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The Surprising Cartoon talents of Presidents of the United States

April 20, 2015 in General

From The Washington Post (click for full article)

Artisan Politics

By Bonnie Berkowitz and Samuel Granados

Cartoons by American Presidents

Like many people trapped in endless meetings, U.S. presidents tend to doodle. Their sketches and scribbles on documents such as memos and White House stationery have long been fodder for analysts seeking deeper meaning. But what would artists say? We asked four cartoonists to critique some presidential doodles — without knowing which POTUS was behind the pen.



Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival 2015

April 20, 2015 in News

AS USUAL, IT seems like a dream now. As with most Cartoon Festivals, they come and go in a flash with so many activities and social get-togethers lubricated by the products of many hostelries that ‘real life’ doesn’t seem real for the first couple of days back home.

The Twelfth Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival (yes – TWELFTH!) went off with its customary sparkle provided by the town’s influx of cartoonists from all over the country. Oh, and one all the way from Australia, Dean Alston, just so that the ‘international’ tag could be legitimized!

The high-quality exhibition at the Bear Steps Gallery was on the theme of ‘Style’ this year and it was probably as loose-fitting a theme as you could get allowing an awful lot of leg-room for cartoony inspiration. Shrewsbury is spoiled by having a unique exhibition like this every year – on display for over a month, not just during the festival weekend.

The Market Square, as always provided a focal point for the public to spot cartoonists and caricaturists at work. The well-established favourites, the Big Boards, were as usual becoming repositories for brilliant works of cartoon art and well-thought out gags. The new concept of ‘cartoon busking’, initially performed by Roger Penwill and Noel Ford and the ‘quick-on-the-draw’ style entertainment of the Cartoon Melodrawma were more ingenious ways of bringing the concept of cartooning memorably under the public gaze. Workshops in both caricaturing and comic strips were on offer, thanks to Terry Anderson and Tim Harries and Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson gave an illustrated talk on his view of the last five years of a coalition government.

As usual, the cartoonists sampled the hospitality of various establishments around the town and left the paper tabelcoths in the Henry Tudor House restaurant liberally spattered with cartoony inspiration.

Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival is probably the longest-running UK cartoon festival ever and its organisers are already meeting to discuss the agenda for the thirteenth one in 2016. Contrary to traditional belief, that’s a lucky number for many people.

A cartoonist’s burden: With talent comes responsibility

April 16, 2015 in News

From the Aljazeera website:

A cartoonist’s burden: With talent comes responsibility

Despite risk of decades-long jail term, Zunar the Malaysian cartoonist vows to carry on cartooning.

Kate Mayberry |  | PoliticsHuman RightsAsia PacificMalaysia


Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, or ‘Zunar’ could be jailed for 43 years, but he continues to draw [EPA]

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Zulkiflee Sm Anwar Ulhaque, better known by his pen name of Zunar, is one of Malaysia’s most acerbic and controversial cartoonists, picking apart the government in a country where deference to those in power has long been the norm.

Born in the northern state of Kedah, Zunar found his calling as an artist during the Asian financial crisis when Malaysia was plunged into recession and then-deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was sacked and jailed on charges of corruption and sodomy.

Publishing in the opposition party newspaper Harakah as well as the online publication Malaysiakini, Zunar was inspired by the work of Thomas Nast on elections and campaigns in the 19th century. He now shares cartoons almost daily on Twitter.

Twice detained under the colonial-era Sedition Act and his latest book seized, Zunar is accused of producing cartoons that are detrimental to public order.

Zunar was formally charged this month with nine counts of sedition. He faces as many as 43 years in prison if found guilty. Out on bail ahead of the trial, he spoke to Al Jazeera about why he continues to draw.


Al Jazeera: You seem to have attracted more sedition charges than anyone else in Malaysia. Why do you carry on cartooning?

Zunar: For me talent is not a gift, it’s a responsibility. In facing a crisis you need to make a stand. You can’t keep quiet or try to be neutral, if neutral means you support an oppressive government.

Malaysia has been governed by the same political party for more than 58 years and people are getting restless.

I am a cartoonist. I use cartoons to push for reform. It’s a duty for me to do that. People say, ‘Why don’t you stop?’ Stop is a choice. Continuing is a choice. But this is not a choice. This is a duty. As an artist, I really think that’s important. The talent is God-sent. The talent is not mine. It is God’s gift and it comes with responsibility.

Al Jazeera: Malaysians are quite creative on social media, but the Sedition Law is now being strengthened. Might some be more afraid now?

