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Special report: 50 years of cartoons in Private Eye

September 27, 2013 in Events, General, News

Left to right: Nick Newman, Ian Hislop and Richard Ingrams

Fans of Private Eye cartoons were in for a treat this week, as editor Ian Hislop and cartoonist Nick Newman took to the stage for two separate events looking back over 50 years of visual humour in the magazine – where they picked out a few favourite gags and discussed the challenge of selecting the cartoons that make it into the magazine.

Monday night saw the pair speak to a packed auditorium at the National Theatre on London’s South Bank. On Thursday, they were joined for their appearance at the Soho Literary Festival by Richard Ingrams, Hislop’s predecessor at the Eye and now editor of The Oldie.

The talks were scheduled to coincide with the launch of Private Eye: A Cartoon History, a handsome new hardback book edited by Newman and containing more than 1000 of the best cartoons published by the magazine over the last five decades. Ingrams was promoting his latest collection of Oldie cartoons, also published this month.

© Ed McLachlan @Procartoonists.org

Hislop and Newman began their National Theatre talk by looking back at some of the Eye cartoons that have gone on to become classics, including drawings by Willie Rushton, Martin Honeysett, Michael Heath, John Kent and Ed McLachlan (above). They observed that cartoons became increasingly surreal and absurd during the 1970s – with the giant hedgehog being a case in point – and Newman noted that many of the best political cartoons have not made it into his book because their impact has been lost over time.

Libby Purves, the journalist, broadcaster and Procartoonists.org patron, was on hand to steer the conversation. She pointed out that there still seems to be life in cartoonist cliches such as the desert island and the suicidal man-on-ledge. Hislop agreed, observing that “Private Eye is nothing if not repeated jokes with slight twists.” He referred to two recent psychiatrist’s couch gags, both by Procartoonists.org member Royston Robertson, which played with the formula and made it into the magazine.

More generally, Hislop praised gag cartoonists for their ability to distil their observations of the world around them into pithy and memorable scenes. “They’ve observed it, frozen it, and made it more or less permanent,” he said.

© Alexander Matthews @Procartoonists.org

The issue of ‘bad taste’ was raised when a cartoon by PCOer Alexander Matthews (above) was met by explosive laughter – and some gasps. Purves asked where Hislop draws the line when it comes to offending his readership.

“I always have to be able to justify it – to myself, if to no one else,” said Hislop. “And sometimes there are things that might offend people, but that you think just have to be said. We got a lot of complaints about this cartoon, but I just thought it was incredibly funny.”

Newman explained to the crowd that a cartoonist’s life can be defined by whether he or she is able to cope with having most of their work rejected on a regular basis. He also agreed with Purves’ observation that there are fewer high-profile markets for cartoons these days, following the demise of Punch and with newspapers not currently running standalone gags.

Hislop said that “without Matt, The Telegraph would be in real trouble”, and argued that readers would welcome non-topical joke cartoons in the newspapers. “Editors are missing a trick; cartoons are not expensive,” he said, turning to Newman with a threatening grin before adding: “and they’re getting cheaper next week!”. We hope he was joking.

***

“I’ve got a much smaller book, but it’s also a lot cheaper,” said a deadpan Ingrams of his Oldie paperback collection, when he joined the others on stage at the Soho Theatre on Thursday. “Nick’s book is terribly good, but you can’t take it into the toilet – my book you can.”

The presence of Ingrams at this second talk meant more anecdotes about the 1960s satire boom – for example that it was Willie Rushton who persuaded Gerald Scarfe to stop drawing desert island gags and have a go at caricature.

But Ingrams was also keen to talk about the current crop of cartoonists, and his slideshow of gags from the Oldie book included one or two from younger talents, among them the cartoon below by Procartoonists.org member Huw Aaron.

© Huw Aaron @Procartoonists.org

Hislop explained that the sheer number of cartoons flooding in to the Eye means he is required to make quick decisions over what to publish.

