Q: After working overseas as an illustrator for a while, I made the mistake of moving back home to Scotland. In short, there was no work. At all. So, like any plucky young cartoonist, I hung up my brushes and moved on to other work (editing magazines.). Now I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, and I’m finding it hard to draw again (it’s been a little over 18 months now). Any tips on getting my skills back to a decent level?
A: That’s really impossible to answer as it’s very different for everybody. I can only tell you what I would do personally.
The only way I’ve found to to sharpen your art skills is to draw, draw draw. It sounds simple and cliche, but that is the bottom line. If I’ve had an extended break from working (and I’ve never had a real break in 20 years… I’m talking a week or two), I spend more time in the sketchbook. A warm up drawing every day is essential. Working up a few life drawings is also a good way to get into the groove.
Back when I did live caricature full time during the summers I would hang up the caricature pencils for the off season and switch to art school mode. At my particular college cartooning was a no-no in most cases and I had little occasion to do caricatures. When I would return to it in the early summer, I was very rusty and would struggle for the first day or so. However it quickly came back and I actually found some of my skills had sharpened a little having been away from it for a while… the fresh eyes and so forth. Live caricature is kind of a different animal, though, as it’s execution is a skill and craft that requires you to be well in practice with sharp hand/eye coordination to pull off. Not the greatest example.
After that long a time off? I guess it will just take longer, but drawing has more to do with your brain that in does with your hand so you never lose too much. Yes, mechanically you can get rusty but that is the easy part to get back. Just working on your drawing will quickly get you back in the swing of it, and shortly you won’t remember being away.
Thanks to Tom Green of Scotland for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here.
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842 New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550
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