The Best Online Tools, Tutorials & Resources For Artists – Part 2

In my last blog post, I started listing some of the most interesting and beneficial digital art tools and resources that all artists should know about. Let’s continue with that exploration:


PaintTool SAI – Tool

mark litzler paint tool sai

PaintTool SAI is a downloadable paint tool program. It isn’t as advanced of some of the other tools listed, but it is very user friendly, and great for those who don’t require a highly sophisticated program. The program offers countless paint options and does have the option to incorporate multiple layers and different canvases. It’s simple interface is both a pro and a con in my opinion. A plain UI means it’s simple to use and very user friendly, but for some the plainness may come across as outdated.

Protip: This is a free, downloadable program, but there will be prompts for you to upgrade to paid services. My suggestion is to try out the free version before committing to anything more serious.

Image via: WikiCommons


Artsy Shark – Resource

mark litzler artsy shark

Artsy Shark is completely different than the other tools and resources I’ve listed so far. Artsy Shark is a website that was created by art business extraordinaire, Carolyn Edlund. The website is dedicated to helping artists create a business out of their art. Carolyn has a unique perspective and unmatchable experience from her work as the Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute. Artsy Shark offers business consulting and website review services for artists, while simultaneously offering a platform to be discovered on their Featured Artists Gallery page.


Artists Inspire Artists – Resource

mark litzler artists inspire artists

Artists Inspire Artists is an online space for artists to come together to exchange inspiration and support. It’s a blog “founded on the idea that the greatest forms of creativity are often sparked by sharing in the creativity of others”. Artists Inspire Artists has grown and developed into a community of artists that blog about what inspires them, their art, and everything in between. The entire project is submission based, so this resource is almost like an art project in and of itself. It’s a space where artists are coming together to create something beautiful.

The Best Online Tools, Tutorials & Resources For Artists- Part 1

As an artist in the digital age, there are a plethora of options to use to create your art. If you feel as though you want to stretch beyond the standard physical mediums like pencil, ink, charcoal, etc, you have far more opportunities to do so than artists had in the past. With everything being digitized, we have an entire realm of art related tools available online. Here are some of the best tools that I’ve come across during my exploration of online tools:


DrawPj Art Education – Tutorial/Course

mark litzler DrawPj Art Education

DrawPj started out in the late 1990s, so it’s been around for a few decades. It’s a drawing and painting course that was developed on the notion that people with busy lives who still want to develop their art skills should have the resources to do so. DrawPj is an online course that provides a solid foundation of the “fundamentals”, and is really open to all skill levels. It can help beginners grow overall as well as help more experienced artists develop their weak spots.



mark litzler inkscape

This is one of the more comprehensive vector graphics based tools I’ve come across. It’s available for free download (but you should always throw a bit of a donation their way). If you’re not outwardly familiar with what can be done with vector graphic software, Inkscape houses high tech drawing tools, the ability to export a variety of file formats (pdf, ps, png, etc). It is used by artists to create logos, illustrations, graphics, and any number of other art projects. Think Photoshop….but free!


The Gnomon Workshop – Tutorial

mark litzler The Gnomon Workshop


The Gnomon Workshop is serious business. They’ve provide professional level instruction and training within the arts & entertainment industry. If you’re someone who is looking to seriously pursue a career in art (but maybe art school isn’t feasible right now), this would be a fantastic place to start building up your skillset.

Their library of tutorials is extensive, and definitely not for the faint of heart. The Gnomon Workshop’s vast array of tutorial topics covers everything from drawing to animation, so you can really flex your artistic muscles.


Check back soon for more great artistic resources!


Cartoonists You Should Know – Part 2

Last month, I started a mini series featuring a few cartoonists that I believe everyone should know. The realm of cartooning is so interesting not only because the artists themselves are often pushed out of the spotlight by their creations, but also because of the way that cartoons are used within society. Cartoons are often fun, and lighthearted (and used for youthful entertainment). But, that easy-going, fun vibe that people associate with cartoons can also be used as a cover to strong political criticisms and satirical views of society. Cartooning is complex and provocative, and the cartoonists listed below are a few more artists who deserve to be household names.

George Herriman


Famed for his newspaper comic strip Krazy Kat, George Herriman was one of those cartoonists that was revered within the art & intellectual community. Herriman is often praised not only for its “gorgeously scratchy line work”, but also for the writing and storylines that were poetic in nature.   colors and Krazy Kat was listed as one of the greatest comic strips of the 20th century by The Comics Journal, and other artists loved Herriman’s work for its subtle surrealism. Krazy Kat never reached high levels of popularity with general public, but all of Herriman’s catalogue continues to be acknowledged and praised by artists and cartoonists to this day.


