Thursday, December 20, 2007

The business of Business Cartoons


When I started as a cartoonist, everything was about creating whatever happened to sprout from my muse...and then later worrying about how to sell it. I suspect that most creative people start out this way, whether in art, music or writing, etc.

Eventually you realize that while you can sell almost anything if you wait long enough for a buyer, to receive regular income from your creations you need to focus on specific markets. You need to find niches that work well in pairing your abilities with customers.

Today, newspapers are languishing, affecting two of the traditionally primary markets for cartoonists: political cartoons and comic strips. I started in one, spent time in the other and jumped out of both before I lost my mind (and my heinie). Most of the cartoonists I know have been forced to rethink things and diversify into new areas.

While I still do cartoons for newspapers on occasion, most of my clients now come from advertising, book and magazine publishing, greeting card compnaies and several other 'industries'...but one of the fastest growing areas is business cartoons for corporate clients.

Many companies are looking for new ways to attract customers -- and they are finding that humor is highly effective....Especially, cartoon-based humor. One cartoon can quickly catch a customer's attention. A campaign using several funny cartoons over a matter of months builds a following (creating something that is rare in advertising: actual desire and anticipation for more).

Additionally, companies are finding that they can get a lot of value from cartoons. A single cartoon can be used simultaneously in print ads, direct mail, email blasts, blogs and on their corporate websites. (For the latter, animation can even be added to them.)

Most of my clients for business cartoons are repeat customers...and they often share the emails and feedback on cartoon-based advertising they receive from their customers. Its helpful for me to see what works. But more importantly for them, the cartoons are becoming a source of interaction with their customer base that is invaluable.

My inspiration for talking about business cartoons today came from Brad Shorr, (of Word Sell, Inc. near Chicago), one of my favorite long-term clients. (The above cartoon was an early, just-for-fun collaboration). In addition to being a expert in sales and marketing, Brad is a talented writer. One of his blog posts this week covered the subject matter of business cartoons & marketing. --You can check out that post here. His discussion of the process of writing targeted humor is fascinating (and also familiar.)

It's been a while since I had any time to write more than just few sentences here and...well, it felt good. Happy Holidays to everyone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Twelve Days...(er, make that HOURS) of Christmas

This is a busy time right now, with several projects on the drawing board...(and though it's always nice to have work, it's just plain crazy when added to the usual events and responsibilities of the season.) I've been deluding myself into thinking I'd design and send business Holiday cards out, create family Holiday cards, build a new website during the slow month of December... Oh Well. At least the Holiday cards might happen.

Here's a link to a corporate website animation I discussed working on last week...

Staub Inc. Holiday Greeting animation

Hope you're getting everything done at this busy time, too.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A friend & fellow cartoonist visits...




This is apparently the year of reunions with old chums and buddies. Last week, I received a phone call from a friend I hadn't seen in years, (since the Pre-Cambrian Era, when I lived in Illinois). His name is Brian Kelly, and he's a talented cartoonist I got to know at the school newspaper of the University of Illinois.

(Warning: steps into memory lane) ... Brian and I hit it off immediately when we met at the school paper. In addition to being a top-notch cartoonist, he's a very likable guy. But we also have nearly identical passions for cartoons, and similar abilities in talking about them to the point where other folks of lesser wind would drop to the floor. (We even took a trip together to the Chicago Tribune Tower once, to meet with Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist, Dick Locher...arranged through a cartoonist friend of Brian's.)

Brian and his lovely wife Wendy were in Denver over the weekend, looking at homes while considering a move to Colorado. They were gracious enough to call and suggest a meeting for dinner. I immediately agreed and well...it was great, to say the least. Brian and I had a terrific time discussing the state of cartooning in almost every genre. (I feel sorry for his wife, who politely listened and offered thoughts when she was given a small opening in our wall of words. I did learn about their family, her job and highly-respected abilities in marketing...but I still feel like she must have felt left out at times.) (Next time, I'll be sure to bring my wife along.)

Brian told me they haven't yet decided on whether to relocate, but if they do, I suspect we'll find a way to fill some free time, (and some mugs at the local microbrewery.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Recent client work...

Rough sketch...

This was a job for an agent/PR firm in Hollywood that I received through a reference from a client, (a magazine publisher).

The PR firm needed a piece of art for postcards and PR industry print ads, announcing their move to new offices. (To the swank corner of Hollywood & Vine.) The corner is supposedly famous in Hollywood, (don't ask me...I have little concept of such things. I don't even know why Paris Hilton is famous.)

