Cathy Thorne, Creator of Everyday People

May 12, 2006

    “Yes, that is just how I feel” is what fans say about Cathy Thorne’s comic, “Everyday People”. More than a good giggle, her cartoons are acknowledgments of the feelings we all may have at one time or another. Confusion, aggravation, happiness… “Everyday People” hits the mark. With an abundance of creative talents at her disposal, Cathy Thorne chose cartooning as her medium, making a place for herself in cards, magazines, newspapers and books. A comic panel of exquisite simplicity, "Everyday People" focuses on the joys and struggles women often encounter. Cathy is receiving applause from fans and earning recognition for her subtle but sharp wit and uncomplicated, clean drawing.

    In a recent email interview with The Cartoonists, Cathy spoke about becoming a professional cartoonist, the business aspects and included some significant advice that every new cartoonist needs to consider before taking the leap.

    Cathy, have you always been artistic and creative?

    Personally, yes. Professionally, no. I took quite a detour in my 20’s; mostly I waitressed, and retailed, your typical young-adult-trying-to-find-herself stuff.

Was it your childhood dream to become a cartoonist or did you have other ideals?

I had many aspirations, mostly in the creative fields: architecture, advertising, cartooning, novel writing, anthropology, rock star, musician, teacher, movie director, actor, the list goes on and on … anytime I enjoyed something, I decided I wanted to create that thing.  I had very ambitious fantasies … still do.

What was your life like before becoming a cartoonist? Were you working in a different creative field? 

I was a waitress, wondering what on earth I was going to do with myself that wouldn’t make me want to throw myself off a cliff before every shift. I also dabbled in the craft jewelry market. I was getting to be quite successful, but I realized that if I continued, I would be hunched over my table gluing leather to fimo and getting high off the fumes for 8 hours a day. This is when I decided to return to school to study art.

cathy thorne 1a

Did you study art? If so, which school did you attend? Was cartooning and drawing your focus or was it another form of art? 

I studied fine and commercial art at The Art Centre in Toronto, where I never managed to find my niche, until three months before graduation when the inspiration for Everyday People simply appeared. It came about quite surprisingly, in that I never drew cartoons before that day, and suddenly there they were! A culmination of my skills and experiences laid out before me, and I no longer wondered what I would do with my life.

Did you hone your humour skills by taking writing courses? 

No, but I study on my own, I observe all humour styles and read what I can.

Did you have a mentor or advice from a cartooning professional?

I hooked up with Rina Piccolo (one of Six Chix, creator of Tina’s Groove) early in my cartooning career. She was so generous. She shared, and continues to share with me, her experiences in the business. She’s supportive, and always offers a kind word when the business side of cartooning gets me down. She’s also my editor, she takes a look at the cartoons before they reach the final stage, and gives me feedback.

Your cartooning is subtle and charming, and strikes a note of direct, honest humour, Cathy. What inspired you to create Everyday People? 

Everyday People offers me a way to express myself in a clear and concise manner, something that I’m not always able to in my everyday life, where I tend to talk way too much.

Do people recognize themselves in your work?

For most of my life, I thought that I alone thought the way I did; through Everyday People I have learnt that this isn’t the case at all. The number of people that write to tell me how much they relate to my work is astonishing. I appreciate every email, and am thrilled to be able to touch so many lives.

Your artistic style is very individual – did you struggle to find that style or was it natural to you? 

It came naturally to me, in fact I have been drawing in this style as long as I can remember.

Do you have a philosophy, a mission statement, for Everyday People?

Everyday People offers me an opportunity to remember to laugh at myself, to recognize that we are all the same, and that I always have a choice about how I experience my life.

Regarding the business-side of cartooning, Cathy: Do you treat Everyday People as a business? 

Not the actual cartoons, but creating an audience - that’s business.

Do you have a regular work routine, Cathy?

Sort of, my daughter's at school allday and my son attends nursery school in the mornings, so that’s when I do most of my work. I try to work on a cartoon every day, and I try to promote the work every day too. The ideas come at all times; there is no way for me to schedule that. So, I always have pen and paper at hand.

cathy thorne 2a

Where is your favourite spot to do your work? Is there a studio in your home? 

