Cartoons peep out at us from newspaper and magazine pages, comic books, as illustrations in books, advertisements and billboards. But what is a cartoon, really? A few strokes of a pen or a flourish of brush, a simple line drawing and a cartoonist is ready with a sketch! Seems like child's play, isn't it? That it certainly is not. Cartooning is a highly creative art.
Cartoons are classified as caricatures, comics, gags and illustrations. They can be single panel (standalone) or strips. A caricaturist has to get into the skin of the person or personality to be able to exaggerate his key features to bring out a stunning likeness to him. As an editorial cartoonist or political satirist, a cartoonist has to have his pulse on current affairs and understand the nuances of governance or any other subject for that matter, exactly like a journalist.
Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes' fame and Hank Ketchum of Dennis, the Menace were creative story-tellers and writers, apart from being cartoonists. A cartoonist, as you can see, is something more than a mere sketch artist. Cartoonists admit that the drawing part is perhaps the easiest part of cartooning; it is the conception of the idea that is agonizing.
Many cherish the art of cartooning as a hobby, but few develop it as a profession. We have instances of people though who have not only pursued cartooning as a profession, but have made it big on the basis of this talent. The name that comes to mind, first and foremost, is that of the legendary Walt Disney. His character, 'Mickey Mouse' became a runaway success and thence Disney took the art of cartooning to giddying heights creating history.
In India, editorial cartoonist, R.K.Laxman is an institution. For 50 years, he has been portraying political shenanigans in the leading newspaper, 'The Times of India', everyday, through the eyes of the 'Common Man', who is his protagonist. Mario Miranda is perhaps India's only cartoonist who makes a living out of his standalone creative works! He has to his credit series of works on cities like Mumbai and Paris, and his home-state, Goa, which boast the status of coffee-table books.
Good career prospects
A thin line divides a hobby from a profession. In the field of creative arts like painting, writing poetry, and cartooning this is particularly the case. A hobby that is passionately nurtured has the potential to be developed as a profession, but often it is the practical aspects like its commercial viability that comes in the way of its professional pursuit. Many established cartoonists, therefore, prefer to moonlight or work part-time. Ponnappa, a well-known editorial cartoonist, was an architect by profession before he decided to follow professional cartooning.
Fortunately, today, there is a lot of scope for professional cartoonists, as the market for cartooning has widened considerably. Cartoonists can find jobs at newspaper syndicates, magazines, book publishing houses, greeting card design houses, ad agencies and animation studios. Moreover, cartoonists have the option of freelancing and working part-time. Only in an ad agency or animation studio team work is vital, otherwise a cartoonist can easily work out of home all by himself.
How does one become a cartoonist? Well, first and foremost, a person needs to have it in him. If you are the kind who loves to doodle and are never at a loss with a pen and paper, then you have it in you. Many people are given to sketching faces and places on any available paper such as napkins in hotels while in waiting. They certainly have the talent; after all cartooning is a form of creative doodling, according to some cartoonists. Therefore, if you find your teenager is given to doodling irresistibly, then maybe you would like to encourage him to pursue this hobby seriously.
Some journalism colleges offer courses in cartooning. Then there are online courses, and definitely lot many workshops where professional cartoonists teach the art. Ponappa holds workshop for budding cartoonists in Bangalore. Charles Schulz, the creator of comic strip, 'Peanuts' (his Charlie Brown and Snoopy are household names today) trained himself through a correspondence course in cartooning! So can you.
Animation is a big thing today, what with the legion of animation movies being made. In fact, Hollywood is outsourcing animation talent from India and career prospects for animation artists have never looked better. There are several institutes in India and abroad which provide special training and in-depth courses in animation.
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