My name is Clay Jones. I'm a nationally self-syndicated political cartoonist in the United States. Ask me anything.

Clay Jones
Dec 4, 2017

I am Clay Jones and you can find my work at Claytoonz. My cartoons are syndicated to over 50 newspapers in the United States. My work is often published in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and featured on CNN and MSNBC.

Ask me about writing cartoons, ideas, what I draw with, how to deal with angry readers and confused editors. Ask me about syndication. Ask me why I left a major syndicate to operate my own out of a bedroom. Ask me about cartoons or working for newspapers in general. Ask me anything.

Follow me on Twitter.

Comments are locked

Conversation (86)

In three easy steps and under a minute you could be hosting your own AMA. Join our passionate community of AMA hosts and schedule your own AMA today.

Let's get started!

How long will it take you to create a character and story?

Dec 8, 7:58PM EST0

I drew a new cartoon just about every day. My characters are created for me by the news. It can take several hours or just a few minutes to get an idea and formulate how to present it.

Dec 10, 10:01AM EST0

How do you feel about criticizing your work? Is it a stress for you?

Dec 7, 10:59AM EST0

I don't mind criticism. I actually don't hear much of it which bothers me that I'm in too much of a bubble. I love the sites that criticize editorial cartoons. I think they promote our craft. 

A lot of criticism is partisan, so that doesn't bother me at all. I can recognize when people have an actual legitimate point. I don't think anyone can criticize my work as much as I criticize it.

Dec 7, 11:27PM EST0

You are a very creative person. How do you develop your skills?

Dec 7, 7:07AM EST0

By doing it. I'm a guitar player and I haven't been touching my guitars much, so those skills are deteriorating. I draw every day and when I look at older cartoons, even from earier this year, I often cringe. You get better by doing and trying new things. Though, I don't really try new things often in my work.

Dec 7, 11:28PM EST0

What would be Your the most interesting and effective drawing techniques? 

Dec 6, 4:52PM EST0

Keeping it simple. Michael Ramirez is one of the best artists in the business and he puts great detail into his caricatures. Mike Peters keeps it very simple, and the subjects are more recognizable from Peter's drawings. 

I'm not a great artist but I know how to make a cartoon and have fun with it. I think simple works for my drawing style.

Dec 7, 11:30PM EST0

What do you prefer: black and white images or color?

Dec 6, 12:52PM EST0

I always thought I prefered black and white until I started coloring. There's much more depth with the color, but they still work in B&W. I actually just convert the files to a grayscale which works for publications that don't publish them in color. I think they look pretty cool.

Dec 7, 11:32PM EST0

What literary genres attract you the most and why?

Dec 5, 3:18AM EST0

My favorite books are To Kill A Mockingbird and The Sun Also Rises. I dont get to read very often lately. I like history and political figures. I love biographies and auto-biographies, especially on musicians.

I read a lot of Stephen King when I was younger before I got bored with him. Then I read a lot of John Grisham until I realized each book was the same plot. The most recent book I was reading was Eighteen Acres by Nicole Wallace, and I got pretty bored and didn't finish it.

Dec 7, 11:34PM EST0

Have you ever painted on canvas? If not - would you like to do it?

Dec 4, 9:54PM EST0

If I have, it was when I was a kid. Maybe someday I'll explore it. I'm not even drawing on paper anymore. I draw on glass now.

Dec 4, 10:03PM EST0

I did a few times when I was a kid. I might wanna try it again someday. Maybe I will do what Oliphant did and move to New Mexico and paint. I'm not sure anyone would care if I did that. I always prefered pen and pencil on bristol board. I miss actual paper. I miss the lines, whiteout, and ink. I don't miss erasing which is the main reason I started drawing on glass.

Dec 7, 11:35PM EST0

Do you paint in any other styles? If so - what ones?

Dec 4, 9:23PM EST0

Nope. I used to think about trying it out. Some of my colleagues do some amazing artwork outside of their usual cartooning. Glenn McCoy does these amazing monster pieces and Marshall Ramsey has posted some brilliant artwork that doesn't look anything like his cartoons. Ed hall is a guy who does terrific dog portraits. 

My brain doesn't allow me to focus on too much at once. I really put it all into my editorial cartoons.

