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Where do you get your ideas?

Here’s a nice piece from my brilliant buddy, Bob Englehart. Support Bob on Patreon

The question I’m asked most often is, “Where do you get your ideas?” It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. The questioner is not asking what information I’ve found, or the source of the news I based the idea on. The questioner wants to know how my brain works, what my imagination conceives and how, out of the jumble of thoughts, one comes forth and plunks me in the head. I sometimes would answer, “From the Editorial Cartoon Idea Company in Teaneck, New Jersey.”

Since the beginning back in Chicago, an idea just comes to me, most times several. I don’t exactly know how it happens. The trick is to recognize it; the good one from the lame one, to know which one would make an outstanding cartoon. I’ve looked at plenty of editorial cartoons over the years and learned how to deconstruct them. In the end though, it’s about making choices. If I’m going for a funny cartoon, I want one that makes me laugh. After all, I’m the first reader. If someone has died and I’m sad, I want a cartoon that reflects my sadness, or my appreciation of the life the deceased led. If I’m pissed, I want a cartoon that demonstrates it. Whatever my feelings, I want to share it with the world because I know I’m not alone in whatever I’m feeling. I think that’s one of the very important things a cartoon, any cartoon, does. It shows us we are not alone in our feelings.

It starts with the quick little drawing called a “gag.”

My ideas emerge because they seem logical and obvious. So often I think that someone must’ve already drawn that idea, or maybe it was drawn dozens of years ago and I conjured it up from the dark web of my memory. I finally realized it’s only obvious to me. That’s the cool thing about being an individual in a sea of humanity. There are only about 25 full-time editorial cartoonists employed by a newspaper in America, but if you go to the Internet and look, there are thousands, most of them amateurish and tedious with no sense of timing, drawing talent or sense of humor. But each cartoonist is doing their best to share their opinion.

The next step is to make a tracing of what the finished art will look like.

So, a better question is, “How do you develop your ideas?” This, I can answer, or rather, I can show you.

It starts with the quick little drawing called a “gag.”  The name doesn’t mean it’s necessarily funny. Stuntmen and women call the stunt they’re going to perform a gag also. I jot it down because it’s easy to forget the purity of the original idea and the perfect wording. I usually write it in a reporter’s notebook, but I’ve written them on restaurant napkins. I also carry a small notebook in my back pocket.

Then I draw the cartoon in black line on glossy copy paper.

The next step is to make a tracing of what the finished art will look like.  I fix spellings as I go, work on the likeness of my caricature, maybe change the layout, erase, maybe flip the whole thing, erase again, whatever I think it needs. This is the “blueprint” for the drawing.

Then I draw the cartoon in black line on glossy copy paper. I most often use Micron markers, but now and then, I use Zig Cartoonist black ink and a flexible crow quill nib. Hey, if pen and ink was good enough for Leonardo DaVinci, it’s good enough for me. I scan the line art into my computer using Photoshop, add color, change the composition here and there, fix more spellings (I’m the world’s worst speller, particularly with names) and tinker with it till it looks right to me. The finish is in a digital format that I send to ready for publication, except when they call or email me that I’ve misspelled another word, a word I was confident I knew how to spell and didn’t bother to check.  (As happened with this cartoon, after we sent it out to newspapers, and we had to issue a correction. Arrrgh! –Daryl)

So, that’s the process. I still don’t know exactly where I get my ideas but I know how to make them into a cartoon.

Bob Englehart, E-mail Bob

Support Bob on Patreon

Read Bob’s Other Post:

The Birth of a Political Cartoonist

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This will be my last batch of TRUE cartoons for my blog. I watercolored these for some reason that I forget! Back in the 1990’s, when this ran in newspapers, it ran in black and white and there was no color, Sunday TRUE. Gotta love color!

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Strong Dollar!

I’ve drawn a lot of dollars over the years – usually when the dollar goes down. Now the dollar is on a tear, close to the value of the Euro, and leaving other currencies in the dust. For us, that means our foreign Cagle Cartoonists get a raise (from their perspective) – but American businesses are suffering from seeing cost of their products and services rise around the world. It looks like this is all happening because the economies in the rest of the world are pretty lousy, compared to ours.

I wanted to make George Washington look like a wrestler, and I made is head a little small – it is about brawn, not brains.

Here’s a recent one, when it was announced that Harriet Tubman would be kicking Andrew Jackson off of the twenty dollar bill …

Here’s another recent one, imagining Lincoln’s reaction as Donald Trump won over the “Party of Lincoln.”

This one is from back in 2011, when it looked like the value of the dollar was being chipped away.

This one is from 2010, when the news was about the Chinese keeping their currency artificially low to steal business away from America.

This one is from 2009 – for some reason those dollars China was eating up weren’t tasting so good. Now I forget why I drew this one; dollars are always yummy to pandas.

When I drew this one back in 2007, we were on the eve of the great recession and the dollar was sinking.

Here’s another one from 2007 when the fall of the dollar was a big story.

This one from back in 2004 was more of a reflection of George W. Bush’s War on Terror.

I actually have more – but this is plenty!


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Tubman Boots Andrew Jackson off of the $20 Bill!

I think Harriet Tubman was a good choice for the $20 bill. I drew her booting President Andrew Jackson out of his perch. This is really a local Nashville cartoon as Jackson is Nashville favorite son; his slave plantation, the “Hermitage” is an impressive local attraction. Some critics have complained that Jackson’s great legacy is the “trail of tears” where displaced native Americans were marched to reservations in Oklahoma as Jackson broke treaties with the “indians” and sent many to their deaths. The “trail of tears” ran very close to the Hermitage, and Jackson reportedly didn’t bother to walk outside to take a look. Critics thought a native American choice would have been better than Tubman, given Jackson’s history.

See me draw this one in real time, in the video below.

I color the cartoon in the live-stream video below.


Dollar Vs China

Dollar Vs China Color © Daryl Cagle,,Dollar, George Washington, Mao, Zedong, Yuan, Renminbi, currency, devaluation, Federal Reserve


China and the Dollar Yuck

China and the Dollar   Yuck © Daryl Cagle,,China,currency,dollar,euro,RMB,international,economy,deficit,treasury bills,debt,money,panda bear,bamboo


Wall Street Bailout Monopoly

Wall Street Bailout Monopoly © Daryl Cagle,,moneybags,money,dollar,monopoly,parker brothers,car,community chest,greed,bailout,wall street


Economic Storm

Economic Storm Color © Daryl Cagle,,storm, lightening, stock market, dollar, interest rates, tornado, house, housing crisis, mortgage


Dollar Submerged

Dollar Submerged © Daryl Cagle,,dollar, sink, scuba, snorkel, fish, water, under water, washington, george washington, exchange rates


Dollar Fear

Dollar Fear © Daryl Cagle,,dollar, George Washington, Washington,  dollar bill, money, economy, stock market, wall street, stock exchange, rate, euro, budget