Zunar: Some might back off because of fear, we understand that. But there are always others.

The government can catch as many people as they want, but there are always others who will come because in their hearts they’re still not satisfied. The issues haven’t been resolved. Until the government really resolves the fundamental issues facing Malaysia, the retaliation of the people will go on. It won’t stop.

Al Jazeera: But they have introduced some reforms…

Zunar: There is some lipstick. I’m talking about real transformation. You must get to the root of the cause. If someone has cancer you don’t give them a Panadol.


Al Jazeera: You worked – briefly – in the mainstream media in the 1980s and then, in your words, retired. Then the Asian financial crisis and Anwar Ibrahim’s removal came along. How crucial an event was that for you?

Zunar: It was a very important moment for me. It woke me up. I didn’t know Anwar, but for me, you cannot treat people like that.

As a political cartoonist, I said, ‘This is my subject.’ This was the day I was looking for. I started to send my cartoons to Harakah. I started to see a response from the public and people were talking about my cartoons.

I knew it was the right place for me. Harakah gave me the space to express myself. It was like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I felt very satisfied as an artist even though in monetary terms I was getting less compared with my time at Straits Timesand Berita Harian.

But from Harakah, I still felt I needed to go to a different level. The only way was with the internet.

Al Jazeera: It’s hard to imagine now that there was a time before the internet. Do you think people appreciated back then just how important the internet would turn out to be?

Zunar: In Malaysia, Twitter and Facebook are not social media, they’re alternative media. People use it to exchange news and views. The growth is very fast because the situation of press freedom in Malaysia makes that happen. Whereas press freedom is going backwards, people are going forward.

The people’s mindset in this era is totally different than the ’70s and ’80s. They are more critical, more challenging and want to take part in debate. They want to talk about the issues.


Al Jazeera: Obviously here in the cities that’s the case, but you’re from the northern state of Kedah. It’s quite rural. Is social media so important there?

Zunar: We have younger and older generations, we have urban and rural, we have Malay, Chinese, and Indian – in Malaysia it’s always like that, those divides. But I think my cartoons can go beyond that. The older generation might not like to read but they like cartoons.

Al Jazeera: Do you think that’s what worries the government?

Zunar: Why is a cartoon so powerful? Because first of all, it carries a joke. Nowadays people really need a joke. Especially in Malaysia. In Malaysia, laughter is a type of protest. Secondly, cartoons give a quick message and they’re also universal. These are the advantages a cartoon has. It can cross all boundaries.

Al Jazeera: So how do you go about the process of deciding what to draw?

Zunar: It’s not an easy process. Usually something is in my mind. [Zunar sifts through some sheets of paper on his desk.] First I will decide the issue, get every piece of information I can – from the media, the person themselves, maybe from a protest or a rally and after that I make a stand. Only after that will I think about the joke. It’s not the other way around. The joke must be in line with my stand – it cannot contradict.

Al Jazeera: So it’s important for you to have all the facts, right?

Zunar: It’s like this, if I stand on the beach, I can see a ship on the surface, but I don’t want to just look at that. I want to dive in and see what’s beneath. You can understand more of the sea if you dive in.

Of course there’s a risk, but you will understand more. I always have a philosophy, I say why pinch when you can punch? If you do [it] from the surface you only pinch, you don’t punch.


Al Jazeera: There’s obviously a lot of focus on political cartooning now, following the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Can cartoonists sometimes go too far?

Zunar: Let me ask a question, if the Prophet Muhammad were still alive would he have ordered the cartoonists to be killed?

He would not. Prophet Muhammad would never have told us to do that.

You have a right not to agree with the content of the cartoon. Me, as a Muslim, I also don’t agree. But cartoonists have a right to draw what they draw, but sentiment and perspective is very subjective.

I’m the small scale of Charlie Hebdo. I’m being attacked by the Malaysian government. If they don’t agree with my cartoon fine, but don’t use criminal law against me. If you say my cartoons are defamatory, you can sue me. But why use criminal law to put me behind bars before the trial?

When it comes to Charlie Hebdo, it’s also like that. You didn’t give them a chance to explain themselves, you just went and shot them. Deal with it in a civilised manner. If you don’t agree, you can rebut it. It’s just a cartoon. So what?

Source: Al Jazeera

More Cartoon News: ISIS, The Beano and Cartoons as ‘Offending Art’

April 3, 2015 in News


(photo courtesy of Department of Defense)

“Ten days ago, the United States dropped a visually head-turning (and -churning) leaflet cartoon over Raqqa, the power center of the Islamic State’s operations, reported several outlets today, including USA Today.

