Shop Talk: Recommended Books on How to be a Gag Cartoonist?

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I get a lot of emails and DM’s from aspiring cartoonists asking for advice on courses or books to read on cartooning; particularly the art of gag cartooning. All I can do is refer you to two of the best books I was referred to on this topic when I was starting out, and those are:

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This one above* is by Mort Gerberg, who I think still holds the record for ‘most detailed first New Yorker cartoon in history’. (It was a full-pager of the ornate interior of church; a gag about high ceilings.) I think  the thing I like about Mort’s book is the more you refer back to it, the more you learn a little bit you might have missed the last time you read it. Mort continues to publish New Yorker cartoons to this day from his home in Manhattan. He still comes into the open pitch meetings and the local New Yorker events, and is one of those ever-adaptable cartoonists who keep up with the trends. (He has an Instagram and a Twitter you can follow.)
*It should be noted that it has since been republished under other publishers, but this is the original version. The opening chapter or two about schlepping around New York on a Wednesday to the various publishers with a stack of cartoons under your arm is a thing that just doesn’t exist any more. The only open call cartoon publication left of that stature is The New Yorker.

(Note: Mort has an exhibition opening at the New York Historical Society Museum & Library on 15th February this year. Link.)

The other book I was recommended, which I also refer back to often is “The Cartoonist's Muse: A Guide to Generating and Developing Creative Ideas” by Mischa Richter and Harald Bakken. I think either Tony Lopes or Glen LeLievre referred me to this book back in Australia about a decade ago, and to this day I recommend it to other cartoonists (and refer back to it myself very often).

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There is a lot more work than you realise that goes into creating a good cartoon, and these books are very instructive on the elusive craft therein.
Every week, I do a podcast with my friend Scott Dooley about this very topic of coming up with New Yorker cartoons, and by some miracle, we’re getting a few across the line at The New Yorker and MAD Magazine on a regular basis. You can subscribe to it wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you have any good book recommendations on gag cartooning, by all means let me know if the comments. I love getting new recommendations.

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New Book! How to get Motion Into Your Drawings

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I recently contributed illustrations to a book published out of the UK called "Whoosh! How to get Motion Into Your Drawings". I think I learned more reading it than contributing to it. The other artists are just phenomenal - it was very flattering to be asked to contribute.


The best cartoonists jam-pack their work with action that moves the story along. So how do you capture this kind of motion in your work? Whoosh! 250 Ways to Get Motion into Your Drawings can help. Cartoonist and illustrator Carlos Gomes Cabral shares his tips and tricks to help you create attention-grabbing drawings that practically leap off the pages.

    It's all in the details: sometimes simplicity, rhythm, the position of a shadow, the use of a speed line, or even an exaggerated expression can make all the difference. Cabral walks you step-by-step through 250 fantastic techniques, including:

  • The importance of a good silhouette
  • Using lines of action to help create character's gestures
  • How to use basic shapes to suggest movement
  • The best positions to increase drama in a scene
  • How to tell a compelling narrative with art alone

And if all that isn't enough, ten great artists share their trademark secrets for bringing their own drawings to life! Whether you work digitally on a computer or at a drawing table with a good old-fashioned pencil, this book will help you develop the skills you need to create movement and drama--and take your dynamic drawing skills to a whole new level.

Here's a sneak peek:



New Book! Amy and the Wilepena Flood


(Apologies for the late posting on this -- I thought I'd already posted about this in 2013.) I had the pleasure of illustrating another Australian Girl Doll book in the series, "Amy and the Wilpena Flood", written by Claudia Bouma.

"Amy and her friends take another exciting adventure with the help of the rainbow necklace. After finding a map of South Australia marked with a mysterious location, the necklace takes them there. They find themselves in Wilpena Pound during the early 1900s, where they meet a girl named Jessie Hill, who lives there with her family. However, the girls’ friendship is tested in challenging circumstances as they try and save the family from a devastating flood. With little time to escape from the Hill’s homestead, they learn about courage, perseverance and the value of true friendship."

This is the third in the series of books I've illustrated for Australian Girl Doll. I've also made custom comic strips and colouring-in competitions for the brand - take a look at:

The first two are available below:



More book illustrations.