Bianca Bagnarelli

Bagnarelli is definitely the most contemporary cartoonist on this list so far, and she has a cartooning style that I deeply admire. Located in Bologna, Italy, Bianca Bagnarelli founded the publishing imprint Debelie and was awarded a gold medal by the Society of Illustrators for her comic Fish (a beautiful story of grief). Bianca is famed for her impeccable understanding of color and her use of clean, vivid lines in her work.


Bernard “Hap” Kliban (B. Kliban)


Klinan’s claim(s) to fame were his cats. As Chris Madden said,

“I came across a book by B. Kliban: Cat Dreams. I’m not sure what they’re about. I’m not even sure if they’re funny (do cartoons actually have to be funny?) But they’re brilliant. Apparently he grew to detest drawing cats in the end, but they were what everybody wanted. Beware success.”

Bernard Kliban briefly studied at Pratt Institute before he dropped out to travel and paint in Europe. He started drawing cartoons for Playboy as a means of income to support his family. His style was very strange, and most of his work contained bizarre scenarios. But, his cat cartoons drew quite a following, and were/are featured on all sorts of novelty items.


Cartoonists You Should Know – Part 1

The interesting thing about cartooning is that the work often speaks for itself. The characters that a cartoonist creates become famous, those are the “faces” that are recognized that world renowned. If the cartoonist is lucky, they can ride their characters’ metaphorical coat-tails into recognizable fame. But, often times, the artists themselves rarely get the spotlight.

I wanted to dedicate a few posts to introducing you to some of the best cartoonists that have graced this earth; these are all artists that (in my opinion) you should know.


Robert Crumb


robert crumb

Photo via wikimedia commons

Robert Crumb is an artist in multiple senses of the word. He’s both a cartoonist and a musician, that was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was born into a family that moved a lot, so his best friend, and fellow creative was his brother Charles. They shared a love of comic books and co-created their own comics during their youth, and his passion for comics continued into his adult life.

Robert Crumb is most well known for his works Zap Comix and Weirdo, but has a long list of creations published under his name.  His work has been hailed as incredibly detailed, and socially aware, with a knack for incredibly well done satire. Crumb described his early drawing style as “typical”, but thanks LSD trip for opening his artistic eye, and bringing him the psychedelic, surreal style that he is known for.


Chuck Jones


Chuck Jones

photo by Alan Light

Chuck Jones is definitely one of the more well known cartoonists in the industry, and was part of what is deemed the “Golden Age of Animation”. Jones was one of the geniuses that helped to bring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig to life, and he was single-handedly responsible for the birth of fan favorites Wile E Coyote, Road Runner, Marvin Martian, & Pepe le Pew. In other words, he can truly be considered one of the forefathers of modern cartooning.

Before Chuck Jones made it big, he was drawing dollar pencil portraits on the streets. But, he eventually found his way to Warner Brothers studios where he worked until their doors closed. He then hopped from Disney to MGM, where he worked on Tom and Jerry cartoons. If you’ve seen the classics, you’ve probably seen some of Chuck Jones’s work.

Be sure to check back next month to see more cartoonists you should know!


A Few of the Most Influential Cartoons

Although cartoons are generally thought of as media for adolescents, the truth of the matter is that a smart, well crafted cartoon resonates beyond the youth and remains relevant to the viewer throughout their adult life. A truly influential cartoon will maintain relevancy over several generations. There are a few cartoons (or specific characters) that should be celebrated for their continued popularity.


Bugs Bunny

bugs bunny

Bugs Bunny


Bugs Bunny, the star of the Looney Tunes crew, was created by Warner Bros. Cartoons.    His cartoon debut took place in 1938, alongside Porky Pig in “Porky’s Hare Hunt”. The Looney Tunes were originally created as shorts that would lead into feature films. But, the cartoons became so popular that they started being produced as stand alone, longer-length cartoons.


The Simpsons

bart simpson

Bart Simpson

The Simpsons is a cartoon that qualifies as an “animated sitcom”. It was the first cartoon to have adult content, and uses satire to represent the American middle class family. It’s such a popular concept, that the Simpsons actually holds the record for longest running sitcom and the longest running animated series.