Anyway, the main theme we settled upon was to show some of their office furniture tied to the top of a limo. And the street and surrounding buildings became a central part of making it 'recognizable', so I needed to draw them into the moving scene. The only way to do it was to turn the card 90 degrees from the typical 'landscape' layout.

It was a lot of fun to do some multi-point perspective drawing. (Not much call for that in most of the cartoons I do.) The client was happy with it -- and hopefully they are also enjoying their new digs, too.

Here's the finished art. (Click to enlarge).

Monday, December 03, 2007

New Wacom tablet


Wacom just introduced two new Cintiq tablets, and the most interesting model is a portable. All I can say is, wow, it looks terrific! (In addition to my wife, it appears to be something to drool over.) I'll have to add it to my new technology list for next year's tax write-offs.

I currently use an Intuous 3 every day with my desktop Mac. I also use it with my MacBook at night on occasion, just sitting on the couch next to my daughter. (If I have tight deadlines, being at home with the family is better than working long hours alone.) I also then bring the Intuos and MB along with me when traveling to take care of clients while away. It works very well, but it takes some initial adjustment to draw with your hand on a tablet in front of you, while looking up at a screen several inches away.

This sort of a tablet would allow for more direct hand-eye coordination, and given its relatively tidy size, I imagine it work well in and out of the studio. $1000 seems a bit steep for such a small unit…but then again, it’s about half the cost of the full-size model. It's sure to sell — and like the Intuos, it has no real competitors in the market.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Corporate Holiday projects...

(Click to Enlarge)


A Holiday card for a technology company in Seattle that designs and manufactures various traffic based technology, such as congestion-sensing stop lights and highway lane departure warning systems. I wrote concept for this and upon approval, created the artwork.


Card for a career services company based in Florida:

A card for a client in New York, (hence the NYC & Broadway theme.)



Below is a Holiday card for a company in North Carolina that involved caricaturing its executives, and tying it into the company's existing logo. (A swoosh of sorts.) It was fairly detailed for a card, (some of the folks had facial hair or or other characteristics that needed to be drawn with some accuracy.)



After completing the card, the firm decided they wanted to use the concept for a Flash animation on their website. (With the sled proceeding down the slope, the snowman jumping up, out of the way and landing again.) I do some work for animations, but usually in concert with a Flash programmer.

In this case, I planned the progressions along the way, and then created artwork for each major change in position and expression. It's a fun diversion from my usual daily routine of writing humor and drawing cartoons for print.



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An old friend


Recently, a friend from college contacted me out of the blue. When I saw the email, I knew the name immediately, but realized it had been many years since I last saw it.

He's a fellow creative person; a cartoonist and someone who can draw and write equally well...and I first found that out when we were both students at the University of Illinois. We both worked at campus newspapers and had similar views on things, both in cartoons and politics.

We had mutual friends and acquaintances, (my college girlfriend's sister was even dating his brother. --In a different city and area code. Odd coincidence.) Okay, enough digression.

The gentleman's name is Kevin Gleeson, and since he contacted me, we have exchanged lengthy emails and gotten caught up on each other's lives, families, etc. I feel like I know him better now than I did then. Here's a link to his website, "Big Fat Hat"...which contains some very funny stuff, (like the "Camera Comic" above):

http://www.bigfathat.com/

Friday, August 31, 2007

On the Drawing Board

To quote the title of an old John Cusack movie, it's been 'one crazy summer'. Usually summer means vacations for clients and companies...with business slowing down a notch...it's a time to relax a bit. Not this year. Whew! It's been non-stop busy for three months straight. (Which is great -- much better than nothing to do.)

As summer draws to a close, I realize that I haven't had time lately to post discussions about cartoons or a particular project in detail. I thought I would post a few things that were on the drawing board this past week.

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A cartoon for a business magazine, to accompany an article written about the large and powerful diamond cartel, Debeers, (and their stranglehold on the diamond industry.) Sort of like an editorial cartoon, only with color.

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Click to enlarge


I worked with a magician based in Florida over the past couple weeks, illustrating a book he's creating for kids. He's a guy who travels a lot, putting on shows and performances...so it was interesting at times, sending sketches and artwork back and forth. But it was a lot of fun to work on the interior illustrations, most of which dealt with the actual magic and tricks. (Something completely new to me.) (I learned some tricks I can try and perform for my daughter!) This is the cover illustration.


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Corporate mascots for a company that advises people with their careers, looking for employment, etc. This was the image created for their main website and promotional materials.

I was also asked to create individial "heroes", with each of their nine board members faces caricatured in the costumes. (Fun stuff.)

