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Do you have any questions for Christopher Hart? Just ask in the form at the bottom of this page for a chance to see it featured on the website! This page is updated regularly, so keep an eye out for new art tips and advice from Christopher himself.
Q) Do you think there’s ever such a thing as being too old for art? I’ve heard that before and I wanted to get your take. – Josh
A) Illustrating, whether it’s cartooning, manga, comics or something else, is often done on the computer. So the publisher has no idea if you’re 18 or 80! And they don’t care. It’s all about the look of the work. That said, if someone has the goal of drawing professionally, and discovers this passion at a later date, then absolutely they can do it. However, it helps to go about it strategically: Select, and then hone, a style that fits within your skill range, and which also has commercial potential. To use an example, take Scott Adams of the “Dilbert” comic strip fame. He started late. He could have enrolled in a 4-year art school to get his skills to match the younger competition. Instead, he developed a wonderful, simple style that suits his quirky, humorous sensibilities. I hope that helps! – Chris
Q) Some days I can draw brilliantly, but some days I just can’t draw properly. Why? – Kirk
A) Hi Kirk. Welcome to the human race. The key is to learn not to always rely on inspiration, but to hone your skills so that you can also rely on your craft. In other words, if someone were to ask you to draw a vertical box, you could do it without inspiration. If they asked to to add a roof to the top, a door and some kooky windows, and maybe a somewhat lopsided chimney. This would have a cartoon style, but wouldn’t be particularly inspired. You would be drawing using what you know works to get the desired results. Therefore, on the days when nothing works, go back to the techniques that you feel confident work – the techniques that will produce the desired – if not the inspired – results.
Q) So I recently started following your YouYube videos and I’ve been trying my best to learn, it’s all happening slowly, but other than practicing the stuff you’ve put up…how else do I learn how to cartoon? I’m really passionate to learn and have a huge interest in cartooning, but I’m not sure if i have a flair for it. Kindly advise. -Michelle T
A) Hi, Michelle, YouTube is great, but it doesn’t provide the individual, static steps, with captions by the techniques, to explain how to achieve the results. Plus, there is no time or room to create variations on a theme in order to demonstrate the wider application of the concepts to the audience. That’s why how-to-draw books are better suited to learning. And it’s the way I learned to draw. For basic cartooning, I would recommend my book, “Modern Cartooning,” because it’s easy to follow, but has a contemporary style, too.
Q) I have been enjoying your books and your YouTube videos. But I notice you never mention much in your books about what you use to ink in the final art. Your videos only demonstrate penciling but not the inking part. What do you use? Felt markers? Pen and ink? Brush and ink? I know you like Prismacolor colorerase pencils. – Keith
A) Hi, Keith. Comic artists used to ink everything they drew. But they have since used the Histograph tool on their scanner in order to vary the tone of their pencil line in order to make it as deep black as an ink line. But to do this, your pencil line must be very clean. It works well.
Q) How did you make up all those cartoon characters in your books? – Ella
A) Hi, Ella. I consider myself to be a character designer at heart. That’s how I started in animation. I love to create different characters with unique personalities and looks. Over the course of my career, I have literally created thousands of them for my how-to-draw books. It’s just the way my brain works! Other people specialize in creating stories for the same cast of characters, which evolve over time. They often like to create comics, graphic novels and animated shows on TV.
Q) In what area do most young artists flaw in (such as me) — Asked by Isaiha
A) The biggest problem I see is that new artists don’t spend enough time drawing roughs. They usually look to refine their drawings to a precise degree. Professionals, however, spend the vast majority of their time working out rough drawings that are made up of excess lines and erasures. It’s in that mess of unedited energy that the drawing takes place.
Q) Is Vincent Van Gogh’s statement “If a voice within you says you cannot paint by all means paint and that voice will be silenced” a good rule to follow even if you draw? – Asked by Isiaha
A) The problem with this type of advice is that it makes no room for the possibility that some people may love to do something that they aren’t good at. For example, maybe you’re trying to draw manga, when you are really better at drawing cartoons. Or maybe you’re trying to draw action characters, when you are actually quite good at drawing animals. The advice that was given to me a long time ago is among the best I’ve heard: “Don’t do what you love. Love what you do well.”
Q) Good evening, M. Hart. I have been looking to buy a beginner book for manga drawing. I do understand that you have couple of them that are a couple years old and some new ones in the past years. I’m just not sure which book to buy. Can you please clarify which book I should buy? I’d like to buy two books. Please help me out. Thank you – Sylvain
A) Sylvain, thank you for asking. I have a brand new book, which is great for learning how to draw the most popular types of anime characters: “The Master Guide to Drawing Anime.” I also have one that is quite easy to draw, and filled with super-cute characters, which is also very popular: “Manga For the Beginner: Chibis.” I think you’ll really like them, and find them useful.
