by Donna Barstow | February 26th, 2010
Oops, did I spoil the cartoon? For Illustration Friday: propagate is the challenge. And chickens do that.
This is an easy idea to tinker with, if you’re good with words. The ending to Which came first, could be anything, and I think I’ve come up with half a dozen gags over the years. But politics has been a big part of my life this last year, working for Slate, so these hens have that on their mind, too.
I’ve been thinking recently about New Yorker cartoons vs Editorial cartoons – which I’m spending most of my time doing now. New Yorker cartoons are easy, so easy that anyone can do it, and they can and do, with the little caption contests. I haven’t looked at the contests in years, but there are many clever entries, I’m sure.
“But I can’t draw,” they sigh. That’s what she said.
That’s what I said. I wanted to write them, not draw them, but I sent ideas to a couple of New Yorker guys, they said they didn’t buy gags, and I gave up on just writing right away. I’d have to learn to draw. Sigh.
I still don’t know if I CAN draw, but I like my drawings, and editors seem to, too. Remember, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks – you only have to please one person, the editor. (Although I sure like fan mail when I get it, and requests for books or originals!)
But political cartoons – you can’t believe how much harder they are. First of all, you have to know things, like current events, a little history. You can’t get by with a turn of phrase or a sick pun. Then there’s the people – you have to draw REAL PEOPLE! I’m not a caricaturist, nor are any magazine cartoonists I know of. But for political cartoons you have to draw people in the news who are recognizable. That takes research and practice, and sketches and study.
Then you have to take this real person or event or situation and make it funny. That might be the hardest, although for me it’s the most fun. But it can’t be word games. Almost all New Yorker cartoons are word play, which is why they’re so easy. Op-ed cartoons have to be like a good novel or script – the caption and humor must come from the character!
I’m the only New Yorker cartoonist or magazine cartoonist who has made the off-balance crazy jump into editorial cartoons. I had no idea it would be this hard, this time-consuming – and this much fun.
I kind of envy the New Yorker guys leisurely thinking of 10 good gags before lunch, however. I used to be them. Now I still do some of that, since I have to pay the bills, plus get to the really hard part of the day - writing an op-ed cartoon that is relevant, makes sense, pops the color or design, and, if I’m lucky, is funny.
Cartoon Caption: My question is, which came first, Democrats or Republicans?