Behind the Cartoonist’s Drawing Board
By Shreyas Navare
The cartoonist’s daily hunt for an idea is not unlike a cat and mouse game. It boasts of the same elements—nervous excitement, sharp focus, loads of patience, ridiculous scramble, and maddening chases (often fruitless) before the final jump for the kill.
For both the cat and the cartoonist, the first stage involves scanning and studying their respective environments. For a cartoonist, the “environment” literally involves everything under the sun—news, blogs, opinions, TV debates, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. In terms of duration, scanning is usually the longest part of the process and the longer it takes, the higher the build up of nervous excitement.
The scanning stage is followed by the detection stage. A cat smells a mouse. A cartoonist gets a whiff of an idea somewhere in the stack of those endless tweets, news feeds, or television interviews. Stealthily, a cat moves forward with laser sharp focus. So does a cartoonist. If it’s a hoax call, the cat looks elsewhere until it is sure that it has zoomed on its would-be prize. Cartoonists toy with different scenarios until they are fully sure that they have stumbled upon the right seed of an idea for that particular day. By now, the hunger pangs have started, driving both the cat and the cartoonist crazy.
Once the cat is sure about the whereabouts of the mouse, it strategizes and moves swiftly for the kill. Once the basic idea germinates in the cartoonist’s head, they begin picturing the entire cartoon in their head—usually making heads of government pose as per their whims, mouthing ridiculous statements with grand ignorance, and conjuring up visual metaphors that can explain the situation with satire and simplicity.
The cat’s final jump for the kill needs to be deft and precise. There is no scope for ambiguity or confusion. The implementation of the cartoonist’s idea onto the paper can afford to be no different. Any goof up at this stage and a brilliant idea may end up being lost in poor execution. Once the pencilling work is done, then the inks and colors follow (either using traditional tools or graphic tablets or both).
A successful hunt has the cat and the cartoonist awash with relief for the entire day only to start feeling the hunger pangs all over again the next morning.
Weatherhead Center Fellow Shreyas Navare is a freelance editorial cartoonist with the Hindustan Times. He holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and a bachelor’s degree in engineering (information technology) from Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute, Mumbai University. Previously, he worked at a private bank for five years in marketing and technology. On behalf of the Hindustan Times, Shreyas has covered elections in six Indian states as well as the presidential elections in the United States. His works have been exhibited in India and abroad. HarperCollins has published two books of his cartoons: The Politickle Pickle and The Politickle Pickle Vol. 2: Battle of the Ballot. Follow Shreyas on Twitter: @dabsandjabs and Facebook: www.facebook.com/dabsandjabs