I draw a comic panel called Off the Mark.
When I was a kid, if you had told me I would be drawing cartoons for a living, I wouldn't have believed you. I mean, I'm supposed to believe some spooky stranger?
I was a big fan of Peanuts, MAD Magazine and Wacky Packages. If you don't know what Wacky Packages are, look them up. They are product-parody-collector-sticker-cards produced by Topps. They came before Garbage Pail Kids. Here is one I drew for fun when I was about 12 or 13.
(Now that I am an adult, I get to design Wacky Packages for real. I don't paint the finals, but I create the concepts and they buy them and have them painted. Like this one.)
When The Far Side showed up, that changed everything. That was the type of humor I felt was right for me. I drew a bunch of gags, to make sure I could keep it up, then showed the strongest ones to a local editor. She offered to pay me to publish them once a week. I was lucky to have that early success. It was the confidence boost I needed to stick with it.
This is the first Off the Mark cartoon ever published -- from 1987.
That Nails cartoon soon became a T-shirt design that appeared in catalogs. It made good money and I got BIG EYES. I figured if I could get a few more T-shirts into these catalogs, I could clean up. Rake it in. Live the life of Riley. But, of course, no other T-shirt design performed like that Nails design. That was a lesson and I don't take any success for granted.
Anyway, I soon started self-syndicating Off the Mark to other weekly papers. My client list slowly grew and I went daily in 1991 and added a Sunday in 1995. In 2002, Off the Mark was picked up by United Media, and then went Universal Uclick in 2011.
I decided to continue to make cartoons about inanimate objects and always make sure I create at least one a month. Other subjects I really enjoy tackling are cats and dogs. In real life, they enjoy tackling me. We have four cats and a dog, so there's no shortage of ideas. Or fur.
I have always enjoyed parodying other cartoon characters. As a kid, I remember drawing Charlie Brown looking back as he ran with his kite, all excited to finally get it in the air, not realizing he was running off a cliff. I also remember having Fred Flintstone devour Barney Rubble for some reason. I've carried that parody mentality to Off the Mark.
Technology is a fantastic place to get new ideas because it's always changing. The problem with that, though, is a cartoon can become obsolete quickly. Computers no longer look like this.
It can be challenging working with constant deadlines, but I don't think I'd get anything done without them. In fact, I'm writing this at the very last minute. Maybe I'll end up staying up until 3 a.m. to get the rest of my work done.
Single-panel cartoons can be versatile in both subject matter and application. For subject matter, I can pretty much draw whatever ideas I come up with (within the bounds of taste). For application, they work well on things besides newspapers … greeting cards, day-to-day calendars, books, newsletters, presentations, etc., so my income is diversified.
My freelance work varies. I did a cartoon for Billboard magazine for a few years, and that led to me working with the Dixie Chicks. I periodically work on a project for the military called That Guy, which aims to discourage binge drinking. I get to draw urine and vomit and other things I secretly like to draw but have a hard time working in to my cartoon since it appears in family newspapers.
I draw my cartoons with Rapidograph pens and Micron markers on Bristol board. Before that, I pencil and erase a lot. Then I scan the drawings into Photoshop.
My wife, Lynn, and I run the offthemark.com cartoon site. The cartoons are broken up by category and there's an awesome search engine. Come on by and look at all 8,000 cartoons and feel free to critique each and every one for me.
Being a cartoonist still feels like a dream I'm supposed to wake up from. The National Cartoonists Society awarded Off the Mark "Best in Newspaper Panels" in 2008 and 2011, and I was also honored with "Best Greeting Cards" in 2013. When I was a kid, if you had told me …