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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Review: Draw Cartoons Today

Draw Cartoons Today, also known as the Lou Darvas Course, is one of the range of courses for writers and artists available from my publishers WCCL. It's the only course in this range that I haven't reviewed on this blog, so I thought it was high time I put this right!

As the name indicates, Draw Cartoons Today is intended for anyone who would like to draw cartoons for fun and profit. The author, Lou Darvas, is a highly successful US cartoonist whose work has appeared in national and international newspapers and magazines. His sports cartoons are currently being exhibited at a number of galleries in the USA.

Draw Cartoons Today is produced in the form of a PDF manual. You can either download it from the sales site or pay a few bucks extra to have the course sent to you on CD-ROM. Be warned, however, that the file is a quite substantial 60MB. It took about 20 minutes to download on my broadband (DSL) connection. The process went smoothly enough, but I wouldn't recommend trying this if you only have dial-up access. In that case I'd strongly suggest paying a bit extra for the CD-ROM!

One other point to bear in mind is that Draw Cartoons Today is password-protected. You will find the password in the email you receive from WCCL when you purchase the course, so don't delete this.

The first thing that struck me about Draw Cartoons Today when I opened the PDF was that most of the text is handwritten! That's not a problem, however, as it's perfectly clear and legible. The course itself is highly visual, and every page is crammed with drawings and illustrations (WCCL claim that there are 1028 hand-drawn illustrations, and I'm quite prepared to believe that).

The course is divided into 12 lessons, each of which you are intended to study in one day. Days 1 to 11 are devoted to teaching you to draw cartoons to a professional standard, while Day 12 (the only part of the course that is typeset) provides advice and information on marketing your work and your skills. The latter, by the way, is bang up to date, with advice on useful websites, creating your own homepage, and so on.

The first 11 lessons in Draw Cartoons Today are highly practical and intended to bring you up to a professional standard as quickly as possible. In the first lesson Lou lists a number of tools you will need (pens, brushes, inks, and so on), and buying these will certainly set you back a few dollars. This isn't cartooning on the cheap - the author wants you to do things the right way from the start, so you must be prepared to invest some money in the tools for the job. Once you've read the lessons, however, and seen the sample cartoons, if you are anything like me you will be fired with enthusiasm to see what you can achieve.

Draw Cartoons Today starts with practice exercises to get you used to working with the pens and brushes, and moves on to drawing the human body - both whole figures and parts of the body such as faces and hands. It goes on to cover sketching animals (apparently there is a big demand for this from pet owners), along with portraying emotion in your cartoon figures and "bringing them to life". The tricky matter of perspective is also covered in some detail.

The course also looks at related skills such as producing caricatures and comic strips. It explains how to create professional comic lettering and voice bubbles, and offers a step-by-step method for producing "gag panel" cartoons - all illustrated with copious examples, of course.

Overall, I was highly impressed with Draw Cartoons Today. If you are interested in cartooning and would like to develop your skills to a publishable standard, you shouldn't go far wrong with this excellent manual. And naturally, as this is WCCL, technical support is available 24/7 from their customer service website at

Any criticisms then? Only minor ones. A table of contents would have been nice, preferably with hyperlinks so you could go straight to the lesson you require. As it is, you must be prepared for some scrolling, though with Adobe Reader 8 you can click the Pages icon on the far left of the screen and this will enable you to go straight to specific pages via a strip of thumbnail images.

The course is also heavily focused on developing your drawing skills. It doesn't have much to say about how to devise humorous ideas for cartoons, though it does recommend some resources for this. In addition, WCCL have just released a brand new course, How to be Funny, which I hope to review here soon. And - dare I mention it - my course Quick Cash Writing has a whole module devoted to comedy writing.

Finally, I should mention that Draw Cartoons Today is currently available at a special offer price of just $19.95 (around 9.95 UK pounds or 14.95 euro). For that money, if you're at all interested in learning this highly marketable skill, it really is a no-brainer.

Happy cartooning!

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Blogger John said...

Hi Nick,

Well, I tried Helium. A dead-loss. No markets there.

I tried Matrixmail.

They are not accepting submissions until 9.9.2007. They say they have a back-log!

I've tried eBooks on eBay. No website, or savvy to make one, so it's a fee everytime I sell and want to relist an eBook. eBay don't seem to have any info on continuous listings.

I am still full of ideas, but after thirty years of freelance writing, being published, and occasionally failing of course, I realise there are now too many people at this wonderful 'game'.

I believe it's time I put my feet up and catch-up on all those DVD's I have been denying myself.

Thanks for the links Nick, but It's too late and too crowded for me!

John Walker (Great Barr)

11:30 AM  
Blogger John said...

That should read 'caught-up'!

Oh yes... the process of entering those weird 'bendy' letters, each time I post, is becoming tiresome.

Makes me wonder why. Anyone can enter those symbols.

Now a password, known only to me would be better, surely!


11:38 AM  

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