Interview with Dan Rosandich, Freelance Cartoonist

February 18, 2005

    The work of successful freelance cartoonist Dan Rosandich makes us smile and giggle from the pages of popular and prominent magazines, web sites and books. Reader's Digest, Woman's World, Saturday Evening Post, a long list of book publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and so many more, feature this inspiring cartoonist's delightful work.

    Dan generously gave his time to answer a few questions for The Cartoonists. (Actually, more than a few questions....) His details and professional advice about working in the cartooning field are enlightening and fascinating.

Now, let's meet Rosandich, Freelance Cartoonist:

When and where were you born, Dan?

    July 21, 1957 in Detroit, Michigan (Robin Williams also born July 21st)

What type of work did your parents do?

   My mom is retired from motel housekeeping and my dad passed away unexpectedly last summer. He worked at a paper mill.

Are other members of your family creative?

   No, and I realize that is unusual although I always remember my grandma was sketching women's faces on scrap paper

When did you start cartooning?

    At around age 5, I recall being able to make my aunt Pearl and her husband Ed laugh when I could draw animals like elephants etc. on pieces of paper. I also drew my own trains and did the engine on one single piece of paper, a boxcar on another, a flatcar on another etc. and a caboose, then lined them all up on the floor like it was a train going somewhere...I guess I was always enthralled by trains. From that early age, I don't recall ever stopping drawing or leaving pencils or pens alone. Oddly enough, I was never the child who drew on walls...I didn't begin doing that until I started entering adulthood.

Was cartooning your career goal?

    Yes, in some way, I knew I wanted to rely on drawing as my livelihood and planned on cartooning in some specific way to carry me through life but wasn't sure how I would work it

Did you study art in school or start down another path?

    I never studied art per se but was very interested in the actual "creative process", in essence, how putting one single line on paper, then connecting it to another coinciding line helped to form a visual & recognizable form. It always interested me and I recall browsing through books of old paintings (not just cartoons or funny pictures) but any specific type of artistically created visual piece. I think having a deep interest in the creative process itself, in that way, will help someone who is creative get a handle on whether or not they're cut out to be an artist, cartoonist or whatever you decide to take up in the art world.

How did you get your start in freelance work?

    By simply creating & submitting gag panel cartoons to a targeted magazine editor

Did you have other jobs to support yourself?

    Actually no, I've chosen this profession as my livelihood.

Do you recall your first cartoon successes?

    It might be a beaten down story, but I said to myself if one of my first attempts doesn't sell, then I'll know I'm not cut out to be a cartoonist. I focused on one of the most general forms of cartooning & that's "freelancing" whereby you simply mail a selection of your best work to a targeted magazine. In the mid 70's, there was a lot of competition in this particular genre and I wasn't sure whether or not my "style" was perfected, whether or not the editor would like my work or even think what I sent would be funny.

    None-the-less, I chose Mechanix Illustrated which has since suspended publication but at the time was a well known magazine. I sent in 10 cartoons to the editor and a couple weeks later to my big surprise the editor (Dick Barnett) accepted one. I was elated & immediately knew I could do more work like this and do it with consistency.

Dan, how do you create your cartoons?

    I create my work using simple techniques. Basically pen & ink on paper. I started using camel hair brushes for my line work, then graduated to using a Speedball B-6, also mixing in markers, Hunt Crowquill pen tips and have also tried Hunt Globe Bowl pointed tips.

Do you prefer to work by hand or computer?

    Definitely by hand but colorize on the computer. I honestly have to say if one is truly artistic; the hand technique will never be replaced or duplicated in any technological form.

Is there a favourite pen or type of pencil you use?

    I noticed other cartoonists kept talking about technical pens and one in particular...the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph, which is what I now use and have used for many, many years. The nice thing is you aren't constantly dipping into the inkwell, yet that particular pen provides a nice "juicy" line to the work when inking in penciled roughs. The pens can be equipped with a two-inch ink reservoir which is also nice and you're not always having to refill as much. Overall, tech pens like the Rapidograph are highly recommended and at the current time, I can't see using any other pen.

Do you use particular paper or board?