“When I choose cartoons, I think ‘is that funny?’, rather than ‘is it beautifully drawn?’,” said Hislop. Ingrams agreed, but added that the drawing itself should be amusing, not simply the idea behind it.

“Cartoonists don’t realise that they’re probably the most important part of a magazine,” said Ingrams, citing a recent readership survey in which roughly 80% said that cartoons were their favourite part of The Oldie.

Both talks were packed and the audiences were extremely appreciative, filling the room with laughter at pretty much every cartoon shown – and with several jokes even eliciting a round of applause.

***

Also this week, Private Eye launched Newman’s book with a party at Kettner’s in Soho attended by Eye staff and dozens of the magazine’s cartoonists. A great night was had by all and it was an excellent opportunity for the cartoonists to mingle and swap stories.

Private Eye cartoonists at the book launch party © Philippa Gedge

More images from the party, by photographer Philippa Gedge, can be seen here. Head over to the BBC for a slideshow of selected cartoons from the new book.

On behalf of its members, Procartoonists.org would like to thank Private Eye and offer a toast to the next 50 years.

 

Opinion: Cheerleading for art, part 2

September 25, 2013 in Comment, General

Bill Stott at the Shrewsbury Cartoon festival

Bill Stott at the Shrewsbury Cartoon festival @ Procartoonists.org

Bill Stott continues to put the case for better art education in schools.

You can read part one here.

Of course, Michael Gove could be a keen and knowledgeable student of the arts – first in line when there’s something new at Tate Modern, burning his thumbs on disposable cigarette lighters at Glastonbury, and clamouring for Bob Fosse retrospective tickets at the Albert Hall. Could be. He could be utterly distraught at the arts’ demotion.

Maybe he removed the arts from the core curriculum because he simply had to make cuts. Something had to give. And he couldn’t possibly cut maths or English or the Blessed Sciences could he? Couldn’t he? Why not? Well because there’d be a national outcry wouldn’t there?

And he couldn’t dare cut P.E., not after the glorious Olympic Games and their glittering, noble legacy. And we simply must have more physicists. We’re way behind Norway here, and standards in English literature in the UK are bettered by kids in Japan.

How about standards in arts education in the last 20 years? Anybody bothered looking at those in comparison with other countries? The UK would probably do well enough. But doing well in arts education overall, certainly in the secondary sphere, has never counted for much in the UK, mainly because those who judge it had a meagre arts education themselves.

So in demoting arts education to the fringes of the National Curriculum, Mr Gove is on safe ground. The majority of the enfranchised population will not rise up in horror. They are drip-fed the notion, mainly through the popular media, that dance is only for the naturally violently talented Billy Elliots of this world and that their dogs could do what Tracey Emin did to become a millionaire.

And yet, while we all know that nobody can expect to live a fulfilled and rounded life without having studied compulsory geography, the arts will out. Arts workshops, nearly always run on a shoestring, abound. Successful arts professionals give their time for not much money, and often for nothing at arts festivals, like – dare I say it ? – the Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival.

Their workshops are always full, not with the naturally capable but with all ages who want to know how. Is that how geography workshops operate? At geography festivals? Is there a “Big Geog” jostling for a place in the nation’s affections with the evangelic barnstorm that is the Big Draw? Of course not.

Who’d go to a geography workshop? Don’t need to. That’s all looked after in school after cheerleading on Tuesday afternoons. The Big Draw probably doesn’t ask for tick-box answers about Jasper Johns, but it IS hands on.

Making communicative marks is probably the one thing the human animal can do which other animals can’t. Yes, some humans can draw well naturally. But by the same token, other humans like Sebastian Vettel can drive cars naturally well. Their prowess doesn’t put the majority of us off learning to drive. But we do that for socio-economic reasons. We don’t learn to draw for the same reasons.

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

So why do we/should we do it? Why should Mr Gove do it? Its because its EDUCATIONAL, that’s why. To “educate” means to “bring out”, and I’d bet a pound to a penny that an arts workshop or a practical, hands-on Big Draw session will bring out more hitherto unseen natural ability than would a geography festival.

