I spend quite a bit of time reviewing work from people who want to see their artistic skills put to print. Often, they’re those with a knack for drawing and have proven themselves to be good artists. Some of them actually aspire to draw editorial cartoons and have banked up a number of examples over a period of time proving a genuine passion. The portfolios they let me peek into may or may not be good, but at least they have an idea of what editorial cartooning is about.
Others, however, approach me on how to get their work printed after proving themselves not only to have little experience in editorial cartooning, but really not having much exposure to newspapers in general. Oh, yes their email attachments of landscape paintings and charcoal renderings of celebrities from 10 years ago indicates a firm interest in art, but how does it relate to editorial cartooning?
My response to many is often in the same tone as the one I sent recently below. It received no reply, no thanks for my time, just crickets – which is standard. But rather than let it vaporize into the emailsphere I thought I share it here, and maybe others will take something from it:
Dear aspiring editorial cartoonist,
It’s great that you’re trying your hand at editorial cartooning. Satire is a wonderful way of blending one’s artistic skill with a rant about something and getting a response that provokes laughter, scorn, or a bit of both.
I see by your attached samples that you are someone who has taken quite a bit of time illustrating. The landscape paintings, and illustrations of fruit baskets and pencil sketches prove that you’re someone with an artistic passion. If you’re like me, you’ll know that with every successful creation are 1 to 10 others that were abandoned or crumpled up and sent to the bin. Like painting, editorial cartooning requires a lot of practice and crumpled up pieces of paper. You should see my attempt at painting – lots of unfinished canvasses and others with the quality of paint-by-numbers pieces.
In terms of editorial cartooning, I think, based on the one editorial cartoon sent, that if you really want to get mass print publicity, you need to practice more, loosen up your rigid lines, perfect your lettering, establish a style, and explore technology that allows cartoonists to quickly colour their work beyond using pencil crayons. What editors want to see are bodies of work by prospective freelancers that confirms consistency and experienced quality.
I would also suggest using websites like Pinterest.com, Deviantart.com, and toonpool.com to peruse the works of others and places to post your own work for easy upload, display, and comparison. Share your work on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I looked at your website and each of your email attachments, but the tendency I’ve come to realize is that many editors don’t bother taking the few moments to examine website content or attachments. The aforementioned sites are way more convenient and are also a great way to invite constructive criticism, but it means embracing online activity which I know can be repulsive for some.
As for being bounced around the newsroom from person to person trying to get attention, it’s the unfortunate nature of this industry beast. The people you’ve already emailed to are higher up editors with their fingers on many buttons – illustration is not really one of the buttons. The Entertainment & Life editor also controls many buttons, and one of them is deciding on the odd commission piece that appears in their section. Again, as I stated in my previous email to you, there’s not much of a budget for paying illustrators, which has turned off a lot of artists, hence the tendency for editors is to avoid humiliating artists by paying little and choosing to run stock photos/illustrations instead. Also, the turn around time for completing work is so short that it’s too much of a challenge for too little in return, and that’s not only from the view of the artist, but the editor as well.
I wish I could give you more positive advice. As a guy with no buttons to press except readers’ reaction, I’d love to see more illustrations in the paper, and more women drawing editorial cartoons. All I can offer are suggestions for anyone aspiring to get their work published is to practice, promote and persist at getting attention.