We recently published details of the annual Young Cartoonists of the Year awards, run by our sister organisation the British Cartoonists’ Association. We received a large reaction from readers which included this piece of opinion from cartoonist Alison Sampson.
You should know that fairly recently I picked up a pen again, not least because of the work of the Professional Cartoonists Organisation – and thankfully, the internet.
We publish her reaction to the competition below:
I am 12. I am just leaving the old hen hut where we keep and read the tattered, second-hand comics our mum buys from jumble sales. We have 2000AD, Valiant, Victor and Misty. Also in the hut are my felt pens and the printer’s offcuts I have to draw on. I like drawing. I can’t imagine a life without it.
As I’m passing through the door, I wonder how could I do this for the rest of my life and think through the options. All I can think of are jobs as a newspaper cartoonist, or working for Private Eye. All our comics are old and it doesn’t occur to me anyone draws them. I dismiss the option. All those jobs are full, with the people who are doing them. A couple of years later I see Posy Simmonds’ work in the newspaper and my heart breaks. I wish I could have a job like that.
Later I will work as a perspective artist for a local construction company and go to university to read architecture. I will not draw for myself again, or look at a comic, for twenty-plus years. Fast forwarding to now, imagine my disappointment on seeing that the apogee of cartooning, as represented by the judges list for the BCA Young Cartoonists prize, is still entirely composed of newspaper cartoonists.
I now know that there were are other forms of cartooning: comic books, web comics, posters and so on. Not everybody knows this. The competition is an important way of reaching out to those outside the circle. The judges list should represent the profession, not just one exclusive segment, no matter how skilled. This would help in informing other young cartoonists that their work is worth persevering with, and that it has a future.
I also do not want to cast aspersions on any of the work of the judges or the BCA. However, not everyone has been, or will be so lucky as to know about the possibilities for cartooning, and my getting back into it was only by accident. When I saw the competition, I had to remind myself I was too old, despite thinking of myself as the youngest of the young cartoonists, I am just starting at the age of 42.
Editor adds: We’d like to thank Alison for taking the time to write about this and we welcome your thoughts in the comments below.