I suppose I’d better apologise now for having a pop at geography. Its probably down to Mrs Leeming fifty-odd years ago. She was very keen on my class knowing all the facts and figures surrounding worldwide ground-nut production in countries that are no longer part of the British Empah and have names of their own now. It was hugely boring.

Mrs Lemming (her nickname) was a bit limited. There’s nothing limited about the arts education potential in this country. Sadly, should the essentially inexperienced, non-drawing, non-painting, non-sculpting Mr Gove get his way, that will all get booted into the long grass (quite close to where they’re practicing core curriculum cheerleading).

And who’s fault is it? Let’s start alphabetically: The Arts Council?

Editor says: Thanks,  Bill. Feel free to join the debate by commenting below.

Profile photo of Royston

by Royston

Sherriffs in town

September 24, 2013 in Events, News

Conception of the Remote Austerity of Garbo (detail) by RS Sherriffs

Conception of the Remote Austerity of Garbo (detail) by R.S. Sherriffs @ Procartoonists.org

Here at the Procartoonists blog we’re hearing very good things about The Age of Glamour: Stars of Stage and Screen, an exhibition of drawings by the Scottish cartoonist R.S. Sherriffs.

It  focuses on the golden age of Hollywood and the West End stage and includes caricatures of Greta Garbo, above, Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, Ivor Novello, Buster Keaton, Laurence Olivier and many others.

Included in the show are single portraits as well as ensemble pieces. The drawings first featured in magazines such as Radio Times and The Sketch.

The Sherriffs exhibition runs until 24 December, alongside a redisplay of the Cartoon Museum collection, including many recent acquisitions. Visit  the Cartoon Museum website.

The Round-up

September 22, 2013 in General, Links, News

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4BJvgTO8dks

Above: the exiled Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat talks to the BBC about taking on a dictator’s regime with pen and ink.

Art Spiegelman, the acclaimed cartoonist behind Maus, Raw and the Garbage Pail Kids, is interviewed for NPR as he publishes a new retrospective collection. Listen to him here.

In November, Tate will publish a new book on comic art by one of the leading experts on the subject, Paul Gravett. Read more about the book here.

Following the fatal shootings earlier this month at the Washington Navy Yard, Ted Rall is critical of the responses from US political cartoonists.

Yet more evidence emerges that comics make children more successful academically. If further proof were needed, here’s another chance to see a team of Procartoonists take on TV’s Eggheads. This 2009 show  was recently posted  on You Tube, though we’re told that, all things being well, it will be repeated on BBC Two on 6 December.

Opinion: Cheerleading for art

September 20, 2013 in Comment, General

Bill Stott at Big Board

Bill Stott at the annual Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival

Bill Stott writes:

Remember your school reports? They become ingrained. Like your first snog. Mine weren’t bad. English, history, art, even P.E. (he was a bully) were all good but then they fell into the maths abyss. That bit was never good. I really didn’t care how long it took six men with rubber teaspoons to fill six wheelbarrows etc.

Last week I saw my 11-year-old grand-daughter’s report . She’s in Year 7 (that’s first year in old money and is a term thought up by some non-teaching think-tanker to give the impression that the learning process is seamless. It most definitely is not.) It was a good report apart from maths where the rubber teaspoon brigade didn’t quite click.

But there were a couple of subjects Grandad didn’t quite understand, i.e. why they were being taught and how they being taught. One was, you won’t believe this, cheerleading. That’s right, cheerleading. I mean, dear God, this is an all-girl comp. What on Earth is the school encouraging here ? Cheerleading is where a group of comely young women wiggle about celebrating male sporting prowess, isn’t it?

And the other was – gimme an A, gimme an R, gimme a T – Art, art art! (See? We got there eventually). Emily – for it is she – got a good comment in art. So I asked her what they did in art. “Well,” she said. “We’ve just done Jasper Johns.”

