The name Matthew Inman may or may not mean a great deal to you, but chances are if you’ve spent any amount of time online or surfing the web you’ve come across one of his cartoons. He’s the 28-year-old Seattle-resident behind The Oatmeal.
The simplicity of Mr Inman’s drawing style, coupled with an innocent rowdiness—think of Michael J. Fox or Lee Evans swearing—has made his site popular. It is visited by 3m-4.5m viewers each month. Most visitors look at several pages. The site debuted in 2009, although similar work predates it by years. Indeed, Mr Inman’s style is typical of the crop of cartoonists who began careers on the web, rather than in a print medium. He uses bold, even strokes and bright colours, and is not constrained to a particular panel size or narrative format. Forms are simplified, with schematic facial features. “A lot of my characters are poorly drawn but well dressed-up,” he quips.
He confesses to being unable to force himself to use a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet for more than a few minutes. That would allow him to have a more nuanced line but Mr Inman is happy creating his cartoons with less fine-grained design tools intended for layout and production, all too familiar to the kind of audience he reaches with grammar jokes and diatribes on printers.
It’s interesting to me that his money comes from merchandise more than anything else.