Back to the Drawing Board…with cartoonist Jenny Campbell


Q&A with Jenny Campbell

In the second of a three-part series, nationally-syndicated cartoonist Jenny Campbell shares the process of developing mascot characters.

Jenny Campbell creates custom cartoon campaigns for clients of Outside the Lines Creative Group, LLC (OTL). The campaigns are fun, innovative and effective – bringing mundane messages about benefits, wellness, safety (and other HR topics) to life with the cartoon characters she develops.

Jenny’s daily and Sunday comic strip, “Flo and Friends”, appears in newspapers across the country, and throughout her career as a cartoonist, she also has illustrated more than 15 children’s books. Through a three-part series of blogs, she responds to questions OTL’s clients have about the cartooning process. This is the second article in the series.

1. If someone wants a concept developed, is it better for you to have the person totally define what they want and give you tight parameters or would you prefer to draw something for the client and then let them suggest tweaks to the character you’ve drawn?

Generally, the way we prefer to work is to work WITH the client. So I guess the answer is somewhere in between. When we’re starting up with a new client, we like to get together with them, throwing around ideas for mascots and what they’d like to see those mascots represent.

Sometimes in the project kickoff meetings, I’ll sketch out ideas as we go, so they can take a look right there on the spot and make suggestions. Once we have the mascots pretty well-formed in our heads we’ll come up with a topics calendar and strategy, identifying from the client down which messages they’d like to convey at which times throughout the year. Then we go back to our respective drawing boards. And using the ideas and suggestions we’ve all come up with together, Denise Reynolds (OTL president) works up a complete strategy and the topics calendar, and I start sketching potential characters. Then we submit the drafts back to the client, and continue the collaboration until everyone’s happy.

Initial sketches of "Floyd" -- one of the main characters in an employee communication cartoon campaign at the Greater Cleveland RTA.

Initial sketches of “Floyd” — one of the main characters in an employee communication cartoon campaign at the Greater Cleveland RTA.

2. What features of a character give away or demonstrate its personality best? Facial expressions, posture, words?

The mother of my partner once said that it always amazed her how I could convey a distinctive expression with just a dot for an eye and an eyebrow cocked in just the right way. And, I have to admit, that IS the most fun I have in cartooning. For me, it’s all about body language and the expressions in the eyes and the mouth.

In college, I took a couple of years of art and then changed my major to journalism. But during those two years of art, by far, my favorite classes were the life drawing classes. I LOVE the way bodies move: animals and people both. And even in my wackiest cartoon characters, I love conveying a mood or a feeling, merely by how my characters are standing, what they’re doing with their limbs and the expressions in their eyes and on their mouths.

Jenny Campbell is the artist behind the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park's mascot -- a river otter named "Ollie."

Jenny Campbell is the artist behind the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s mascot — a river otter named “Ollie.”

3. Do you use the computer to draw your cartoons?

Nope. I don’t actually do any drawing on the computer. All of the artwork is produced the old fashioned way, with a pencil and ink. For OTL clients, I mostly colorize on the computer, but only after the artwork has been sketched in pencil, then scanned and emailed to the client for approval. Once it’s approved, I ink it, erase the pencil, scan it again and then colorize it in layers in Photoshop. Then I send it to the client usually as a jpeg or a tiff.

4. Which medium do you like best? Pencils, pastels, ink, watercolor?

As far as which I LIKE using the best, I’d have to say that I love drawing in pencil, but I also love drawing in ink. And for adding color, watercolor or acrylics are my favorite, although I’ve had some fun with colored pencils, too. But when it comes to my syndicated cartoon strip and the artwork I do for our OTL clients, most of that color is rendered on the computer, in Photoshop, on a graphics tablet. The color is clean and crisp, you can play with patterns and gradations, and it often reproduces much better than traditional media.

Have a question for the cartoonist? Post your questions here or send them to

Curious about how cartoons and cartoon characters can work in your organization? Contact us at or 216-407-4676. Visit our website at Find us on Facebook at


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