Now, I think that art, unlike cheerleading, is useful and teachable, and I’m all for the Big Draw events. But Emily and her 11-year-old chums don’t get all hands-on with clay, ink and paint. No. They DO Jasper Johns. She did say that “sometimes” they were allowed to draw. But mostly they DID artists. Don’t misunderstand me, nothing wrong with history of art. But exclusively? With 11-year-olds?

So who’s the villain here? I will tell you. It is Michael Gove, that’s who. I know that cheerleading sneaked in under the common-sense radar because apparently it’s accepted as being an alternative to P.E. Do they do history of cheerleading too?

Mr Gove doesn’t care about the arts subjects – quite possibly because his own art education was a bit thin. He sees dance, drama, music and art as hobbies. Pastimes. They no longer merit a place in the core curriculum (from September 2014) but because it bumps and grinds in under the P.E. banner, cheerleading does.

A pound to a penny Mr Gove believes that being able to draw is a “gift” and cannot be taught. He probably believes he can’t draw. I could teach him.

Ed adds:  We hope Mr Gove takes up Bill’s kind offer. We think a lesson would make some fine Reithian-style television for the British Broadcasting Corporation or similar. Don’t miss part two of Bill’s thoughts on art in education which is due next week.

Cartoon © Bill Stott @ procartoonists.org

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

 

Human rights in cartoon form

September 16, 2013 in News

Know Your Rights. Cartoon © Ali Ferzat @ Procartoonists.org

Amnesty's Know your Rights booklet. Cover cartoon © Ali Ferzat @ Procartoonists.org

Amnesty International has come up with a memorable way to remind people about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: it has issued the document as a booklet illustrated with cartoons.

Know your Rights is published in conjuction with Waterstones and features 14 cartoonists, including the Procartoonists.org members Tony Husband, Fran Orford and Royston Robertson, illustrating various articles of the Declaration.

© cartoon Tony Husband

Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude © Tony Husband @ Procartoonists.org

The booklet features an introduction by the writer A.L. Kennedy and includes thoughts on human rights from the cartoonists themselves. Michael Heath accompanies his cartoon with a succint thought: “It’s nice to be able to draw anything you want without being arrested.”

The cover is by the Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat who was beaten up because he drew cartoons critical of the Assad regime.

Publication marks the fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was ratified 60 years ago this month. The booklet contains the full text of the Declaration.

© Royston Robertson cartoon

Article 27. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community © Royston Robertson @ Procartoonists.org

The other cartoonists in the booklet are: Steven Appleby, Liza Donnelly, Merrily Harpur, Neil Kerber, Martha Richler (Marf), Chris Riddell, Gerald Scarfe, David Shrigley [Does this mean he’s officially a cartoonist now? – Ed] and Judith Vanistendael.

Know your Rights can be found by the tills in branches of Waterstones nationwide, priced £2.

Clive’s gig is a walk in the park

September 11, 2013 in Events, News

© Clive Goddard draws for Radio 2 at Hyde Park @ Procartoonists.org

© Clive Goddard draws for Radio 2 at Hyde Park @ Procartoonists.org

Procartoonists.org member Clive Goddard tells us about a star-studded event

I’ve been drawing a regular cartoon for the website of Radio 2’s Alex Lester for four years now, a connection that meant I got asked along to the BBC station’s Hyde Park gig on Sunday.

The brief was to draw live caricatures of all the artists appearing – around 30 people – as well as the radio presenters who were taking part, in one large image.

As I’m not a natural “on-the-spot” caricaturist, I took the precaution of preparing roughs before the event, then inking them up on the day, but leaving out the hairstyles just in case something radical had happened to them (i.e. Jessie J).

They provided me with a space in the production area, which turned out to be a pair of teepees and far more palatial than the damp Portakabin I’d been expecting. As well as housing the console that Terry Wogan, Jo Whiley and Ken Bruce etc sat behind to do their shows, there was a comfy sofa for celeb interviews, a bar, table football, smoke machine, mirrorball – not a dump in the slightest.

