A Day in the Life of a Cartoonist

A Day in the Life of a Cartoonist

I’m asked about this now and again, so here it is. I imagine most cartoonists have their own unique routines – this is mine:

I have my iPad alarm set for 5:30AM – it’s “Erbarme Dich” by Bach, played by Yo Yo Ma – my favorite music in the world. When I play it in my truck, my sons cower in embarrassment at the degree of nerdness I’ve achieved in my life. All the more reason to play it louder, my sons.

I’ll often grab a baseball cap to conceal the gravity-defying hair that would otherwise be a day-long source of awe and amusement to my wife.

Once my feet hit the deck, it’s straight downstairs to get the coffeemaker fired up as quickly as possible. At this hour of the morning, coffee is as much required to my system as oxygen. I’ll sometimes stand in front of the coffeemaker with arms crossed, tapping my foot as though my impatience will encourage the Mr. Coffee to work faster. It doesn’t. I think it sometimes does that just to defy me. I don’t let it beat me though – I’ll grab the carafe when there’s just enough for a cup, and drink what is, in effect, the same substance that they find dinosaurs in at the La Brea Tar Pits.


Our black lab Arleigh strolls in, bumps into my legs to let me know she’s available for petting, then plops on the floor in my office to supervise my work.


Straight to the Thinking Chair, or Chair of Awesomeness, to do my writing. From this chair, thoughts as diverse as Sparta, the Tooth Fairy, dragons, houseflies, Roman Gods, and short-order cooks stream through my airy head. Out of those topics comes my cartoons. I do quick thumbnail sketches on my iPad to capture ideas using the ArtStudio app. I’ve got hundreds of sketches saved on there – some ready to become cartoons, others whose concepts need refining, so they’ll be left there to age for a bit.


After I’ve hopefully achieved something in terms of writing, I’ll set up my social media posts so I can share my work with those that suffer my, and I say this in the broadest terms, sense of humor. Facebook has been a wonderful platform for getting the word out about “Spectickles”, and where I have the pleasure of getting to know those who follow my work.

On to my drawing desk. It’s an old oak drafting table once used by the Buffalo School District to teach young minds to become draftsmen and architects. Cartoonists, probably not so much. The tools I use to create the hard copy of my cartoons are: Strathmore Bristol board – smooth surface, a nice, heavy Rotring mechanical drafting pencil, an old Pelikan fountain pen with an M250 medium nib, Pigma Micron archival ink pens, and more coffee, or wine, depending on which time of the day.


Once the artwork is inked in, I’ll use a kneaded eraser to remove any pencil lines, then scan the image in on my Epson Artisan scanner at 400 dpi. Those go into a folder for my scans on my Surface Pro 4, then get imported into Clip Studio Paint Pro for initial setup and coloring. Once that’s finished, I’ll open them again in Photoshop 7.0 for final formatting, then delivery to Creators Syndicate for distribution to newspapers. I have to deliver the daily cartoons 3 weeks in advance of their publication date, and Sundays have to be delivered 5 weeks in advance. And since I’m about as organized as the inside of a tornado funnel, this takes some effort.

I’ll return to writing again in the evening, but usually with less success than the mornings, and turn to the administrative tasks required in professional cartooning. Things like managing copyrights, researching licensing, responding to requests and answering emails – all critically important, and very time-consuming.

And of course, there’s time spent with my family, working out, watching old Navy movies ad nauseum, and general tomfoolery sprinkled liberally throughout each day. So there you have it, a day in the life of a cartoonist.




1 Comment

  • Sheila kunes Posted December 30, 2016 1:22 pm

    Where do you get your ideas? How about one on the adventures of Arliegh the lab?😀

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