How To Become a Great Cartoonist - The HARD Way

This inspiring article ("How To Pick An Animation School") at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive shows us how all those classic animators and cartoonists got to be so good. Along the way this post confirms what we've always suspected... the road to greatness in cartooning or any other craft is paved with lots of study, hard work, curiosity and perseverance. We can't afford to ever stop learning!
How to Become a Great Cartoonist
ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive: Theory: How To Pick An Animation School

On Newsstands Now: New SpongeBob Magazine Cover

SpongeBob Magazine cover illustration shows SpongeBob SquarePants blowing bubbles in the shapes of Patrick and Squidward and Gary the snail

It's been a while since I did storyboards on the SpongeBob TV series, but I still get to keep my hand in it a bit when I do comics and illustrations for Nickelodeon Magazine. A couple months ago I got a call from them about drawing another cover, and I'm glad I jumped at it 'cause it was a lot of fun (Ok, it was a lot of work, too...but more on that later).

The three sketches below are my first attempts to draw SpongeBob blowing funny bubble shapes. I was trying really hard to get that bubble away from his face...

SpongeBob Magazine cover illustration pencil rough shows SpongeBob SquarePants blowing bubbles in the shapes of Patrick and Squidward and Gary the snail

SpongeBob is blowing bubbles in the shape of Gary his pet snail - Pencil drawing rough for Nickelodeon SpongeBob SquarePants magazine

Well, it turns out there's not enough room on the cover to have that bubble so far from his face, so I had to try to have SpongeBob facing frontward, with the bubble overlapping his face, but without obscuring his smiling features!

This took quite a bit of pencil wrangling, but by the time I drew the two sketches below, I thought it was working OK. The sketch on the left is the one went with, but I kept drawing. Even after I think I've nailed it, I try to do more drawings to see if something unexpected happens. In this case, the next drawing I did wasn't as good, so I decided to take the good one and scan it in so I could play around with the composition.

SpongeBob blows some more bubbles resembling his pet snail Gary - more rough preliminary drawings for SpongeBob SquarePants Nick magazine

Next, I threw in a whole buncha bubbles to show that SpongeBob has been having a great time amusing himself with his boundless bubble creativity. His bubbles were supposed to reflect his hopes, dreams, wishes and obsessions. I used TV Paint 8.5 tough up the sketch and cobble all the bubble drawings together into this pretty-much-finished pencil drawing below:
SpongeBob blows some more bubbles that look like a spatula flipping a Krabby Patty, a boat, and his friends Patrick and Squidward Tentacles. Pencil rough for SpongeBob SquarePants Nick magazine

After submitting the above pencil drawing to Nickelodeon Magazine, the editors just asked me to change SpongeBob's eye direction. Originally they wanted him looking right at the "camera," but now they wanted me to have him looking at the bubble. problem. Here's the inked version (below). I do all this sort of inking in Adobe Illustrator, using the freehand brush tool.

Inked cover art - drawing made with Adobe Illustrator for SpongeBob SquarePants Magazine
Finally, I "painted" the background using some pieces from stock backgrounds from the series that were painted long ago. I added the flower clouds by hand, and then blurred them in Photoshop. The hard part was getting the bubbles to look right; Each one has four layers with various transparencies. The flat colors on SpongeBob were done with the eyedropper and paint bucket tools. I sample the colors off of SpongeBob stock model sheets to make sure they're 100% accurate.

Final SpongeBob Magazine cover painting - art shows SpongeBob SquarePants blowing lotsa bubbles in the shapes of his best friend Patrick and Squidward and Gary his pet snail

I had to leave a lot of room around the character for the Nick Magazine staff to put in all the headlines and bar codes and stuff. I kept all the bubbles on separate layers, giving the art director the freedom to move them around and resize them depending on the needs of the layout. And there you have it:

Final published version of the Nickelodeon SpongeBob SquarePants Bubble-blowing cover

Thanks to Tim Jones, Laura Galen, Chris Duffy and the Nick Mag staff for giving me this "cover shot!"

UPDATE: The newest issue of Nickelodeon Magazine features my latest SpongeBob painting...

Storyboard Art from The Mist and Mars Attacks

Fangoria magazine has just published an online article that features some cool storyboard art by Pete Von Sholly from the new Stephen King and Frank Darabont horror flick, The Mist.

Mist Storyboard art
I really like the way these pages look...they read very clearly. Even though they're rendered and shaded, the line work still looks fast and loose. You can see more at:

Cartoonist and storyboard artist Pete Von Sholly also has his own website where you can see some storyboard art from Mars Attacks:

Mars attacks Concept art

Find out more about this prolific storyboard artist at:

Wanna know HOW to storyboard?
...then please take a minute to fill out this
Storyboard Course Poll

Hanna Barbera Treasury Book -- This Time They Got it RIGHT!

