You are browsing the archive for 2007 November.

PCO Procartoonists – Graphic humour and photomontage – a response

November 30, 2007 in General

PCOer Bill Stott writes in response to our recent guest blogger Neil Hepburn. Matt Buck who edits Bloghorn agrees with very nearly all of it.

In cartooning, whether you use a steel nib and blackberry juice on vellum, or a wall full of Apple Macs, the main thing is to be graphically funny and have something to say. I think terms which divide, like “traditionalist” cartoonist are misleading.

I like jazz. Not, “I like traditional jazz”, or “I like modern jazz.” I like jazz. I don’t like all jazz, traditional or modern.

I like graphic humour. All graphic humour, if it does what it’s supposed to do.

I don’t like graphic humour which isn’t funny or is badly drawn or made. I know the subjectivity argument is impossible to avoid here.


Phenomenally successful pap like Scooby Doo left me bored stiff, whilst Fat Freddy’s Cat I could die laughing at, but, this doesn’t make Scooby Doo a bad cartoon.

Take Fat Freddy’s Cat. What makes it original, and for me, very funny, is a combination of the traditional and the new. Traditional is the panel story format which Gilbert Shelton used. New is (was, really, its 1970s) the bad language. And the cat’s constant camera mugging, usually with a morsel of feline philosophy. FFC reflected the age it sprang from – US West Coast drug use, sex and rock and roll – all neatly observed by an ugly tomcat who sported a decent pair of balls.

In talking about what Neil Hepburn has written for Bloghorn, ‘I’m going to use the term “photomontage” because its traditional. Ha! Its more or less what Photoshop is anyway, and is no more or less acceptable than stuff drawn with a pen on 220gsm paper, if it is good. How the art was produced doesn’t dictate its funniness. Photographs, manipulated or not, can be very funny. “Have I Got News for You” uses stills with an inappropriate voice – over to great effect.

However – I love that word – my real argument is with the fickle media; the bandwagon leapers who are so very easily seduced by newness; by iPods which are puffed by ads recommending them if you want to record BBC news and listen to/watch it later. Come on ! Get real. Technerds like them not for what they can do, but for the mere fact that they CAN. Once, “Turbo” written on the back of a Saab meant something. Now, my vacuum cleaner’s a turbo.

Editors tend to think they discovered photomontage, because getting a PC let them. What that PC didn’t do was invest them with visual discrimination. They’ve always had eyes, and it has always been a struggle being a freelance traditional cartoonist. Then, along came Photoshop, and Hey ! Look what I can do ! Who needs Steve Bell, Martin Rowson, Dave Brown? Bill Tidy, Mike Williams, where are you?

It matters not a jot how the gag was, or is, made. What matters, economically, is who judges it in the first place. Can the editor tell a good gag from a dying wildebeeste? Is the editor so narrow that he/she sees only Photoshop? The PCO has tried to make a start by searching for a level of quality work, judged by a jury of their peers. Applicants get vetted. They are accepted on a majority vote. Photomontage has (as yet – Bloghorn) no such system. Neil Hepburn is good. He makes me laugh; take notice. Lots of other manipulators aren’t and don’t. Just like some ‘traditional’ cartoonists.

Maybe, years down the line (that’s a thing you draw with a pen), when all the traditionalists are dead and gone and heirless, editors will suddenly discover hologramtoons – eye activated – all singing, all dancing little bods in 3D – right there on the page, and Mr Hepburn will feel the same sense of ignorant waste PCO founder members felt a short while ago.

Before then though, PCO could, and in my opinion should, keep this debate going. What matters most is the quality of graphic humour, not the manner of its making.

And to move Bill’s thoughts on, there will be one further piece from Neil coming up on Bloghorn early next week.
British cartoon talent

PCO Procartoonists – Graphic humour and photomontage

November 28, 2007 in General

Neil Hepburn aka Beau Bo D’Or continues his explanation of the art of digital image making.

I didn’t set out to do what I’m doing now. After many years doing a desk job where the most creative thing I did was my expenses, things went tits up for me and, while unemployed and waiting for letters of rejection to come in, I amused myself messing around with a copy of the poor man’s Photoshop, a program called Paint Shop Pro.


I set up a small website and started to get a bit of unwanted notoriety for what I did. I wanted to ease the process of updating the website, so I decided to use blogging software. This had unforeseen consequences, mostly good. Posting images became simple, hits went up (incredibly) and some media outlets came to visit.
I’ve had a couple of regular paid gigs (for static, mashed-up photographic images) as a result, but I believe the first proper one, for a national newspapers’ website, was offered for all the wrong reasons. Let me explain why I think this was the case.

