A cartoonist creates drawings used in political commentary, comic strips and animated features. Cartoonists can also illustrate user manuals, installation guides and other texts. Many cartoonists are freelance workers who use a portfolio to solicit work and establish contacts with prospective employers. Job security can vary, depending on the cartoonist's level of skill and established reputation. It might be difficult to break into the market without professional contacts and references.
Like other artists, some cartoonists are self-taught. They might start drawing at an early age and can begin developing a specific tone and style as well as an area of interest. A cartoonist might turn to developing editorial or political cartoons, for example, or might have an interest in illustrating textbooks. With practice and experience, it is possible for a cartoonist to build up a portfolio of examples that showcase his or her skill, style and areas of interest. It might take several years for a cartoonist to build up enough clients to have a stable source of income from cartooning.
Other cartoonists might attend a formal training program. Art school or an art degree can expose a cartoonist to numerous artistic styles and might help with the development of industry connections. Some art students take advantages of internships and other employment opportunities to start work while in school. A degree can be helpful to get a foot in the door with some jobs, but in others, the primary concern is the portfolio.
Many cartoonists work at home and maintain their own studio and working hours. They might accept commissions for pieces in addition to developing work on spec and submitting it to publications that might be interested. Cartoonists also can work on full-length books and series strips rather than individual cartoons. Syndicated cartoonists enjoy stable job security because they need to turn in strips on a regular basis for their employers, and they typically retain employment for an indefinite period of time, as long as members of the public continue to read their work.
It also is possible for a cartoonist to work in an office environment. Publishing houses that have an interest in cartoons might maintain a cartooning staff, as do production companies that make animated films. Office work requires more regular hours but might provide job stability and benefits. Other cartoonists might work for art schools and other education programs, teaching skills to the next generation and helping other cartoonists hone their craft, develop portfolios and establish themselves.