Hanna Barbera Treasury
I just came across this new art book about Hanna Barbera's golden years called, "Hanna Barbera Treasury." There is so much wonderfulness to this giant-sized love-letter that I had to share it with all of you.

The Hanna Barbera Treasury is written by Jerry Beck, with photography by Tim Mantoani published by Insight Editions. It measures a big 11 1/2" tall by 11 inches wide, and it's about 3/4 inch thick with 157 memorabilia-stuffed pages. If you're impatient like me, it costs $45 in bookstores, but Amazon has it for $29.70 (as of Nov 29th).

Now, 157 pages may not sound that substantial, but what you can't tell from that number is that every oversized page is PACKED with photos of REAL production artwork (not those awful fakey-fake publicity "cels.") -- most of which was apparently photographed from original archival artwork! There are pictures of storyboards, layouts, animation drawings, model sheets, development sketches, character designs, etc...stuff that has never seen the light of day until now. I've been waiting for someone to put together this kind of book for ages.
Hanna Barbera Treasury Magilla Gorilla page

There are also tons of beautiful photos of vintage H-B collectible and toys, like plastic dolls and View-Master reels. If you remember the groundbreaking art direction in Chip Kidd's Batman Animated art book from the nineties, you can imagine what this looks like.

The other feature that really expands the page-count is that there are tons of little envelopes and pockets and pamphlets bound into this book that contain beautiful facsimiles of trading cards, full-color 12-page mini-comic book reprints, Model sheets, storyboard sequences and vintage activity-book pages.

Hanna Barbera Treasury Yogi Bear pages

There are separate chapters for all of the early Hanna-Barbera stars (in chronological order), including a chapter EACH devoted to:
  • Tom and Jerry
  • Ruff and Reddy
  • Huckleberry Hound
  • Pixie and Dixie
  • Yogi Bear
  • Quick-Draw McGraw
  • Augie Doggie
  • Snagglepuss
  • The Flintstones
  • Top Cat
  • The Jetsons
  • Magilla Gorilla
  • Peter Potamus
  • Sqiddly Diddly
  • Touche Turtle
  • Lippy The Lion
  • Jonny Quest
  • Space Ghost
  • Atom Ant
  • Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole
  • Frankenstein, Jr and the Impossibles
  • Birdman
  • Wacky Races
  • Space Ghost
  • Scooby-Doo
...and THEY STOP RIGHT THERE! Oh, happy day!

There's no need to pretend that the entire history of Hanna Barbera is totally golden...most of their output after the late sixties was totally forgettable. But they wisely chose to focus on the best of the best!

If you felt horribly cheated by that awful Hanna Barbera Cartoons coffee-table book from 1999, this new book should make you forget all about that publishing nightmare. This new book a winner through and through! Caveat: I haven't READ the text yet, so I'm looking at this purely from a visual standpoint. I'm guessing that based on the love and devotion that obviously went into the art direction of this book, they probably didn't skimp on the textual accuracy either.

The text is written by animation historian and Cartoon Brew-meister Jerry Beck, so I'm looking forward to reading it and posting another review later to complete the picture.

Now go out and buy it! We want to encourage this kind of thing! ^_^

PS...if you're in LA on Dec.1st, say Hi to Jerry and get your book signed! More info at the Animation Archive

You gotta see: Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine - The TREASURE is HERE!

I love surprises! Thanks to Chris Duffy's comics blog,
I just found out about another great source of sweet comic book scans...

"Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine" (A Golden Age comic book blog featuring horror, crime, science fiction, funny animals and some super-heroes!)

Pappy's comic scans feature a HUGE variety of the deliciously entertaining comics of the 40's, mostly the 50's and a little of the 60's. The roster of comics greatness found here includes comics by:
We're talkin' humor, horror, crime, science-fiction, funny animal comics...all the stuff nobody does in comics anymore. This is getting a big bookmark at the top of my list because it's a gold mine of comic book treasures that will keep me reading til my retina burns out.

There are literally HUNDREDS of amazing entries, going back a couple of years! I've just started to dig into the archives, and I've already got the cold sweats. I don't know why I never saw this blog before, but TRUST ME I am going to be checking it out every day from now on!

I gotta GO...Pappy's comics scans are calling my name! See you there!

Tack's Cartoon Tips for the Aspiring Cartoonist

Tack's Cartoon Tips for the Aspiring Cartoonist How to draw cartoons

Look at what Dave Blog posted on his Flickr page: Tack's Cartoon Tips for the Aspiring Professional!

