This week I’ve been enjoying simply being “The Wife” while keeping my husband company on a New York City Ballet tour to Washington, D.C.   Aside from my responsibilities (none, actually – though I’ve been happy to shop for the food for our meals), I’ve mostly been busy in our hotel room working on my cartoons.   Having time to buckle down and see how many I can churn out is both a pleasure and a challenge.  It’s easy to chalk up my struggle with writing gags when I’m at home to the fact that I rarely get large chunks of uninterrupted time for cartooning.  However, this week has shown me that having large chunks of time to brainstorm gags doesn’t necessarily make the process any easier. 

Gag writing is hard.  Period.

(If you don’t believe me, try your hand at the caption contest found each week at the back of the New Yorker magazine.)

That said, the gag-writing process IS interesting, and when you finally do come up with something that feels right, it’s truly an awesome feeling.  Besides exercising your funny muscles (if you don’t go insane, first), it’s very possible that the mental gymnastics might also stave off dementia in the long term.  Or so I hope…

In case you’re curious, here are some helpful articles with tips on gag writing and working around mental blocks:

Of course, gag writing is only half the battle.  Drawing engaging and funny images is, in my eyes, equally important.  Although I’ve always found the drawing part of cartooning to be easier than the gag writing, I’m constantly challenging myself to get better at drawing, too.  These days my focus is on creating my drawings more quickly so that they look more “tossed off.”  Drawing in pen is definitely a challenge, but one benefit to working this way is that you are forced to pare down to only the essential lines.

(It also gives you something to do at breakfast while your husband checks his phone…)

Cartooning warmup

(Or, you contemplate taking your morning vitamins.)

Of course, it’s one thing to draw a funny solo figure like the ones I drew above, but to actually come up with the layout for a cartoon scene to match your gag involves a little more planning.

Today I hit on the idea of doing my (VERY) rough initial layout drawing digitally in my Corel Paint Shop Pro X8 photo-editing program.

From there, it was a lot easier to proceed to the pen drawing on paper….

And the gag?  Well, for that you’ll have to be patient and wait ’til next week when I can properly scan the cartoon and add in the caption.   After all, there are some limits to what you can do in a hotel room!


  1. Helen Reich says:

    Looking forward to the caption! I too, finally have time to produce visual art this week, and it’s mostly going to be a big project for my event planner pal around here, still my very best customer. It’s a challenge because the fabric is thick…..table linens he designed, and the pins are for a kickoff party. I figured out some things I can do, now I just have to get used to it, and plan ahead to crank out the quantity I need.

    • Joana says:

      Hi Helen,

      Greetings from D.C.! Today was a lovely day – 78 degrees – and I got out and walked to the Kennedy Center with Andy and then from there on to Georgetown and the Tidal Basin. Unfortunately, the cherry blossoms are still not out around the Tidal Basin. They’ll probably be bursting into bloom on Easter Sunday which is when we are leaving (not to mention, when everyone else is likely to be heading over to see them!) No complaints, though. I’ve really been enjoying the down time which was sorely needed.

      I hope your project is a fun one. How many pins are you making? Are you invited to the event as a guest, too?

      I have an SEO question for you. Do you think I should the word “card” (or paper, stationery, correspondence, etc.) as part of each descriptive long tail keyword? I read something today that made it sound like you should be describing your items in that way. Generally, for my cartoon greeting cards I put the most descriptive long tail keyword first (i.e. Cartoon Chef Greeting Cards) and then include keywords like Funny Art, Gifts for Chefs, etc. But I don’t repeat the fact that the item is some type of card in *every* keyword. Anyway, I’m just curious to know what you think.

      xoxo – Joana

      On Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 2:06 AM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


      • Helen Reich says:

        I don’t think it needs to be in every single tag. Is that what you are talking about, the tags? You can add it as many times as you can comfortably fit it. As for the order of words in the title (and that’s the only place order matters) I start with the search phrases that the Etsy search engine suggests are the most frequently used. There are so many names for the thingies I sell, that I have all the search phrases eliding, and the title is a big word salad. The important thing is, try to get the tags to match the title as much as possible. So, if I start with Custom Lapel Pins Mens Lapel Pin Flower, that means I should have in my tags, custom lapel pins, lapel pins men, mens lapel pin, lapel pin flower, etc. Does this make any sense? Email questions, or you can call, too!

        • Joana says:

          Hi Helen,

          Thanks for the response! I’ll email you shortly…

          xoxo – Joana

          On Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 10:18 PM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


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