A cartoonist specialises in drawing cartoons. These are generally humorous, intended primarily for entertainment. Cartoonists may make political, satirical or social cartoons in newspapers or magazines or sometimes draw to develop comic strips, comic books, graphic novels or animation.
What do they do?
Manoj Chopra, a law graduate from Jammu University, used to make cartoons which were put up on the college notice boards to draw the attention of the authorities. As a professional cartoonist, he now does the same for the people of India.
Though he practised law briefly in 1995 soon after getting his degree, his interest and expertise in making caricatures drew him closer to the toon world which got him a job with a fortnightly magazine in Jammu.
Artist Unny did not think twice before starting his career as a cartoonist with a national daily in Kerala. For Unny, it was an achievement of sorts because he didn’t have a formal training in fine arts. “One can be taught to draw but one can’t learn the art of cartooning,” he says.
Pran, the famous cartoonist and creator of the much-loved Chacha Chaudhary, did a course in fine arts from the Sir JJ School of Art. He, however, does not believe that the training is imperative to become a good cartoonist. “Did Shankar (better known as the father of political cartooning in India) go to any art school, or did Ahmed (another famous cartoonist) get any formal training,” he asks.
Humour and artistic abilities are the essential ingredients that go into the making of a good cartoonist, but journalistic skills help too. Unny says he reads seven newspapers every day and also follows news channels regularly. His dependency on the electronic media increased only in the last few years.
“Earlier we used to read the morning papers and could take the whole day to make the next day’s cartoon, but now, the news is reported all the time on TV which keeps us always on our toes,” he says.
Artists suggest that a cartoon should not be discussed until it is finalised. “It’s not an orchestra. In the world of cartooning, you ought to compose your tune alone,” says Unny. Making a complete cartoon takes him somewhere around three to four hours but he could also be required to redo it. There is one “default” cartoon which he makes in the beginning of the day and after that, if a new development takes place, then it is replaced with a “timely” caricature.
With the soaring popularity of TV, the trend of cartooning is, sadly, waning, which calls for the need to explore other aesthetic alternatives beyond just political cartoons. “One can work as an illustrator-cum-cartoonist,” says Triambak Sharma, a marketing executive-turned-cartoonist-turned publisher who brings out the magazine Cartoon Watch.
Another safe bet is to explore opportunities in the electronic media and the Internet. Pran’s son Nikhil could sense the decline of the print industry and geared up for changing times. After studying computer engineering at Manipal University, he started a media institute to train students in animation, mass communication and creative writing — apart from cartooning. “Print cartooning shouldn’t be seen in insulation. It must be complimented with animation movies and digital promotion. If creative art is integrated with a good business sense, then several Indian superheroes can be created the way the Western world produced the likes of Superman and Spiderman,” says Nikhil Pran.
We hope that a cartoonist’s pen would conjure an immortal Indian superhero soon. And with this, the next generation of cartoonists is likely to follow.
. Be creative - good with drawing and sketching and quick
. Be very witty
. Journalistic bent of mind
How do I get there?
Do a full-fledged art programme at the undergraduate or postgraduate level before you apply for a job or any freelance work. Keep building up a portfolio and sending your work to editors or the designing heads of newspapers or magazines - who might even decide to hire you. You can also be hired by a publishing house which prints comic books.