So, you have an idea that has been bouncing around in your head and you aren’t quite sure what to do with it. Or maybe you know what you want to do with it but don’t know how, or where to start. I thought it might be good to take you through a quick process tour of a cartoon I created about 10 years ago. It was an idea that had been in my head for a while until I finally put it to good use.
First a little backstory… I was born in 1970. Back in 1971, a band called Climax had a song named “Precious and Few.” I’ll leave it up to you to look it up and give it a listen if you are unfamiliar. There was a particular lyric that kept hitting my brain in an odd way:
Precious and few are the moments we two can share…
Sometimes I would swear I could hear toucan… and for years that was stuck in my head until I finally decided to do something with it. The butchered lyric was funny, but without a visual didn’t have much oomph. The first decision I had to make was, cartoony or realistic? I decided to go with the Leslie Nielsen delivery. You can look him up if you aren’t familiar with the actor and his work, but suffice it to say serious delivery of a funny line is sometimes funnier than silly delivery of a funny line.
Opting for realism, the next step was to find reference art for my toucans. I had an image in my mind of a couple of toucans perched on a branch having a casual conversation. A quick aside here, many artists use reference photographs to refine their work. I’m not talking about tracing, I’m talking about looking at how things exist and flow in real-life in order to capture the parts you want in your drawing. The Internet is a great tool for finding reference photographs if you don’t have the means or expertise to take your own.
After a lot of searching, I found exactly what I wanted in the ones below. Two separate photographs, but each perched on a stick the way I wanted. Even better, the second one has his mouth open as if caught in mid-sentence!
The next decision I had to make was how to create the art. Since I wanted to eventually compose the final work on my computer, I had essentially three options: Draw everything on paper and scan it in, Draw everything on the computer with the software tools, Use my Wacom tablet for a combination of the first two options.
Each option has their merits. Drawing exclusively on the computer, however, I feared might look too mechanical and not get the realism I wanted for the final look. I also kind of wanted to play with the new Wacom tablet I had at the time, so I opted for the third method. Wacom, or similar, tablets are a nice way to draw with a natural feel but capture lines and curves in a way that you can more easily manipulate later as vector art if you so desire. For this cartoon, the only manipulation after drawing was the use of the fill feature to blacken in the parts I wanted solid. All that was left was to box the cartoon for the traditional single-panel look, and add the caption below it.
So, there you have it… an idea from concept to final cartoon in a snapshot of the process. A special thank you to Jerry of Emerald Forest Bird Gardens for granting me permission to use the toucan photos from their Web site. They have a lot of information about toucans, so I recommend you visit the link and take a look around.