Assorted famous faces drifted in and out during the day, occasionally commenting on their likenesses or perceived lack thereof.

Simon Mayo looks for a chance to say "Hello to Jason Isaacs" @ Procartoonists.org

Simon Mayo wonders if Clive Goddard's drawing features a chance to say "Hello to Jason Isaacs" @ Procartoonists.org

At some points it was all a bit overwhelming: Johnny Walker sitting on my stool so I could get his hair right; the singers Jack Johnson and Josh Groban and Radio 2’s legendary Sally Traffic stopping for a chat; and Elaine Paige saying I’d made her boss-eyed (I had).

Whispering Bob Harris turned up unexpectedly and had to be pencilled in in the corner – while the Manic Street Preachers played an acoustic set behind me. It was enough to keep me in name-dropping anecdotes for years to come.

The Ed adds: Thanks, Clive. Keep an eye out for Clive’s cartoon as it may be auctioned for this autumn’s Children in Need.

The Round-up

September 9, 2013 in Events, General, Links, News

The latest entry in the Rogues' Gallery, inspired by Alfred Elmore - © Dave Brown @Procartoonists.org

The Cartoon Cafe in Eastbourne will be showing 40 of Dave Brown‘s art-inspired Rogues’ Gallery cartoons, from 5 October until 20 January. See more here.

Another one for the diary: Tony Rushton, former art director at Private Eye, will be taking part in a panel discussion about satirical images through the ages at the Royal Academy on 22 November. Click here to book.

Fans of cartoons and comics will be flocking to Cumbria from 18-20 October, for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. The featured guests include PCO members Kate Evans, Steve Bell and Hunt Emerson.

With the Cartoon Museum‘s popular Steadman @77 retrospective having closed at the weekend, there’s an opportunity for those who missed it to join Procartoonists.org member and supreme Gonzo artist Ralph Steadman in his studio, courtesy of this short film from The Economist.

In another video, this time for The Telegraph, Christian Adams talks about his role as the paper’s political cartoonist. Watch it here.

The New Yorker cartoon blog takes a look at the use of cliché by its cartoonists, including a slideshow of examples.

And finally, Martin Rowson and fellow graphic novelist Rob Davis appeared together at Stripped in Edinburgh last month to discuss their literary adaptations. Read a report here.

 

 

At the front: The Wipers Times

September 6, 2013 in Comment, General, News

Nick Newman writes:

“It’ll all be over by Christmas,” I joked, as we all shook hands with the general staff at BBC Two and agreed to produce a scripted, filmed and edited version of our World War One comedy-drama The Wipers Times before the end of 2012.

It’s now September 2013 – Christmas has come and gone – and we are in the midst of publicising our  recreation of the trenches filmed  over two months at the stately home Ballywalter Park, near Belfast.  Bombs exploded, ricochets whined, and actors began to comprehend what life in the trenches was really like. “We get the picture,” said Julian Rhind-Tutt (of Green Wing and The Hour fame).  “We’ve been in the trenches for seven days and we understand … the horrors.”

The Wipers Times story has been almost 100 years in the making. My  co-writer Ian Hislop came across it some ten years ago while working on a documentary for Radio 4. It’s the story of a humorous newspaper  produced amidst the chaos of the trenches by a group of soldiers who had found a printing press in the ruins of Ypres (translated by military slang into Wipers).

Amazingly, their Captain, Fred Roberts, decided to produce not a journal of record, but a journal of jokes, with no experience at all. It was, by turns, subversive, mawkish, groaningly punny – and incredibly funny. It was this printed lampoon of the Great War, written under fire, that we have attempted to celebrate on the screen.

As a cartoonist, I’ve always enjoyed turning gags into sketches for TV – which I’ve done for numerous shows from Spitting Image to Harry Enfield and beyond. A good cartoon is, I think, a perfectly formed sketch (forgive the pun). Extend the sketch and you have a scene. Extend the scene and you have an act. Add a splash of character and you have a play.