My office is located at the far right back table of my local coffee house. I have a laptop, and they have a wireless connection! I work so much better when I'm not surrounded by laundry and toys and such. I work from home too, but in spurts, whenever I can squeeze in a moment.

Do you wake up a night and scramble to find pen and paper to write down cartooning ideas? 

Regularly.

How are your cartoons created – pen on Bristol board, by computer, or other methods? Do you have preferred tools, such as pens or markers? 

I draw the cartoons out on regular paper with a mechanical pencil. I trace the drawing onto 8 ½” by 11” acid-free cardstock on top of a light box using Pigma Micron marker pens size 005 to 08. I scan, clean and colour in Photoshop. Very simple.

Are family members or friends involved in your work? 

My husband does some of the heavy lifting/delivering/grunt work. My sister has sat with me at the occasional show where I sell cards. Friends are always very generous with feedback when I ask. I'm also incredibly fortunate to be a part of Mom's bussiness network which allows me to have business meetings while strolling children to the park. My neighbour also happens to be my cartoon copy editor. I have a very supportive community.

Cathy, you have an impressive list of clients, including The Toronto Star, The Sunday Telegraph, The Kansas City Star, just to name a few. How did you get started?

I took a deep breath, made some photocopies, and invested in a few stamps.

Did you find them, or did they find you?

Mostly I find them through the mail, but more and more clients are finding me through search engine searches.

Did you submit large portfolios to get editors’ attention? 

Ten to 15 cartoons usually does the trick. At first I just used photocopies. Now I use e-mails. I don't think anyone even opens their mail anymore. Also, the less paper, the better

Did you receive an immediate response from editors or did it take trial and error to get attention?

I was very lucky. The Toronto Star picked Everyday People up right away, and they paid very well. So, my initial response was so spectacular, my confidence was so up, that it gave me the perseverance I needed to get out there and deal with rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection … 

Do you market your work on a steady basis? 

Yes. I try to do something every day. Although, I try to stay away from personal contact (phone, email) when I’m having a low-self- esteem day.

Do you have an agent?

No. I mailed packages to all the major syndicates and although many responded favourably, none were interested in a weekly cartoon.

Are you able to make a living at cartooning or is that in the future?

I do pretty well considering I only work part-time. I'm able to saty at home with my kids and generate income doing what I love at the same time. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate

Have there been frustrations or a time when you felt you were not getting anywhere with Everyday People? 

Many.

Is there a part of your work that brings you joy?

When I laugh at my own work. When a cartoon is particularly strong. When fans worldwide write to let me know how much they enjoy my work. I love the thrill of the sale too. When I sign up a new newspaper, I get so excited: a new audience, a larger income, it’s so good!

Everyday People is sleek and uncluttered, Cathy. Is your life sleek and uncluttered, too?

Outwardly yes, in my mind, not so much.

Have you reached your goals with Everyday People? Do you have other creative dreams to achieve?

I’m always striving to improve my writing; that’s where the meat of cartooning is as far as I’m concerned. Also, I’d like for Everyday People to be in more papers. I can’t tell you when I’ll be satisfied with the numbers, but it hasn’t happened yet.

What would be your advice to aspiring cartoonists who are yearning for publication?

Make sure your work is good, the writing is strong, and the drawing and words are legible.

Don’t ask your friends, they like you and will look too hard to find the good qualities. Take it out in the real world: sell photocopied cards at craft shows, show them at amateur art shows, make a zine, whatever, just get it out there, and see what the response is.

Find your market. Then if you know it’s good, learn how to be professional and go for it. Hook up with people in the business, learn from them. (The National Cartoonists Society has branches all over the world.)

Have a simple easy-to-read website. Don’t get a bannered site. This is your place of business, not a place for others to advertise.

Always deliver on time.

If you prefer not to handle the business side of things, then keep sending your work to the syndicates.

Are there any other comments you would like to make?

Just a big thank you to my readersfor being on the other side of the screen. Drawing only for myself would not be nearly as fun.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with The Cartoonists, Cathy, for letting us have a glimpse of your life, and for sharing your wisdom and your valuable advice on the business of cartooning. Congratulations on your success and cheers for a bright future for “Everyday People”.

Visit the “Everyday People” website for more cartoons, a list of publications and contact info:
http://www.everydaypeoplecartoons.com/index.html

© Susanna McLeod 2006
TheCartoonists.ca