Creating Classic Editorial Cartoon Characters

Editorial cartooning has classic and genre-specific characters that editorial cartoonists regularly use as metaphors and symbols. These classic characters are easily recognizable and have become American icons. They include the symbols for the Republican and Democratic parties, along with Uncle Sam, just to name a few. This section looks at some of these characters in more detail and the step-by-step process to creating them.

The Republican Party elephant

The elephant was officially adopted as the mascot of the Republican Party several years after Thomas Nast (see the sidebar "Thomas Nast: The father of American caricature") drew the first editorial cartoon portraying the Democrats and Republicans in their now familiar animal skins in the mid 1880s.

When drawing your Republican elephant, remember these common traits:

✓ Large body and accurate elephant features

✓ Usually dressed in dark, pin-striped suit

✓ Usually portrayed as pro-military and conservative on social issues. When drawing the elephant, keep these traits in mind and follow these steps:

1. Sketch a large circle for the body, sketch a smaller circle for the head above it, and draw the center guidelines in both circles, as in Figure 11-7.

The elephant is going to have a nice, wide midsection, so don't be afraid to go big on the belly!

2. Sketch the elephant's arms and legs on each side of the large wide torso area (refer to Figure 11-7).

To draw the arms, use the figure as reference and draw the right arm so that it falls by his side and the left arm and hand in a position that shows he's holding something. To add legs, draw them going straight down from the bottom of the torso area with his shoes pointing to the left. In this pose, the elephant is facing slightly to his left. His arms and legs are short and stocky compared to the large round torso. This adds a sense of bulkiness that often represents big corporate interests or big money when portrayed in cartoons.

3. Draw the elephant's facial features, large massive ears, and long iconic trunk (see Figure 11-8).

The trunk and tusks are long and dominate the center of his facial features. The other dominant features are his ears, which are large and slightly squared-shaped. Elephants have small eyes by comparison, and he can also look good in small wire glasses. His mouth is located beneath his trunk and therefore isn't visible.

4. Complete the details on his suit and tie, like Figure 11-9 shows.

You can personalize your own elephant drawing by coming up with any details that appeal to you and mesh with your character's personality. In my figure, he's wearing a power pin-striped suit and tie. Adding suspenders and cuff links is also a nice touch. Finish off by completing his foot wear, which are slip-on loafers, of course!

Suspenders Cartoon

Figure 11-8:

This elephant looks like he'll never forget!

Figure 11-8:

This elephant looks like he'll never forget!

Suspenders Wearing Cartoon Character

Figure 11-9:

This elephant looks ready to run for office.

Figure 11-9:

This elephant looks ready to run for office.

Elephant Suit

The Democratic Party donkey

On the left side of the aisle, you find the other major party in the U.S. — the Democrats. The recognized symbol for this party is the donkey. When you draw this symbol, keep the following few traits in mind:

✓ Long donkey ears and accurate donkey features

✓ Wears a suit, but often shown without a jacket, for a more casual, blue-collar attitude

✓ Usually portrayed as pro-big government and liberal on social issues

When drawing the Democratic donkey, keep those traits in mind and follow these steps:

1. Sketch the main part of the donkey's body as a medium-sized vertical oval shape, sketch a smaller horizontal oval above it for the head, and then draw the center guidelines in both, like in Figure 11-10.

2. Sketch the donkey's arms and legs on each side of his narrow torso.

Figure 11-10:

Start your donkey sketch with two oval shapes and center guidelines.

Figure 11-10:

Start your donkey sketch with two oval shapes and center guidelines.

Cartoon Right Foot

To do so, use Figure 11-10 as a reference and draw his arms so that they appear in an upward lifting motion. His right arm is totally visible while his left arm is partially hidden by his body and his right arm. To draw his right leg, make two lines slightly bent at the knee and draw the foot/ shoe so that it faces to the right. His left leg is in a bent and raised position, so his knee is high and comes up past the elbow on his right arm. In this pose, the donkey is facing to his left and appears to be juggling some balls.

3. Draw the donkey's long face and ears and that great jackass smile (see Figure 11-11).

To do so, draw his nose snout so that is comes out past his stomach. His ears are long and point straight up and are turned to the right. The donkey's head is slightly turned to his left, so you see all his facial features from the right. His eyes are small and his snout is long, and he's got a wide smile.

4. Add his shirt and tie (see Figure 11-12).

Adding the final details is a great way to personalize your own donkey. To do so, add any details that strike you as amusing. In my drawing, he's ditched his jacket and his shirtsleeves are rolled up, giving him that "can do anything" look. Including juggling!

Blue Cartoon Character With Long Snout

Figure 11-12:

This guy is truly a donkey of the people!

Figure 11-12:

This guy is truly a donkey of the people!

Blue Cartoon Character With Long Snout

Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam is the alter ego and iconic representative of the United States, with the first images of Uncle Sam dating all the way back to the War of 1812. He's often depicted as a tall, lanky man with white hair, dressed in clothing that resembles the U.S. flag. Most of the time he wears a blue coat, red-and-white-striped trousers, and a top hat with red and white stripes and white stars on a blue band.

The following are a few traits common to Uncle Sam:

✓ Strong, resilient attitude

✓ Recognizable costume, almost like a superhero

When drawing Uncle Sam, keep those traits in mind and follow these steps:

1. Sketch the long, lanky body as a long vertical oval, sketch a smaller circle above it for the head, and then draw the center guidelines in both, as shown in Figure 11-13.

Figure 11-13:

Begin Uncle Sam with a long vertical oval and center guidelines.

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