Job Shadow

December 5th, 2008 | Posted in General

My “job shadow” watches as I ink a MAD job

I do a fair amount of speaking to local middle school, high school and occasionally college classes about cartooning and illustration… usually a handful of times a year or so. I also host internships for college art students at my theme park operations where they work as caricaturists for the summer and get college credits. This past week I did something I’ve never done before: “job shadow”.

Job shadow is a high school program where a student finds a professional working in whatever field interests them and then “shadows” them on the job for all or part of a day. Then they write a report on the experience. We sort of had this in school as well, but it was “bring your kid to work day” and we just went to work with a parent and then did a report on it. My dad was the manager of a grocery store, which interested me not at all, so I sat in the store break room and drew all day. “Job shadow” is a little more specific.

My niece Brittanie called me up and said she had a classmate who was an aspiring artist and wondered if he could job shadow me one day… like TOMORROW. I was trying to beat a deadline on a MAD job and was on the final stretch of the inking, so I thought that would work out well. The next day a young man named Luke showed up at the studio and spent about 4 hours watching me ink while we chatted about freelance illustration, cartooning, caricature, MAD and in general what it’s like to try and make a living with a pencil and a drawing board. Fortunately my two decades of drawing live caricatures trained me in the fine art of talking and drawing at the same time… and being able to draw with someone looking over my shoulder. It’s funny but all the live caricaturists I know take it for granted that everyone can do that, but in reality a lot of cartoonists can’t draw in front of people at all.

Luke and me

Anyway it went by fast and Luke was a very attentive student. He asked a lot of good questions. I hope he got something out of it.

All you pro cartoonists out there should contact your local high school and let them know you are available for something like that. I sure wish I would have had that opportunity when I was a senior in high school.


  1. hutch says:

    Well done Tom. That’s a fabulous thing to do and will no doubt inspire Luke in the future.

    I once did a mural (which took 200 hours) in a bedroom for a soon to be born child. I’d been comissioned by a couple who also had a five year old daughter. She asked if she could watch and help me. She was fascinated and was good company so I didn’t mind at all. About 15 years later a very attractive young lady ran up to me and wrapped her arms around me at a party saying ‘you don’t remember me do you?’ I was shocked but not as much as my wife! It was that little girl all grown up and she told me that she had been so inspired by seeing me do the mural that she had trained in fine art and now had a career doing murals in children’s bedrooms!

  2. meredithd says:

    Very gracious of you, Tom, to do this for these young people! Wish I had someone like you around when I was in school!

  3. Philbert says:

    Tom! That is so coincidental! Yesterday I visited Mrs. Hobbs’ classroom at Rocky Point School of the Arts where I did an hour on editorial cartooning and caricature. It was a mix of 5th-8th graders and they put me through the wringer! They had a lot of questions and were a very polite and attentive crowd. What blew me away is that they had several of my newspaper/blog cartoons blown up and were using them as classroom aids! It’s not often you get a chance to rot young minds and I enjoyed every minute of it.

  4. Tom says:

    Hutch- great story. It’s humbling to think that something we might do actually can affect the very lives of someone in that way. Imagine the great cartoonists working today whose work is a direct result of the inspiration of giants like Mort Drucker, Jack Davis and others when they were kids.

    Philbert- It seems that no matter how the cards fall, it is always an inconvenient time for me when I go do a talk like that… but I still book them and do it because it’s very rewarding in other ways.

  5. TerryElliott says:

    Tom, it was a good thing you did. Can you post Luke’s paper??

  6. SteveH says:

    That is one very lucky young man! It is very cool that you do that Tom!


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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