Becoming a Dog Cartoonist wasn’t the original plan, but then I know very few people who ended up doing what they originally planned either! That’s the beautiful thing about life, that no matter what twists and turns happen, sometimes something wonderful can come from it. In all honesty, I can’t imagine being happier in my job than I am as a Dog Cartoonist. I love it!
When I was 17, I was studying A levels at Sixth form in preparation for a Child Psychology degree at University, as I wanted to become a Child Behavioural Therapist. That Summer, I came down with Chicken Pox and about a month later I fainted one evening when I was saying goodbye to my then-boyfriend whilst I was standing by the door. We put it down to just one of those things, but a few days later I fainted again... And again… I started developing other very debilitating symptoms and it became harder to brush off as nothing. It was beginning to affect my college life and social life, and the fainting and sudden constant dizziness was terrifying not just for me but for my family too. I went to the Drs and they put it down to post viral fatigue and told me to rest more.
At the age of 17, while I was exploring the joys of freedom after leaving school, I assumed that the Doctor meant I should just have a lay in now and then. I was clubbing with my mates at the weekend, had college during the week, a part time job working on the deli counter in the local supermarket twice a week, and a regular routine of step aerobics classes every couple of days. I was absolutely loving life, and felt that every bit of it was essential.
But slowly, bit by bit, it stopped being optional and I eventually stopped going out, quit my job and college, and decided to heed the doctors advice and take some proper rest to recover. I am incredibly lucky to have a very supportive and loving family, and they never waivered in helping me through the hardest times. I was later given a diagnosis of M.E, but some of the symptoms that I had didn’t seem to fit the diagnosis. I found that once I had the diagnosis, the chance of investigating further was a lot less likely. When I realised I wasn’t getting better in a hurry, I started trying to find different ways that I could earn a living working from home. I made jewellery and gem trees but they required a lot of sitting up, which I couldn’t manage for long periods, and very often couldn't manage for short periods either, and working with metals became problematic due to chemical sensitivity as one of my symptoms.
Fast forward to age 28, and I met the love of my life in an online group. I was telling him one night how frustrated I felt about not being able to work, and how I wanted to find something that I could work around my health needs. He knew that I had cartooned with my Pops as a kid (You can read about this HERE) but I laughed at the idea as I hadn’t even taken art at school options as art wasn’t my strong area! He asked if I had loved it though? I did. So he suggested that’s good enough, what have I got to lose? He was absolutely right, of course! So the next step was to GET good at it!
I started a distance learning diploma course but soon realised that it was still problematic as I still needed to sit up to draw. But, after some research we discovered a game changer: I gradually taught myself to draw whilst laying down, using a drawing tablet and stylus with my laptop on an adjustable overbed table. It took a lot of trial and error and frustrations but now drawing that way feels like second nature. I finished the course with a diploma with distinction, and I began to believe that I had finally found something that I could develop. The future was exciting again.
5 years after first meeting, I married that wise and supportive man! We married whilst sat crossed legged on the floor at a registery office, with just our closest family and a friend each. It was an unconventional way to get married, but because of the way we did it, I managed to avoid fainting for the 20 minutes that we were there, and it was perfect.
With the cartooning, once I had finished the course I wasn't sure where to go from there. I started browsing online simply under the search title "cartooning", whilst not entirely sure what I was looking for. I stumbled across an amazing forum for amateur and professional cartoonists alike, and I met some wonderful people who have become lifelong friends and mentors. Steve Bright of Bananaman fame, Noel Ford, who sadly passed away a few years ago but who was an amazing gag cartoonist and friend and is still very sorely missed, and Rich Skipworth who is “that” man who did the Monk greeting cards, and is now “that” man that cartoons the greyhounds, are three who went above and beyond in helping me, and I am forever grateful. They and other cartoonists from the forum, helped me so selflessly and critiqued my work regularly to help me to keep improving and developing my skills, and just two years after joining the forum, in 2011, I set up as Scotty’s Cartoons.
A year or two after that, our spaniel Jasper finally got his own way and bullied me into specialising in dogs, with him as the permanent face of Scotty's Cartoons!
Around the time that I married, I had a wonderful GP who realised that my symptoms didn’t match entirely with my diagnosis. I was sent for further tests and was eventually sent to a cardiologist who, following a few more tests, diagnosed me with Dysautonomia.
Obviously I would rather not be ill, and many of my symptoms still affect every aspect of my life, but I truly have no regrets at the path that my life took because of it, and wouldn't swap the people that I have met along the way, especially my amazing husband, for anything. Besides which, how much better can life get than having to study gorgeous photos of dogs every day and chat with other dog lovers?!