This art podcast is all about creating cartoon ideas to draw. The cartoon theme stems from a message from Penny Henrickson which said, Sandra Busby, I would love for you to talk about your comic cartoon process. How did you create and develop your Felicity Fizz cartoon? How do you come up with your cartoon ideas? How do you sketch her up? Do you create her as a digital cartoon or create her by hand? What art materials do you use to create her?
Tara also creates cartoons and has some different techniques for coming up with cartoon ideas. We are going to share our different processes for coming up with cartoon ideas and drawing them.
The Cartoon Idea for Felicity Fizz
Just to explain, Felicity Fizz is a cartoon character that Sandra created, who now has her own Instagram Page. Felicity Fizz cartoon is inspired by an amusing little story that Sandra’s Dad told her about an incident involving her Mum, and a bottle of elderflower wine, which apparently led to Sandra’s existence.
Using object shapes for cartoon ideas
So if you haven’t got an idea for a cartoon, you can come up with them just by looking at different things. So for example, you look at different household objects. The really obvious thing to do is to take something and stick eyes, legs and arms on it. For example, you can stick features on a cup to make a cartoon cup.
Another thing you can do is to use the shapes of things to inspire you. I could look at my cup, and think, how can I use the handle shape, maybe that becomes a nose. I’m not trying to make a cup cartoon, I’m just using that as the shape to become the nose of a character.
Create cartoons inspired by cut up magazines
Another thing you can also do is to cut up bits of magazines, then see how you can put those bits together. You might have a pair of trousers from one cutting and a teapot from another. You might try using the teapot as the head and it could have the trousers on. Then find something else that could be the arms. It can be completely wacky. Gadget magazines work well for this. Just stick the bits together and then create your cartoon from that. Alternatively, you can use the collage itself and paint or draw on it.
Use a theme for cartoon ideas
Sandra has used a theme to create Felicity Fizz. She’s taken the theme of a young irresponsible woman and built a cartoon character around it.
Tara has used different themes for her cartoons too:
- Kids cartoon characters based around a weather theme, which have adventures
- A ‘Mindfoolness’ cartoon based around a meditation and mindfulness theme. This was inspired by a 30-day challenge she set herself to meditate every day. The result was a cartoon character and her dog. She is stupid and almost deliberately does everything wrong regarding mindfulness.
- Sticky notes cartoons – these were using the actual sticky notes as the characters and adding simple facial features and hair. These cartoons were part of Tara’s 100-day project art challenge that she did a few years ago.
A theme-based cartoon is usually one that you can continue and do multiple cartoons for, like Felicity Fizz.
Intuitive cartoon drawings
Take a pen and hold it really loosely at the end. Let it loosely wave around on the paper in a face shape, without forcing the shape. You don’t have full control of the pen because you are holding it so loosely, so it might create a shape that looks like a nose, or maybe something that could be a hat. Next, draw eyes on it. Imagine who that character might be as you continue drawing. These aren’t cartoons that Tara would normally develop further, but they can look pretty cool.
Random blob cartoons
Try using some paint blobs and looking into them to see what you can make. Can you see a character in the shapes? Turn it around and look at it from different directions.
Simple shape cartoon ideas
Another way to create cartoons is to use simple shapes. Start by drawing a simple geometric shape for the head, then put it on another shape for a body. Draw into it, and you’ve got a simple cute little character.
Take cartoon inspiration from real life
Sandra: If I’m absolutely honest, there is a tiny bit of me in Felicity Fizz. When I was young I was really skinny and I had knobbly knees. But I’d like to think my boobs are (or were) significantly perkier than hers! My whole family are all skinny with knobbly knees, so I suppose it was almost instinctive for me to draw Felicity Fizz like that.
How cartoon character drawings evolve
Sandra: When I started drawing Felicity Fizz and then compare her to what she looks like now, she’s definitely changed. When I first started drawing her, I drew the mouth really strangely. That’s just how I did it. I wanted it to look a bit bizarre. It’s only subtle changes and I think that comes with getting to know the character over time, which sounds bizarre doesn’t it? But I really do feel like I’ve got to know her. It’s almost like she now tells me what she’s going to do rather than the other way around.
Tara: My Mindfoolness character evolved too. She originally had a really square face. I deliberately made it quite square with rounded corners. It was very heavy as well in a thick black line. I liked it, but then someone who knows about characters said to me, ‘I like her, but her jaw looks really heavy.’ I wasn’t sure I agreed at the time, but I did change it. Now, I look back at the original ones, I think it was hideous! She was right. I was just blind to it because I’d been looking at it for so long.
