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Payin’ It Forward

On Wednesday, my cartooning compadre David Malki came by the studio, solely to demonstrate his cartooning process to Cari, the Sheldon summer intern. For three hours, he generously toured her through the tools and techniques he uses to create his strip, Wondermark. It was awesome to watch. More importantly, it was a generosity of spirit which deserves public thanks.

Dave and Cari, here in the studio.

But here’s the deal: We need more of this. Cartoonists, all you need to do is remember back to your own young adult life, and you know this to be true. Ours is a craft with few formal schools of instruction…and even among them, every graduate could benefit from the insights a pro could provide. Cari hails from SCAD, one of the best cartooning schools in the world, but she (and I!) learned a huge amount watching Dave work. The truth is, cartooning is a weird amalgamation of skills: A cartoonist is a writer, director, casting agent, costumer, stage manager, set and lighting designer *and* actor in these little, 2-D performances. And young cartoonists can’t be expected to master all of those easily. They need and deserve a helping hand to skip them through years of trial-and-error.

Tonight, as I write this, I’m hit by a really strong conviction that it’s our job, as artists, to pay it forward to that next generation.

Growing up, I would’ve done anything for an internship or one-on-one sit-down with a newspaper comic strip cartoonist. It was everything I wanted in a career, but it seemed like they had some elusive, locked-away career knowledge, and that there was no clear path on how I could attain it. It shouldn’t be like that. For those of us who’ve been blessed enough to find a career in cartooning, we owe it to the craft to pass along what we’ve learned.

If you’re a cartoonist, then, a humble request: Seek out opportunities that let you share what you know with younger cartoonists. Contact your nearest sequential art colleges at SCAD, CCS, SVA, or any school in your neck of the woods. Pay it forward.