Betty Boop

betty boop

Betty Boop

Betty Boop was created by Max Fleischer, and debuted in 1930. She was a caricature of  a flapper, and inspired by the singer Helen Kane. Betty Boop, interesting enough is considered to be one of the first cartoon “sex symbols”, as she was popular with mostly adults, and was a caricature of a sexualized woman. A little known fact about her is that Helen Kane actually sued Max Fleischer because the cartoon was so popular that it created “unfair competition” for her. Betty Boop continues to be popular even today with her likeness being available on countless retail goods.


Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse

mickey and minnie balloons

Minnie Mouse & Mickey Mouse


Also developed in the late 20s/early 30’s are the famed mouse duo by Walt Disney. Mickey Mouse was created by Walt to replace a previous character, and he knew that the key to success was to create a couple. So Minnie Mouse was born. Minnie, like Betty Boop, was also stylized to be a flapper character. Mickey and Minnie made their first appearance in Steamboat Willie and have been winning over hearts ever since.


Charlie Brown

charlie brown


The brainchild of Charles Schulz, Charlie Brown was the main character of the Peanuts series. He was the unexpected ringleader of a group of characters called the “Peanuts Gang”. Charlie Brown seemingly won the hearts of so many because he was a caricature of the normal, anxious/nervous adult. He stumbles along and struggles but also experiences some beautiful moments of euphoria. The comic strip ran from 1950 to 2000, and was so popular that several movies, and a HUGE franchise were born from the cartoon.

Caricatures and Cartoons

In this blog post,  I examined editorial cartoons, something that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve been working on editorial cartoons for many years and have managed to amass a pretty large body of them that are published. Today I’d like to take a look at caricature, an element of cartooning that is similar, but different to the editorial variety.

What Is a Caricature?

Coming from the Italian words carico or caricare (meaning to ‘load up’ or ‘exaggerate,’ caricature is the art of exaggerating features of a subject in order to trigger recognition of the subject and often to parody it. Walking through a city on any given day, you’re likely to find  caricature artists offering to draw up slightly comical works of you for a humble fee. However, the origins of caricature go far back.

A Brief History

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of caricature, just because it’s been going on for so long. Going back to classical art, one can find all sorts of examples of exaggerated features. Take for instance this mosaic depicting the use of a grotesque mask to indicate a character:


Then there’s also the rise of bio-morph and grotesque art in the Middle Ages in the depiction of gargoyles, demons and other bizarre characters. For example:


Doesn’t that just put a smile on your face?

One thing for certain is that during the 16th and 17th century, artist started to utilize caricatures as a way of ridiculing public figures. Take for instance “The Adoration of the Kings” by Pieter Bruegel. This painting depicts the visit of the Three Kings to an infant Jesus, but notice the outrageous costume of the kneeling king, and how a lot of people in the picture seem to be more interested in each other or even the ground than the holy figure often at the center of the image.

bruegel adoration of kings

Caricatures Today

As time moved on, caricature began to merge increasingly with politics and social critque resulting in the editorial cartoons we know today. In fact, it’s  hard to imagine a presidential election without caricature. Heck, with impressions by comedians,from Jordan Peele portraying Barack Obama to Tina Fey riffing on Sarah Palin, you could even say that the art form has left off the page and has entered a whole new era thanks to SNL, Key and Peele and other comedy programs.

Obama vs Romney 2012 prom

Art by Dave Granlund

And of course, you can always support a local artist and get your very own caricature.


To see how I incorporate caricature into my own cartoons, click here


Check out this article for a more in depth look at the history of caricature.


Three Top Art Schools for Cartooning

No matter what the major, choosing a college to attend is one of the most difficult and daunting tasks of an adult’s career. If one chooses to major in cartooning, the search becomes far more specific, because most traditional colleges do not offer cartooning as a major. So, it’s important to research what schools do, and find the right art school for you. These are three fantastic schools that offer cartooning programs:

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) – New York, New York

school of visual arts

Image Courtesy of SVA

Major: Cartooning

The Illustrating and Cartooning department at SVA offers a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree for students seeking to get a degree in cartooning. They put a major focus on teaching the fundamentals of illustration to their students. But they also continuously adapt their program to guarantee that their students gain the ability to adapt and remain relevant in the ever changing landscape of professional cartooning.


Academy of Art University – San Francisco, California

Academy of Art University

Image Courtesy of


School: Illustration

The illustration school of the Academy of Art University offers both online and on-campus class options. This is a fully accredited university that offers Associate, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees. The illustration school prepares students for any range of jobs within the cartooning field, including: comic books, editorial cartooning, animation, and children’s’ books illustration.


