Alison Beere is a cartoonist artist. She teaches beginner to intermediate cartooning classes online and draws commissions for selected authors and clients.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong Alison. How did you discover your love of cartooning?
I wasn’t always a cartoonist!
I used to be (well, still could be if I chose) a Chartered Accountant. I took a career break to be with my kids and started a web business, a travel portal where I wrote about my hometown which is Cape Town in South Africa. As part of my metaphorical travels learning about the Internet I got involved in an online marketing community run by a former cartoonist.
To be honest, I was one of those who couldn’t draw even in Kindergarten. I hadn’t picked up so much as a coloured crayon since primary school. So why did I ever sign up to learn to cartoon?
Well, I wanted to use ‘the other side’ of my brain. And have some fun. And hey, we all know that cartoons are hardly art critic territory, so that made the Big Scary Leap possible even to an introvert, risk-averse accountant.
Another compelling reason was probably that my mentor doesn’t believe in inborn talent. “Talent is skill,” he says, “and skill is built through one heck of a lot of practice, and feedback from the right teacher.”
Turns out he was right.
Carrie: Where do you get ideas for content?
I am always taking courses, so assignments keep me busy! Apart from that, I try to keep a visual diary where I cartoon snippets out of daily life – little things that would otherwise be forgotten, but which bring great joy when I go back through the pages.
“I try to keep a visual diary where I cartoon snippets out of daily life…” (Click to Tweet)
Carrie: Why did you start offering cartooning classes online?
The reason was quite selfish really – I love seeing people realise that they can really draw, and draw well. The idea of inborn talent is deeply rooted in most people, so it feels a bit like pulling a rabbit out of a hat! I also get a kick out of seeing the benefit they get from looking for the light side of their lives, as they cartoon their way through good days and not-so-good ones.
Having learned online myself, I knew it was an effective way of doing it and that it was very flexible in terms of time a space. The methodology we use is inspired by reading recent research into neuroplasticity (of all things!) and it’s amazingly effective.
Carrie: Advice for people who are learning a new skill?
Put in daily practice of at least 15 minutes. You will be astounded at the progress you can make if you sustain that for 3 months. Our students routinely feel comfortable to publish their custom characters within 3-6 months of starting to draw from scratch – just by committing to daily practice.
“You will be astounded at the progress you can make if you sustain THIS for 3 months.” (Click to Tweet)
Carrie: How do your interests outside of art fuel your artwork?
I am fascinated by how people learn and develop, so that helps my teaching. live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, which is very inspiring. And looking at life through the cartooning lens is mentally uplifting, so I am always looking for the humour in happenings that make up my family routine, and trying to draw and paint them.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
I find something that inspires me and I use that as a jumping off point. So it might be a children’s book which contains beautiful illustrations, or it might be by typing something into Google images and going from there. I give myself permission to be content with just ‘making a mark’ rather than striving for something amazing every time. Simply putting pencil to paper regularly is always my priority.
Carrie: What do you wish you knew when you started that you now know about your creative process?
I didn’t have a recognisable creative process when I started because I hadn’t engaged in ‘creative pursuits’ since I was a child. So in that sense everything I have learned about myself in this mode is recent.
I’m grateful that I’ve learned the power of simply showing up and doing something – anything. It’s like a fisherman with many baited hooks in the water – the more you do, the more likely you are to produce something that you find exceptionally rewarding.
One of the most powerful things I’ve learned is that progress is not linear. You show up day after day and put in the practice, and see little improvement. And then suddenly your work leaps to a new level of competence.
“One of the most powerful things I’ve learned is that progress is not linear.” (Click to Tweet)
Carrie: How do you take risk in your art?
I’m not sure that I do, beyond pushing the technical envelope of what I know I am capable of! So I try to work at the edge of my level of skill, to be sure that I am always taking new ground and growing. I don’t aspire to create great art, although I am in full awe of great cartoonists and I do believe cartooning is an art form.
Carrie: What has been one of your more unique commission opportunities as a cartoonist?
I love doing what I call “Love you Gran(Ma) commissions. This are teeny little sketches designed to delight a mother or grandmother’s heart. So it might be sketch impression of them in cartoon-y form, or it might be a child or grandchild or pet.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
I think my most important resource is constant exposure to many illustrations: books and the internet. I am always looking out for work that I love, and feeding it into my creative process.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
I used to think that creativity only had to do with arts and crafts – clearly I wasn’t doing much thinking about it at all! Nowadays I would say I agree with Sir Ken Robinson that “creativity is putting your imagination to work” and that you can be creative in any field at all.
For me personally, creativity is found in exploring possibilities.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Can you commit to 15 minutes of daily creativity practice? Where can you put this in your day? Announce and commit to this activity starting today. Share it with us in the comments below.
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Thanks for contacting me for the interview, Carrie! It was fun to answer your questions. I have been browsing your blog and enjoying some of the other posts… particularly your ‘Soapbox’ here: Is Art a Skill or a Talent? … I totally agree that referring to people’s ‘talent’ is dismissive of the hard work they have put in to master the skills they exercise.
Only once you have control can you create intentionally. Or maybe that’s just my opinion 😉
Alison, I’m grateful for your time! Thank you for sharing your great ideas with Artist Think. I had great fun “talking” to you, and it’s great connecting with like minds, especially those who stand on my soapbox with me! 😉
Thanks to Carrie and Alison I like taking classes that makes me happy but my family does not understand that all that I’m learning makes me happy.
Thank you for sharing! Family can mean well, but not always understand our creative hopes and dreams. All you can do is honor your love of learning by protecting your dreams and being careful about how much you share with family. Thank you for joining us both here on Artist Think. 🙂
I really enjoyed reading this interview. As Alison says talent is a skill that can be learned with lots of practice. I also work with numbers for my day job, so I love being creative in my free time. I like to try carving out 15 minutes a day for a sketch. At present I tend to wait with creating till the weekend and then spend quite a while creating, sketching and putting colour with my sketch as I love lots of bright colours. But I think doing something regularly would be more beneficial. I hope I am able to make this commitment with myself to just draw every day without colour. I think as soon as you start adding colour to a sketch it starts to take up more time. I like to set the timer and see what I can sketch in 15 minutes a day.
Angelique I also hope you can try out a little art everyday and see what happens. It is transformative for me when I stick to it. When I don’t know what to do I draw mandalas. I don’t add color to them, I just draw and doodle. It makes me happy 🙂 I do think having a dedicated chunk of time for one’s art is quite a gift as well. Find what works best for you and run with it. Thanks for reading!