This is the abridged first chapter of the of the book, “The Evolution of a Cartoonist,” which will be substantially richer in content (theories and methods,) graphics, and examples is expected to be published by June 2013. The book will also include cartooning problems and assignments for practice. During this time, as and when I find the time to scan/photograph my sketchbooks and put together a cohesive summary of the chapter, I will publish it on my blog here.
I believe that everyone who can think and write, can make cartoons. Everyone gets ideas. Everyone would love to see their idea form into a cartoon. More often than not, the constraining factor is – the drawing skill. While almost everyone has got some experience with drawing, practical concerns made them forfeit their drawing skills. If you are such an individual, this book could help you rediscover and hone your ability to draw and motivate you to create cartoons that speak your mind.
About this Chapter:
This Chapter introduces you to cartoons, builds and explains a working definition of the term “cartoon,” and helps you establish the two essential dimensions of a cartoon. This Chapter is divided into the following topics:
- Cartoons – Definition and Illustrations
- The Two Essential Dimensions of a Cartoon
- The Visual Dimension
- The Conceptual Dimension
- Can YOU become a cartoonist?
- End Note
Let me begin in the usual lack-luster manner in which text-books usually begin, so that I may impress upon that this indeed is the first chapter of the book, “The Evolution of a Cartoonist.”
Here I go 🙂
Cartoons have always enthralled mankind, but with the advent of printing, their impact increased tremendously. Since the last century, cartoons have become a potent tool for bringing about social and political change. They’ve been the voice of the common man on street, and they’ve made many politicians shiver in their knickers.
However, the mighty cartoon has often been misunderstood. While cartoonists have struggled to find the middle ground between illustration and ideation, others have often wondered why they couldn’t be cartoonists themselves. After all, most cartoons look simple enough to draw!
2. Cartoons – Definition and Illustrations:
According to the two dictionaries that grace my cluttered and otherwise non-intellectual looking desk, a cartoon can be defined as:
A drawing intended as satire, caricature or humor…a ludicrously simplistic, unrealistic, or one-dimensional portrayal or version. – Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
A ludicrously critical or satirical drawing or caricature, as in a periodical. – Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary of the English Language.
I think that none of the two definitions do justice to the raw yet mysterious power of a cartoon. Let me use these two definitions as a base, add to them my own observations and experiences, and structure this simple yet more complete definition of a cartoon.
“A cartoon is a relatively simplistic and/or sometimes exaggerated visual portrayal of a critical, satirical, or humorous idea.” – Shafali the Caricaturist.
Let me illustrate this definition through some examples.
Example 1: Peanuts
Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz is a cartoon (more specifically, a comic strip, which is a string of cartoons with a common idea holding them together,) because: It is a relatively simplistic and exaggerated visual portrayal (compare to realistic visual portrayal) of a (subtly) critical, (sometimes) satirical, and/
or (definitely) humorous idea.
Example 2: Dennis the Menace
Dennis the Menace by Henry Ketcham is a cartoon, because: It is a relatively simplistic and exaggerated visual portrayal (less simplistic than Peanuts, yet a lot simplistic when compared to the realistic portrayal) of a critical (no,) satirical (no,) or humorous idea (yes, always.)
Example 3: Loneliness
While the other two examples were from popular comic strips, here’s a stand-alone cartoon. Let us see how this fares on the definition.
“Loneliness” is a cartoon because it is a relatively simplistic and sometimes exaggerated visual portrayal (a simplified sad woman with an exaggerated expression of sadness, sitting in front of a simplified computer at a simplified desk, in a simplified chair,) of a critical (yes,) satirical (yes,) or humorous (not very) idea.
The three examples given above are enough to tell us how widely cartoons differ from one another. A cartoon could be made using a few lines (Dilbert) and it can be made by using millions (Kal’s toons in The Economist); it could be used to present criticism, satire, or humor; it could be done in black-and-white (Dilbert again) or in hundreds of colors (Asterix); it could be political, social, organizational, historical, or even educational. This is also why most of us have the potential to be good cartoonists in our own areas of expertise. It’s important to remember that to be a good cartoonist, you need not be a great illustrator.
We’ll talk more about it in my next post, which will present the second part of this chapter, to discuss the two essential dimensions of a cartoon.
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