This is an amazing little how-to cartooning book from way back in 1923 by cartoonist B. "Tack" Knight.

In just 29 pages he teaches aspiring professional artists how to draw cartoons the old-fashioned way! Some of the pages are corny and not very useful today, but MOST of this book features rock-solid basic building-blocks for learning how to draw in that old "bigfoot" early 2oth century print cartoon style.

Topics include:

  • Expressions
  • How to draw HANDS (this page is really great!)
  • Hats, Shoes, Wrinkles (as in clothes and drapery)
  • Lessons on drawing KIDS and ANIMALS
  • How to draw BACKGROUNDS
  • and even a bit on Cartoon Lettering
How to draw Cartoon Hands from Tack's Cartoon Tips for the Aspiring Cartoonist

Warning: there's some old-school racially insensitive material in here. What people thought was funny back then just makes people mad today. Don't say I didn't warn you!

To read the whole book as a slideshow, (I think it's easiest to read it this way)

click on:

Thanks, Dave!

Sherlock the Monk and Chuck Duck Funny Animal Comics Scans

If you want to learn how to draw a monkey,
or just how to draw FUNNY,
you can't do much better than to soak up
the cartoon craziness of these great pages
from Fawcett's Funny Animals #55 from 1947.

Click on the pictures below
to see BIG Hi-Res scan of each comic book page

Click on the pictures below
to see a BIG Hi-Resolution scan
of each comic book page

Click on the pictures below
to see a BIG Hi-Resolution scan
of each comic book page

Look at that great kick in the penultimate panel!

BOOT! ...The END!

According to an interview in the Fawcett Companion, Sherlock the Monk and Chuck was one of many Fawcett Funny Animal features created by Chad Grothkopf. I don't know whether this particular story was done by him or not. Looks like Milton Stein to me, but I hope that better eyes than mine will set me straight.

UPDATE/Correction -- Super-Comics-Spotter Charlie J just showed me a couple posts on the ASIFA Cartoon Archive that convince me that Jim Tyer is the master cartoonist behind these pages. Take a look at these funny animal comics at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive and see what you think...

CLICK on the images below to jump over
to the ARCHIVE and see the comics pages!

Jim Tyer

Jim Tyer comics

Yep, I think Charlie J nailed it.
So, it looks like the amazing Jim Tyer
strikes again!
Thanks, Charlie!

There are quite a few fantastic stories in this comic book; If you want to see more, please leave a comment below and let me know -- In the meantime, enjoy!

to look at and download! Click HERE

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Soapy Sam: Howzabout More VARIETY in Comics?

Comic books have changed an awful lot since the forties. There used to be a lot more variety; not just a lot of different genres and different styles...there were lots of successful anthology titles that had five or six ongoing series running concurrently in the same book for years.
There was also more variety
among the individual stories in each book.
Today's "Exhibit A" is Soapy Sam the Snooper Man.

Soapy Sam. Dude's a window washer,
but he dreams of being a detective.
(Check out that flattened nose.Is that because
it's always pressed up against the glass?)
Take a look at these three pages
of pure cartoon weirdness!
This story appeared as some comic-relief filler
in a 1947 issue of Black Cat,
published by Home Comics, Inc. St. Louis, Mo.

As usual, CLICK on any one of the pages
to see a king-size comic book page.

As usual, CLICK on any one of the pages
to see a grande-size comic book page.

This story is signed "Jack Keeler." Jack Keeler!? Do you realize who that is?

Don't look at me...I have no idea!

And it's not for lack of trying to find out. Whenever I post one of these golden-age oldies, I try to find some background info to give it context. Can't find a blessed thing about Jack Keeler. I bet there were hundreds of guys that drifted in and out of the totally disreputable comic-book trade, worked under pseudonyms for a few years on a few obscure titles, then went back to earn a decent, respectable living as insurance salesmen or electrical engineers.

  • One of my favorite things about old comics is that they weren't afraid to mix up genres just to keep things fresh. In many crime and action-oriented comic books, they had these little one- two- or three-page fillers that sort of cleansed the palette in between the more serious stuff.

In this case, this goofy tri-page treat was sandwiched in alongside a Black Cat story by the awesome Lee Elias,

...and a pulse-pounding Danny Dixon...CADET adventure,

...and right after a single-page comedy strip
about a Miss Lonely-hearts called, "Getting Maisie Married."

After the Soapy Sam story comes a real oddball title: "His Honor and...The DEMON!"

Signed by long-time utility-player Bill Draut, this Batman-style story is about a judge who dresses up as a red devil at night and metes out vigilante justice on the underworld criminals that are beyond the reach of his courtroom!

This issue of Black Cat finishes off with more short comedic comics.

