As I mentioned before, I use reference material when I draw a cartoon of something. I once had to draw a zebra for a client. For the drawing to be successful I had to be aware that a zebra is not simply a horse with stripes. Actually a zebra has definite though often subtle differences from a horse. A zebra has a stiff tail, a horse does not. And the head shape is actually closer to a donkey than a horse. All of which my client made me aware of when I initially drew them a horse with stripes.
I need to know what the object (animal, person or thing) really looks like before I draw it as a cartoon, even with a cat. Well, OK, maybe not cats. I can draw cats in my sleep, but I don’t. Probably because drawing cats in my sleep might lead to dreams of bathing myself and I’m afraid I’ll wake up licking the back of my thigh.
My point is I have to be very clear on what I’m drawing because I will only have a handful of pencil lines to explain to you what’s on my mind. I’m trying to tell you the most I can with the smallest amount of information. With cartoons, less is more. I don’t need to draw every hair on a head. The viewer will do that for me. I bill myself as an illustrator, but what I really am is a Minimalist Mute Communication Expert. I’m an Freelance Morse Code Operator using dots and dashes of ink and paint.
It will take some practice. Early in my drawing education, I studied and copy how others drew cats (or whatever). I copied a lot of different styles, but only with the idea that I was ultimately striving to be something new and unique that was all my own. So try it but don’t settle on just copies. You don’t want to be the poser. Instead, be the “posee”. (And if you’re reading this out loud to a friend, please explain to them that I didn’t just request they become a delicate little flower.)
Now all that’s left in becoming a great artist is to spend the rest of your life alternately being frustrated with your ability and delighting in your improvement.