    I still work in the same format I wave worked in for the last 26 (or more?!) years and that is with a standard 8 1/2 X 11 inch piece of typing paper. I used Bristol board before, but it's too heavy and your typical 20 lb. cotton fiber typing paper still offers a nice backing to a pen line.

Do you have assistants or do family members help out?

    No, I don't have any assistants, I am pretty much the "chief cook & bottle washer", although it would be something I should consider because it does get a bit time consuming trying to be not only creative and then run through the entire gamut of bookkeeping, making follow-up calls, cataloging specific images and recording those, when they are submitted to who, when and what date etc. it can get very heavy at times but then in a way, I know in my mind that I have "complete control"...and I'm not saying that from being on some sort of power-trip, it's just that I know what's out there, where a certain record book is and so forth. I think to hire a secretary now would take more time out to show her all the stuff I do, what is to be done etc. so I am always looking at time being a factor.

You have a huge body of hilarious work to your credit, Dan. How do you keep continually inspired?

    That's probably the trickiest question there is. I have always had a hard time putting my finger on what inspiration really is but I really think you need to be "creative" at heart. It has to be something inherent and within you from the time you were born or realized you had some sort of "artistic destiny". Having said that, I think you will always be inspired and not have to really look for it. Inspiration is always around us as part of the reality we live in. Without being too philosophical, it's a bit like each of our respective karmas so-to-speak. Aside from that, people give me inspiration & ideas!

Are there many pitfalls to freelance cartooning?

    Not really! If you choose this as your path & stay focused on certain aspects of cartooning, you can pretty much achieve specific things along the way but personally, I see TIME as a basic pitfall...if you freelance in this business, and spread yourself too thin and start acquiring lots of clients, it can be a bit daunting. You need to segment your time to focus creatively for each respective client; especially your contract clients who are your bread & butter.

    Deadlines come into play with these contract clients that's somewhat symbiotic where time & deadlines go hand in hand. Of course you have your manmade pitfalls like booze & women and there have been a few horror stories along the way I have heard but overall if you stay focused in this, you can do a lot of things that are worth while.

Are there advantages?

    There are a lot of advantages and I think the biggest one is the satisfaction of being your own boss and setting your own course. I tried punching clocks but when you know in the back of your mind you need to get up at a certain time and eventually someone will be telling you "This needs to be done, or...." just didn't appeal to me. Especially when I couldn't wait to grab a pen & start drawing later!

How do you promote your work, Dan?

    Promotion & cartooning are pretty much one & the same. You need to do it! It's a prerequisite. In order to achieve any success in this business, you have to figure out a good promotional program. I used to have printers print up 1000 brochures at a time for me with all kinds of samples of my previously published work, along with my phone number & fax number, then buy preprinted labels with addresses of ad agencies, magazine editors etc. Then mail them all out. It can get costly doing that though.

    I have also purchased ad space in specialized artist directories and these directories are sent annually to 25,000 recipients like art directors at ad agencies, PR firms, book publishers, magazine publishers, corporations and so on. One year I picked out 3 of these directories to advertise myself in and spent just over ten thousand dollars to promote the availability of my work. It's a bit scary to find yourself pushing that much money out in one day to 3 various sources in the hopes you will get some work but at times you need to take risks & gambles. Of course, that was all done on a credit card basis & needless to say, that helped boost my credit ratings with the big three and etched my name permanently on the mailing directories of credit card companies!

Have you reached your goals in cartooning?

    In a way, yes. Just to be actively creating work that sells on a consistent basis is pretty much the goal I've attained. If new opportunities present themselves, I'll definitely pursue them. When I first started cartooning, getting a syndicated comic strip was considered the ultimate but in this technological age, there really aren’t any ultimatums anymore because you never know what is around that next curve.

Thank you very much, Dan, for taking time from your busy day to give us a glimpse into the life of a freelance cartoonist.

Visit Dan's website for more information about the cartoonist and his work. In the market for some cartoons? Check out Dan's catalogues for hilarious 'toons on all kinds of topics.

Dan Rosandich

Dan Rosandich's Cartooning Advice:

© Susanna McLeod 2005  
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on