Life of a cartoonist

An inside look at the life of local artist Joel Duggan

Joel Duggan has been drawing cartoons since before he was a teenager.

Duggan’s father introduced him to political cartoons at a young age; despite being too young to understand the jokes, knowing that someone was getting paid to draw cartoons was a life-changing revelation.

Around the age of 12, he took an interest in the “behind the scenes” featurettes that would air after animated movies on the Disney Channel. These clips would show how animators drew characters and made them move.

“Between that and a couple of how to books, I thought, you know, this is possible,” he says. “This is something that I could end up doing.”

Fast-forward to today and Duggan is an independent cartoonist, illustrator, publisher, and podcaster. He lives and works in his hometown of Dartmouth, NS. Working independently allows Duggan to enjoy all the rewards of being his own boss, such as two-hour lunch breaks and the freedom to personalize his schedule.

Duggan gets up at seven or eight every morning. He fixes breakfast and reads the newspaper, making sure to be in the studio by nine. Despite having the luxury of setting his own schedule, he maintains regular business hours to keep work flowing smoothly. Many of his clients are other businesses. By keeping a nine to five schedule Duggan maintains access to clients who also operate during regular work hours.

Duggan uses his mornings to complete tasks such as replying to emails. He jokes that dealing with such tasks are often easiest in the morning, after three cups of coffee.

Once the mundane details are complete, Duggan rewards himself with a lunch break. Two hours allows him time to eat and workout before immersing himself in his illustrations.

He regards the hours of two to six p.m. as the most productive part of his day. Having exhausted all potential distractions, this is when his ideas come to life.

Just because he works during regular business hours, doesn’t mean Duggan isn’t burning the midnight oil. In addition to working all afternoon, he often finds himself having a late supper before returning to the studio between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. This time is usually dedicated to completing the more repetitive tasks, such as inking finished cartoons and adding color. Duggan says it’s a long day, but having the work spread out helps.

“Not everywhere that you work do you get a two-hour lunch.”

Duggan graduated from Mount Allison University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts before spending a year studying animation at a private college.

He’s attended Hal-Con several times as both a vendor and a guest. During his visits as a guest, he’s taken part in panels for cartooning, fan art, and podcasting.

Since his first appearance at Hal-Con, Duggan has continued to attend conventions throughout the Maritimes. He sees conventions as a great way to meet people, from aspiring cartoonists, to artists he admires.

Despite social media drawing positive feedback about his work, Duggan enjoys conventions because they allow him the opportunity to watch people connect with his work. He cites this as one of the most rewarding parts of his career.

“It’s not so much the art, although people appreciate it. It’s the story and the connection of saying something that people are identifying with.”

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Anastasia Payne

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