Here we are at the final two lessons of the Pocket Cartoon Course.
The first image is a refresher on drawing members of the Army and Navy. The key to these creating drawings like these is to learn to see the “body language” in your characters.
SOME IDEAS TO EXPLORE:
Straight shoulders: Suggests a stern figure.
Shoulders sloping out: Suggests a lazy person.
Shoulders sloping toward the neck: A person wearing shoulder pads or in a stiff and bulky gear, such as a firefighter or person with a backpack.
Inflated chest, thinning to a stomach: A strong person.
Straight-line chest: Someone young or sneaky.
Hands on hips: A defiant person.
Waving both arms: Someone who is frantic.
Waving just one arm: Saying hello or goodbye.
Pointing a finger up to the sky: Giving a speech.
Finally, the Pocket Cartoon Course takes a look at putting your figures into action. By this, the author of the course suggests that your characters should always be doing something.
This is because people don’t just stand around, stiff as a board and do nothing when they talk. They are usually doing something during a conversation — and really, they can be doing anything you want them to do. More importantly, they can do anything you can draw them doing.
THINGS YOUR CARTOONS CAN DO
(To keep them from looking stiff)
Hold a cup of coffee
Walking a dog
Carrying a bag of groceries
Holding a basketball
Opening their locker
Eating with a fork or spoon
Working on a computer
Drinking at a water fountain
Flying a kite
Going on a hike
Playing a video game
Combing their hair
Working a remote control
Writing something down
Brushing their teeth
Getting ready for bed
Waiting for the school bus
From that list alone, you can devise dozens of different scenes as your cartoon characters go about their lives.
Of course, this action isn’t anything too exciting compared to the things you could be drawing. Remember, for every time you draw your character shoveling snow, then you should also draw him or her fighting a troll with a big sword.
Your cartoons are only limited by your imagination, so get drawing!
VIDEO — DRAWING A RUNNING POSE
In this lesson, the creator of the Pocket Cartoon Course talks about the reader’s reaction to your cartoons and stories.
In particular, he points to the fact that readers love to point out the errors you make in your drawings.
Of course, the best way to avoid making errors is to draw things correctly. It’s simple “No-Duh” advice, but the real question is “How do I draw something I have never seen?”
That’s where Lesson-20 gives you the best advice: You need to develop a “clip file” of images you can look at to draw odd objects correctly.
Back when the Pocket Cartoon Course was first published, that meant an artist had to spend much of his time scouring magazines and newspapers to find pictures of buildings and devices he might be asked to draw.
In the internet age, all that work with scissors and filing cabinets isn’t needed. Just go to your favorite web search engine and type in the name of the thing you want to draw and look at all the pictures that come up.
As an artist, you will often find yourself in the precarious situation of having to draw strange and exotic scenes. The final tip is one you’ve heard more than once: Practice. Once you find the image you want to copy, try drawing it a few times before you make your final drawing of it.
Get a feel for the object. Try to translate it into ink a few times in a few different ways and then pick out your best effort for your final product.
To see how a digital artist uses a photo reference, watch this video:
Animals are a key aspect of any cartoonist’s skill set.
They need to be able to draw recognizable versions of everyday animals and “anthropomorphic” versions of them as well. (Pronounced that big word “An-Throw-Poe-More-Fik”)
What does “anthropomorphic” mean? It’s simply an artist’s effort to humanize an animal. You can see just that in the Lesson-17 image, where the artist presents an elephant and a donkey wearing human-like clothes and standing in human-like postures.
The elephant and donkey are particularly useful since they represent the two main political parties in the United States. Politics aside, its fun “converting” animals into human-like beings for use in your cartoons.
Just look at any famous cartoon — Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear or any other modern cartoon — and you will see an anthropmorphed animal.
Drawing a “regular looking” animal is just as important. You’ll need them when you have your regular cartoon humans interact with them as part of a comic story.
The best animals to practice drawing are:
A little dog. These look a little different than your regular dog. Their legs are shorter. Their heads are bigger.
A regular dog. These dogs can vary in facial appearance but after that they have the same basic shape.
A basic cat. Once you get a housecat down, you can typically draw other types of felines as well, such as a lion or a tiger.
