Day 11, Cartoonist


The 3 day food orientated career series has ended, I’ve passed the half way mark and today I’m looking into a different career field to any of the others so far. It’s time to find out what was entailed in bringing Calvin and Hobbs, Asterix, and other fabulous comical characters to life.


As defines:

Unlike visual artists, cartoonists are artists who communicate ideas through a combination of words and pictures.

Cartoonists started out drawing characters and scenes manually but with improved technology the majority now draw on the computer (This change has resulted in many cartoonists becoming animators [creators of moving cartoons].).

Their work is very technical and precise as they have to texture, shade and replicate objects.

Cartoonists work for animation studios, film and video studios, cartoon networks, gaming companies, print publications, and publishing companies.

Most cartoonists have critical, comic, or dramatic talents in addition to drawing skills (often gained by educating themselves on history, sociology, politics and psychology…or just the news).


Personality and skills required for this position:

 One must be creative and artistic in order to create cartoons that will win over an audience. Time management skills are crucial as cartoonists face many deadlines. Often cartoonists work in complex teams and in that case good communication skills are needed to assert ones ideas and respond to feedback. Finally, it is important to have computer skills as computers are becoming more and more popular as the new platform for creating cartoons.


How to break into this career:

*I do say! I’m rather proud of my comprehensive guidance in this area.*

Before approaching any professional institutions it is advised that you work on your basic drawing skills such as people’s facial expressions or objects. Also try come up with what your “cartoon niche” will be, aka what kind of cartoons you are good at creating (based on your interests) and that will grab an audience.

From here study at a university/college program that has the fine arts courses that fit your career goals.

Taking additional courses in journalism, history and political science will be in your favor as it will broaden your education so that you can create cartoons on real life matters (e.g. political satire) that people will connect with.

Join professional cartoonist organizations and societies will also benefit you as you get to meet and network with other cartoonists and learn more about the career.

Finding an apprenticeship program is a great strategy for becoming a cartoonist (despite in taking 1 to 3 years…) as during the program you work with professional cartoon artists to complete cartoon tasks such as developing a comic strip or graphic novel.

Finally, take the scary step and submit your work to online and print publications and contests.


The working hours:

Employed cartoonists usually work regular hours and overtime if their deadlines are hectic. The majority of cartoonists however work as freelancers so their hours are more flexible but the hours boil down to the deadlines they have.


The pay:

Cartooning is one of those make or break careers. $43,128-$62,524 was the current median annual wages. Higher end salaries are above $70,000 per annum while lower end salaries sum up to under $34,860, unfortunately many earn the latter.

For individual freelance drawings, cartoonists may receive from $50 to $1,500 or more.

I’m sorry to say that here in South Africa the median annual wage is R 120,000.


The pros:

-You can communicate positive messages and create change through your cartoons.

-This career is creative expression and freedom at it’s best.

-It is a uniquely challenging job and pushes you to be more and more creative.


The cons:

-Job growth projection is lower than average due to technology making illustrating easier.

-This is a very competitive job, getting work is not guaranteed.

-The repetitive work (for example, having to replicate a frame 12 times with only minute changes in the characters facial expression) can be tiring-although technology, with its “cut and paste”, has almost alleviated this problem has it not?…

-The tight deadlines for your cartoon publication can be pressurizing.



My conclusion and rating on this career:

Look, I love cartoons. Grew up on them. I think anyone who makes a living out of expressing their creativity is living a life worth living (Woah, how did I manage to fit “living” into a sentence so many times!). The deadlines and repetition required in this career are a bit of a bummer. Also it doesn’t seem like a career that allows much physical activity (and I need this in a career if I’m going to be spending so many hours working). So, personally I give this career a 6/10.


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