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Opinion: Tearing a strip off automated online cartoons

October 30, 2013 in Comment, General

Bitstrips @

Bitstrips @

The blog notes with interest the rise of Bitstrips, an app that allows anyone to make clip-art style cartoons featuring themselves.

Billed as “instant comics and cards starring you and your friends”, they are popular for Facebook e-cards and status updates.

We have seen this kind of automation of cartooning skills before. And now, as then, we believe it is a poor substitute for bespoke cartoons created by a professional cartoonist. The software may be clever but it does not produce hand-drawn, unique cartoons.

On the plus side, perhaps it is of little threat to professional cartooning, because as with previous fads the novelty appears to be wearing off quickly.

If you are interested in commissioning real cartoons by real cartoonists, take a look at the portfolios.

Christmas is a time for sharing

December 18, 2012 in Comment, General, News

We are taught that Christmas is a time for sharing and this habit has been institutionalised with the gifts of the social media.

If you will forgive the spirit of “Bah humbug’”, we spotted a revealing story about what social-media sharing can mean for those image makers who choose to use such free services.

The picture-sharing monster Facebook purchased Instagram, a popular and growing image-sharing site, for $375 million earlier this year and has just announced a significant change to its terms for its more than 7 million daily users.

© Len Hawkins @

© Len Hawkins @

There’s a lively online reaction, largely against the changed terms of service, but the proof of this change will be in the future of online picture sharing and Facebook’s attempts to make money from what used to be other people’s pictures.

Scrooge and others say be careful what you share and who you share it with. If you have a view, please do, er, feel free to share it in the comments below.

Updated: 19th December 2012 Instagram/Facebook have responded to the global concern about their change of terms and you can read that response here.

After Gin Lane: Giving it all away

September 6, 2012 in Comment, General

Following From Gin Lane to the Information Superhighway we see that there are cartoonists who are positively embracing this new era of social media and sharing.

Hairy Steve © Steve Bright @

Webcomics and viral cartoons are a couple of the ways that you can effectively give your work away to the web but get paid back by other means. Successful webcomics work on a business model based on the idea that you give away a regularly updated cartoon on your website and build a following of readers who come back day after day. British examples include John Allison‘s Bad Machinery or Jamie Smart‘s Corporate Skull.

© Peter Steiner @

The profit comes from selling merchandise to the more loyal fans – bound compilations, prints, sketches, T-shirts, toys and so forth. Similarly, viral cartoons can drive lots of new readers to your website. How much money can be directly attributed to virals is arguable, although, for example, the well-known New Yorker cartoon “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” is said to have earned its creator, Peter Steiner, more than $50,000.

The website Kickstarter has recently become one of the biggest publishers of comic books in the USA, from independent cartoonists using the crowd-funding model to raise money directly from their fan-base. Here in the UK,‘s very own Adrian Teal (The Gin Lane Gazette) and Steve Bright (Hairy Steve – in collaboration with Jamie Smart) have developed their own crowd-funded projects.

We’ll be considering another aspect of the communication change – After Gin Laneand what it means for cartoonists next week

The cartoonist and the twits

July 17, 2012 in Comment, General

Our man Bill Stott reports:

Well, I tried. Caved in to peer pressure and signed up to Twitter. Did the same with Facebook years ago. Finally managed to un-Facebook myself a while back. At least, I think I did. You can never tell with these things. Joining’s easy. Leaving’s a lot more complicated. A bit like marriage.

So I’m not about to find out how to LEAVE Twitter. I’m just not going to tweet and watch it wither on the vine. Better still, I’m not even going to watch it. Yes, yes, I know that this might be dangerous and that when the revolution explodes I’ll be the only one in our street wondering whose tanks are rolling across next door’s lawn and why my hair is on fire.

Cartoon Twitter © Bill Stott @Procartoonists.orgNo Facebook? No Twitter? How can this be? Am I a monk of austere order? Am I a berk with nothing to say? No, and most of the latter appear to be on Facebook or Twitter anyway. And austere monks? I have no idea what they do with their thumbs.

Let me explain: I have a mobile phone, a humble little grey thing – almost a collector’s item now. Only three people know my number. Why have I got it? It’s in case my car breaks down or some other emergency. What it’s NOT for is “chat”. I do not check it every five minutes to see if anybody’s tried to tell me something underwhelming. I do not feel the need to blunder through shopping malls, head down, thumbs blurring, texting somebody about being in a shopping mall.

And so it was with Twitter. I did actually tweet three or four times. Admittedly, the first one was to say that I thought Twitter was crap and what a pain it was going to be – checking to see if anybody had tweeted back. They didn’t. People like me are beyond the social-network pale. We (I really hope there are others out there) hate the idea of being instantly accessible. We are irritated by tweeters who call themselves “Red Necco” or “Juli”. Its JulIE, OK? Not Judi, or Nikki, or Debbi. And its “gossip”, not “goss”, right?

Come the day my PC can accurately classify incoming tweets as Important, Moderately Important, Mildly Interesting or Vapid, I might take part again (the world will be relieved to know). Until then I shall remain mildly interested in the extreme level of banality achieved in 140 characters.

I like emails. They’re like writing letters. Remember them? When you had to actually WRITE? When you used at least three digits to hold the pen, and a whole handful more to keep the paper from sliding about? OK, my emailing’s of the one finger variety, but I’m not limited to the silly 140-character tweet rule. I can rant on and on, despite knowing full well that the recipient will immediately identify the sender, think, “Oh, its him!” and press “DELETE”

Tea and sympathy or well-meaning advice can be offered to Bill here. You can follow the rest of us, should you be so minded, here.