familiar name appeared on Twitter. It was Dave. I’d not talked to him in about 18 years. We chatted online a bit and I told him about “Useless Humor” (our 18th Anniversary book) which contained quotes and cartoons I’d written. On a whim, I asked if he’d write a testimonial for me to use on the book. He wrote a beautiful quote which is on the cover.
One of my favorite of our cartoons is “Beets”, not because I like beets so much, but because there are so many ways to use the word, which is what I demonstrate in this cartoon (above at the top). I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
SO……….Not bad for a tin-shed cartoonist who didn’t know better how to do it right (or wrong) who recruited several teams of some of the best cartoon illustrators available anywhere. I still think that.
Or better yet, there is no right or wrong way in cartooning. Just stay the course, keep the faith, and never give up. You will want to many times. Just don’t.
Rick London is an author, songwriter, cartoonist and gift designer. He is best known for his Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts which he launched in 1997. It has been Google #1 ranked since 2005 and Bing #1 ranked since 2008.