A basic rodent. Just like the cat, if you’re able to draw a mouse, a rat or even woodchuck, you can pretty much draw any rodent as well as rodent-like creatures such as raccoons, ferrets or possums.
A basic bird. Except for penguins, most birds have the same body structure. Draw sitting birds and flying birds. Once you get the wings and feet down, the rest is easy.
A basic lizard. Lizards often have bullet-shaped heads and once you get that under your belt, you’ll have no trouble with snakes and alligators too.
A horse. These animals are among the toughest animals to draw because if you don’t get them exactly right, they end up not looking like a horse. It takes a long time to master drawing a horse.
Since you’re working at being a cartoonist, not a nature illustrator, you don’t need to make your drawings look 100 percent realistic. Instead, you just need to figure out the basics of what makes that animal recognizeable.
Cats have pointy ears and a tail that shows their emotion.
Pigs have round noses, fat bellies and a the curly tail.
Dogs have floppy ears and always seem to smile.
Cows have a blank look on their face, horns and a bell around their neck.
Lizards and snakes have a permanent “evil” look.
Understanding these “basics” help you speed through your drawings and help your readers know what you’ve drawn in a moments notice.
The other great thing about cartooning is that you get to play around with all these rules. A cow who plays like a dog would be funny.
Or how about a duck who has a flag on his tale?
In fact, just such an idea was explored in the video below. It was created by Chuck Jones, one of the great cartoon creators of the 20th century.
In Lesson-16, the Pocket Cartoon Course points out the importance of penmanship. Who would have guessed that good handwriting is important in cartoons?
Most comics and comic strips these days are “lettered” by using a computer. The artist simply scans in his drawing and uses programs like Photoshop, Illustrator or Inkscape to produce the dialogue balloons and the letters and words inside those balloons.
But for a kid, the old-fashioned way is the easiest because you don’t have to learn a complicated computer program.
Here are some tips on how to do hand lettering.
– CAPITAL LETTERS: Write all of your comic strip’s text in capital letters. They’re easier to read when you reproduce the strip on a photocopier and you don’t need to worry about leaving space for “descenders,” which are the letters such as “j” and “g” that have parts that dangle under the rest of your letters.
– USE A RULER: With a ruler, draw a set of very light lines an equal distance apart. Then write your letters in between them and so the bottoms of the letters always touch the line.
– USE A PENCIL: Always lightly write out your letters in pencil first and then go over them when you’re sure everything is spelled correctly and you didn’t drop a word.
– PROOFREAD: Get someone else to proofread your lettering. If you can’t get that help, then put it away for an hour and then read it over carefully. You’ll probably find some mistakes.
– ALL SET? When you’ve proof-read and corrected all your lettering, grab a pen or thin marker and go back over your letters so they will stand out when copied or scanned. You don’t need a fancy pen or anything. Modern photocopiers and scanners can pick up a ball-point pen’s markings.
Just in case you do know how to use Adobe Illustrator, here’s how comic-book professional uses the program to letter his comics.
In Lessons 8 and 9 of the Pocket Cartoon Course, you learn a little more on how to draw people. What it’s really telling you is that there are many different types of people to draw, and how to make them all look unique.
Sure, stick figures are perfectly fine, but when you have three stick figures talking to one another, it’s hard to tell them apart.
So what do you do to make your characters look different from one another?
Hair – Change the color and style. Add bows and clips to female characters.
Clothes – The way you draw them can tell a lot about a character. Someone in a work uniform gives off a different vibe than someone with an untucked shirt.
Colors – A lot of cartoon shows on TV assign specific colors to specific characters. That’s why Shaggy, one of the characters on Scooby-Doo, always wears green — it helps people instantly recognize him.
Age – Draw the faces of young people with as few lines on their faces as possible. Older people get more lines.
Accessories – Beyond clothes, some people always carry specific things. A cook might have a spatula. A sports star is always carrying a football. An old man has a cane.
While hats aren’t as prevalent today as they were when the Pocket Cartoon Course was first published in the 1940s, they can still offer important clues about your character.
Even today, hats, caps and helmets assign “roles” to your character.
Baseball cap – Suggests youth.
Wool cap – Suggests winter or cold climates.
Cowboy hat – A person who loves country music.
Army helmet – A member of a military force.
