We continue our conversation with cartoonist and illustrator, Mark Hill. How did you get interested in cartoons? How many cartoons do you generally draw/write a month?
I fell into my passion for cartoons while in college. I was pre-med at the University of Illinois, and during my sophomore year, a drawing I had done for a friend caught the eye of the editor of the student newspaper. (It was the first cartoon I had ever drawn…I had always loved art, but had only drawn and painted in a realistic style). I started doing cartoons for the paper, and gradually became enthralled with it.
During my senior year, I was selling my cartoons to some larger papers in the Midwest, and upon graduating; I pursued cartooning as a career. At the time, my parents were not exactly thrilled. Fortunately it worked out.
As for how many cartoons I draw a month, I would say from 30-75, depending upon the how busy things are.
Wow-that’s a lot of cartoons! I guess most parents, unless they are successful cartoonists themselves, don’t send their kids to college hoping to say: “My son, the cartoonist.” What’s interesting though is that bringing people joy by making them laugh, and helping them forget their troubles is a pretty high calling. In fact, in our book it is one of the highest.
What kinds of clients do you have? How long does it usually take you think of and draw a single-panel cartoon?
Newspapers, magazines, book publishers and greeting card companies are among my repeat customers…as well as large corporations, start-ups and smaller businesses.
It usually takes an hour or two to think of several ideas, (hopefully yielding a good idea)…and just as long to draw that idea, depending upon the detail of the image.
Is it a challenge being funny “to order”?
Yes, at first it was daunting. But every profession has its challenges and you learn to become comfortable with them through practice. (Well, unless you’re Tony Soprano and your profession entails bumping people off — in which case, he went to see a therapist.) Creating comic strips for syndication was a my first real test of wit; needing to write and draw a funny cartoon every day of every week, each year, whether sick or tired, etc. So now, when a client or publisher calls with a deadline a few days away, it’s a breeze in comparison.
I often recommend that patients keep a therapy journal and sometimes as for a “personal position paper” on their situations. For patients who don’t like to write or who find doing a video or tape of their experiences overwhelming, a simple drawing can be a great option. On occasion a patient has presented me with a cartoon—an illustrated drawing with an insightful, witty, or outright funny caption!
One of my former patients was a professional artist and while brilliant, struggled with addiction and mental illness. While he frequently painted as an expression of his internal emotions during therapy, after he had completed treatment and therapy he drew a cartoon for me to hang in my office to inspire other patients.
It is interesting to note that he used a cartoon after he left therapy but painted and drew more in the “fine-art” vein during therapy. My immediate instinct was: He felt lighter! And ultimately cartoons are kind of like an instant shot of brightness—sort of wheat-grass juice for the soul. (Or a double-espresso if you’re feeling less virtuous).
Can you share any insights with us about the creative process, especially creating humor on demand?
Humor usually only comes from a relaxed state of mind, with calm emotions. But at times, when I have had difficult situations in my life to navigate, the accompanying emotions have produced interesting creative work. Sometimes, I’ll look back and compare what was flowing from my hand with what was going on upstairs, so-to-speak. The tough times produced some less than ideal efforts…but oddly they also produced some passionate, strong pieces, too.
Thanks for stopping by Therapy Soup, Mark.
You can see more of Mark Hill’s cartoons at his web site and read his blog called A Boneheaded Dog’s Blog. His cartoons have appeared in TIME Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and more and he has illustrated books as well as comic strips for children and adults.
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Last reviewed: 22 Sep 2010