Intro to Cartooning!

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For 7 years I taught courses at Syn Studio art school in downtown Montreal.

The Pandemic brought many changes, I’m now working full time in Animation as a designer, I might come back to teaching in some form but for now I don’t have the time or energy along side work, so my classes are no longer available and I’m not taking on private students until further notice!  If you want to take a class at Syn, you can check the schools site here for the full listing of their courses and instructors

I’m leaving this site up for use by past students, random seekers of knowledge online, and future possible students. Where I’ve presented the lessons and ideas of other’s I try to be sure to give credit, let me know if you find errors or omissions!

Cartooning is the art of clarity, simplification, caricature, and pantomime. One of the earliest forms of illustration, cartoons can be humorous, serious, satirical, bizarre, featured in print, film, online or any other visual media. Cartooning is a simple yet powerful and fun way to express yourself through art.

This beginner’s class – taught by veteran illustrator, comics and animation artist Salgood Sam – will introduce you to constructive drawing, expressive gesture, and finishing techniques behind some of the greatest draftspeople of animation and comic art.


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Cartooning samples by instructor Salgood Sam.

With the goal of introducing students to a full range of cartooning styles, Introduction to Cartooning will endeavor to give students a well-rounded base and get them started on mastering the styles they desire to doodle in. Ranging from ‘Bigfoot Style’, the Fleischer Brothers & Disney house styles, Anime/Manga, the noodle limbs of Adventure Time, to a variety of realistic or ‘Heroic’ looks.  We’ll survey the works of several great artists and study their forms and lines. We’ll learn the tools of the trade, and how to study the fundamentals of simple perspective and anatomy.

This course is largely about drawing technique, but will concern itself with the ‘acting’ or pantomime of characters as well! It’s designed as a complementary course to Making Comics 101.

Materials List is HERE.


Popeyes How to Draw Cartoons by Joe Musial from 1939
Popeyes How to Draw Cartoons by Joe Musial from 1939

Week 1: What is Cartooning: A 15 min introduction to the history of cartoon and caricature, as we attempt to put some fuzzy boundaries down on what cartooning and comics art is, and how if at all if differs from illustration and other art. 

We’ll quickly dive into the idea of constructive drawing with the students following along as the teacher demonstrates, building a very cartoony character out of geometric shapes or doodles.  And how to do that with an expressive and somewhat gestural line. The class will start with geometric and organic shapes and make them into characters bodies, heads, monsters, whatever!

The class will close with an overview of the tools of comics art and cartooning. And how to practice using them with basic drawing exercises targeting key skills we want to foster: Rendering skill; Design & Composition; Lettering, and good Pantomime-body language and facial expressions..

Practice: Students will be given a list of words or made up names of animals, they can use these or some of their own to draw shapes those words or names’ sound suggest to them, and then build cartoon characters out of those shapes. These will be just quick sketches or pencils. Don’t ink them without at least first scanning the pencils.


Week 2: A tour of styles. There are a lot of different looks and styles of art that fit under the rubric of cartooning, and while not all do most can be understood via the methods we introduced in class one. We’ll look at the three big groups of cartoon art – Cartoony; Bigfoot; to Idealized – and how each differs. All contemporary cartooning can fit into one of these categories, even Anime and Manga styled art.

Drawing session: The teacher will demo and invite students to follow along building three recognizable characters from basic forms up to flushed out ‘pencil roughs’.

Practice: Pick a style to work in, make a rule set for the kinds of forms you will use and a line quality you can and wish to apply. Then invent a set of characters using it as your style constraint. Think about things like using certain shapes and proportions for all the protagonists and others for the antagonists so they have distinctively different looks? Or how you can make characters who look more or less the same, identifiable from each other with quickly identifiable key traits. Facial features and dress? You can work in more limited styles like a realism favouring Heric or Manga style, or mix it up more with a Cool World style of anything goes.


Week 3: The process of comics art and cartooning. Exploring why we do pencil roughs and inking, how that translates if at all to digital work, and what is inking for?

Drawing session: The teacher will demo and invite students to follow along as we take the three drawings from the last class and ‘finish them’, one digitally, one with ink on paper, and one with an alternate media like watercolor & ink wash. For students without digital tools it’ll be possible to simply follow along with ink on paper twice.