I don't think I'm a great artist. I try to make my work fun and stand out in the cartoon form. I think my strength is in my ideas presented in a style that's silly.

Dec 4, 9:27PM EST0

Who is your potential reader? Do your comics have any age limits?

Dec 4, 9:00PM EST0

I don't think they have age limits. I have been receiving a lot of feedback lately and most seems to come from people a decade or so older than I am. Maybe that just means I'm getting old and they know what I'm talking about. Would a millenial get the Rocky Horror reference I used today or the Airplane and Blazing Saddles references I keep fishing for? But, I think a lot of younger readers do get into my stuff. They seem smarter than we were at their age. They're very involved and I would like to encourage that.

My readers are usually liberals. I wouldn't say my humor is sophisticated, but it's too sophisticated for conservatives. They don't really get irony and the LOVE cliches.  

My potential readers are anyone who is outraged and wants to laugh at the bad guys.

Dec 4, 9:03PM EST0

Has your coloring technique changed the past year? Seems more vibrant.

Dec 4, 8:35PM EST0

It definitely has. I stopped using Photoshop for coloring. I use Corel now, and I have a little trick I'll go ahead and lay out. I like to do backgrouns with oil. For everything else I use watercolor, and then I go over it with the oil. Or it's acrylic. Hell, I gotta go look now to see what the heck I'm doing. One editor in Costa Rica described it having "pop". Once, I sent him a cartoon I kinda rushed, and I didn't do that technique. He complained it didn't have the usual pop.

Dec 4, 8:38PM EST0
Show all 4 replies

What is up with the fly swatter behind you?  I have not seen one of those in years!

Dec 4, 8:25PM EST0

It's the beard. It attracts bugs. Seriously, I didn't realize it was back there. I have housemates. A great bunch of people. I don't have anything of my own adorning the walls outside my room. I just found out half the stuff up there isn't theirs either. Stuff comes into this house and stays. So do people.

Dec 4, 8:27PM EST1

Last one, but how do you keep from going crazy knowing we have more than 3 years left of Trump?  I know he throws out a lot of material to use, but how are you going to keep from burning out on it?  And keep us from burning out on him?  At least cartoon wise, we are really burnt out news/politically wise.

Dec 4, 8:21PM EST0

Ice cream. I try to take Saturdays off where I'll turn off news, watch a movie(s), order food, and eat ice cream. Ice cream, along with coffee, is kinda my thing now. Sometimes when I plan to take the day off, it just doesn't happen for one reason or another. 

There are days where I feel I'm burning out. Not just from Trump, but just from so much cartooning. I either need a day off, or to have a few ideas hit that fires me up again. I'm also interested in trying out this sleep thing I keep hearing about.

I try not to think about how much time is left. It's kinda like on January 1st, if I think about the fact that I'll draw 365 cartoons, at least, that alone will drive me crazy. You just take one day at a time. And, if I think about getting rid of Trump then I'm gonna have to wake up in cold sweats thinking about Mike Pence. 

I probably didn't help you at all there.

Dec 4, 8:26PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

How do differentiate yourself from everyone else when you almost have to regularly do Trump?

Dec 4, 8:17PM EST0

That's a good question. I try to think outside the box and not settle for the obvious idea or a cliche. That alone kinda makes you different. I try to think as weird as possible while still drawing them safe enough for a family newspaper. My goal with each idea is to come up with something that nobody else could possibly think of....unless they were insane.

I try to have an attitude that I'm more "punk rock" while most editorial cartoonists are Jay Leno. I also focus on competing against all satire, not just political cartoons. This is a great time to be alive for political satire.

Dec 4, 8:20PM EST0

What is your favorite non Trump cartoon this year?

Dec 4, 8:11PM EST0

I love when I have a good idea that's not about Trump. The one that is coming to my mind right now is the cartoon I did immediately after the Charlottesville rally. Come to think of it, never mind. That was kinda on Trump too. I think some of the cartoons I've done on #MeToo are strong. A cartoon usually has to age a little before I can tell if it's special, or just something I thought was hot for a minute.

Dec 4, 8:14PM EST0

Where is journalism going in the next generation? Sure, newspapers are toast (eventually), but solid reporting — and cartooning— are more important than ever. Where does that go from here?