Every so often, critics question the power of a cartoon: In the wake of attacks like that on Charlie Hebdo, how can the dip pen possibly be mightier than the sword?

To return that volley of criticism, perhaps this is how, as reportedly provided by the Military Information Support Operations Command. The Pentagon opts for watercolors over waterboards, and graphite is fired instead of lead.”

Read the full article HERE.

A CAREER IN CARTOONING by Beano Cartoonist Nigel Parkinson

Beano illustrator Nigel Parkinson

“He was still at school when he decided he wanted a career in comics and cartoons, but his family and teachers were not exactly encouraging. There were fears around the job’s precarious nature, and as a career it wasn’t taken seriously. “I remember an aunt saying, ‘being in comics would be nice, but perhaps you could get a proper job, like a fashion designer?’” He was advised to teach, even become a miner, but not a cartoonist.”

Read the article from the Guardian HERE

The Offending Art: Political Cartooning after the Charlie Hebdo Attacks

Philadelphia Daily News cartoonist Signe Wilkinson offered a multiple-choice test in 2010

“The Charlie Hebdo murders, and an attack aimed at Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who had drawn images of the Prophet Muhammad many Muslims considered offensive, a month later in Copenhagen, focused attention on the threat to Western satirists. But political cartoonists around the world are at risk.”

AN IN-DEPTH look at the art of the satirical, viewpoint-changing cartoon from Nieman Reports. It provides a succinct historical and global perspective to the threats against freedoms of speech and cartooning in the wake of the Paris and more recent Copenhagen atrocities.

Full article HERE


Cartoon News Digest . . .

March 20, 2015 in News

THANKS TO THE tireless research by several PCO members, a backlog of worthwhile cartoon news from around the globe appears in the form of links in the members’ forum pages.

It’s more practical, to say nothing of time-saving to sometimes simply re-post the links for public consumption here:

Asterix cartoon raises £100,000 for Charlie Hebdo victimsA panel from the cartoon that was sold in Paris

A comment from The Guardian about their own cartoonist: I may not always agree with cartoonist Steve Bell, but I defend his right to drawSteve Bell's If ...

As part of its 2015 Freedom of Expression awards, Index on Censorship asked cartoonists from around the world to reflect on their own experience of creative liberty – or the lack of it. From The Guardian: Freedom of Expression Awards

David Rowe cartoon

Shropshire Live reports that Shrewsbury’s festivals will literally pass the baton to one another after many of the town’s attractions signed up to a fantastic new initiative. Over the last few years the number of festivals held in Shrewsbury from the spring, throughout the summer and into the autumn has shot up, including the annual Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival. And this year organisers of events big and small will promote each other by the handing over of a ceremonial baton.

Read the full article via at:  Shrewsbury festivals sign up to “pass the baton”The Shrewsbury Festivals Baton is launched in the Square. Bill McCabe from the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival, front left and Karen Higgins from The Big Busk with the Baton, joined by other festival representatives

A Reading with cartoonist Chris Riddell : Returner’s Wealth

March 10, 2015 in News

CARTOONIST CHRIS RIDDELL narrates from Chris Riddell reads from the first book in the Wyrmeweald trilogy, Returner’s Wealth accompanied by a video of him drawing

A fascinating glimpse inside a UK cartoonist’s studio. One from a series of videos by one of the UK’s best-known political cartoonists.

Muslim Azerbaijan had satire years before Charlie Hebdo

March 5, 2015 in News

How Muslim Azerbaijan had satire years before Charlie Hebdo

THE BBC NEWS website carries an article reporting that a magazine founded in Azerbaijan in 1906 was pre-dating Charlie Hebdo with its level of satire and campaigning against injustice.

Apparently, the weekly, Molla Nasreddin, regularly ridiculed Muslim clerics as well as criticising the politicians of the time.

1929 cartoon showing British Consul
ABOVE: This 1929 cartoon shows the “English Consul and his wife: in England (L) and in Iran (R)

The complete article can be read HERE.


Cartoonists’ rights supported by worldwide organisation

February 22, 2015 in News


Click pic above or HERE to see the CRNI’s website

RECENT EVENTS have underlined the precarious nature of many cartoonists’ work. Living in a world where a graphic comment on a delicate situation can result in studios being invaded by machine-gunning terrorists or public discussions being ambushed by rifle-toting madmen, cartoonists along with journalists and other public commentators find themselves in the front line of defence of freedom of speech.

