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Want to become a cartoonist? It's no joke

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 comic drawings used to illustrate a topic of public interest. Cartoons add the right amount of humour or sarcasm to a newspaper headline that would create just the required impact on the readers. The caricatures in cartoons are often exaggerated, comical depictions of real people in the public eye. It is almost like a visual editorial. And that too, most often on the front page!

Some prominent cartoonists are R.K.Laxman, Sudhir Tailang, Walt Disney, Charles Schultz and Hank Ketcham.

Making a cartoon is an art that requires a combination of hard work, training and a good sense of humour. Cartoonists say that the cartoons that make us laugh the most are in fact the cartoons hardest to make. The talent involves the mastering of rib-tickling strokes and witty one-liners to make people smile or laugh and also think.

Career as a cartoonist! Seriously?

The happy news is that jobs for cartoonists are opening up. There was a time when cartoonists were around but there was no one to hire them. Leaving aside a few renowned cartoonists, most cartoonists had other jobs and made cartoons for their amusement or if they were lucky, as a subsidiary profession.

However, times have changed and the booming publishing industry has realized that a good cartoon conveys an idea much more effectively than words. With today’s youngsters brimming with creativity and ingenious ideas, cartooning is no more a passing fad. They want to explore cartooning as a serious career option

Classification of cartoonists

  • For a political cartoonist, usually hired by newspapers, news sense is a prerequisite. One must be able to come up with hard-hitting punch lines that depict a current event succinctly. Anyone aspiring to become a political cartoonist must possess a journalistic worldview and analytical abilities in addition to the basic ability to draw.
  • Editorial cartoonists mainly caricature politicians, fearlessly point out their foibles and also often comment on social ills in a satirical vein. Their cartoons and illustrations mainly appear on the front pages of daily newspapers and in magazines.
  • Comic artists use humour as their main tool. Through their cartoons and illustrations, they narrate stories that are cheerful. Comic artists mainly design comic strips for newspapers, and are often employed to put together complete comic magazines and digests.
  • Motion cartoonists generate animated cartoon films for the television, silver screen, or even the print media.
Job opportunities

There are plenty of job opportunities open for illustrators, cartoonists and animators today, provided you have the talent and are imaginative enough to continue producing original work. The career prospects for the cartoonist continue to grow and range from illustrating comic strips, greeting cards, and books to T-shirts, mugs, caps and posters.

Besides working in newspapers and magazines, cartoonists have a host of options. They can work as an illustrator in publishing houses or advertising agencies. Another major area that has opened up a big avenue for cartoonists is animation. Besides, there are cartoon network channels and multi-media firms that hire cartoonists from time to time.

Most cartoonists are freelancers, working from home, or from art studios, where they can handle a variety of different assignments.

Skill for satire…and much more

If you have a keen perception and a talent for drawing figures and depicting them imaginatively and in a humorous form, then there is scope for your becoming a cartoonist.

Apart from art ability, a talent for writing is also essential. The cartoonist aims to bring out an event in as few words as possible but still communicate the idea in a way that is understood by millions of people of many nationalities around the world.

Cartoonists and animators need to draw faces really well. Many start using a mirror to copy their own facial expressions. They also need to have an excellent observation.

Cartoonists must also possess the ability to work hard, visualising abilities, imagination, creativity, logical understanding of the concept of design, perseverance, determination and the ability to cope with deadlines. Innovation and rejuvenation are the ingredients for sustained success. Developing an individual style is essential.

A cartoonist should be in touch with contemporary life and be quite clear about political, social, historical and economic connotations. For an animator, imagination and imaging are crucial. Computer animators need a combination of art and technical computer skills.

Educational route

Most cartoonists come from art colleges and polytechnic institutes while some learn the craft on their own. But, art colleges and polytechnic institutes provide a good grounding for anyone wishing to pursue this profession. Basics like drawing and sketching can be honed here to perfection.

Cartooning can be pursued as a full-fledged career after Class X or Class XII. Ideally, one can study up to Class XII and then pursue a degree course in either Fine Arts/ Commercial Art. Alternatively, you can take up a diploma course in multimedia or cartooning, depending on your area of interest, along with a degree in psychology or political science for a wider knowledge of the world and the people around us. Knowledge of computers helps tremendously.

Some journalism colleges offer courses in cartooning. Then there are online courses, and definitely lot many workshops where professional cartoonists teach the art.

Prominent Institutions

  • National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad
  • IIT-Guwahati
  • Apeejay Institute of Design, (affiliated to Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar) New Delhi
  • Jadavpur University, Kolkata
  • Industrial Design Centre, IIT Mumbai
  • C-DAC's National Multimedia Resource Centre, Pune
  • Toonz Webel Academy, Kolkata
  • Image College of Arts, Animation and Technology, Chennai
  • AAFT University of Media Arts, Asian Academy of Film & Television, Marwah Studios Complex, NOIDA
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