Friday, July 27, 2012

Falling in love with colour

From the time I started cartooning at the age of 15 I drew all my cartoons in black ink on white paper. And I continued to draw them that way for decades.

I came up with ideas, sketched them out and drew them in black and white. The cartoons were then printed in black and white. There was a brief period where I tried using grayscale (or halftone as it was known back then) for shading and a longer period when I crosshatched, but overall it was all line drawing in black and white. Aside from a brief unpublished experiment using poster paints I never even tried to work in color. No watercolours or pastels or even coloured pencils for me.

Then about five years ago, I got an email from Mirror editor Al Sutherland telling me the paper was going to start using colour everywhere inside, as opposed to just the cover and a few inner pages. He gave me the choice of continuing in black and white or making the jump to full colour. I agonized over it for a few hours (I had a deadline the same day, of course) and finally decided to make the leap. I figured I could always go back to black and white if it didn't work out.

It wasn't an easy transition. Basically I didn't think in colour, I thought in terms of black and white line drawings. So most of the time I just did line drawings and dropped in colour, the way most Sunday funnies are done. The colour was really just a filler, something to make the drawing a little prettier.

It took me years to realize I could use colour to take the cartoon further, to make the punchline (if there was one) more effective. And eventually, only in the last year or so, I started to plan my cartoons with colour foremost in my mind, sometimes deciding the colour scheme first before I had even sketched out an idea. This was a real revelation. And, to tell the truth, my biggest regret about the Mirror closing (even more than the loss of a regular paycheck) was that my experiments with colour were at an end, or at least on hold until I can find another outlet for my cartoons.

Anyway, here are a few favourite examples of my colour cartoons from the Mirror...

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