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March 30, 2011

Nickelodeon Gag #8

The Graduate!In 2007, I graduated from Pratt Institute's AOS illustration program, with highest honors. I worked harder during those two years than I had ever worked at anything else in my life.  I learned so much about illustration and drawing and painting and ART.

After graduating, I decided to stay in New York for one additional year, to try and support myself as a freelance illustrator.  I wanted to see if I could put my newly honed skills to use!  Needless to say, that was one of the most stressful years of my life (thus far!).

I drew up a budget and discovered that I had to make $66 dollars a day to pay for my rent, food, student loans and all my other expenses (cell phone, MTA card, internet access, etc. etc. etc.)  And if I didn't make $66 dollars on a day, I had to make $132 the next day, or $198 the next day.  You get the idea.  After freaking out for a few weeks, I finally decided that the only way to survive was to blindly believe that I was INVINCIBLE.

There were no windows in my room in Bushwick, so it was easy to tape pieces of paper up all over one of my walls.  Each piece of paper was an idea category:  "Teaching" "Illustration" "Comics" etc.  I tried to think of any possible way I could use my illustration skills to make money.  (You can see a list of everything I did to make money that year in my lecture notes from Your Comics Will Love You Back).

Obviously, one of the first things I did during this time, was send in a new batch of gag ideas to Chris Duffy and Dave Roman, over at Nickelodeon Magazine.  Unbelievably, it had been eight months since I had last pitched them anything, a sure sign that things had gotten awfully busy during that home stretch at Pratt.

They approved three of the eleven gags I sent them, but this time, in addition to the written email response, I also received this hand-drawn piece of advice from Chris, or "Professor Science K. Duffy" as Dave referred to him in the email.

This was such a simple piece of advice, I almost felt ashamed that it had never occurred to me to leave the box off my gags.  I think because I spend most of my time drawing comics, I was approaching each "single panel gag" as just that: a single PANEL of comics.  But that's not how gag cartoons are drawn!  I mean look at ANY GAG.  They are ALL vignettes!  And always have been!

Once I had this pointed out to me, it was almost painful to look at my old gags.  Imagine how much more dynamic the Octo-goalie gag would have been, if those soccer balls had been bursting forward towards the reader, instead of being cut off by the unnecessary panel border.  Oh well!  There was no turning back, so I had to just press on and try out this new technique on my future gags.  Below is the final gag Chris referred to in his advice.

See how much BETTER that is?!  See how nicely it sits on the page?  With the sky blending into the paper tone?  See how the negative space heightens the gag?  There should be a telephone pole there!  But poor ol' Wally just couldn't resist.  This gag was also my first beaver gag, of which I ended up with many.  For some reason I think beavers are like the funniest animals around, so get ready of more gags in the same vein.

ANYWAY, that was my gag epiphany!  Thank you Chris Duffy.  And if any of you are ever drawing a gag cartoon, think outside the box!


Sam Spina said...

Awesome! that's great advice! I'll remember that for the rest of my life

About a girl said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Much appreciated.