Don’t draw with cheap felt-tip pens. The ink in drawings made with felt tip pens will fade in a few years, and all you’ll be left with is a bunch of ghostly images, then nothing at all. And these drawings fade even faster when exposed to sunlight. So wise up and use pens with permanent ink, and try to draw on paper that’s not going to yellow and fall apart. (I learned this the hard way.)
Finish your work! Drawing complete stories is really hard, especially when you’re a kid, but there’s nothing like having a finished story-with beginning, middle, and end-to amuse yourself and your friends. Unfinished work just doesn’t cut it.
Save your stuff! Often, as your drawing and writing skills develop, or you get older and start having other more “mature” interests, your earlier cartoon work starts looking lame and clumsy. The usual urge is to toss it-but resist that urge! I guarantee that later in life you’ll be glad you held on to your cartoons, no matter how stupid they look now.
Don’t let your mom throw your cartoons out! Moms have a tendency to do this. You go off for a weekend visit to Aunt Gladys, or you get shipped off to summer camp, or you turn your back for a second, and poof! There go your toys, your comic books, and your brilliant artwork. And no amount of squealing is going to bring that stuff back. So take care of your treasures-keep ’em out of the way of anyone who has some weird hatred of “clutter” – and make sure everyone in your family knows you’re insanely possessive of your stupid, worthless junk. If you make your stand early, before permanent damage is done to your goodies, they may learn not to mess with your mess.
It’s okay to copy other cartoons, but it’s easy to get obsessed with a particular style that you can never master. I spent a solid year trying to draw Batman when I was eleven, and have nothing to show for it but a bunch of crummy-looking, vaguely Batmannish ghosts (see Item #1). So my advice is to copy from a whole bunch of different sources-eventually you’ll figure out a style that fits you.
Get a sketchbook. Do lots and lots of drawings. Fill up the sketchbook. Repeat.
Most how-to-cartoon books are terrible, so don’t get discouraged by their lousy advice. Remember, if the people who put together how-to-cartoon books knew what they were doing, they probably wouldn’t be doing how-to-cartoon books.
Check out the original artwork of cartoonists you admire. You may be in for a surprise. It doesn’t look as slick as the printed stuff, does it? It’s full of smudges, pencil marks, erased lines, and covered-up mistakes. Most young, would-be cartoonists end up getting totally bummed out because their stuff doesn’t look as slick and perfect as the stuff they see in print. But the original work by the pros themselves usually don’t look that good, either. So it’s okay for your original artwork to look a little smudgy, too.
It’s not horrible to be a crummy drawer. There’s room for all sorts of styles in the world. All I can draw are people with big eyeballs and no chins, and I can’t even do that well-but look at me. I get to blab about how to cartoon, and you get to listen to me.
And finally: Be original. It’s okay to copy the cartoons you love, if you must. But please: Eventually edge toward your own ideas and stories. That way I won’t have to track you down and sue you.
The way to learn to draw is by drawing. People who make art must not merely know about it. For an artist, the important thing is not how much he knows, but how much he can do. A scientist may know all about aeronautics without being able to handle an airplane. It is only by flying that he can develop the senses for flying. If I were asked what one thing more than any other would teach a student how to draw, I should answer, ‘Drawing – incessantly, furiously, painstakingly drawing.’
The Natural Way to Draw, Nicolaïdes, Kimon
An artist must have skin in the game.
The work, the practice of drawing everyday, is the path to improvement.
This book is proving helpful. It clarified some techniques for practicing contour line drawing.
First you must convince yourself that the pencil point is touching the model instead of the paper.
Place the point of your pencil on the paper. Imagine that your pencil point is touching the model instead of the paper. Without taking your eyes off the model, wait until you are convinced that the pencil is touching that point on the model upon which your eyes are fastened.
The Natural Way to Draw, Nicolaides, Kimon, pg 9
I always wondered, what do you do when the contour leaves the edge of the object and turns inward?
Often you will find that the contour you are drawing will leave the edge of the figure and turn inside, coming eventually to an apparent end. When this happens, glance down at the paper in order to locate a new starting point. This new starting point should pick up at that point on the edge where the contour turned inward.
The Natural Way to Draw, Nicolaides, Kimon, pg.10
And contours can lie inside the figure as well:
Not all contours lie along the outer edge of the figure. For example, if you have a front view of the face, you will see definite contours along the nose and the mouth which have no apparent connection with the contours at the edge. As far as the time for your study permits, draw these ‘inside contours’ exactly as you draw the outside ones. Draw anything that your pencil can rest on and be guided along. DEVELOP THE ABSOLUTE CONVICTION THAT YOU ARE TOUCHING THE MODEL.
The Natural Way to Draw, Nicolaides, Kimon, pg 10, 11