When you look at your favorite cartoon characters and illustrations, you see something iconic – funny, poignant or inspirational. But have you ever wondered what inspired those cartoon illustrations? The artists take their inspiration from the most unusual places.
Rosie, for example, the robot maid from The Jetsons, was inspired by the wisecrack-making maid on the 1960s sitcom, Hazel. The character played by Shirley Booth made such an impact on the artist that he created the robot maid based on her, and even had Rosie call George Jetson “Mr J”, a tip of the hat to the way Hazel would refer to her boss as “Mr B”.
Dexter’s Laboratory is another iconic cartoon and cartoon tools. Genndy Tartakovsky drew a tall and goofy-looking ballerina as a part of a project he was working on for an art institute, but the girl, called Dee Dee, was incomplete by herself. She needed a nemesis. He decided to make the nemesis a nerdy-little boy who was a genius scientist. The scientist was based on Tartakovsky’s older brother, while Dee Dee was actually based on Tatakovsky himself. The show Dexter’s Laboratory was based around the interactions the two had when they were younger, when Genndy would mess around with his brother’s scientific experiments to annoy him.
Draw What You See and Know
The best cartoonists draw what they know and base it on what they see. They make observations about the world around them, and that’s where their humor comes from. They don’t focus on being faithful to what they’re drawing. They keep things simple, and use that simplicity to tell a message.
That’s where iconic cartoons, such as the one which says “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” come from, and that’s where the beauty of stories such as those told by Calvin and Hobbes come from.
If you’re looking to get started as a cartoonist, start by observing the world around you. What do you see that is funny or silly? Where do you think people, as a whole are going wrong? What is it that’s ‘right’ about the world and that you want to celebrate? Tell stories. Make observations. Revel in the absurd and exaggerate as much as you want to get your point across. Photography illustrations are focused on realism – but cartoonists can draw whatever they want and exaggerate or de-emphasize to make the image suit the story. That’s the beauty of the pencil.