Three Ways To Make Political Cartoons Quickly

2017-artwork-make-political-cartoons-quickly

Well, it’s been a while since I last wrote about political cartoons, so I thought that I’d talk quickly about how you can make a political cartoon in a relatively short period of time. After all, political cartoons are topical, reactive things with a relatively short “shelf life”. So, they need to be made and posted online quickly.

1) Motivation (and research!): I’ve talked about this before, but (unless you are a professional political cartoonist) you should only make political cartoons when the idea of not making a political cartoon feels wrong.

In other words, only make them during moments of strong emotion. Make them during times when you feel like a political cartoon is the only way to make yourself heard or to laugh at a dismal political situation (that would otherwise depress you).

If you make them during these moments, then you’re going to be motivated to make them quickly. Just make sure that you’ve done some research about political cartoons beforehand (in other words, try to read political cartoons on at least a semi-regular basis). Strong emotion might motivate you to make a cartoon, but it won’t help you to make a good one. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then – at best – your cartoon will seem trite or preachy. And, at worst, it might overstep the reasonable limits of political speech.

In general, a good rule to remember is that your comic should include some degree of humour and/or surrealism. For example, here’s a cartoon I made the day that Donald Trump was elected as the American president. It’s dark and pessimistic, but I tried to include at least a bit of surreal humour to lighten the tone:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Optimism" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Optimism” By C. A. Brown

2) Choose a fast medium: Since you’ll be making your comic quickly (possibly with relatively little planning time), you need to choose an art medium that you can work in quickly and which can be edited easily.

If you’re more used to making digital art, then this would be perfect. But, since I use a mixture of traditional and digital mediums, my go-to medium for political cartoons is either a black and white drawing (using black watercolour paint to fill in large areas) or a greyscale drawing. This uses a similar set of skills to the ones I use for my daily paintings, albeit without having to worry about things like colour schemes etc..

Since the pictures only include 1-3 colours (eg: black, white and/or grey), then editing them digitally is also significantly quicker and easier than editing full-colour artwork too. Plus, on top of all of this, it also lends the cartoons a certain gravitas too. Even when they’re silly cartoons about silly politicians:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?” By C. A. Brown

In addition to this, I often use a very similar format/ panel layout to the one that I use when making webcomics. Since I’m used to working in this format, it means that I can crank out a political cartoon more quickly than I could if I had to work out a new panel layout before I started planning the actual cartoon.

3) If you can’t draw the politician: Some politicians are easy to draw, some aren’t. There’s no real logic to this, and it varies from artist to artist. If you’re not sure if yout know how to draw a politician, then you could spend a while looking at photos of them, making studies and trying to work out how to turn those studies into cartoons. But, even this might not help you to draw a politician (former Prime Minister David Cameron was one politician that I just couldn’t seem to draw well).

So, if you don’t know if you know how to draw a politician, but you need to make a cartoon quickly, then find a way to make the cartoon without actually drawing them. There are lots of sneaky ways to do this – you can show other people talking about them, you can show them standing with their back to the audience etc….

But, if it comes down to either not drawing a politician, or drawing them really badly, then don’t draw them.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Making Impulsive Creative Projects – A Ramble

2017 Artwork Impulsive Projects article

Last summer, I had a moment when I just had to make a political cartoon. I hadn’t really planned it beforehand (the only planning involved how to turn the cynical mental images that had suddenly appeared in my mind into a coherent comic) or even wanted to make it, I just had to make it.

It was, of course, in response to the “it would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t real” news that Boris Johnson had been appointed (UK) foreign secretary….

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?” By C. A. Brown

This, of course, brings me on to the subject of impulsive creative projects. These are projects that suddenly emerge from strong emotions, feelings or reactions. They’re unplanned and they’re often some of the best things that you’ll ever make.

It doesn’t matter how uninspired you were beforehand, as soon as something compels you to make one of these projects, you’ll have more inspiration than you could want. Ok, they’re usually created in response to bad things (eg: using dark humour to cope with terrible political news) but they often feel amazing to make regardless, in a similar way to a highly inspired project.

Not only that, impulsive projects serve as a sudden test of your writing and/or artistic abilities too. Quite a few years ago, whenever something prompted me to make a sudden cartoon, it often wasn’t fit for publication. The politics was often too heavy-handed or the emotional content was too blatant.

It’s only after spending over a year making comics semi-regularly again that I’ve reached the stage when I feel like any impulsive projects I make are actually good enough for publication.

This, interestingly, brings me on to one of the most confusing elements of impulsive projects. Although you primarily make the project for yourself, it often has to be something that is good enough to share. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with making private projects for emotional catharsis, one of the most powerful things about making impulsive cartoons is the powerful feeling of sharing your views with the world.

The thing to remember here of course is that, regardless of which emotions motivate you, you need to add some humour, theatricality, artistic skill and/or serious commentary. After all, other people have to look at it too.

