Cartoonist

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Andrew, mid 30s

How did you become a cartoonist?

Andrew admits to sometimes giggling at work. "Creating cartoons is a fun thing to do. Creating something that you're happy with and that other people like is really satisfying." As a freelance cartoonist, he's part of a select profession, but his cartoons have appeared in many Australian newspapers and magazines, as well as on greeting cards and overseas. He's supported himself since leaving uni, despite the inconsistent money: "That's one of the challenges of being self-employed. But I've been able to make a decent living out of it."

While studying architecture might have helped his drawing skills, his cartooning took off through extra-curricular activities. "I only started taking it seriously when I was at uni and did the uni revue, which was writing sketch comedy. Out of that I started drawing some of my ideas." When his work appeared in the student newspaper, he got a taste for the "semi-anonymous thrill" of publication. Now he does stand-alone gags, political cartoons and illustrations for specific articles.

What sort of skills and qualities do you need?

Andrew doesn't see himself as an artist. "I feel like when I started cartooning, my drawings were very basic and scratchy, and I got better by doing it." The main thing is to believe in yourself. "You've got to be funny!" he grins. "No, you have to be able to do it, and then have faith in your work and be persistent." Thinking independently helps: "Earlier on, I would show my work to a lot of friends. I still like to show my stuff to a couple of people whose opinions I trust. But I find that if I show my work to too many people, it's too confusing. Really, in the end, you've got to trust your own judgement."

What does a typical working day involve?

While doing the cartoons is the fun part, freelancing means running your own business: "There's quite a bit of looking for work and trying to get your work in front of the people who make decisions about what to publish - editors and art directors." He sometimes travels to Sydney, where many publications are based, to meet people. "Then there's the admin - like invoicing for your work and chasing people up for money. Sometimes you have to negotiate either contracts or the conditions that your cartoons are going to get published under."

Andrew works pretty standard hours, preferring to stalk inspiration rather than wait for it to strike. "I read the paper for about an hour every day and for political stuff, it's sort of important to keep on top of that. Then some of the day is doing the cartoons - which can involve long periods of staring into space. And when you have the ideas and get them approved by the editor for publication, then drawing them up. My stuff is pen and ink. If I'm colouring them, I'll either do it with paints or on the computers. That's quite fun and relaxing and you can play music loud," he smiles.

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

It can be isolating, but Andrew likes the autonomy. However, he admits that at first, he struggled with making time for holidays: "It was only when I kind of got to a point where I realised I was stressed out and hadn't taken a holiday in a couple of years... I've since become a bit more cluey about it." But he always looks forward to returning to work: "It's still this fantastic thing that I get to do every day. I remember in careers education and you'd go and see counsellors and they'd talk about careers in really pragmatic terms. But in the end, it's about that non-pragmatic stuff - it really is a fun job."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).