One, I feel I may have got the job because the newspapers’ competition was also using my images (infrequently).

Two, I think the website wanted to differentiate itself from the newspaper by using digitally created cartoons, assuming that style of content should reflect the medium. I think it is pretty naïve to let the medium dictate style of content, especially when it is used to ‘declare’ that your digital product is different from your newspaper counterpart.

Brian Sewell once universally condemned ‘virals’ (viral joke or marketing emails) making the same related confusion between content and method of delivery (or access) that the former newspaper client made. If Sewell had made the same error when discussing his ‘type’ of art then he’d be slagging off gallery walls.

I’m sure there is a broad range of opinion on the validity of what I do but, as I said in my previous blog post, I kind of fell into this, whatever you may describe it as.

I think there is confusion amongst some cartoonists about what I attempt to do. Perhaps it is thought of as a shitty bit of cut and paste hurriedly done at a newspaper to do you lot out of some much-needed revenue. While some may choose to believe this, I believe this time is wasted, having a pop at the wrong people and failing to improve the situation with those who actually matter.

Even if you work out the correct target, having a pop at them directly, in the pub with friends or in a walled garden of your peers will do bugger all. If you make your work accessible – more accessible and visible to both the public and media – maybe they (the commissioning editors) will start chasing you.

There’ll be one more piece of opinion from Mr Hepburn appearing on Bloghorn soon.
28th November 2007
British cartoon talent

PCO Procartoonists – Graphic humour and photomontage

November 25, 2007 in General


Following on from the start of our adventures into the broadest definitions of graphic humour, Bloghorn has asked Neil Hepburn, or Beau Bo D’or, one of the best exponents of photoshop jokes in the country to write for us and very kindly, he has agreed. This is the first of a number of pieces we are going to publish here examining the crossover between drawn and mechanical imagery and how the two can combine and conflict. Over to Neil and his thoughts on what exactly it is a photomontage artist does…

I‘m both intrigued and concerned to be asked to write a few lines for the Bloghorn and give my views on image manipulation, the media and promotion – even though I was just asked to discuss image manipulation (IM).The other topics are, however, inextricably linked to IM, or, some anticipated responses to what I have to say about it, so please bear with me.

First of all, I don’t consider myself a cartoonist.

I believe this term implies all or at least the greatest part of an image is created by hand and from scratch. I obviously don’t do that. If I could turn back the clock and regain some of the skills I had when I was a kid, then I would and I would be attempting to do what you guys do, maybe with the odd photographic twist. Maybe, with a little more patience, I could get my eye back in but I see that as a remote possibility. So, I cut up and piece together, mostly, photographic imagery but sometimes include my own ‘artwork’.


This ‘mashing up’ of existing images has its benefits but many more drawbacks. You are limited in what you can create and to get anything near to what you initially saw in your mind’s eye, you have to compromise on composition, accuracy, quality and frequently abandon any reasonable attempts at caricaturing. An audience (and some editors) may like the concept of photo-realism in a ‘cartoon’ but when you use photographic sources, your editing/manipulation must be of a sufficient standard to manage the expectation of a degree of photo-realism, which is both time-consuming and sometimes just too bloody difficult.(There are of course some IM styles, the screen/halftone tear and paste which can be quite valid which do not require skintone matching, proportion etc.)

Many may think IM is a quick process. It isn’t. Some images take a considerable amount of time and, if you do cut corners, it is painfully obvious. The sarcastic comments of ‘seamless’ can be deafening.

Talented artists do not have these constraints. You create from scratch, stretch, shrink and caricature but most of all, simplify while creating recognisable figures, scenes and faces, each of which can either be an integral part of the humour or so simple (yet so difficult to create well) that it does not distract from the humour or the message of your cartoon. Simplification is much more difficult when you work with a medium that is supposed to convey minute detail. So, what I do is compromise when I create an image like the one published here.

Bloghorn says there will be more from the talented Mr Hepburn coming up, so loosen up that creative thinking muscle.

25th November 2007
British cartoon talent

Artist of the Month: Chris Madden

November 23, 2007 in Events


Our PCO artist of the month for November 2007 is Chris Madden (click M from here to see more). Chris is been our fourth choice as artist of the month, following on from Martin Honeysett, Pete Dredge and Colin Whittock. You can find all of these artists and many other of their equally talented contemporaries in our portfolio site. There will be a new artist of the month for December announced at the end of next week.
23rd November 2007

British cartoon talent

PCO Procartoonists – The Big Draw 2007 – Anonymous writes…

November 18, 2007 in General

Bloghorn has received some anonymous feedback to our activities at the recent Big Draw in Covent Garden. Thanks to the middle person concerned for passing it on. Bloghorn is most grateful.