Q) What is your email? I want to show you the drawings I drew after watching some of your many step-by-step videos! -Meira
A) You can post them to my Facebook, and I’ll comment on them.
Q) Hi Mr. Hart! I’m a huge fan of yours from Hungary. I’ve got your many books, and I really enjoy them. My questions are: How do you design funny characters? Do you collect ideas from real people, or just use your imagination? How much time do you need to accomplish it? Thank you very much for your answers! I hope you’re going to write many more great books. (And I can broaden my Chris Hart collection. 🙂 King Regards, Balazs
A) Hi, Balazs. I never use real people as reference. Instead, I use the physical traits that turn people into characters. For example, a studious student will wear glasses, be thin, somewhat formally dressed, short, and have neatly combed hair. These traits are used to signal, to the viewer, the basic identity of the character. There are many ways to draw a smart student, or any other characters, but certain character traits work best. It’s actually more helpful to look at cartoons than real people. Notice what physical traits makes someone an outcast, or a complainer, etc. And use those general traits to assemble your own, original character. I hope that helps, and thanks for writing.
Q) I sometimes work on a character or a design for so long that I can no longer see it from my original perspective, making it more difficult to finish the drawing I’m trying to achieve. It’s like saying the same word over and over again until it no longer makes any sense. Any suggestions on how to overcome this so I can finish my character in its original form? –Molly T
A) This is a great question. And there is a practical answer, which is twofold. First, make a copy, or scan, your original drawing, and put it aside. If your revision strays too far from the original, you’ll have the original, and can start over again. But the answer about the drawing is this: “deconstruct” your character. Go back and find the basic shapes and proportions that you like. Then as you revise it, and make changes, maintain the underlying form. I hope that helps.
Q) Chris, I know you can’t answer this question in just a few words, but what comes to mind when someone says they’re willing to give their work away just to get their name out there or to pad their resume? For instance, someone might have a cartoon appearing in a local weekly shopper type free paper. If the cartoonist is not receiving any payment, what would the pros be? And, other than working for free, what would be the cons? Thanks – Clinton
A) The visibility can help, but it also needs to be translated into something tangible. If you don’t have something to promote, you’re spending a lot of time and energy that you cannot capitalize on.
Q) Do you have any tips on drawing African people (braids, skin coloring, other)? Thanks so much! – Annie
A) There are many tutorials of how to draw cool & stylish haircuts for African Americans in my recent, popular book, “Cartoon Faces.”
Q) Hey Chris, which art software and digital tablet do you recommend most? Is a Wacom Intuos Pro good for a beginner digital artist? -Jiynkx D
A) I hand-draw all of my work, so I don’t use a software program. I wish I could be more helpful. If I were you, I would use a keyword search on Youtube. I’ll bet you could find a good tutorial there.
Q) You wrote a book about magical girls and another one called Anime Mania, didn’t you?
A) Yes, I did. My newest book on japanese style cartoons and comics is called “The Master Guide to Drawing Anime.” The cover is posted on the homepage of this website.
Q) Hi Mr. Hart! What was your very first character you came up with? – Debbie.
A) It was a wacky cartoon wolf, in the Loony Tunes style. I loved coming up with new characters. I think I made him a wizard. How random is that?
Q) Back in 2011 or so why did you deactivate your Deviantart account? I really missed you that time. –Eric.
A) Thanks, Eric. I got so busy, I didn’t think I could devote enough time to it. But because of people like you, I reinstituted my account, although I am less active on it before. My Facebook account has a lot of daily activity. I hope you’ll join me there.
Q) What is the best way and things I should practice drawing if I want to be a character designer? I got your book, “CARTOONING: THE ULTIMATE CHARACTER DESIGN BOOK.” – Zane
A) Thank you for getting my book. I think you’ll enjoy it. The most important thing for a character designer is to be able to create characters with proportions that are consistent from every angle. These are called “Turn-Around’s.” They are character charts where you draw your character in the front, side & ¾ views. Also, you’ll want to practice a variety of expressions, which cause the character’s face and posture to change shape slightly. For example, a surprised look stretches the head. A frown squashes it. A happy posture is upright. A sad posture is slumped, etc. Last, try variations. For example, try drawing the same character using three different hairstyles, to see which works best for you. Hope that helps.
