At times in my life I have worked as a part-time professional cartoonist. I have never been brave enough to take the plunge into full-time cartooning/illustration work because it is a risky, poorly compensated business. Daryl Cagle, an established, ‘successful’ cartoonists recently penned a missive to and about aspiring cartoonists. He had this to say…

Ironically, editorial cartooning is a terrible business. Newspapers pay only a few dollars a week for packaged groups of talented cartoonists who are, in turn, poorly paid. The professionals compete for fewer and fewer staff cartoonist positions at papers that are cutting back, as the internet crushes print. More and more professional cartoonists can’t make ends meet. The syndicates aren’t really a barrier to success for the aspiring cartoonists, just a hurdle on the road to more frustration in a dying profession.

My profession is fading away, I’m poorly paid and there are thousands of rude, talentless wannabes who want my job … but Britney Spears shaved her head – at least the life of a professional editorial cartoonist has its little pleasures.

You have no idea how sad this makes me. At least the pure joy of cartooning remains…even if no one ever sees it.

UPDATE: Another cartoonist responds to Cagle’s assertions about the reality of editorial cartooning…

Hey Daryl,

Wow. Your rant on the reality of editorial cartooning was brutal. I agree with every point. Even though I draw 5 cartoons per week, I also work 50+ hours at my day job as an advertising art director. Could I survive on the daily toons and still eat? No. Do my cartoons suffer because I frequently draw them after a twelve hour workday? Yes. The question I’ve yet to answer is why do I still do it if it pays less than working at Wal-Mart. I guess that answer is editorial cartooning is not a “job” but a passion. The luckiest few find success if they can combine the two and live comfortably. If those aspiring cartoonists knew what it really takes, they may put their crayons down and continue doing something else they think they’re good at.

Take care,