In this Episode of the Procartoon Podcast..What happens when you cannot think of any cartoon ideas ? How do you find the idea for a great cartoon when the inspiration fairy has had the day off? I have developed a system for finding great ideas that you can use if you get ‘cartoonists block’…
Do you find it really difficult to turn your artwork into income? I discovered an amazing sales formula used in big advertising campaigns – you can use it to get customers…
I review the XP-Pen Deco 01 – a graphics drawing pad that I think will rival Wacom’s intuos range – this could be one of the biggest graphics tablet sellers this year….
Scroll down to read the extensive show notes below in conjunction with the Podcast Audio – All links in the Podcast are detailed in the shownotes plus additional images and screen shots to clarify and technical discussion in the text.
Procartoon Podcast 3 with Rob Nesbitt
This Episode is Sponsored by JohnOverall.com
WordPress and Web specialists.
Show Notes for Procartoon Podcast 3
Hi, I’m Rob Nesbitt and this is the procartoon podcast.
I look at the tools of the trade, tips, tricks, podcast reviews and interviews and more to help you in your cartooning and artistic work.
What is in this episode of the Procartoon podcast?
In episode 3 of the Procartoon podcast I look at ways for you to come up with cartoon ideas. There is nothing worse than staring at a blank piece of paper with not a spark of inspiration.
I discuss how you can significantly boost your chances of finding work and generating income on the internet. You have great skills to create fantastic images which can be used to enhance web site blog posts and articles. There is money to be made here – it’s just being able to sell yourself and your product in the right way to convert those opportunities.
Web site owners need images to make their copy stand out. I discovered how to get them to want your artwork with a simple but deadly sales formula that has a proven track record. Once you see it you will recognise how widely it is used in the advertising industry.
The XP-Pen Deco 01 is a recent addition to the graphics drawing pad market – I was asked by XP-Pen.com to review it and believe this will be a big hit in 2018.
If you haven’t managed to get your cartoons published yet…
Before I dive into the main topics a quick word about getting your cartoons published if it hasn’t happened already. There are a few things that can stop this happening. It may be that you don’t have the confidence to put your head above the parapet and put your work out there.
You might think your cartoons are not good enough. Maybe you have thought about it but have not taken action. Perhaps it’s just bad luck and you haven’t been successful yet.
I struggled at first mainly because I lacked confidence in my own ability and didn’t think I could match the skills of some of the great cartoonists you see on the internet and in newspapers. It actually took a lucky break to make me realise that anyone, within reason, can get published and paid for their drawing skills.
British artist Cornelia Parker gave me my lucky break
It was back in early 2002 when I read an article in Brass Band World Magazine. The Turner Prize is an annual award sponsoored by the Tate gallery in London for the most outstanding British artists exhibit.
I play in a British style brass band and was delighted to see that an artist called Cornelia Parker had been given a £50,000 commission for her work ‘Breathless’ – a crushed set of brass band instruments set in between two huge round class windows.
I thought it was visually very appealing particularly as it was being displayed in the Victoria and Albert museum in London. It was great to see brass bands featuring at such a prestigious landmark (albeit as flat as a pancake!).
However! …There was uproar in the musical press as people were outraged that a perfectly good set of brass instruments had been flattened.
The main critic was the Churchill Society which was founded in 1968 to educate new generations on the leadership, statesmanship, vision, courage and boldness of Sir Winston Churchill. Most of the instruments had had their day anyway but it seems to me that people just love to be ‘outraged’ or ‘offended’ these days!
Letter to the editor with a cartoon attached
I took a completely different view and was ‘offended’ that they were ‘outraged’. When you compare her art work to some of the nominees and winners of the world famous Turner Prize, awarded annually by the Tate Gallery in London, I think she stands head and shoulders above them.
The Turner Prize, which has a very large cash prize attached is awarded to a British artist and there have, in my humble opinion, been some strange winning entries.
A cow and its calf sawn in half and pickled in glass cases and an empty room with the light going on and off are two examples of past winners. I used this angle to demonstrate the point that Cornelia Parker’s Work was a worthy project in comparison.