Dec 4, 7:55PM EST1

I really don't know. I hope it goes up. I think the Post and the Times are showing how it can be done in this age...or at least for now during a Trump administration. I think cartoonists still have to figure it out, because their work is still super popular, but nobody wants to pay for it. I'm still trying to figure it out. I know the signed to a syndicate model wasn't going to work for me anymore. Most cartoonists haven't even figured out they need a website, and shouldn't be sharing images to social media. Share links, people!

Dec 4, 8:01PM EST1

You're a maven. A rascal, ne'er-do-well, groundbreaking comic savant.But, if your old job at the Free Lance-Star called and said you could have your job back (for LIFE) what's your response?

Dec 4, 7:50PM EST0

I don't know if I'd want it. I'd need editorial independence. I really like not being barked at my editors or having demands that I draw a cartoon against litter.

Dec 4, 8:02PM EST0

Just want to thank you for your hysterical work. My country has gone straight to hell in a gold-plated handbasket and some days your cartoons are one of the only reasons I get out of bed in the morning. Thanks!

Dec 4, 7:09PM EST1

That's highly encouraging and will keep me going until I make my next cartoon. Thank you so much, Lynne. Oh yeah, it's totally gone to hell.

Dec 4, 7:16PM EST1

Why did you choose political cartoons? Do you consider your work provocative?

Dec 4, 6:12PM EST0

The first question is answered below. I hope my work is provocative. Enough people seem to be provoked.

Dec 4, 7:00PM EST0

How long does it take you to create one comic strip?

Dec 4, 4:11PM EST0

It usually takes about six hours. Compared to my peers, that's way too long.

Dec 4, 6:55PM EST1

How popular are comics as an art form among artists?

Dec 4, 3:31PM EST0

They're very popular. I don't read any other kind other than editorial cartoons though. But, that's just me.

Dec 4, 6:55PM EST0

Do any other types of art attract you?

Dec 4, 2:06PM EST0

I make music, though it's been a while. I've put all my focus into my cartoons and business over the past few years.

Dec 4, 6:56PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

Where did you start your career? What inspired you to do this?

Dec 4, 1:46PM EST0

It started in Batesville, Mississippi. I always drew, but didn't know what kind of cartoonist I wanted to be until I stumbled upon political cartoons. The rest of your question is answered below.

Dec 4, 6:59PM EST0

What project are you currently working on? Who will be a "hero" there?

Dec 4, 1:39PM EST0

Just my next cartoon. I draw villians more than I draw heroes.

Dec 4, 6:58PM EST0

Where do you take the inspiration for creating political cartoons? Do you analyze news blocks?

Dec 4, 1:26PM EST0

My TV is on news constantly. Usually CNN, MSNBC, and BBC. I have subscriptions to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. My main news site is Google News. And then, there's always Twitter and Facebooks news feed. As soon as something breaks, people are sharing it.

Dec 4, 6:58PM EST0

Does anyone help you in creating your cartoons?

Dec 4, 1:14PM EST0

Not really. Drawing political cartoons is a lonely craft. You can engage people and that might trigger something. But you really gotta do it all by yourself.

Dec 4, 6:57PM EST1

I have already stated that the Cartoon that I want to hang on my wall is the one that you WILL draw when 45* is 25’d or Impeached And Convicted (don’t expect 45* to Resign, not that smart, but I would settle for that too). 

My question is: 

Has this Historic Masterpiece already been drawn?

If not, do you already have some ideas for it?

If so, are you willing to give us a preview, or are you saving it for a Happy Surprise?

Are you accepting ideas for it? I could offer a few, but I’m afraid that they are all XXXX-Rated and no self-respecting (or even self-disrespecting) publication or web site would touch them with an Eleven-Foot Pole. 

Dec 4, 12:03PM EST1

Nope. I haven't drawn it or thought of the idea. I'll wait until if and when it happens. If I already had the idea then I'd hate it by the time the event happened. Also, it's better to see what circumstances occur that may be part of the topic. 

I never accept ideas. That doesn't stop people from sending them though. They. Never. Stop. Sending. Them.

Dec 4, 12:06PM EST1

Do you have creative crises? If so - how do you deal with it?

Dec 4, 1:47AM EST0

I can go days without a creative crisis and then I can have several days in a row where I'm struggling for a good idea and I'll feel dissatisfied with my work. The subjects are easy to come by lately and I haven't had a day in over two years where I was trying to find something to draw about. 