Well, I hope you have a terrific Labor Day. (No working!)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Please remain seated





Well if there is anyone out there still checking this barren outpost for blurbs...(I'd have to assume not, after going so long between posts,) there has been no time for me to do anything here, due to work.

I have to admit that I took on too much work. It's a fine line measuring when you have more than you can handle, (like the airlines, one tends to overestimate one's capacity at times...But unlike the airlines, I can't "bump" people who have been promised something.)

Things are just now getting more sane, so I thought I'd take a brief moment to breathe.

I am in the midst of creating some cartoon illustrations for a Fortune 100 firm in California, for a video presentation that they plan to beam to their offices around the country next week. The needs for this have grown as their CEO and others have gotten involved in its production. It should wrap up this week or early next. But it has been fun to work on something that needs to translate to video screen.

I'm also currently illustrating a psychology book for a publishing deadline and finishing up some things for a political campaign for newspapers in Lousiana...as well as some corporate work for a financial firm in Florida and ad cartoons for an ad agency in L.A. (There are even more jobs on the docket...but I've stopped answering my phone...it's just plain nuts.)

My apologies for the diminished posts, and for any lack of clarity to my writing right now; I'm a little fuzzy due to an abbreviated sleeping schedule. Things will clear soon.

Hope all is well with you.

Thursday, July 12, 2007




Over the past two weeks I've been doing some work for the University of Toronto, (a large international university with over 70,000 students in three campuses). The first two projects were print ads and a credit card design, (utilizing a character I created for them.)

But this last project entailed doing an ad for the student bookstore. Apparently the engineering school uses Lady Godiva as its mascot, so the request was to feature her somehow. (The Lady's legend is to have told her husband, the King of England that she would ride though London nude, if he lowered taxes for the people of England....he had refused everything else up to that point -- but upon hearing her proposal, agreed. And so she made her now famous ride, with only her long hair obscuring her bits and pieces. The citizens paid less tax and also got to enjoy a royal streaker on horseback.)

I thought I'd post the rough sketch and the finished art...showing the changes that were made along the way. The nurse's hat (which was initially suggested to show her being helpful), was taken out, as it was decided I had drawn the good lady with enough of a look of caring and concern. Next, we decided the student's eyes, which were X's in the sketch, risked making the student look like he was dead. To make him look simply stunned, I drew him cross-eyed. Last, I thought I'd spruce up the horse's adornments a little.

To be honest, I had the most fun sketching her nude form and then strategically drawing her hair so that it covered just enough of her body. ;)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007




A great editorial cartoonist was lost today. Doug Marlette was killed in a car accident this morning. He was an influential cartoonist who won a Pulitzer Prize in the 80's. Unlike most editorial cartoonists, he hit both political parties hard and wasn't afraid to be controversial, (as evidenced by the above cartoon.)

Though I didn't know him, I met him briefly at an AAEC convention a few years ago, and he was very kind to me, (a young, unknown cartoonist.) His work had a unique look to it, with brush strokes you could identify instantly. His writing was top-notch.

He also created a comic strip called "Kudzu" which was syndicated nationally. (I liked it enough as a kid to buy in book collection form.)

A big loss. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Monday, July 09, 2007

There's been a great deal of work on my drawing board over the past couple weeks...(hence the gap in posts.) ...A cartoon ad campaign for a trade show company in LA, commissions to illustrate two books, some cartoon ad work for the University of Toronto, a corporate mascot for a fun-sounding new company in Virginia, an ad for a long-term client, (software company) and some illustration work for a financial advisor in Tampa. It has been blistering in terms of deadlines, but all of it enjoyable, fun work. (I'll try to post some of it this week.)

Meanwhile, a comment about the recent AAEC convention in Washington DC... After talking with some colleagues, it sounds like those wild-men & women had a terrific time. This year's meeting was also the celebration of the assocation's 50th anniversary. They met at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington and had a number of workshops and speakers. I can't wait to see the annual group cartoon -- typically a large board with many of the members leaving a doodle or cartoon for all to see.

I was a little melancholy about it, having been a member for several years, right after college...but after switching to advertising and corporate work, I let my membership lapse. (I still draw an occasional cartoon for the Denver papers.)

Anyway, the last time they were in DC, I tagged along and it was truly a bash of unforgettable proportions. (It included a lunch in the White House Rose garden, meeting the President, Vice President and several colorful members of the media.) I hear this year's festivities were just as much fun.