Practice: Practice using vellum: or a light box: or printed blues, rendering a clean up pencil drawing of some of your old sketchy art or work done in class in rough!


Week 4: Cartooning is Abstraction. Cartooning is Design. The class will build on the preview work to look at how we can cartoon things as well as characters. We’ll also talk a bit about how to achieve depth in your cartoon art, without liner perspective, or using just one or two point. And some basic principles of composition.

Drawing session: The teacher will demo and invite students to follow along through a basic perspective drawing exercise to help them understand it. And some thumbnail compositions illustrate how position form and relationships impact the work.

Practice: Using things you find around your home, render them in three stages of cartoon abstraction, from mostly representational to very cartoony. Create complete prop sheets for your home or workplace as though you were going to set a comic or animated film there!


Week 5:  Line weight, hatching, and value. Building on our class about process, the students will explore how to use line for values in their drawings, techniques for doing it with pens by building it up, and how brush and nibs let us do it in single strokes.

Drawing session: First with the teacher’s guidance the students will do some basic practice sheet pattern work to get the hang of line control and clean hatching – something recommended they continue on their own as a formal practice if they want to get better. Then using printed blues of some art by masters, we’ll practice inking class and contemporary comics art.

Practice: Fill 5 pages or more with pattern exercises, using all the tools you plan to cartoon with. Goals are more consistent line control and a better understanding of our tools as well as how to get the line you want, when you want it.


Week 6:  An intro to caricature. At the intersection of cartooning and portraiture, is the art of caricature. Aside from street artists, the practice is central to editorial cartoons and it’s roots lead back to the tradition of the grotesque. This fun class will look at the basic principles of exaggeration and distortion used, what makes for the funny, and then the class will be invited to use it on each other! [note to admin: this is a class it might be cool to have some of the other instructors in for as guests? I know one or two are caricaturists?]

Drawing session: Students will sit facing each other and practice by drawing their neighbours as a goofy satirical caricature.

Practice: Choose someone to try this style out on and work on a satirical one panel cartoon of! It can be anyone.


Week 7:  Using color! Even before The Yellow Kid, colour has played a big role in cartooning. We’ll look at some of the best of the classic color weekend inserts, cartooning in children’s books, and other examples of the technique. Then the teacher will demonstrate some mixed media colour application live.

Drawing session: The class will fill in a set of color wheels for the class work in watercolors, pencil crayons or digital paint.

Practice: Using some of the work from past classes, the students will practice making different pallet studies of their drawings, taking note of how it changes the tone and feeling of the character or drawing.


Week 8:  Light & Dark. We’ll introduce the notion of chiaroscuro, lighting, and look at how using strong blacks spotting can be used for best effect in comics art. Some of the best comics art is light and very linear, but dark noir looks can be elegant too and some of the most powerful work is defined by bold high contrast art. We’ll look at how to use it with composition and story in mind.

Drawing session: Students will do some thumbnail studies of objects and faces in high contrast lighting, from radically different angles.

Practice: Again using pencils from earlier classes that we’ve also coloured and inked before, the students will compose a super high contrast version of the same shot in either B&W or with one colour in place of the black ink.


Week 9: The big picture! We’ll do a group critique of our work so far, and then set about applying everything we’ve learned to a new piece!

Drawing session:  The class will draw along with the teacher, composing a splash page/one panel cartoon, complete with a background. It can build on designs and ideas they drew throughout the course or be an all new character and ideas. The goal simple is to revisit all the things we’ve covered together, in a single drawing.

Practice: Work on finishing pencils and starting to ink the new composition!


Week 10: The big finish! With the help of the teacher the class will wrap up their final compositions, and together look over all the work, picking out the best bits for the vernissage together. Also any work the students would like to be will be submitted to the Synthogy! [school comics anthology]

Drawing session: Like it sounds, I’ll work with the students to put the final touches on their cartoons, and we’ll go over those to follow-up on how they did addressing the notes and ideas that came out of the previous class critique.

Practice: I plan to write a departing practice plan, a basic schedule for regular drawing exercises that should help set them on the right path if they choose to keep it up. And of course if they want to make a more intensive dive into the art or learn storytelling, there’s MC 101 and ‘An Exploration of Style’ and MC 201 eventually.