Cartooning: Philosophy & Practice

Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning Philosophy and Practice is published by Yale University Press. Brunetti combines a lovely spare drawing style with an occasionally overwrought writing style. I do dearly love this little book, but at times find his writing style infuriating.


Brunetti’s prose slips into and out of quotation marks, parenthesis, often for no clear reason. I felt I was hearing a “sermon” and the minister (randomly) switched to a parrot’s “voice” every now and “then.” I am exaggerating slightly. Here is an actual sentence from Brunetti’s introduction:

With writing, I do not give the “form” any thought at all, since writing comes more naturally then drawing for me (I am a windbag by nature) and I could not a adopt a “style” even if I tried; however, with drawing, I still feel that I am confusedly “building” something by trial and error.

Brunetti’s illustrations, on the other hand, are a clean and spare. He has drawn for the New York Times, The New Yorker, and even for Scooby-Doo. He edited a “scholarly” (now, he’s got me doing it!) two-volume anthology of the modern masters of comics for Yale Press.

2010 cover © Ivan Brunetti,  New Yorker.
2010 cover © Ivan Brunetti, New Yorker.

Cartooning Philosophy and Practice is a worthwhile text for a comics class at the high school or college level. It is the winner of the 2012 Will Eisner Award in the best book in the Academic category.

The text reviewed here last week Drawing Words/Writing Pictures is a much bigger, more comprehensive book and includes work from lots of artists. Brunetti’s Cartooning is a pocket-sized book that is illustrated exclusively with his own drawings. Comparing the two volumes is like comparing a Hummer limo to a Fiat.

From the YouTube video, link below © Ivan Brunetti
From the YouTube video, (link below) © Ivan Brunetti 2012

If I had to pick one cartooning book to smuggle into a prison or carry on a road trip it would be Brunetti’s. His idiosyncratic voice either grows on you, or it doesn’t. (Ok, it grew on me.) His lessons are clear and good. To get a better idea of his style visit the Yale Press page where Brunetti shares one of his cartooning exercises in a brief video.

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