This is especially true for impulsive projects that have been motivated by anger. For example, during John Whittingdale’s (thankfully brief) tenure as culture secretary last year, I was absolutely incensed by the fact that he planned to weaken the BBC (in order to strengthen commercial channels, bastions of quality programming that they are…), so I made this angry cartoon:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Our 'Culture' Secretary!" By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Our ‘Culture’ Secretary!” By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

Thankfully, I had enough artistic experience to present this opinion in a slightly toned down way. I knew enough about colour theory to add a menacing blue/red colour scheme to the painting. I was able to use visual metaphors in the background to make a point about the two different types of TV stations. Not only that, I was able to make him look a bit like a pantomime villain through subtle facial expressions.

A few years ago, when my knowledge of all of these things was less sophisticated, I’d have probably just drawn something ridiculously crass or extremely unsophisticated, before wisely deciding not to post it online. So, yes, being able to make even vaguely acceptable impulsive projects is a tough test of your creative skills.

But, all of this aside, impulsive projects are one of the best types of creative projects because they feel like pure self-expression. Rather than just speaking about your feelings or writing an online comment about them, spontaneously turning your strong feelings into an actual thing seems like a much more cathartic and powerful form of self-expression.

Just remember that, if you’re going to publish it, it should be something that other people will actually want to look at.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

When Should You Make Political Cartoons? – A Ramble

2016 Artwork When Should You Make Political Cartoons

I know that I talked about cartoons and satire in yesterday’s article, but I had a rather interesting experience a few months ago that I thought I’d revisit briefly because of what it might explain about political cartoons. Or, more accurately, when you should make them.

Although I hardly ever make political cartoons, I suddenly found myself making one earlier this year. I didn’t plan to make a political cartoon that day, but I did.

It was prompted by reading a few news articles earlier this year about the (then) Culture Secretary’s planned changes to the BBC Charter (like this one and this one ). As soon as I realised the full horror of what these proposed changes meant, I suddenly felt compelled to respond with a cynical political cartoon.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Our 'Culture' Secretary!" By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Our ‘Culture’ Secretary!” By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

The interesting thing was that I didn’t really set out to make a political cartoon, it just kind of happened. Amidst the emotions that these articles had provoked, a fully-formed idea popped into my mind and, within a couple of hours, I’d made a cynical political cartoon. To say that making this cartoon was a cathartic experience would be an understatement.

This, I think, is when political cartoons are at their absolute best. When you feel like you absolutely have to make a political cartoon, then it’s probably going to come straight from the heart and it’s probably going to have real meaning behind it (or at least it’ll feel like it does).

If making a politcal cartoon genuinely feels, even for a moment, like it’s a way to fight back against some event or possibility that you feel powerless about, then it’s worth making. As paradoxical as it might sound, political cartoons that come from a feeling of powerlessness are often the most powerful types of political cartoons.

If you have an attitude of being reluctant to make political art, then – as counter-intuitive as it might sound– it usually means that you’ll only produce political cartoons when it really matters to you. In other words, you’ll be intensely focused on trying to find a way to get your opinions across as powerfully and effectively as possible, because anything less just wouldn’t be right.

This is when the very best political cartoons are made. In situations where the idea of not making a political cartoon is more strange/frightening/unusual etc.. than actually making a political cartoon is.

There have been a couple of times where I’ve tried to make more “light-hearted” political cartoons, because I thought that they’d be funny or topical. But, because they don’t really have the same level of passion or emotion behind them as my more “angry” political cartoons, the quality is significantly lower as a result. Like with this mediocre cartoon I made about a silly publicity stunt by the Labour party before the 2015 UK general election:

"Ed's New Tablet" By C. A. Brown [4th May 2015]

“Ed’s New Tablet” By C. A. Brown [4th May 2015]

So, ironically, you can sometimes produce better political cartoons by not making them regularly. Unless, of course, you plan on becoming a professional political cartoonist (in which case, practice, practice and practice some more).

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Sorry for the ridiculously short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Cynicism And Artistic Inspiration

From hell's heart, I ...draw.. at thee!

From hell’s heart, I …draw.. at thee!

Yet again, I wasn’t feeling very artistically inspired a few weeks ago. Making art seemed like a hollow and meaningless activity that I didn’t really quite feel much of an emotional connection to. Of course, being an artist, this wasn’t exactly a great thing…..

Then I happened to watch the news and hear about this mildly dystopic proposal by a miserable group of MPs who don’t like the fact that many adults in Britain like to drink (as we have done for centuries).

Suddenly, I wasn’t uninspired any more – within about two hours, I’d made two very cynical political cartoons about this whole sorry situation. And, no, I won’t post either cartoon here – they’re probably a bit too cynical for this blog.

So, why have I mentioned all of this? Why is it relevant to you?

As much as art can show us the beauty of the world or show us stylised scenes that are too good to be true, never discount the fact that art is also one of the best ways to express your cynicism about the world too.