So writing Wipers was, for me, a process of linking gags, sketches, and scenes into a comprehensible – and true – screenplay. We were helped by the original text, which is wonderful, the authentic voice of troops on the Front Line. Wherever possible we tried to use the authors’ own words rather than our own – so full credit should go to Captain Fred Roberts and Lt Jack Pearson, his sub-editor. Some of their jokes (and many of ours) are terrible. But that’s not the point. The point is that they were making jokes at all, as opposed to staring wistfully into space and writing  poetry, as most World War One dramas would have you believe (though to be fair,  there is quite a lot of poetry in Wipers).

The Wipers Times_and_Bruce Bairnsfather from Fragments from France @ procartoonists.org

Bruce Bairnsfather from Fragments from France @ Procartoonists.org

Research took us to Flanders, still a fractured landscape where farmers are regularly blown up by unexploded bombs, and France where the Somme glides through Amiens with a tranquility it’s hard to equate with events of a century ago.

On the way we picked up some exciting new primary source material – memoirs of Roberts and Pearson ( both of which we’ve included in our film). And we’ve encountered some strange coincidences: J.H. Pearson, played by Julian Rhind-Tutt, was in fact the brother of the Edwardian actor Edward Hesketh Pearson, who had an affair with Kitty Muggeridge, wife of Malcolm Muggeridge who was played by Julian Rhind-Tutt in a BBC film about P.G. Wodehouse … and filmed in exactly the same locations as Wipers.

So here we are in September, with shooting (real and imaginary) over.  In the editing suite the whizz-bangs and gas-gongs have whizzed, banged and chimed. I have seen the great Michael Palin deliver my lines – so shall die happy – been bought a drink by Emilia Fox (likewise), swapped cricket nerdery with our star Ben Chaplin  and marvelled at the skill and enthusiasm of our Belfast crew.

And it really WILL all be over by Christmas. But, as happened in the Great War, not the Christmas we were expecting.

Ed adds: Thanks, Nick. The broadcast is scheduled for this time on BBC Two. Watch it on IPlayer here.

And if you are interested in the cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather, creator of “Old Bill” and who sneaked into the middle of Nick’s story, you can download a full copy of Fragments from France from  Project Gutenberg.

There’s a bit more about the show over at History Extra and both Nick and his co-writer Ian Hislop were interviewed on BBC Front Row.

Young cartoonist contest goes digital

September 3, 2013 in Events, General, News

IPAD_cartoon ©_Philip_Warner_@_procartoonists.org

Digital cartoon © Philip Warner @ Procartoonists.org

The Young Cartoonists of the Year competition 2013 has opened and for the first time they are accepting artwork that has been created digitally.

Although the flyer for the event states “original artwork only”, the Cartoon Museum, which runs the event with the British Cartoonists Association, was happy to clarify, telling us:

“If you draw on computer or add colour on computer that is still acceptable. However, you have to submit a hard copy entry. You cannot send your entry by email.”

The Professional Cartoonists Organisation, which runs Procartoonists.org, welcomes this development.

There was much criticism from readers of this blog when last year’s competition was announced, as digitally created artwork was not accepted. The PCO put this to the organisers, pointing out that it excludes many young people who work entirely digitally.

Digitally created artwork submitted by post is a fair compromise. We know that when cartoonists submit artwork by email there is always one who shuns the standard 300dpi Jpeg format and goes for a Tiff file the size of a house!

There are two categories in the Young Cartoonists contest: under 18 and under 30. One cartoon, up to A4 in size, can be submitted and it can be colour or black and white. Send to: Young Cartoonists of the Year Competition, Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH. The closing date for entries is 30 September. Artwork cannot be returned.

Judges include cartoonists from newspaper including The Times, The Guardian and Private Eye. The judges’ decision is final. Winners will be given their prizes at the Cartoon Art Trust Awards on 17 October.

We’ll keep you posted.