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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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