Pickles, by Brian Crane, is considered by many to be one of the funniest and most charming newer comic strips in newspapers today. Despite an initial period of discouragement and rejection, Crane overcame the odds and is now enjoying all the rewards of successful comic strip syndication.
For years, Crane worked at an advertising agency and his cartooning career was nothing more than a daydream. To avoid a major mid-life crisis at age forty, he realized that it was time to stop daydreaming and time to take some action. "My problem was that I never figured I was good enough or funny enough to do a comic strip, so I never bothered trying to do one until I was in my forties. I wish now I had tried it twenty years ago. Getting syndicated wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.
"Mostly I just drew as a kid. I bought all the Walter Foster books on cartooning and practiced drawing the pictures in them. I doodled constantly on my school note papers. I majored in art in college, but took mostly fine art classes. Walt Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons were also a big influence. Add to that list Lil Abner and Pogo comic strips, as well as Peanuts and B.C. I loved Al Capp's mastery of anatomy and the quality of his ink lines, and used to try and copy his style. I was never able to do it like he did, but it was good practice.
"Don't let a day go by without drawing something. It doesn't have to be a cartoon drawing, either. I think the ability to draw well realistically makes it easier to draw cartoons that don't look amateurish. Also, practice your lettering. You can have the funniest cartoon in the world, but if no one can read it, it's a waste of time."
Like most cartoonists, Brian has his own favorite way to get funny cartoon ideas. "I keep a small metal box on my drawing board in which I put little scraps of paper with ideas on them that I have jotted down whenever they occurred to me. I look them over to see if any of them click. If not, I try brainstorming, writing possible lead-in sentences to a gag. If nothing seems to be working, I hop in my truck and go for a drive. Quite often that's when an idea comes to me."