I only hope that the country-wide layoff of newspaper staff editorial cartoonists ceases soon. (Dozens of staff cartoonists have lost their jobs in the past few years.) As the newspaper industry languishes, for some reason, it seems that some of the first folks to go are the editorial cartoonists. (Unfortunately, I think publishers have a long memory of cartoons that take a stance against their views.) I have a great respect for all who call that their vocation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

OMG!


Paris is Free! Paris is Free!


Those were the headlines on Yahoo news this morning. I thought perhaps France had ended some tyrranical rule I had otherwise missed hearing about. ...But no, it was the end of the spoiled heiress' stay behind bars.

I'm sure Paris will tell the eagerly awaiting media that she has learned many lessons, has seen how the "other side" lives, is remorseful, etc., etc. Then, we'll hear about her new book about her jail stay, or perhaps even a line of clothes created in honor of it.


Friday, June 22, 2007


Another cartoon created for a magazine that goes to automobile dealers throughout the U.S. The subject matter is based upon a report on sales numbers from this week. They showed that as gas prices eased a bit, consumers responded immediately by eschewing small cars for big SUV's again. (How short-sighted are these folks? Are they the same ones who go out and eat two Big Macs and super sized fries after they lose 8 ounces in their diets? ) Unfortunately, the attached cartoon is more an illustration of reality than a satire.



This is another advertising illustration created for the insurance & retirement fund firm back east.

As depicted in this scene, business owners typically don't like taking a back seat to their offspring at the companies they founded. They often end up being pushed to the sidelines by their eager heirs, maintaining an office for appearances and title, only...which is a tough transition for a person who had the drive to get the whole enterprise started.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007



An advertising illustration done for a large east coast-based insurance & investment company. This was one of a series of illustrations done for newpaper advertisements tailored toward their clientele who may be planning to sell a business or company.

On a related note, I recall my father going through the process of selling his business just a few years ago. What seems like a carefree time of one's life can be very emotional...afterall, it's your creation; the product of your efforts and struggles over many years that is being sold. And (in many cases), it's being sold to a stranger. It's hard to just walk away.

That's one reason I think it's a good thing that most cartoonists and illustrators don't really retire or sell their business...they just keep on working well into their golden years. (That will be me...drawing until I'm 95 or until my incessant drooling ruins too much of my clients' artwork. (Well, actually, until my drooling shorts out my Wacom tablet...since it's mostly digital now anyway.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Words that inspire




I thought I'd post something about a business book that inspired me. I can't claim the idea...it came from a client and friend, (Brad Shorr), who suggested a group blogging effort about favorite business books.

My favorite business book is called "Free Agent Nation", by Daniel H. Pink. It's a book that is viewed by many as 'the handbook' on how to start your own business. I found it while walking around in Barnes & Noble one day about three years ago with my toddler daughter. (She led the way, waddling right to the table where it sat, knocking two copies from their perch.) I picked them up, leafed through one and noticed it was endorsed by business guru, Tom Peters ("In Search Of Excellence"), so I had to buy it.

Free Agent Nation details how to take your expertise, (in whatever your field), and go out on your own. Dan's friendly, engaging writing style, (which he honed as a White House speech-writer), glides you effortlesssly through the pages. He covers everything from work ethic, building confidence (important in the formative stages), networking, finding clients and avoiding roadblocks.

There are lots of books that offer direction and expertise. But this was different. Besides imparting valuable advice, the main thing the book did was to get me inspired enough to take action. I'm glad my daughter bumped into it...as it helped get me started on the road to self-employment.



(An interesting & fairly exciting thing happened two years after reading his book...Dan Pink hired me to illustrate his follow-up book, "A Whole New Mind"...a book about the increased value of right-brained 'creative types' in the new economy.)

Monday, June 18, 2007




A logo for a record company. (Actually a CD & music publishing company...but like most of their kind, they call themselves a record company.)(...despite no longer making any "records".)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Whacked



A national publication for the automotive industry just hired me to do a weekly "editorial cartoon" ...and being a car enthusiast, I jumped at the chance.

They wanted the first cartoon to center around Honda's decision last week to kill off the Accord Hybrid model, (http://www.sacbee.com/103/story/219149.html), after lackluster sales. (My opinion is that people who like to think "green" are not likely want a car that can do 0-60 in under six seconds...with decent but not great gas mileage. They want to be seen helping the environment and the Toyota Prius, with its odd shape, broadcasts it a lot more.)

The Sopranos ended its long, fabulous run on HBO this week, too. You never know what will happen when you throw two unrelated subjects into a blender but this time it seemed to work okay.

Friday, June 08, 2007

School's out





As Alice Cooper crooned, SCHOOL'S OUT!