Helmet with painted designs – A motorcycle rider or stuntman.
Woman’s hat with flowers – Suggests “proper” behavior.
Top hat – A person going to a formal party.
Military cap with black brim – A police officer, a ship’s captain or someone in military dress.
All these clues help make your characters recognizable, and let your cartoon’s readers instantly understand them.
In fact, way back in 1956, the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Bugs’ Bonnets” explored the idea of how clothing, hats and accessories made people behave differently. Check it out:
This edition of the Pocket Cartoon Course teaches something that many young artists forget: You need to practice drawing lots of things and you need to practice everyday.
But how do you find the time? You’ve got school, homework, sports and chores to do. And let’s not forget time on the computer, talking to friends or watching TV.
Where do you fit in time to draw besides art class?
MULTI-TASK – Try sketching while watching TV or talking on the phone. For one thing, you’ll see that a lot of TV doesn’t really require you to watch it the whole time. And while it’s difficult to text someone and draw at the same time, talking on the phone and doodling isn’t so tough.
WHILE YOU WAIT – Always keep a drawing pad and pencils in your backpack. When you’re stuck waiting somewhere — for practice to begin, for Mom to pick you up or for class to start — just open up your pad and begin sketching.
ON THE WAY THERE – Since you probably can’t drive yet, learn to doodle while you’re being shuttled around. Sure, a few bumps on the road might create some stray marks here or there, but you’ll learn excellent control.
ON THE COMPUTER – A lot of artists now draw exclusively with the computer. Instead of spending time on other sites, download one of the many free painting, drawing or photo manipulation programs, learn it and start doodling with your mouse.
Most of all remember, doodling anything is good practice for learning to draw. If you just use a page to make star shapes, that’s fine. If your doodles lead you to creating a martian zapping a tiger dressed as a butler, that’s great too.
Without a doubt, hands and feet are the hardest part of a person to draw. For hands, it’s difficult to get the fingers looking just right, and not like a line of sausages. When drawing feet, it’s often a struggle to put them in the right position and to keep them from looking clownish.
One way to avoid them both is to simply not draw them. If you are creating a comic strip, then you can simply always frame your comic so feet and hands can’t be seen.
But you know what? That’s the easy way out, and after a while you’ll realize you really do need to draw them to tell your story or explain your joke.
So let’s just focus on making your comic better, rather than hiding things. Some tips:
The Palm – Draw your character’s palm at the end of his arm in the form of a square. This will help you “map out” where the fingers go. Four fingers come out one side and then the thumb comes out from the side “around the corner.” The first hand drawing in Lesson-5 shows the square.
Four Fingers – A lot of cartoonists draw only three fingers on their characters. This is an acceptable shortcut. Knuckles – Sometimes it helps to draw fingers a “knucklebone” at a time. This helps you determine where the finger should bend.
Shoes – Believe it or not, it’s easier to draw a shoe than a foot. For modern characters, it’s even easier since new shoes have so many seams on them. Just draw a foot shape (a potato that’s flat on the bottom) and then sketch in some seams. It’s actually quite easy.
Placement – Getting feet in “just the right spot” takes some practice. Just remember that your character’s feet will point the way he’s going.
Near and far – Feet are also often “foreshortened” which means part of the foot looks bigger because it’s closer to you. If you draw foreshortened feet or hands, then the foot or arm needs to show foreshortening as well. This is a difficult skill to master.
Toes – Toes are the easiest of all! The big toe is, of course, the biggest, and they all get smaller after that. Just draw a set of circles right in front of the foot and “connector” lines to the foot.
Finger and toenails – Adding finger and toenails to your drawings is a nice added detail. They are just a simple “clamshell” shape added to the tips. For women with fancy nails, just draw ovals that extend past the fingertips.
Wrinkles – Another way to add a tiny bit of details to fingers and toes is to draw wrinkles on the knuckles. These wrinkles develop because your skin flexes over the knuckles, and that’s the key to drawing them. Anywhere a finger or toe bends, just add a line or two for a flexing wrinkle.
Finally, remember that the feet and hands are among the hardest things to draw. It will take you a long time to get it right, but don’t despair, just open up your local newspaper and look at the variety of ways different artists draw hands and feet. There’s lots of “right ways” to draw them.
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