June 6, 2005
By Mike Keefe, Editorial Cartoonist, The Denver Post
How do I get a style?
As for Renaissance apprentices the answer has been traditional: Copy the Masters. For many of us that meant emulating Herblock, Bill Mauldin, John Fischetti, Paul Conrad, Pat Oliphant or Jeff MacNelly. Some cartoonists never strayed far from the these giants and have enjoyed successful careers. While that is not a bad place to begin, eventually you want to arrive at something that is recognizably your own.
As a starting point we suggest you go to the daily cartoons and the archives on this site. Pick out a few people whose work interests you and follow them for a while. See how they solve various cartoon problems. Ask yourself how you would set a scene if you were one of them. You’ll pick up some tricks. Eventually, you’ll come up with your own solutions. That’s when style begins to emerge.
Over time, as your approach develops, you will switch allegiances. You’ll see more sophisticated treatments that appeal to you. You’ll incorporate new twists into your drawings. But be aware that if your only influences are other editorial cartoonists, you will contribute to the very real problem in which too many cartoonists draw alike. Look elsewhere for direction: greeting card artists, Mad Magazine creators, New Yorker cartoonists. And don’t overlook what’s happening in the alternative press, the avant garde. Check out the work being done in Europe, Asia, Latin America, etc.
Be bold. Try new things. Create an editorial cartoon completely from cut-outs. Play with tiles. Draw with a Hershey Bar clenched between your toes.