Real short.

Two half-pagers stacked one on toppa the other.

Meet Jobless Jerry and Crackpot Cornelius...

There's nothing more hilarious than being unemployed!

Not sure who did the Jobless Jerry strip, but Crackpot Cornelius was penned by gag cartoonist Art Helfant, who apparently drew tons of these comic book fillers during the 1940's and 1950's.
I dunno...maybe Helfant did them both. Click the image below for the macho-sized gag page.

Now THAT'S a comic book! Thrill, chills, jokes, even a classic "plop" panel at the very end of that last page.


Call me old-fashioned, but I like comics that are FUN!

If you're interested in seeing any of those other stories from this comic, just let me know and I'll post 'em right up! See You next time!

UPDATE: There's LOTS more comic book scans
to look at and download! Click HERE

  • ...And if you liked this post, please help me share it
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Bob Camp Shows You How to Draw Cartoons Better...or How to Draw Better Cartoons.

Bob Camp is a really swell guy.

When I got my first job in a cartoon studio, I didn't know jack about how to draw for animation. I was a comic book guy. Never really interested in animation up to that point because I had so many misconceptions about it. I (stupidly) thought that if you worked in animation, you had to draw the same picture a thousand times in row, moving each pose just slightly until you died from eyestrain and carpal tunnel.

Lucky for me, Bill Wray of The Ren and Stimpy Show liked my comics enough to talk with me about doing storyboards. He straightened me out a lot about the art and artistry of great animation (Thanks, Bill!). I didn't get that storyboard gig, but I did get the chance to work on the last season of Ren and Stimpy as a trainee in the character layout department. That's when I got the chance to work with the wonderful Bob Camp.

Bob Camp Ren and Stimpy Cartoonist How to Draw Cartoons
CLICK on the thumbnails above for some
groovy cartooning lessons from Bob Camp!

One of the coolest things Bob did in the studio was to have some informal drawing theory classes in the early morning before the start of the workday. I took a lot of notes, and I still refer to them today. Basic stuff...solid building blocks of character design and staging. The stuff most of us need to be reminded of all the time.

Anyway, I haven't seen Bob Camp in ages, but he's started his own blog over at

And he just posted a whole bunch of fantastic scans of some of his drawing theory lessons. If you like cartoony cartoons, and you'd like to learn how to draw better, Bob Camp's drawing lessons are a great place to start! Thanks, Bob!

MORE Alarming 1950's Kirby Sci-Fi Comics: The Last Enemy

Because YOU demanded it!
(Okay, it was only Martin who demanded it,
but I assume the rest of you out there feel the same way)
...MORE freaky rarely-seen Jack Kirby
science-fiction comics from the fifties!

Postapocalyptic anthropomorphic dogs , fox, bear and rat drawings by Jack Kirby

Like the previous Kirby story posted a little while back,
this story is from Alarming Tales #1, September 1957

Alarming Tales #1 cover by Jack Kirby shows man flying through city on a rocket-powed chair

Published by Western Tales, Inc. and Harvey Features Syndicate.
This story is one of five tales in this all-Kirby comic book bonanza.
If you get a chance to lay yer mitts on this comic book, get it!
It's a winner through and through!

As usual, CLICK on any one of the pages below
to see a large-size kooky Kirby komics page.

The Last Enemy comic book scans drawings by Jack Kirby Time Travel

As usual, CLICK on any one of the pages below
to see a large-size kooky Kirby komics page.

Alarming Tales Harvey Comics comic book scans drawings by Jack Kirby talking cartoon rats and tiger

As usual, CLICK on any one of the pages
to see a large-size kooky Kirby komics page.

The Last Enemy comic book scans drawings by Jack Kirby Time Traveler captured by talking rats

As usual, CLICK on any one of the pages
to see a large-size kooky Kirby komics page.

Alarming Tales Harvey Comics comic book scans art by Jack Kirby talking cartoon rats interrogate time traveler

As usual, CLICK on any one of the pages
to see a large-size kooky Kirby komics page.

Time traveler rescued by cartoon talking dogs, fox, bear

As usual, CLICK on any one of the pages
to see a large-size kooky Kirby komics page.

cartoon dogs, fox, bear talking animals in the future like in Kamandi by Jack Kirby

If you missed the zany Jack Kirby story I posted before, check it out here:

Jack Kirby Takes you to the Fourth Dimension

...and take a look at this very cool Jack Kirby Blog called the Kirby Museum. Lots of Kirby artwork to swim in!

UPDATE: There's LOTS more comic book scans
to look at and download! Click HERE

  • ...And if you liked this post, please help me share it
(Click one or more of the links directly below) Thanks!