The most frequently asked question any cartoonist hears is…
Where do you get your ideas?
Since I do this for a living, I can’t sit around waiting for the Inspiration Fairy to fly in my window. I must think up several new cartoon ideas every day. I find it helps to have a reliable routine. If my routine worked for me yesterday, I can assume it will work for me again today. I start by refilling my coffee cup, then I grab a yellow legal pad and pencil, and some sort of idea-stimulator like a magazine, an old cartoon book, or an article on the web. Most days I start writing ideas around 10:30 AM and finish before lunch.
An ad in a business magazine about a company’s environmental policies might start me thinking in that direction about going green, whether the company is sincere or just chasing a politically correct trend, where to find money for this sort of thing in a tight economy, other things that are green (frogs, money, eyes, cupcakes, boogers, envy, etc). After a few minutes of brain storming, I’ll start jotting down ideas and after an hour or two I usually have 10-15 new cartoon ideas. After lunch I’ll look at the ideas again, draw up a few and put the others aside to maybe draw some other time if I think they’re good enough.
The idea always comes before the drawing. (Without an idea I wouldn’t know what to draw.) While I draw, I often re-write and edit my cartoon captions, trying to make them better in some way, shorter, easier to understand, funnier wording.
You might not realize it to look at me, but I exercise almost every day because it stimulates the creative process. In my experience, physical energy and creative energy are inseparable. When I’m feeling energetic, I write better. When I’m tired, my writing suffers. If I’m feeling sluggish on some days, a 15-20 minute walk around the block will usually help. I imagine this is true for any type of creative idea work, whether it’s a project at work or school, a sermon, a magazine article, whatever.
I’ll answer some other questions in future editions of the blog. If you have any questions or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you!