Team PCO hard at work – from the left, Alex Hughes, Neil Dishington, Bill Stott(c) and Roger Penwill

The task the teams were given in the Battle of the cartoonists was to ’create the most sensational banner’ to a theme of High-Life, Low-life.

Select (publishable) and verbatim quotation from our anonymous correspondent follows;

The PCOs initially lacked the studies panache of Martin Rowson’s colouring and the sharp wit of Private Eye. Their drawings appeared in a vague and piecemeal way but there was much interaction between the evident team leader and his team, which definitely paid off. The skillful use of colour enhanced the drawings and gave the different styles of drawing a coherence, which added to the banner’s effectiveness. The layout and style was that of a comic which gave it integrity and a strong identity. I think this was the best!

Anonymous concludes;

A banner, by its very nature has a function as a standard or ensign denoting identity aand this is where the PCO and Private Eye romp ahead [of The Guardian and the Independent]. Their banners reflected the identities of their organisations very clearly. Of the two, the PCO banner had the greater visual coherence and presence. I would have marched under it and it should have won.


The finished PCO banner hung up, or out, to dry.

Thankyou, Mr or Mrs or Ms, anonymous.

British cartoon talent

Artist of the Month: Chris Madden

November 16, 2007 in Events


Our featured artist of the month for November, Chris Madden, takes us on one of those gentle lurches into the bizarre which good cartoonists make look very easy. Bloghorn says enjoy – and click M for more Madden.
British cartoon talent

PCO Procartoonists – What we do

November 12, 2007 in General


The profession and craft of cartooning (from gag drawings and pocket-sized newspaper jokes to comics strips and magazines, from editorial drawings and commercial advertising to digital monitors and billboards) has suffered some economic blows over the past decade. These have often been connected to the decline in the fortunes of the print industry.
But, despite this, the PCO is sure that – though undervalued by some in the UK – intelligent drawing remains an art-form which people continue to love to see and read. The map below, bears this knowledge out, as it shows you the locations of some of our many digital visitors this week.

We want to put our art in front of those people in a more direct way than we have previously done and we are, as an organisation, set up to promote and advertise the best of the active UK cartoon art world.
We seek to reach the three major constituencies which support our art form – editors of media outlets, both traditional and digital, art buyers in commercial companies and the reading public. We are doing this through three channels – the internet, our own printed magazine, The Foghorn, and at large public events like the Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival and The Big Draw. We also help to make and run bespoke, or single-issue, cartoon exhibitions like this one, which are often on tour and shown in major cities in the UK and Europe.
As you’d expect, we have excellent connections in the world of art and business and work closely with the national Cartoon Museum, the Cartoon Hub at the University of Kent, the Political Cartoon Gallery and other interested galleries and arts bodies, including the cartoonists’ social clubs, the British Cartoonists’ Association and the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain. We,in our own way, cover the UK. We also have excellent links abroad through our collaboration with European cartooning organisations inside Feco. If you are curious about our work and what it can do for you, you can contact us from our main portfolio site which lives here.

Andy Davey – Chairman of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation

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Artist of the Month : Chris Madden

November 9, 2007 in Events


An elegant black and white line episode of Chris Madden-ism. Chris is our featured artist of the month for November 2007. Bloghorn says click M for Madden
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PCOProcartoonists on graphic humour

November 8, 2007 in General

Well, this wasn’t the graphic humour controversy BLOGHORN was planning to publish, but this set of jokes, below, was so good, we thought we thought we had better go with it anyway. The creator is called Cyriak Harris.


8th November 2007
British cartoon talent

PCO Procartoonists – on cartoon art auctions

November 5, 2007 in General


Is there a cartoonist in the house?
Well, very often, yes, there is. Last week, PCOers Pete Dredge and Mike Turner added themselves to the throng of medical types, trustees and the odd HRH(apologies to the Duke of Kent) at the plush, modern atrium of The Royal Society of Medicine for a charity cartoon auction. It was in aid of RESTORE Burn and Wound Research. Knowledgeable and charismatic auctioneer, Nick Bonham fired up the well-heeled audience. His instruction that it was the done thing on these occasions to double the catalogue estimate price of the cartoons was readily taken up by the eager bidders and the 50 cartoon lots were soon dispatched to new, loving owners with the charity £10,000 to the good. The cartoon above is one of Ken Pyne’s, taken from the auction catalogue. Thanks to Pete and Mike for the report – a blogging first for both Mr Dredge and Mr Turner.
British cartoon talent