And, if you’re feeling deeply bitter and cynical about a lot of things, then this can easily sap your enthusiasm for creating things. As I said earlier, creating uplifting art can feel meaningless, hollow and pointless if you’re in the middle of a dystopic situation of some kind.

But, as soon as you find a way to channel your bitterness and anger onto the page – then you’ll suddenly remember why you became an artist in the first place.

Never discount the fact that making art can be a way for essentially powerless “ordinary” people like us to get a kind of symbolic satirical “revenge” on those in authority who seek to make our lives worse for their own personal enjoyment “for our own good”. I mean, why do you think that most newspapers run editorial cartoons on a daily basis?

Art can be a way for us to express our grievances with politicians, with the media and with life in general far more effectively and understandably than we ever could in writing or in speech. Don’t ask me why, but putting your cynicism and disdain into pictures is somehow a much more distilled way of expressing it.

Seriously, I dread to think how miserable life must be for non-artists. Although it would explain the trillions of angry troll comments that people post on the internet. Those people don’t have the luxury of “trolling” in the sophisticated and creative way that we do. So, be glad that you are an artist 🙂

Yes, making cynical art is only a symbolic way of raising a middle finger to everything and everyone you don’t like but it’s much more satisfying than actually raising your middle finger would be.

Plus, it lasts longer too. Seriously, making a satirical and cynical picture that will last for years is much better than making a hand gesture for a few seconds.

So, the next time that the world gets you down and ruins your creativity, just pick up your sketchbook, listen to some good punk music and get your symbolic revenge…

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Making Political/ Editorial Cartoons

2014 Artwork Cowardly replacement for the political cartoon I'd originally made for this page

It’s a bit of a cliche by now, but although I try to keep my political opinions out of this blog as much as possible I still find that, every once in a while, I’ll end up drawing an “editorial cartoon“. Like this one:

"Britain, THIS Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" By C. A. Brown

“Britain, THIS Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” By C. A. Brown

Most of the time, I set myself a rule that I’m only allowed to make political cartoons about censorship, since this is an issue that affects all creative people – regardless of their political views.

But I have to admit that I’ve certainly been tempted to make political cartoons about a whole range of more controversial subjects. Still, given my strong and varying opinons about most political topics, I’m too terrified of causing an internet controversy to actually produce any of these cartoons.

In fact, I sketched out a brilliant idea for a political cartoon in June after reading some arguments in the comments below a political opinion article about football (of all things) on The Guardian’s website and finding that I disagreed with both the article itself and the criticisms of it in the comments – mainly because I’m not a football fan and don’t really care about the sport at all, regardless of whether the players are male or female.

I thought about turning this initial sketch into a fully-fledged political cartoon with the reasoning that, since it satirised both sides of the argument equally, then there wouldn’t be any controversy. But then I realised that it’d actually cause twice as much controversy- so it remained nothing more than a sketch. Which I won’t publish here.

So, yes, I try to avoid politics on the internet out of sheer cowardice more than anything else. But I’m still fascinated by political cartoons, both as a reader and as an artist.

Whist it can be relaxing to let your emotions, thoughts and feelings out by writing poetry, there’s just something a lot more… well… cathartic and dramatic about turning them into comics and cartoons instead.

It might be that comics have a much more “countercultural” history than poetry does but, whenever I make a political cartoon, I actually genuinely feel like I’ve made a small difference in the world. Ok, I probably haven’t, but at least it feels like I have. Not only that, I also like to think that – in some small way- I’m part of a grand tradition of political cartoonists (after all, I come from the country that invented editorial cartoons).

As for how to make political cartoons, well that’s fairly easy. The first thing to do is, as I mentioned in yesterday’s article about comic composition, to read a lot of these cartoons in order to get a general sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Not only that, it’s also very useful (if not essential) to take the time to develop your own art style too because this will really help your cartoons to be instantly recognisable and stand out from the crowd.

As for the quality of your art, it doesn’t matter as much as some people would like you to think. The most important thing in a political cartoon is that the meaning of the cartoon comes across to the reader quickly and easily.

Some political cartoonists produce elaborate works of art (eg: Martin Rowson’s cartoons in “The Guardian”) and some produce badly-drawn cartoons (like the editorial cartoons in the Daily ******* which make me think “I can do better than that!” every time I have the misfortune of seeing one of them).

So, remember, the message is more important than the quality of the art. You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to produce editorial cartoons – although it probably helps.

The other thing to remember about political cartoons is that they should primarily be a way for you to express your own personal views about things, albeit in a way that other people can understand quickly.

I mean, from every Youtube video I’ve watched about political cartoons, the most important thing seems to be to remember that it’s ok to be liberal about some issues and conservative about others and vice versa (unless you’re lucky enough to work for a newspaper).

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Sorry that this article was so basic and opinionated, but I hope it was interesting 🙂