Cartoon reference images
If you’re looking for pose reference for your cartoon’s position, you can use royalty-free sites to get ideas. You can also use face reference photos to get ideas for what your character’s face might look like. You can find a face you like and exaggerate it, or take several faces and amalgamate them into one, and ‘cartoonify’ them a bit. You can also photograph yourself or a friend in a pose.
Redraw your cartoon character till you get it right
When you are deciding what your character looks like, try out lots of ideas in your sketchbook. You might get something you like, but maybe you don’t like the way the body is positioned, or the head looks a bit odd or you don’t like the eyes. Try tracing over it and changing the bits you don’t like. You could use a lightbox so it’s easier to see. Then you can keep on tracing over and adjusting things until you’re happy.
Colouring your cartoon
Sandra creates Felicity Fizz cartoons with a dip pen which gives a variety of lines, and then she colours her drawings using watercolors loosely.
Brainstorm a name for your cartoon character
Sandra: The name of Felicity Fizz was inspired by my Mum. When I asked her, what do you think she should be called? She said, ‘Fly by Night Felicity.’ I didn’t use the ‘fly by night’ bit, but I wanted her surname to relate some way to her character and of course her favourite thing in the world is drinking Prosecco. So you helped me come up with ‘Fizz.’
Draw your cartoon character with personality
Sandra: Once you know what your character looks like, and you’ve come up with a name, you need to give them a personality. This is where you need to try and get into the mind of your character. You can get ideas from either the people around you, your family or in my case, my 20-year-old irresponsible self.
Creating a cartoon pet
Sandra: I wanted Felicity to have something to interact with; a pet, rather than people. I needed to think what kind of pet Felicity would choose. I’m a dog person, but Felicity would definitely want a cat, because cats are independent and Fizz really isn’t responsible enough to look after a dog. Then I had to think about what she might call her cat. Because she loves Prosecco, I decided that she would probably call him something like ‘Champers,’ short for Champagne.
Tara: When you draw that pet cartoon, you have to think about how it would look related to your main character. You need to make sure it has similar features. So if you’ve drawn the character with big eyes. You’ll probably want the pet’s eyes to be big. You will also want it to be drawn with the same sort of line weight. For example, with my Weather Pops characters, their pets have got heavy linework like the main characters.
Give your cartoon characters flaws
Sandra: More important than anything else is to make your character relatable. For that reason, I think every character needs a flaw. Felicity Fizz has got plenty of flaws and she embraces all of them. She drinks way too much. She’s got really knobbly knees and elbows, insanely floppy boobs, most likely because she never wears a bra. But I think those flaws are what people seem to like about her the most. And I think what I most love about her is that she’s completely comfortable in her own skin. We could all learn a lot from her!
Continuity with cartoon drawings
If you are trying to get continuity through an ongoing cartoon drawing, you might want to create turnaround characters. What you do, is draw a front view, a side view, a back view, and a three-quarter view. The idea behind that is that you could give your character to someone else and they’d know exactly what the character would look like if they put it in different positions.
Storyline ideas for your cartoons
Tara: You might want to have a storyline for your cartoon. Even with my one-off intuitive cartoons I have storylines develop as I’m drawing them. You can also use humour, which draws people in. Think about a situation that you’re going to put your character in. Then see if you can give it a humorous twist. For example, my mindfoolness character is supposed to be mindfully walking. That means that she should be concentrating and thinking about putting each foot on the floor. Instead, she decides it’s necessary to go shoe shopping to buy new shoes. Take a simple story and think, how you can make that a little bit absurd.
Sandra: On Christmas Eve, my dishwasher broke down in real life. The repairman wouldn’t come out. We were all on lockdown and apparently, a dishwasher is not essential. A couple of weeks later, my washing machine also broke down. He was allowed to come out for that, so I asked him to look at both. Quite by coincidence, Felicity’s dishwasher also broke down and she was met with the same response by the repairman. So she deliberately broke her washing machine by karate kicking it so the repairman could come out. What she did then was to handcuff him to the kitchen units because she hadn’t had anyone in her flat for so long during lockdown. Being inspired by your own situations can really help come up with ideas.
Tara: You can also come up with ideas from conversations with other people and twist those ideas to make them funny.
The life drawing tuition class that I mentioned during the show is Life Drawing How it’s Done by Soho life Drawing. The class was £10.50, if you are interested you might be able to buy a video recording or the class might be run again,
This week’s creative question
Q. Who was (or is) your favourite cartoon or comic character and why?
The best answers will be read out on a future podcast.
You can Tweet us your answers @KickCreatives or let us know in the Facebook Group, which by the way if you haven’t already joined, I highly recommend that you do! We will put the question up there and also on the facebook page… and of course, on our Instagram page @kickinthecreatives.
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