I fired off a letter to the editor and just to put a bit of visual sparkle I added a cartoon of Winstone Churchill looking angrily at an an exhibit entitled ‘Pickled conductor in Ab’.
To my astonishment the letter was published with the cartoon.
The editor of Brass band World Magazine, the late Bob Mulholland rang me and offered me the cartoonists job in the magazine – I din’t even have to ask.
He said that they had not had a cartoon in the magazine but after seeing the reaction from readers to my illustration he thought it would be a good idea.
Nearly 16 years later I am still the resident cartoonist in the magazine and thankfully have improved my drawing skills since then!
Incidentally my first submission wasn’t really very good but it still got me the gig – so you don’t have to be a Disney cartoonist or Charles Schultz to get your name in lights!
So where am I going with this? I managed by sheer serendipity and a little bit of drawing skill to get a permanent published cartoon spot in a magazine. And it just goes to prove you don’t have to be a brilliant artist to get there.
Many years after the event I look and realise that it is the whole package of a cartoon that makes it good (or not in some cases) and not necessarily the artistic capability. I have seen many cartoonists who earn good money from amateurish looking drawings but have great punch lines or have the knack of making people laugh without a caption.
It’s all down to the giggle-ponder factor – make em laugh or provoke thought with a cartoon and your onto a winner
It also got me thinking about how I could get another cartoon spot.
Tip to get a cartoonists spot in a magazine
So heres a tip. Next time you are looking through the news stand, either in a store or online, see if there are magazines and other publications that don’t have a cartoonist or don’t feature cartoons in their articles.
As an example I did this more recently with a new magazine called ‘Fire and Security Matters’. I received a copy of the pilot magazine as I am also in the fire safety business. I immediately saw an opportunity as there was no cartoon in sight.
There were plenty of photos of buildings, fire extinguishers, fire trucks, burgler alarms, graphs and other images along those lines. I emailed the editor with about three fire safety related cartoons, asked the question and guess what – I am now the cartoonist for the magazine.
Someone told me years ago that if you don’t ask you don’t get. And I have always asked when I see an opportunity!
If you are looking to have your work published check out local and national magazines to see if there are any who don’t use cartoonists and then ask.
My Own projects – progress report
I made several resolutions for 2018 in the last podcast. One was to finish my children’s picture book by June. I am making good progress determined to achieve the target.
When I reach this particular goal I will post an article on the process as it has been very interesting. There is more to it than meets the eye. It isn’t just about drawing and painting!
I wrote the story for the book as I wanted to make this totally my own project. I may collaborate in the future with a storyteller but for now it’s just I, me and myself! It is possibly more difficult to do it yourself than working in a collaboration as the automatic motivation factor of not wanting to let someone else down is not there.
However, as I have shared this ambition with you I now feel motivated to put my money where my mouth is and get this book published! I will keep you updated.
So far I have written the story line in verse, pencil sketched out half the drawings. I scrapped the other half as I was not happy with them and will redo them. I have completed one illustration in full color and am working on another two. There will be around 16 illustrations in total so it’s going to be a really busy four months to reach my target.
More Procartoon podcasts
Another goal was to produce two Procartoon podcasts a month. So far I am on target and really enjoying making them. In future episodes I will be interviewing different cartoonists and people from cartoon and art related businesses and services to make it more interesting and diverse.
My own cartoon related products
I also said I would be aiming to create my own products. This week been shopping! – Tools for my driftwood cartoon figures. I finished the first one a while ago but am on the road to making a a hole commune of them!
Etsy is the target sales channel in addition to Procartoon. My goal for this particular product is still set for the summer around about August. I could do it sooner but feel that I need to have a range of figures on offer to get a feel for how viable this will be.
I am also looking at some passive art projects where I make the designs for products that are purely downloadable.
It is the best way to sell if you can find the right product and designs. You make the product, set it up online and forget about it and move on to the next design.
This can be anything from Painting by number pages, shopping list designs and many more downloadable items. I recently bought a course on selling downloadable products on Etsy. Kelsey Baldwin has done it successfully and makes a living from selling and producing courses on how to sell. It is an interesting concept and a great way to provide another income stream fro your work. I will be be discussing this income stream in a future podcast.