But, how do I deal with it? I curse at myself and say I suck at this, or I ran out of ideas. The more I stress, the harder it is to get out of it. I try to calm myself down and remind myself that I have drawn a good cartoon or two in the past, and that maybe I'm unique at this. I also remind myself that it'll go away...and it goes away. 

One good exercise is to think of the most obvious and lousy idea I can think of, and for some reason that pushes me to do better. I'll think of a cliche and from there I start climbing up. It's like allowing yourself to hit bottom.

Dec 4, 4:42AM EST1

How do you cope with stress in dealing with dissatisfied readers?

Dec 4, 12:13AM EST0

I don't worry about that because you're always going to have people who don't like what you do. Last week, some conservative troll tagged me on Facebook with a cliche-heavy cartoon and said I should try to be more like that guy. I also have people tell me I should draw more conservative cartoons so more people will like my work. Those people don't get it.

You can't worry about dissatisfying readers, even the ones who usually like what you do. You should focus more on meeting your standards and then those who do like your work will come, and they'll respect you for it. You can't always preach to the choir.

I have discovered that people who don't like your work because of what you're saying will keep reading you. People who don't like your work because of your style is another matter. But, hey. Not everybody likes Pearl Jam either. Some people are wrong.

Dec 4, 4:46AM EST0

Hi Clay, do you constantly have ideas floating around in your head?  And how do you pick what to draw?  Thanks!

Dec 4, 12:12AM EST0

I do but they're not always good ones. I have three right now I like and I may not get to draw each of them as new news may "Trump" them. I pick the topic I believe is the most important or what people are talking about the most. Other times I will pick the one that I really can't get over and I just want to do it. When an idea makes me laugh, which isn't always, I usually have to do it.

Dec 4, 4:37AM EST0

If you get negative feedback from an editor, do you try to convince them that they should keep an open mind or do you just say to heck with it.

Dec 3, 9:44PM EST0

It depends. If they're still a client then I try to calm them down when someone threatens to kill them over one of my cartoons. If they're not a client and they're rejecting my proposal, which happens often, I usually just thank them. Others reject me in a very nice way while saying they personally like the cartoons but their readers won't let them publish left-wing cartoons, or anything negative about Trump. I get that quite often. With that, I can't change their minds or the way I'm going to do things.

One reason I'm doing this without a major syndicate is so I can do it my way. I could be a better business person and mix things up more, but I want to succeed adhering to my principles. If someone doesn't want to come along for the ride then I say to heck with it.

Dec 3, 11:29PM EST1

How and why did you decided to become a political cartoonist?

Dec 3, 8:41PM EST0

In my early twenties I realized I probably wasn't going to be a rock star and it dawned on me that if I didn't draw cartoons then I'd probably be doing manual labor for the rest of my life.

I decided to do cartoons on politics because of several reasons. I like politics. I like responses. I liked the fact that a political cartoon would be published the next day where as my other option, at the time being comic strips, was something that would take six weeks to see publication. Also, with political cartoons I can change the format and characters every day. I don't have to be married to Dagwood or Garfield for the rest of my life. I feel like I'm doing something that might be a little important.

Another thing, if I really hate the cartoon I just drew then I know I get another shot tomorrow.

Dec 3, 11:48PM EST1

How long does it take you to create one caricature?

Dec 3, 6:54PM EST0

It depends on the person I'm drawing. Some fall into place quickly and others can take a while. I still struggle with Hillary Clinton even though I've been drawing her for over 20 years. Putin is still a challenge for some reason. 

Dec 3, 11:17PM EST0

1. Which president did u have most fun drawing and why?

2. How do you generate ideas?

3. What's your biggest challenge as a cartoonist?

4. Which topics provide more ideas for cartoons?

5. Which of your cartoons is your favorite and why?

6. Which is your most popular?

7. What would be your ultimate goal or highest achievement as a cartoonist?

8. What do u like most about being a cartoonist?

Dec 3, 2:21PM EST0

Hi Roscoe,

1. Trump is definitely my favorite. He's easy. Before that it was W. I thought he was stupid at the time. How naive I was.

