James Foley’s top tips for budding cartoonists

Behind every successful creator is a first story, a first line, a first drawing. James Foley’s passion for art started young, with a step-by-step drawing of Bart Simpson and some ‘public murals’ on and underneath the tables of his childhood home. These days, James writes and illustrates for a living, and regularly presents to schoolkids and encourages them to get stuck into their art. This month James took a few moments to share his top tips for getting into (and staying into) cartooning.

How did James first get into cartooning?

‘I remember an older kid on my street teaching me how to draw Bart Simpson. He showed me step by step how to draw the character, using basic shapes. I was amazed, and I went home and practised … and practised … and practised.

‘I got books out from the library on how to draw. My parents got me books about drawing for birthdays and Christmases. I practised … and practised … and practised some more.

‘I also kept sketchbooks, and did all my practice drawings in them. I read lots of comics and picture books. Throughout grade six and seven I started making my first picture books and comic strips. I was lucky that I had teachers and parents who supported my creativity. It’s important to find people who encourage you and help you nurture your talent. It’s also important to learn to feel the difference between supportive feedback, and nasty generalised criticism. Good feedback will help you to get better, whereas nasty criticism will make you want to give up.’

So, what does James suggest for the transition between the first sketch and a fully-fledged career? Read on to find out!

James Foley’s top three cartooning tips

  1. Read as many books as you can on how to draw. Find them at your local bookshop, library or school library.
  2. Watch drawing tutorials on YouTube.
  3. Keep a sketchbook where you do all your practice drawings – and don’t throw them out!

Exclusive bonus fourth tip

Make sure you have fun with it. Your drawings don’t have to be perfect; just focus on having fun.

Exclusive bonus fifth tip

Download a copy of the Dungzilla drawing activity. Pick any old object/person/furry friend and zilla-fy it!


James is an in-demand school presenter around Australia. To book him for your school go to head on over to our author bookings page. In the meantime, you can meet James at the Criminally Good Great Big Book Read at Fremantle Arts Centre in November, where he’ll be reading from his latest book, Dungzilla.

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