Heres a quick word from this edition of the podcasts sponsor Johnoverall.com web site hosting wordpress specialist. John Overall is the joint host with Marcus couch on the WP-Plugins A-Z Podcast which reviews great plugins for your WordPress web site. Johnoverall.com also provides hosting for my web sites on his companies server.
John has been amazingly helpful in converting all my sites to the secure HTTPS format and has been brilliant at finding bugs, increasing my site speed and giving great advice on plugins, new themes and more – I now have an expert at the end of the phone and on Skype and no longer feel in the dark about the technical mysteries of running a web site. And he charges a very reasonable rate… here’s John…
[Johnoverall.com audio advert]
Ok lets dive straight into this episodes main topics…
We can all relate to the following tale of woe. A request arrives to do a cartoon. There is a deadline of two weeks. You are given the subject matter. You are being paid.
You keep putting it off as there is two weeks to do it. One week six days and fifteen hours have passed and you are now in blind panic. Sound familiar?
I used to be in this scenario on a regular basis as I was working as a full time fire fighter with two small children and life was full on and pretty hectic. I realised that I had to make better use of my time and manage deadlines. I also realised that sometimes a deadline can be very short as other things either get in the way or the client needs your artwork yesterday.
Here are the ways in which I find cartoon inspiration when my mind has temporary artistic amnesia
Mind mapping to get original cartoon ideas
I use a form of mind mapping to come up with ideas. I have done a full article that you can read on this process (use this link to view). It basically works like this.
- I put the main topic in a circle in the middle of the page
- I draw four rectangles north, south, east and west around the central theme topic
- From a dictionary I select four random words and place one in each rectangle
- Around each rectangle I place three oval shapes giving 1twelve in total and fill each one with a word selected at random from a dictionary. if you look at the show notes there is a diagram.
- Pick out the main topic any word from a rectangle and any word from an oval shape.
- In the example in the show notes those words chosen were Dog Trumpet and Rules
The example I have given was one I actually used for a cartoon in Brass Band World Magazine. The result was a bandsman who’s sight was challenged using his guide dog to play the trumpet at a solo competition. The judges are stood at the back of the stage looking through the rules book. (I have posted in the show notes).
This method really works well for me and hopefully it will for you too. It had got me out of trouble on so many occasions in the past. I am truly thankful to Tony Buzan who has written many books on the subject of mind mapping. I use mind aps for many things and it was instrumental in helping me get my University degree and exams in the fire service – well worth consideration if you are not familiar with Tony Buzan
Using existing cartoons to generate new cartoon ideas
I don’t advocate direct copying as it can get you into all sorts of trouble and saps away artistic integrity. I firmly believe that most cartoons have been used before. What I mean is that they are variations of previous cartoons – recycled and repurposed.
If I get stuck for ideas I use this recycling process and either go on a search engine and look for cartoon images or trawl through my library of cartoons. I keep everything I have ever drawn. I have over 35 years of work saved and thankfully, through a weird strain of a hoarding disorder I have a huge library of my own work!
Collecting other cartoonists books and work is a passion particularly original artwork as ait fascinates me how they did it. I find it easy to find ideas studying and repurposing my own past work and the work of other cartoonists.
The rule of thumb is to use the concept of an existing cartoon but make it absolutely your own so you don’t feel any guilt or hint of plagiarism. Find something funny and give it enough twist or turn to make it fresh.
These are the two best ways I use to overcome any temporary cartoon block.
Moving on to the next topic…
Web site owners need images for articles and blog posts – why not your artwork?
In the last podcast I looked at how you could create or repurpose existing cartoons to make your own prints to sell. It is not as difficult as you may think and can be a great source of income. In this section I am going to talk about another way of selling your artwork that you may not have considered.
There are literally millions of web sites on the internet and all of them needing images. Photos, diagrams and illustrations to turn plain text into a visual experience. The attention span on the internet can be very short if not entertained and visually and mentally stimulated.
Web site owners and managers have a huge thirst for images. They either have to create the images themselves, buy stock images, get permission to use other peoples images or run the risk of using someone else’s without their permission i.e. illegal infringement of copyright. The latter runs the risk of legal action and a hefty fine and I know of several instances where fines exceeding $1000 have been imposed for misuse of photographic data.