While the book Draw the Line Here, conceived by English Pen (the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation’s only role in this project, albeit the key one, is to provide the cartoons), is entering the final production phase under the management of Crowdshed, another organisation with similar activities is worthy of publicty.

Cartoonists’ Rights Network International “defends the creative freedom and human rights of editorial cartoonists under threat throughout the world”.

For example:

One face of our success
Nikahang “Nik” Kowsar’s story is typical of the brave editorial cartoonists CRNI fights on behalf of throughout the year. In February of 2000, he was arrested and interrogated for six days at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. His crime? Drawing a cartoon critical of a politically powerful imam. CRNI subsequently gave Mr. Kowsar our 2001 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning, drawing international attention to his plight.

Cartoon by Nikahang "Nik" Kowsar:

By 2003, his situation had become untenable. He was forced to flee after credible death threats, leaving behind his wife and daughter. After he was safely settled in Canada, CRNI and other human rights organizations continued to assist Mr. Kowsar during his five-year fight to bring his family to join him, which he finally won in 2008.

Since then Nik has redoubled his dedication, creatively and professionally, to the cause of freedom of expression globally, as well as in his native Iran. This fervent lifelong commitment includes serving on CRNI’s Board of Directors, where his passion has been as invaluable as his personal experience.

Cartoon by Nikahang “Nik” Kowsar:”


The CRNI is launching an indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000 for its ongoing operations.  Click here to see the details.

Cartoon Museum to celebrate 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland

February 11, 2015 in News

THE CARTOON MUSEUM is working with Brian Sibley, President of the Lewis Carroll Society and well-known author on illustration, cartoons and comics, on an exhibition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. The exhibition will include a wide range of political, joke and strip cartoons as well as some other ways the characters have been used.

The exhibition will run from 15 July to 1 November 2015 with the hope that it might also tour elsewhere. Curator, Anita O’Brien says that they are trying to see if they could get funding to do some kind of publication as well.

Tenniel illustration of Alice in Wonderland

The Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation have been encouraged to ask their members if they have any Alice-relevant gag cartoons, illustrations or caricatures which could feature.

This will promise to be one of the most varied and gag cartoon-oriented exhibitions at the museum for some time and will be well worth a visit, not just for Lewis Carrol fans.

Publishers must “create space for new cartoons” says PCO Chairman

February 10, 2015 in Comment

THE RECENT FLURRY of cartooning activity precipitated by the tragic events in Paris towards the beginning of January has caused several pauses for thought. When you get beyond the bigger picture of rights to freedom of speech and the arguments for and against depicting whatever religious leader, we cartoonists arrive at the same modern-day conundrum: Where are our cartoons being PUBLISHED?

While, the modern age allows a little self-satisfaction with instant ‘publication’ through the media of Facebook and Twitter, it’s a sort of vanity-publishing whose merits shrink in size next to a big fat commission from a national newspaper or, perhaps, a global advertising campaign. Many cartoonists acquire a steady stream of, mainly private or ‘below the line’, bread and butter work by advertising themselves as such on social media but the kudos of being chosen by an art editor or creative director is a much less frequent experience these days. Perhaps, this is partly the fault of the aforementioned social media, too?


Bill Stott, the Chairman of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation writes:

The Draw the Line Here book of mainly UK cartoons, many from members of the PCO demonstrates, proves even, the power of good cartoons. The book will be published. Through sales of the book, funds will be sent to the relatives and families of those so mindlessly murdered in France. All of that is as it should be.

But what really puzzles, nay, infuriates me is that in the face of this demonstration of the power of humour, many UK publishers are ditching their cartoonists like unwanted ballast. The UK boasts some of the best cartoonists in the world. On current performance, UK publishers, of newspapers and magazines, do not value the UK’s professional cartooning talent. How many local newspapers still carry cartoons? Not many, in my view. What replaces the cartoon? Adverts?

The public loves cartoons. UK cartoon festivals, like Shrewsbury’s prove this, year on year. But there is an obvious disconnect between publishers’ thinking about cartoons and what the public like. New media, so-called social media, tweets, apps, and mobiles which can make toast or tell you what’s in your fridge might well have a hand in this disconnect, but the public doesn’t really have a voice here. It’s as likely to write to papers en masse about a lack of cartoons as there is to be a ninety percent turnout in a local government by-election. Newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s time for UK publishers to take a gamble. They must stop regarding the cartoon as the easiest thing to drop and be revolutionary. Reinstate dumped cartoons. Create space for new cartoons. Get brave! Bill Stott, Chair, PCO