I thought it might make for a nice end of week break to look at some drawings of mine from this past week that went nowhere. Every cartoonist works on drawings that go nowhere. We do it every day of every week. It’s how we get to the drawings that do work.
Initially, with each of these shown, I had some hope they’d go someplace — it’s how every drawing begins for me — with some hope, and a lot of curiosity. I think I had in mind some vague memory of the acrobats who performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought, to have a cat involved in that kind of showbiz routine? The drawing above was fun to do, but I realized, as I was drawing the cactus plants, that it wasn’t a drawing I wanted to spend any more time on. Usually I recognize within a few moments after the initial drawing (or caption, if the caption starts things off), whether I want to move along with that particular idea. Often that drawing dies right then and there (it’s put in my “collection” of all the other work that hasn’t worked over the years. Why I save these is a mystery to me).
The only one of these four that went beyond what you see here is the one below of the octopus being sworn in. I was briefly amused by the idea of the octopus not having a designated right hand to raise while being sworn in. Still, with a few attempts at an improved drawing (the bailiff has two neckties, with one floating off on its own), and a caption around that idea, it didn’t feel like it was going anywhere (and it wasn’t).
The drawing below is a good example of an idea based on the thinnest sliver of an idea: what would/could happen if the 3 Pigs sat down with the 3 Stooges (the soldier off to the left had nothing to do with this idea). Again, as with the cat drawing above, my curiosity waned. As I wrote “oink oink oink” above the first pig, I realized that this was as amused as I was going to be with this situation; there was nothing else left here of interest, so I moved on.
Below is a drawing of the sort I did in high school and college. As I drew the little guy coming out of top of the bust, the drawing seemed creepy, so I abandoned it.
So there’s a sampler of what happens on the way to a coming up with a drawing that does work — the kind that ends up being finished and submitted to The New Yorker. The ones that don’t work vastly outnumber the ones that do. And of the ones that do work — that I think work — the number of those rejected vastly outnumber the ones accepted. Nutty right? But that’s the life.
Sidenote: these four drawings might seem to say that the drawing comes first (for me) when coming up with ideas. That’s not the case. Words are probably the better instigators of ideas. More frequently than the drawings or words leading to an idea are just vague impulses not yet on paper that suddenly suggest I draw whatever. That’s where the fun begins.