Taking your hobby to the next level

Steve Thompson – Contributor

I’m Steve, I’m in my early 50’s and have spent the whole of my career to date in the area of brand marketing and brand experience. However, what I’d like to share with you today are my experiences in taking one of my creative interests outside work – drawing cartoons – to the next level.

My love of cartoons goes back as far as I can remember. In particular, I recall avidly reading the omnibus editions of the Perishers cartoons as a child until I actually knew most of them off by heart..!

However, it was at university that the emphasis shifted from reading cartoons towards drawing them myself. I was studying for a Zoology degree, and this involved attending lectures on a daily basis. The subject matter and my zero attention span provided the perfect conditions for my mindless doodles to evolve into ever more sophisticated drawings and cartoons, which soon filled the margins of my course notes. Spurred on by this new-found enthusiasm, I subsequently became involved in creating cartoons for College newsletters and broadsheets, as well as drawing cartoons for my own pleasure. One of my earliest cartoon series was ‘Tales from the Deepish’, which described itself as ‘pretty dodgy stories of everyday seashore life’…

Tales from the Deepish

From that point onwards, and long after leaving university, I kept returning to cartoons from time to time, drawing them mainly for my own enjoyment. One of my biggest influences over this time was undoubtedly Gary Larson’s ‘The Far Side’ series – I absolutely love his surreal ideas and the fact that so many of his cartoons have a natural history or science theme to them.

At various points in those early years I considered whether to take things further, seek a publisher and invest more time into cartoons. However, in the late 80’s and early 90’s the world was a very different place – with no World Wide Web and no Email. The only remote hope of being published was through writing to newspapers and magazines with examples of my work. This I did, but it was a highly labour-intensive operation that involved manually looking up the addresses of various publications, printing out covering letters, photocopying cartoons, putting everything into envelopes, writing out the addresses, sticking on stamps and posting – all very quaint ‘cottage industry’ stuff!

In the end I decided that I enjoyed drawing cartoons far more than trying to get them published, and continued to focus on drawing them when I could. Around 1995 I drew the first in what was to become a much bigger collection of cartoons that I decided to call the ‘Inklings’. I really liked the name, as ‘Inklings’ could be interpreted both as ‘Ideas’ and as ‘Creatures of ink’….

First ‘Inklings’ cartoon

Today, we live in a very different world in which things have changed beyond recognition. Whether you’re involved in cartoons, art in general, journalism or even music – it’s possible to publish your work yourself without the need for a publisher or an agent.

Having seen these changes at first hand, I set up my first website to showcase some of my cartoon collections back in 2011. In addition to the ‘Inklings’, other collections included the resurrection of a university comic strip called ‘The Adventures of Roger the Rock’, in which I used photographs rather than drawings to illustrate the story. I also extended this approach into some ‘Photo Adventures’ and a collection called ‘Double Take’, and have subsequently continued to add more material to the website. If you’d like to check out the website just go to paperthin-cartoons.co.uk.

Having created a website to display my cartoons, I’ve since been focusing on how to bring them to life on cards, gifts, and other merchandise. Last year I signed a contract with Doodle Doo – an online greetings card company that provides personalized greetings cards and which also makes a charitable donation from their profits.

More recently, I’ve published the ’Inklings’ collection on Redbubble. Redbubble is an online retailer offering a huge range of gifts and merchandise – T-shirts, phone cases, notebooks, wall art, bags, cushions and clocks to name but a lot! It’s a great concept – the designs are provided by independent artists who make a commission on every sale, whilst Redbubble displays the products and manages the orders and fulfillment.

If you’re interested in having a closer look at Doodle Doo or Redbubble, I’ve included links to both sites through the Inklings page on my website (or you could simply Google them directly!).

Driving traffic to your website is also clearly important, and in recent weeks I’ve been extending my reach on Facebook by setting up a dedicated ‘Inklings’ page and attracting followers by posting across a variety of relevant groups. I’ve also set up an ‘Inklings’ account on Instagram as a means to further drive my reach beyond the people I already know.

In the latest development, my first cartoon exhibition went live just a few weeks ago in a ‘Here’ – a café and restaurant in Berkhamsted close to where I live…

All through this it’s been good to have the support and encouragement of friends and family, which have helped to spur me on to take things further at each stage.

Whilst it’s still early days – my cartoons are at the ‘small sapling’ stage rather than ‘great oak’ – I’ve been amazed that I’ve already been able to take them far beyond what I would have believed possible back in those early years.

Finally, it’s clear to me that whatever creative thing you’re into, there are now no limits and the resources you need are just a click away…

Steve Thompson

Contact details:
Email: paperthin-cartoons@virginmedia.com


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