Ask a Cartoonist: Drawing Animals

By Tea Fougner

I’ve always loved cartoons about animals, and how cartoonists use animals to get to the essence of humanity. We all have animals that we love in our lives, and we can see ourselves in so much of what they do.  And animals depicted as characters in their own right, with feelings, personalities, and language, are a time-honored tradition of cartooning. 

This week, I asked our cartoonists to talk about the animals they enjoy drawing most. 

I like to use frogs and cats in my Zippy strip because it isn’t much of a stretch to turn them into people.


–Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead

I love drawing dogs because there is no way to draw them wrong– there’s so much variety that any shape and size works!

–Hilary Price

Working for Hank was like working at the Disney studios. He made model sheets for every character, including the animals….even Easter Bunnies and Teddy Bears.   lol!  

–Ron Ferdinand, Dennis the Menace

It’s much more fun drawing cartoon animals than people. The downside is that some readers get confused (“How come that cat can talk and the other one only meows? … “How can a bird have a pet parrot?!” … “How can a dog be married to a chicken?!?!”). Generally, cartoon characters exist in their own world, free of real-world “reality.” I tend to think of it this way . . . if a cartoon animal wears clothes, he’s really just a human in an animal body (think Mickey Mouse or Cosmo Fishhawk in “SHOE”). If they don’t wear clothes, they are, well, animals (Pluto or Daisy in “BLONDIE”). If they don’t wear clothes but act very human-like they’re, well, nudists, I suppose (can’t think of any examples for that one).

— Gary Brookins, Shoe and Pluggers

There’s nothing like a wooly mammoth.

–Alex Hallatt, Arctic Circle

Speak of the devil, I drew six elephant strips last week. The punch line for this one is pretty obvious.

–Bud Grace, The Piranha Club

I don’t know if this counts as an animal, but I’ve learned that I love drawing cartoon dragons. See this past Sunday’s strip.

–Terri Libenson, The Pajama Diaries

I like drawing all animals, but if I had to pick a favorite, I’d have to say I like drawing monkeys best. Probably due to the fact that we had a pet monkey when we were growing up. He was called — what else? — Chi-Chi.

Here’s an old photo of “Cheech” with my sister Jane around 1975 (…Jane’s the one with the barrette).  Some considered Chi-Chi the “6th Parker brother.”

Here’s a Dustin Sunday that was fun to draw, and look, a monkey! (I really like the cat in the goldfish bowl.) Monkeys/apes appeared in a number of my editorial cartoons as well.

–Jeff Parker, Dustin

In this photo from one of my Snuffy Smith Chalk Talks I am drawing Snuffy’s dog, Ol’ Bullet.  When it comes to drawing animals, I definitely like drawing dogs the best!

–John Rose, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith

Anything bovine as Cowguy has been my mascot character since attending the Joe Kubert school back in the 80s.


–Jim Keefe, Flash Gordon and Sally Forth