Q) If you had to name some influences, past or present, who would they be? Favorite artists? Favorite strips or animated programs? Secondly, since The Simpsons, animated programs aimed at adults have become a somewhat regular fixture in entertainment. While I know that cartoons for adults are nothing new, do you have any thoughts on why this is, and why adults are no longer afraid to say that they like animated programs? Also, do you have a favorite? Is there one that you feel hurts the genre? Thanks for your site, YouTube channel, and your books. I really enjoy them. – Clinton
A) Hi Clint, thanks for the questions! The biggest influence on me, when I was younger, was Disney. I loved it so much. It was complete magic. My favorite Disney movie was Pinocchio. And my favorite comic strip was Peanuts. But when Snoopy began to dominate the strip, I didn’t like it anymore, as he was my least favorite character.
The Simpsons is not the only popular adult animated program. The Flintstones was a prime-time show back in the day, not Saturday morning fare.
Q) Do you take private commissions?
A) No, but sometimes I collaborate with programmers or developers.
Q) Can I send you samples of my work?
A) It’s best if you send it to my Facebook Fan Page as I do not download attachments unless I have requested them.
Q) Do you really respond to your readers, or is someone else doing your social networking for you?
A) Unlike other authors, it’s all me. It’s my way of showing my appreciation to my readers.
Q) I’m interested in foreign rights to your books, licensing, or other business. How do I contact you?
A) Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Contact Page and put “Rights and Licensing” in the subject line.
Q) Do you do appearances, talks or demonstrations?
A) I enjoy it, my schedule permitting. Make a request at email@example.com or through the Contact Page and put “Appearance Request” in the subject line.
Q) Can you give me any drawing tips?
A) Check out my backlist of drawing books. They cover many subjects, and chances are good you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Q) Does Chris Hart really read his emails?
A) Every one of them.
Q) When is your next book coming out?
A) Check back for updates. It’s usually posted on the homepage, in the blog, or in the sidebar promos.
Q) Your tutorials are based on original characters. Is it bad to practice drawing licensed characters?
A) Not at all; it’s fun! However, you need to also understand that licensed art is a mass-produced product. It is not created or designed to show you how to think like a cartoonist. It is only designed so that you can learn to draw that particular character in that particular pose.
Q) What do you think about tracing?
A) Any time you spend drawing will only add to your skill level. But for the best results, I recommend drawing freehand.
Q) Is cartooning a good career?
A) There are many different careers in cartooning. You can be a humorous illustrator, a children’s book author, a storyboard artists for animation, a comic book artist, a video game artist, or develop and market your own characters. You can also write, produce or direct animation for TV or movies.
Q) I judge my own work pretty harshly…sometimes it frustrates me.
A) The only people who think that everything they draw is great are the people who never improve.
Q) Are there any good colleges for cartooning, comics and animation?
A) I recommend looking into The California Institute of the Arts, The Ringling School of Art & Design, The Savannah School of Art and Design, The Joe Kubert School of Art, Pratt or Sheridan (in Canada).
Q) What type of art supplies do you suggest?
A) I suggest taking some scratch paper and paying a visit to your local art store. Tell the salesperson what you\’re interested in, whether it’s drawing or coloring tools, paper, templates, etc., then try them out on your scratch paper before you buy them.
Q) I can’t seem to find time to practice. Any suggestions?
A) I suggest sketching while you’re relaxing in front of the TV. You can watch a show while sketching sporadically. By drawing consistently over time, the drawing process will become natural to you, like throwing a ball or riding a bike.
Q) I’ve heard that you emphasize practicing your strong points. But what about a person’s weak points?
A) Most aspiring artists have no problem being self-critical, but they never give themselves credit when it’s due. I believe everyone should take the time to recognize his or her strengths as an artist. Everyone does some things better than they do other things. If you don’t know where you excel, you’ll never be able to capitalize on it. Although everyone should try his or her best to minimize mistakes in their work, artists don’t generally become known for the lack of flaws in their work, but for the areas in which they show a unique talent or style.
Q) What can I do to improve?
A) Think of this acronym: A.R.T. The “A” stands for “Attempt.” Make the attempt to reach your goal. “R” is a for “Redrawing.” All good artists redraw. Don’t fall in love with the first draft of your work. Refine it. The “T” stands for “Technique.” You can’t improve if you don’t have the right tools. Think of art instruction techniques as your toolbox.
Q) How long does it take to get good at drawing?
A) You often hear that, “It all depends on how much time you put into it.” And while practice is necessary, I don’t believe that’s the entire answer. You’ve got to have the desire. How much do you want to improve? Beginners who work from How-To-Draw books and school art classes can often see a jump in their skill levels in 2-4 months.