This need for images is a huge opportunity for you! If people are willing to buy image licenses from the likes of shutterstock why wouldn’t they be willing to buy from you? Fivver.com and 99designs.com are another two online companies who are really making a killing out of this need.
I run several web sites and am so thankful that I can create my own original cartoon designs, tailor made for each article when I need them. It saves me a fortune and although it takes time I always get exactly what I want, when I want it.
There have been many times where I have approached other web masters and have sold cartoons or used cartoons as a bargaining chip. I’ll give you some examples that could work for you.
Trawl the net and take a look at genres that need some help with illustrations. Cookery blogs and travel blogs usually have lots of interesting photos for the readers to appreciate.
I am not saying that they should be avoided. It’s just that you will probably be less of an attractive proposition to someone who would and should have photo’s of their very visual topic. On saying that an illustration or cartoon aimed at the right audience can always have a good chance of success.
Picking the right topic
My advice is to pick a topic that is rather crusty such as a finacial blog which can be a real gem. Finance and other guidance web sites often rely on bland diagrams, charts and boring symbol to pep up their article text. This is where you can really appeal with your unique, colorful and refreshing illustrations.
Imagine you are the owner of a financial advice blog talking about which financial institutions are the best to invest in. What images would you use? You would probably be looking for images relating to:
- Money – notes and coins
- Money box
- Sacks of cash
- Down and out without a dime
- Financial building
- Couple happy with money
- Older person withdrawing the money
- A new car
- A savings chart
- A happy retirement
Now where are you going to get them from? Obviously there are some that are easy to source such as images of coins and notes. But getting the right image of a happy couple looking at their retirement nest egg could be a bit trickier. if you had someone on board who could do the illustrations for a whole article wouldn’t that solve a huge problem?
Not all web sites have a budget to spend on content illustration. Do some research to get a feel for those sites that are featuring well in the search engine rankings. If they are doing well and appearing in the top few sites they are probably making a few bucks and maybe enough to support an illustration budget. There is no reason that part of that budget could be to pay you.
The bottom line is – why can’t it be you? What is the bottleneck that is stopping you from getting paid work from web sites. It may be that you haven’t thought about it before or you have but dismissed it out of hand. So how could you make this happen?
You have to get your cartoons noticed!
First – the customer has to know that you exist. They have to know that you are out there. it’s no good sitting and waiting for them to come to you as it just ain’t going to happen.
Second – they have to know what you can do for them. sounds easy? Not really as artists are good at what they do best – creating great artwork but often not so good at selling their services. The sales pitch has to be so compelling that you will get a reaction which will lead to some work.
How a tweaked joke formula can work as a sales pitch for your artwork
I listen to a lot of podcasts and one that really made me sit up and listen was episode #106 of the High Income Business Writing Podcast, hosted by Ed Gandia featuring Kevin Rogers. Kevin is an ex stand up comedian who, through a series of serendipitous experiences became one of the top copywriters in the US. He demonstrates a well known joke formula to show how it can be altered to a really effective sales pitch.
He gave a great example of a joke told by the comedienne Karen Rontowski on the Letterman Show.
It’s a great joke because it has an unexpected ending and is set in a specific formula.
The joke formula
Kevin demonstrated that this joke formula has four distinct parts that really works for comedians.
The Identity is the mother shopping in Walmart. The Struggle is the mothers kids playing up. The discovery is the flyswatter found on the shelf and the surprise is the mother realising she has just beaten two kids when she doesn’t actually have any.
The sales pitch formula
XP-Pen Deco 01 Graphics Drawing Tablet
I was recently asked by XP-Pen.com to look at the XP-Pen Deco 01 graphics drawing tablet. Before I contemplate endorsing any product or making a review I always check out the product online before agreeing to look at it. If a product is well below par maybe with bad reviews I will decline gracefully. In this case the Deco 0-1 had very good reviews and looked the biz.
I fired off an e mail to XP-Pen.com in late November last year and agreed to review the tablet for Procartoon. I won’t bore you to death with the techno babble. I’ll just stick to my overall view of the product.