School is not out everywhere, but it soon will be.
My daughter's last day of school was yesterday and she is both excited and a bit melancholy to be finished with first grade. (My wife and I can relate...as today Julia's bedroom has been transformed into a stuffed animal hospital, with dozens of stuffed animals lined up for "treatment". Band aids, thermometers, and gauze pads are in heavy supply. We hesitate to guess what messy activity will be happening later today.)

During the school year, I illustrate a weekly children's feature for a publication distributed to elementary schools. (The Current Events, New York) It has been a fun diversion and also something that my daughter enjoys reading. (She even helps with occasional logistical decisions about what a kid's room might look like, etc.) The above installment ran in this week's issue...and will be the last for this school year before resuming again in the fall.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ebay Healthcare






The above cartoons were comissioned by a medical equipment company in California, to fight new legislation proposed for Medicare. The bill would require all medical suppliers to bid on patients, auction-style. The net effect would be a lower prices for patients, (sounds good--at first), but also a limited number of companies can win the bids...so it would also allow those companies to win bids by selling used and possibly substandard equipment.

Lastly, the equipment would no longer be required to be covered by any warranties. So when it breaks, the patients, (mostly elderly) would be stuck trying to find someone repair it. We're talking about oxygen tanks, regulators and wheelchairs...items that can be dangerous if left in a state of disrepair.

The first cartoon has appeared in a few magazines and newspapers, garnering some attention for the issue...the second one (the ebay theme) will run soon.

I have several friends who are editorial cartoonists, (which is my background), and they get to do things like this all the time. I enjoy my work a great deal....but I have days where I feel like I've done nothing worthwhile, so it's extra enjoyable to draw something that may also do some good.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Night and Day


Well, this week has been busy, finding me working night and day. (And that explains the gap in blog posts.)

Speaking of the juxtaposition of day and night, I thought I'd post a bit of artwork I was commissioned to do for a CD, (for a Las Vegas-based band.) This was for their new album called "Between the Sun and the Moon".) On the other side of the CD will be a photo of the band in a convertible that is stopped on the side of the road. The bass player is on the phone trying to call for help on his cell phone...presumably he's talking to the moon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Unsinkable?



This is a cartoon I recently created for a financial services company in New York. The company president had been dissatisfied with humorous print campaign ideas coming from their ad agency and decided to go in a different direction...with cartoons.

Apparently it worked, and so, this is the first of a series of cartoon ads.

(BTW, no, that is not Leonardo Dicaprio on the bow of the ship.) (I tried to get him for this, but he was busy doing a seminar on Global Warming.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Let it out


A corporate client in California commissioned me to do a series of cartoons for their company website and a 'caption contest' for their customer base. I love working on things like that because there are no parameters for subject matter or scenarios. I get to just open the creative valve and see what comes out...

This particular cartoon came to mind this morning as an old friend called and vented about a relationship. I tried my best to listen and offer advice...but after a while I felt like I needed to vent, too.

So, Phhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaa!!! (I feel much better now. Thanks for listening.)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Have a hankering for a hunk of Brie cheese?




The above title hearkens back to the old SchoolHouse Rock animated shorts on Saturday morning tv. ("Conjunction Junction", etc.) But as it nears lunch time here, I'm wishing I had a way to get a quick gourmet meal, with no big time investment and not much expense.

Here's a cartoon, (done for client & friend, Brad Shorr), that shows just such a place. I can almost see somebody franchising a place like that. (It would go well until the first customer sued because they gagged on a diamond pin in their lobster-artichoke panini.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Red, red wine


This is a cartoon I recently created for a winery in California. Their ad agency was doing a campaign that showed an open copy of a New Yorker-like magazine with one of its famous cartoons...and obviously, they could not simply publish a photo of the actual magazine without violating copyrights. Addtionally, they wanted the cartoon to be specifically about wine and mention their winery in the background.

So, they hired a San Francisco graphic designer to create the magazine layout and it was up to me to create the "New Yorker" style cartoon, (with wine as the subject matter.) Fun stuff.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Back in "town"

Ahem. Well, please accept my apologies for the set-up -- and then the big drop-off. It has been a crazy few months with business, (which is terrific)...and also over the past several months, we endured a family illness and loss, (my wife's mom was diagnosed with colon cancer and recently passed away)...which hit us very hard.

After settling back into a semblance of normal routine, I now see that the idea of maintaining both personal and business blogs is too much to even dream about. Thus, I will just maintain this blog formerly called "Toon Town" and now renamed "Dancing Moose", encompassing all cartooning subject matter, personal and professional.

Hope all is well on your end.

Cheers,

Mark