The Kubert School – Dover, New Jersey

The Kubert School

Image courtesy of

This school’s entire focus is on illustration, cartooning, and graphic art. This is one of the most viable options for students who are interested in cartooning but cannot commit to a full time program. The Kubert School offers evening, weekend, online and summer courses.  The full time program is fully intensive though, and requires applying students to have an established portfolio before they can be considered for entry.

For more information, click here and here.


Entering The World of Cartooning

Joe Vanilla by Mark Litzler

Joe Vanilla by Mark Litzler

Drawing has always been a passion of mine, and cartoons have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have memories of running outside on Sunday mornings to make sure that I got the comic section of the paper before anyone else could spoil it. But it wasn’t until college that my interest in cartooning became a more serious hobby, and I started to develop my own style of drawing. The more I practiced, the more passionate I became and I quickly began to aspire to have my work published. I now create work regularly, and have a deep interest in becoming a syndicated cartoonist at some point in the future.

I’ve been doing my research and networking with other cartoonists to find the best plan of action to enter the “professional” world of cartooning.  I’ve consolidated the tips and recommendations that I’ve gathered here as a “how-to” for other aspiring cartoonists.


Build Up Your Skillset
It’s important to acknowledge that although you may already be a great artist, you must continue to practice and improve your craft. The world of cartooning is more than just pen(or pencil) and paper these days. It would be advantageous for you to learn some of the major cartooning and animation software.

Keep up with Current Events
If you are looking to do enter the world of editorial cartooning, make sure that stay abreast of what’s going on the world. Your cartoons are required to not only be witty and well drawn, but they need to be relevant also.

Work on Your Portfolio
While professional training and work experience are always important to those in charge of hiring cartoonists, nothing is more important than building up a portfolio. Make sure that you have a wide variety of work that shows the development of your style and the range of work that you are capable of. One tip that I’ve continued to hear over and over is to look for freelance work. Do one-off jobs that will allow you to prove that you can work based on the specifications of multiple publications.

Know the Business
Terry LaBan, an accomplished cartoonist made this excellent point in his article here. “Time and time again, I’ve seen cartoonists with mediocre creative abilities and excellent business skills do far better than those who were merely artistic geniuses.” We’ve all seen it happening; people aren’t buying newspapers like they used to and there are less and less opportunities for syndicated strips. Being a cartoonist these days is undoubtedly an entrepreneurial lifestyle and being able to negotiate and act as a business person as well as an artist will often times take you so much farther than just artistic abilities on their own.

What Exactly Is Editorial Cartooning?

editorial cartoon of two doctors. Caption reads "i order test after test but they just confirm he's a c+ patient"

Example of an editorial cartoon by Mark Litzler

It occurred to me that I’ve been blogging about my side-passion, editorial cartooning, for a few months now, and never fully delved into what the world of editorial cartooning is. This is a brief breakdown of editorial cartooning; this could be used as a guide for an aspiring cartoonist who isn’t entirely sure what direction to take their art.

What Is It?

  • Classically speaking, editorial cartoons are graphic interpretations of a cartoonist’s opinions and thoughts on a particular topic, created specifically for a newspaper
  • These days, editorial cartoons are created for newspapers, their affiliated websites, and  a variety of other sources of news that would not be categorized as official “newspapers”.
  • Although the phrase “editorial cartoon” is often used interchangeably with the phrase “political cartoon”, they are not the same thing. Editorial cartoons are not always political in nature.
  • Editorial Cartoons reflect current events, and are usually created within a specific time restriction to meet deadlines.
  • They are different from the cartoon strips that most people envision when hearing the word “cartoon”. Instead of the multi-panel set that is typically seen on the comics page, editorial cartoons are most often single panels with no recurring characters.

What Makes A Good Editorial Cartoon?

  • Most importantly: Excellent Linework & Smart Writing
  • Originality! Whether it be style of drawing, topic, or voice, original content is important.
  • A distinct opinion or angle
  • The drawing and wording cannot stand alone. The two must rely on each other to fully portray the intended point

What Should You Use in an Editorial Cartoon?

  • Symbols – Use widely recognized symbols to make a point. (Ex: a grapevine is a symbol for gossip)
  • Caricatures – Exaggerated features on prominent figures is a common motif in editorial cartoons
  • Humor – Be funny! The whole objective is to make a point through the power of humor or satire.

To see the article that inspired this post, click here.