If you have a look at the show notes for podcast 3 or my comprehensive review of the XP-Pan Deco 01 you can see all the images and screen shots. It also gives a lot more technical detail.
The tablet is rectangular and 13.5″ by 8.5″ and is a nice size to carry around as a mobile device. It is also very slim at 8mm thick.
Every manufacturer these days seems to be obsessed with making electrical devices either as small, thin or compact as possible.
My main concern when I first saw the Deco 01 was would it be strong enough to withstand my less than delicate handling? The tablet is well bonded together and appears very strong with no flexing. I used the tablet for three weeks and found it to be very robust so no issues there.
This graphics tablet is really stylish to look at and comes in a matt black finish. It has some nice features, including what I would call ‘landing lights’ to indicate the active area. This is the area you can draw on which will be picked up by internal sensors and transmitted to your computer.
These are small white ‘right angles’ on the surface of the tablet that light up. You can see where the active area is even in total darkness. A nice feature and quite a flashy touch! The active drawing area is a healthy 10″ by 6.25″ which gives plenty of drawing surface without being restrictive
The tablet it came in a really strong flip top box which for me was a big thumbs up as it meant I didn’t have to buy any additional cover to start. Another cost saving feature is that XP-Pen include a graphics anti snag tablet glove – very nice touch.
The Deco 01 battery free stylus pen is slimline and ergonomically shaped with a rounded triangular profile. My favourite drawing pen is the LAMY Calligraphy pen which has this similar ergonomic design and this one has the same feel. During rigorous use it always felt comfortable in hand even when I draw for hours on end.
The pen stand has a twist off base containing eight spare nibs. The stand is quite ‘weighty’ for its 1.5″ square size and sits solidly on the work surface. Talking of which the tablet has four rubber pads on the back which have a tactile neoprene feel. The tablet sits like a rock on any work surface.
Setting the Tablet up – installing the driver and controls interface is easy
Ok – a quick word about setting the tablet up.
I often have a huge problem with any new gadget. I hate set ups and just want it to be as painless as possible. The Deco 01 has one of the easiest set ups I have ever experienced.
Once you download the driver app from the XP-Pen.com web site you have access to the app window on your computer. This allows you to easily change the settings to your preference. As an example you can change to left or right hand use and change the pen button control settings very quickly.
The express key functions are preloaded and you have the option to swap them around to suit your own preferences.
The layout is perfect to access without getting in the way. Some tablets are too much into looking good and often forget that artists have to use them.
Drawing experience on the Deco 01
I tested this graphics drawing tablet over a three week period and have to say it was an absolute pleasure to draw with. The slightly tactile surface of the Deco 01 gives a perfect feel and flow. The enhanced report rate of the tablet is evident with no apparent lag between the pen and the drawn image appearing on screen. The report rate is the speed at which the action of the pen sylus nib on the tablet surface appears on your computer monitor.
I also really like the pen drawing experience which is now at 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, which seems to be the new norm. It’s great to see technological advances in graphics drawing tablet specification getting closer to to the real thing.
In conclusion the XP-Pen Deco 01 ticks all the boxes
My overall opinion is positive in all aspects and I see this as a tablet that will really sell well this year and give the Wacom Intuos range a worthy competitor. Wacom have dominated the smaller and medium drawing pad market over the last couple of years mainly because of the quality they offer and the ‘included software’.
XP-Pen have come up with a challenger which, although doesn’t include a free graphics software package, is priced so competitively that this doesn’t really matter.
Yes! – the deco 01 is one to look out for and if you are starting out in the graphics world or want a low priced quality drawing pad, packed with easy to use features, this could be the way to go. Also an exceptionally good drawing pad for the on the go artist or as a second more mobile pad. I am very impressed!
You can see the full report with detailed set up screen shots in my comprehensive review of the XP-Pen Deco 01 – see the link in the show notes.
Ok – so that just about wraps things up for this show. In the next edition of the Procartoon Podcast I will be looking at your questions.
Check out the Procartoon Podcast backlist right here…
If you would like to see other graphics tablet reviews and product comparisons see the full articles menu here…