Joseph Nowak, a 34-year-old illustrator from Canada who is currently based in Berlin, creates witty single-paneled cartoons that are guaranteed to charge you up with a good mood. The most exciting part of Nowak's artwork is that you can never guess what's coming; in his absurd parallel universe, anything is possible. From reversed surreal scenarios such as a banana slipping on a human and flowers receiving a bouquet of humans to the everyday life struggles of a centipede or relationship problems of robots—the artist finds humor in the silliest and most random situations.
So if you are down for quick and clever entertainment, check out the best of Nowak's comics!
Joseph Nowak told Bored Panda he has been drawing since childhood, but his relationship with art has been rocky.
"I was drawing since I can remember, so probably shortly before kindergarten and onwards. My brother, who is six years older, was constantly cartooning, redrawing Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny characters and I was most likely emulating that. My talent was discovered and encouraged by my teachers, which helped develop it. There was also a span of 6-7 years after high school where I didn’t do art of any kind. My post-secondary education involved little creativity, which caused me to focus on other things. I was working a repetitive job in 2011 that didn’t require much thinking or concentration and it was there that I started coming up with single-panel cartoon scenarios. I wrote them in a small book that I kept on my work table and after accumulating a few hundred, I started drawing and submitting them to syndications. That brought me back into the practice of drawing."
Nowak posted his first cartoon in August of 2013 and says it has been a daily exercise ever since.
"I am still very much interested in other forms of visual creation. I also draw in other styles. This cartoon has more or less become a somewhat daily exercise, just to get started in the day."
"My drawing style has changed a bit over the last few years but the content has always remained silly. That’s probably the best word to describe my work: silly. Twisting natural scenarios or exaggerating real-life situations that are already quite absurd is what I like drawing the most."
"Creating and sharing these cartoons has been a way for me to clear my mind," Nowak said when asked what creating comics means to him. "Although I am quite quiet socially, my head is constantly abuzz with thoughts and ideas. My cartoon concepts come about in a non-sequitur kind of way so verbalizing them is often inappropriate or just not suitable. I think I have curated my ideas to appeal at a far more visual level since starting my cartoons so even when I am around others and a cartoon idea comes to me, I will jot the idea in my notebook before trying to explain the joke aloud. Mostly, the practice of drawing these cartoons has given me a nice, fairly quick exercise to keep honing my inking skills and fostering my silly outlook on life!"
We asked Nowak what's the most challenging and the most rewarding about drawing cartoons.
"I would say the most challenging thing about this endeavor is finding a balanced way to monetize it. The nature of the internet with its freedom in regards to sharing information and ideas is beautiful to accumulate a worldwide fanbase, but trying to earn money through it is a new struggle. A lot of the more successful webcomics still go through third-party services to get paid and that’s something I hope to navigate around. It means, however, that up until now, it has only been a very minor addition to my income. The most rewarding is maybe quite obvious, and that is being able to reach and bring joy to a vast array of people."
"Having mostly an online fan base, I rarely get to see the physical reaction my work has on people, but maybe that’s also for the best. It can be a little awkward when someone doesn’t 'get' your work in front of you. It can be a lot of pressure. I have shown my work in exhibitions and comic conventions and there when people start laughing at your work (in the best way possible) it can be quite rewarding."
Nowak shared the proudest moment of his career: "When I was first starting out, I reached out to Dan Piraro, the brilliant cartoonist behind the syndicated single-panel cartoon 'Bizarro,' for advice regarding linework and tools that he’s worked with. He gave me some pointers on specific cartoon ideas which helped me in staging many subsequent jokes. I shared with him my collection in the early days and he commented on the quality of some of the concepts. He was even kind enough to give me a blurb for the back of a book I self-published, showing his approval. For me, alongside Gary Larson, there is no other single-panel modern cartoonist at his caliber, so having him not only look at my work but enjoy it leaves me feeling quite proud."
"I just want to make others laugh. There are some concepts that require a little thinking and others that perhaps can make the viewer see things in a different light, but mostly they are just absurd enough for a laugh and a share. The images that don’t need a caption or any dialogue are some of my favorites since they have the ability to be understood by everyone. I have even come across my work that has been translated and shared in different languages. Wild to see my work in a language I can’t understand, but as long as the reposters don’t change the punchline or wipe my signature, I don’t mind."
The artist shared a piece of advice for upcoming artists: "My advice would be to keep drawing. I have submitted to The New Yorker dozens of times, hoping one day they will buy one of my ideas, but I have read an interview with a recurring cartoonist for the magazine and he had said that he submitted over 600 ideas before they accepted his first! Persistence is key. I have been cartooning for 8 years now and am only just starting to get some attention."
Having made hundreds of cartoons, Nowak is sharing them all with his 6,678 followers on Instagram. We think that the artist's witty sense of humor should be much more appreciated, so you have the chance to discover the artist and show him some support before his cartoons blow up online.