You may have noticed that from time to time we run guest cartoons drawn and submitted by readers of The Arizona Daily Star. I call them “Cartoons to the Editor” because they are akin to letters to the editor.
Some of us express our political opinions with a drawing far better than we can with words. In the past we’ve published many guest cartoonists, including the talented Robert Swaim and Michael Rule. And we’d like to publish more.
It’s exciting when others see your work. I’ll never forget the first time a cartoon brought me fame. It was on tile. In a bathroom. At Naylor Middle School. My cartoon portrait of our PE coach, Mr. Chuck, was there for an entire afternoon before the custodian found it.
I promise you, if your cartoon is approved for publication on our opinion page it will have a larger and more diverse audience than the horde of seventh-grade boys who lied to get a bathroom pass to see my bold answer to Michelangelo’s silly little Sistine Chapel doodle.
Thousands of readers will see your cartoon. And hopefully a fair number will want to write a letter to the editor complaining about your cartoon. There’s no greater measure of success.
If you think you might want to try your hand at it I want you to know we’re sticklers about our criteria for what makes a good editorial cartoon, so pay attention.
Content matters. We’re looking for political cartoons about the kind of issues we tackle on our Opinion Page. We are not the comics page, in spite of the readers who find our views laughable. We welcome national and international subjects but we really like regional subject matter. Anything from Trump to speed bumps.
And remember, all you seditious scrawlers, this is a family newspaper. No cussin’ and no secret messages. Lord knows I tried to get ’em past my editors.
Use ink. We want funny, thoughtful, provocative, strong cartoons rendered in a visually clean manner that will reproduce well in print. Visually muddy work will not get printed. Ink is king.
I use a simple Japanese flexible nib marker pen used by manga artists. It has a beautiful flowing line that can range from gloriously thin and delicate to deliciously wide and strong. It gives me the retro line I want.
Don’t let self-doubt about your drafting abilities stop you. Some of the best cartoonists on earth are not the greatest artists.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you Exhibit A: The clowns who created South Park. There’s a cartoon that looks like it was made by toddlers. Out of construction paper.
I give you Exhibit B: The magnificent Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist Tom Toles of the Washington Post. His hilarious political cartoons look like they’re rendered in Play-Doh.
Exhibit C: The late great John Callahan was a quadriplegic who scrawled brilliant cartoons. His concepts were so strong, the quality of his drawings did not matter. A stick figure can make us laugh out loud, in the right creative context.
Do not mail in your political cartoons. That is so last century.
Because I enjoy whittling, shaving my cat and annoying strangers I do not have time to scan your artwork for you. Scan your cartoon and email it to our opinion page editor, Sarah Gassen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to me, at email@example.com, with the subject line “Cartoon to the Editor.”
Submit your cartoon with a maximum width of 6.5-inch inches. Make it a 300dpi jpeg. If you don’t know how to do that, do what I do: Ask a 12-year old. Or take it to an office supply store. They’ll scan it and email it for you.
My editor and I will review your cartoon to the editor. We’ll either give it a thumbs up or one of us will send you a short note encouraging you to try, try, try again. I got thousands of rejection notices in my youth. They made terrific kindling. Persist.
I hope all you journalism, art, government and history teachers are thinking to yourselves, “Hey, good assignment idea.” Odds are good you have a punk in the back of your class with just the right skill set. The one in the back of the class always scribbling rude cartoons on the margin of her notebook when she should be listening to you. Instead they’re figuring out where exactly to draw the horns on your head.
I hope all you doodlers, dabblers, retired watercolorists, sketchy characters, manga masters, meme makers and other would-be political cartoonists out there will give it a try. What do you have to lose but time, your friends and your self-respect?