Sometimes I think of myself as primarily an illustrator. On my “illustrator” days, I focus on creating freehand ink illustrations in my Moleskine art sketchbook or on watercolor paper. But there are other days when I completely switch gears, put on my cartoonist “hat” and spend my time brainstorming cartoon ideas and gags. This week has been one of those “cartoonist at work” weeks. So far, I’ve created three new cartoons. Two of those cartoons will be shipped off tomorrow to prospective magazines. The third is for my upcoming newsletter (by the way, if you aren’t already a subscriber, you can sign up for my newsletter here.) In this post, I’m happy to offer a sneak peek at the newsletter cartoon as well as a look at a portion of my workspace!

Cartoonist at Work

Having a comfortable workspace at which to cartoon (or illustrate) is a must. In this short video, you’ll learn which drafting board I use and why I opted for the smallest drafting board I could find.

The Drafting Board In Action

(Cartoonist Not Pictured)

Cartoonist at work - photo of my drafting board and workspace as I work out my newest gag cartoon.

The photo above captures my gag cartoon process. The first step is lots of note taking, brainstorming, writing and scribbling. Some cartoonists do this process on their computers or on the Note App on their phones. I find that writing my ideas down longhand jump-starts my creative juices more. I’ve got several gag notebooks currently going. (The pink one, above, is sitting atop an older cover-less notebook that will soon be destined for the rag bin.) Because my goal is to just go with the flow (jumble) of thoughts in my head without censoring or critiquing them, I work pretty quickly. As a result, the handwriting in my gag cartoon journals is pretty atrocious.

Once I’ve come up with some promising gags, I almost always run them by my husband. He’s my Funny-O-Meter and a very good (if sometimes harsh) critic. Only when I know that I have a promising gag do I then move onto a rough pencil sketch. The next step is to place the pencil draft for the cartoon on my light-box and create an inked version. The shading process (done most often these days with a water brush pen filled with diluted India ink) is pretty free and quick.

Sometimes, often, when I see the final inked and shaded cartoon together with the gag, I end up further refining the wording of the gag before I consider the cartoon completed and ready to submit.


I still find gag writing to be the hardest part of cartoon creation. However, every time I finish a cartoon, I realize how much fun I had creating it (and I usually forget how much I struggled to come up with the gag!) Perhaps if I carved out time each day to brainstorm gags it would feel easier. A worthy goal…though for now, I’m perfectly happy to juggle my time between illustrating and cartooning!


  1. MM says:

    ooh, I like this video, so professional. And you look pretty professional, too, with that cool outfit! And that lady with the dog is very funny!
    xoxoxoxox mm

    • Joana says:

      Hi Mm, It’s funny how the clothes can make the video. I had a different outfit planned for this video, but when I did my preliminary takes, I realized that it didn’t look good. The jacket saved the day, though I was sweltering in it. (I suffer for my art. Hee-hee!)
      xox – J

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