Just Joel cartoonist captures humor of everyday life
Joel Figueroa adjusted the 0.7 mechanical pencil and darkened the line of photo-resistant blue lead around the dark-haired boy in the middle of the frame. A few more touches, and the preliminary sketch of the comic strip would be ready to ink with the Prismacolor Premier technical pens scattered around his drafting table. As soon as he had the initial concept in place and some of the line work completed, he would shift gears and begin the equally detailed process of re-rendering the strip as a computer image. He reached for one of the brush pens and began to darken the boy’s tousled head of hair.
“My process is a little involved,” explains Joel, who wears the hats of business analyst and art instructor as well as cartoonist. “I develop the concept and form the idea into a visual piece. Then, I spend considerable time planning and arranging, keeping angles, expressions, and symmetry in mind, before preparing the image for the computer. The discipline involved in creating a new comic strip that is fresh and funny every day is a never-ending task. My biggest challenge, though, is by far finding the time to express the creativity, spirit, and passion that I have to create these cartoons.”
Inspiration comes in part from the bookshelf-lined wall in his studio—containing art books, comic books, graphic novels, children’s books, and reference titles—and his expansive DVD and Blu-ray collection. Joel’s primary source of ideas, however, is his own life: his experiences juggling professional responsibilities and working creatively, as well as his relationships with family and friends. When he sits down at the drafting table, a movie soundtrack, perhaps Batman, or an album by Omar Lopez playing in the background, Joel thinks of his everyday experiences and seeks to capture the humor in them.
“My ideas come from anywhere and everywhere,” Joel says. “There’s something humorous to be found in everyday life. Over time I’ve developed the ability to recognize circumstances, notions, and especially aggravations as potential comic strips. My first two hundred or so comic strips featured real people, family and friends who really exist. I’ve begun to change the direction of the comic strip to involve fictionalized characters, [but] there have been times . . . when I’ve received texts saying, ‘Oh my goodness, I think that character from your comic strip just walked into my store.’”
Joel has been drawing comics since he was a child. As he matured as an artist, he realized that creating humorous visual art had become more than a hobby. So he became serious about putting in the long hours to grow his craft and investing labor in marketing his material and reaching wider audiences. Toward these ends, Joel maintains a website where he posts his strips nearly daily, as well as social media pages. He manages an online store that sells Just Joel merchandise.
“I’ve always doodled, sketched, and scribbled,” explains Joel. “It wasn’t until much later in life that I resolved to cartoon on a professional level. I put in the time to conceptualize, render, organize, and publish the work I’ve created. It was a lot of work to do on my own, but infinitely better than waiting for someone else to recognize me or give me a chance. I realize that not everyone truly gets to discover something that they’re truly passionate about. So I am relentless and satisfied in giving my artistic endeavors everything I’ve got. I think what I most enjoy is the feedback, hearing that I’ve managed to inspire a smile or a chuckle by what I do.”
Just Joel Comics
Just Joel on Deviant Art