2. I don't know how I get ideas. I spent nearly 20 years trying to think like cartoonists before I realized I needed to think differently. I reject a lot of my own ideas. I have to feel confident that it's not just different, but unique in a way that's totally original. I'm still working on that. Sometimes, they just come to me and other times there's a lot of pacing back and forth along with some cursing.

3. Generating an income is the toughest. I have nothing else to fall back on except for a collection of clients each sending small checks. 

4. The topics that provoke the most reaction among people are the easiest to write for. That's because I feel the same way. The more an issue pisses me off then the easier it is. I just have to be careful not to make too many cartoons that go for the jugular.

5. I don't have a favorite. I don't think I could even pick a favorite from the past week. I feel much stronger about my own cartoons that I dislike than the ones I like. 

6. I have no idea. But, over the past year I think the most popular was a cartoon I drew on North Korea shooting a missile at Trump, and a general telling him the only person qualified to shoot it down was transgender. That cartoon was drawn months ago and it keeps being reposed on social media. Newspapers liked it too, which is still more important than Facebook shares.

7. If I made donuts, I'd want to make the best, most unique donuts in a way that no other donut maker could even imagine and to be known far and wide for that. That's my second goal with cartoons. My first goal is to make those donuts.

8. What I like most about being a cartoonist is it's who and what I am. I really am a smartass and I piss people off. Plus, it's really nice to keep my own schedule and do what I want to do.

Dec 3, 11:46PM EST2

My name is Chuck Legge and I'm a cartoonist in Alaska.  I'm in five papers around the state and would like to take my editorial cartoons and cartoon strips national.  I'd appriciate any advice you might have.


Dec 3, 12:39PM EST1

So you're the reason I can't keep any clients in Alaska. You frigid bastard you. 

Seriously, it takes a lot of work. If you're successful doing it state-wide, then I don't see why you can't do it nationally. I would suggest you do exactly what you're doing there and apply it nationally. I have too many secrets I don't want to share here. Of course the first thing you have to do is give up sleeping.

Dec 3, 11:26PM EST0

Is there a way for you to print your blog about the picture on the back of the cartoon a person buys from you?

Dec 3, 12:39PM EST0

I never thought about that before. I should look into it. The blogs may be too long and some people may not want it since they're framing the cartoons. If someone asked for a printed copy along with the cartoon then I wouldn't mind including that. I'll give it some consideration.

Dec 3, 11:19PM EST0

Have you been criticized with any of your works?

Dec 2, 11:59PM EST0

Never ever ever ever ever. Not even once. Why would someone do that? Insert heavy, pain-inducing eye-roll here.

Dec 3, 11:19PM EST0

Hello. I'd like to ask you about your approach to newspapers.

I've been working on a daily comic strip during the last months, and I'm considering my options before submitting it to syndicates. I know it's hard to get into a syndicate and even if you get into one, there is not guarantee that you will succeed. So, I'm considering the option of self-syndicate my strip.  But I'm not sure on how to properly approach the editors to offer them my feature.

So, could you please suggest me a strategy to offer them my strip and start building a list of clients?


Dec 2, 10:57PM EST0

I've never done comic strips for a syndicate, so I'm not the best person to ask about that. But, my answer is simple. Fine tune your strip and then send it. Get it before editors. And then, send it again, and again, and again. The worst things they can do to you is say no and please stop emailing me. I get that sometimes.

Dec 3, 11:35PM EST0

Whose DNA is under your fingernails?

On a serious note, are newspapers, et al. honest in paying for your oeuvre? It seems to me that the 'accounting' could be forgotten. I enjoy your blogs. It's like reading the newspaper. Your cartoons are also A+.

What computer and cost for bells & whistles is on Santa's wish list? I'm hoping Bill Gates read this, so, don't delete it.

Dec 2, 8:05PM EST1

Most are. I bill monthly and a few might go a month or two....or a lot more before they pay. Most of them do pay so I'm pretty patient with them. Some overlook it.

I've only had a couple refuse to pay after they cancelled their service. There's a few outstanding debts.

Dec 3, 11:21PM EST1
Show all 3 replies
About #ComicsAMA

Welcome to #ComicsAMA, an AMA Event channel all about heros, villains, comics, comicbooks, artists, and fans!

The #ComicsAMA, channel (http://www.ComicsAMA.com) is owned and operated by AMAfeed, LLC.