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Opinion: The cartoonist and the editor

November 12, 2013 in Comment, General, News

Editor_and_editorial_cartoonist_a_metaphoe_@_procartoonists.org

© Andy Davey @ Procartoonists.org

Following the news that one of the UK’s mass market national newspapers had removed its weekday editorial cartoonist we asked Andy Davey to write about the strange relationship that lies at the heart of such jobs.

For the UK cartoonist, working outside of the beneficence of a major newspaper brings benefits and troubles; editorial freedom and financial uncertainty. Creative freedom and money are rarely thrown together at the same artist.

In general, print editors and proprietors control content with an iron hand, especially when they are paying for it. Tabloid editors for example, are a clever bunch. They know how to run tight, focused media organisations. There is little or no room for a dissenting voice. The paper has to speak with one voice on a narrow range of issues.

Cartoonists are not hired to express their idiosyncratic views of the world, they are there to draw an on-message gag about something that is being highlighted in the day’s paper (preferably on the same page). Topics that are fair game are often defined and limited by who the paper “likes” (politicians or celebs they seek to cultivate) at any one time.

This can become wearing for the cartoonist who likes to come up with his/her own ideas – and that is pretty well all cartoonists (It is one of the key identifiers between cartoonists and illustrators – Ed).

The constraint of the ‘‘family paper’’, hard as it has sometimes been to believe in the era of phone hacking, also prevents anything too graphic from being published. Consequently, editorial cartoons in the tabloids can often look like sad toothless pastiches of the deferential 1950s.

Tabloid readers are conditioned to expect short, snappy articles and plenty of photos. The editorial pages, unlike the rather type-heavy pages in the broadsheets, are awash with images and banner headlines. Cartoons must fight to make themselves seen amid all this; even more so amid the flashing ads and animated pop-ups on the web versions.

A looser hand on the editorial tiller would allow stronger satirical graphic cartoons to attract the eye in traditional print and also in the relatively new digital environments.

Editor adds: Thanks to Andy to writing this. What do you think about editorial cartoons in the newspapers? Please free to dive into the comments below.

Opinion: Illustration is easier than cartooning

January 24, 2013 in Comment, General

Cartoonist_or_Illustrator_@_procartoonists.org © Bill Stott

© Bill Stott @ procartoonists.org

When it was suggested by the editor that I should write a piece to the statement, “Illustration is easier than cartooning”. I thought he also ought to reverse the notion and ask an illustrator too.

Trouble is, I’m not an illustrator so know little of their strange and arcane ways. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I have illustrated a couple of books in what might loosely be called a non-cartoon style. And many years ago whilst doing a fine art degree, a snotty lecturer suggested I should switch to Illustration because my work was “rather slick and commercial”. The fool! Did he not see that I was going to be the next Jack Vettriano?

Cartoonist and illustrator are very wide terms. If by illustrator we mean those driven souls who churn out graphic novels – how do they do it? – then give me cartooning any day. On the other hand if, as a cartoonist, you get lucky with a multi-panel strip of Doonesbury or Calvin and Hobbes or The Fosdyke Saga proportions and you don’t have time to draw anything but the same re-occurring characters day after day, world without end, how do you stave off madness?

Do illustrators feel the same? What little illustration work I’ve done rapidly became tedious. Same characters, different situations. Rather more interesting to write than to illustrate. Unless, of course, you’re Victor Ambrus who is brilliant enough to stop even Tony Robinson becoming tedious.

However – I love that word, it means you’re about to kick the foregoing into the long grass – a good cartoon drawing has to be a good joke as well. Thinking of a good joke can be a killer. “Good joke” means one which in the first instance makes you the cartoonist laugh. Whether it makes a commissioning editor laugh is another matter entirely (Ian Hislop is such a tease). Some days good jokes pop up like weeds. On others – like today – there’s a great desire to draw funny stuff but nothing happens and an unhealthy amount of daytime TV is watched.

There. My head’s nearly empty now. The only thing I’d add is the word “good”. Good illustration is easier than good cartooning. Must dash, DCI Banks is on.

PS. If anybody wants a definition of “good”, ask the editor in the comments.

Editor adds: Thanks to Bill for putting his head above the parapet.

Avatar of Royston

by Royston

The artist as cartoonist

February 28, 2012 in General, News

David Shrigley fish cartoon

Review: David Shrigley: Brain Activity at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London

A vexed question of categorisation arises when it comes to the artist David Shrigley: Is he a cartoonist?

He and many art critics appear reluctant to use the term, but there’s no doubt that black and white line drawings, many of which are designed to provoke laughter, are what he is best known for.

And there are lots of them in this Hayward Gallery show, 117 new ones, apparently, and 42 larger painted ones. Let’s call them cartoons, for the sake of argument, and because one of them has got a desert island in it.

“The responses I would like are laughter, intrigued confusion and disquiet,” says Shrigley in the exhibition guide. That certainly sounds like the intent of a cartoonist and this stated aim is pretty much achieved here. Many of the cartoons elicited laughter and some were certainly disturbing.

Animation is also a key part of the show, most notably a very satisfying new piece called Headless Drummer, which speaks for itselfThere are also lots of sculptures. These mostly retain the wonky Shrigley style and are like 3D cartoons. There’s a sculpture of a very large tea cup, with what appears to be real tea inside it. But the best joke is on the wall alongside it, on the label that tells you the materials used: Glazed ceramic, tea, milk, no sugar.

Shrigley relies a lot on incongruity, a technique well known to cartoonists i.e. putting together objects and concepts that don’t normally sit alongside each other. So we have a gravestone etched with a short shopping list – a brilliantly simple idea that reminds me of that other cartoonist-done-good, Banksy.

This is a very playful exhibition. At one point we are invited to crawl through a hole in the wall into the next room (though normal means are available for those who wish to retain their dignity). Contemporary art it may be, but you get the feeling that nobody is taking things too seriously.

Well worth a look then, and if you pay an extra £2 on top of your £8 admission you get to see the Jeremy Deller exhibition too, which is brilliant but doesn’t have cartoons in it.

David Shrigley: Brain Activity and Jeremy Deller: Joy in People are at the Hayward Gallery until May 13.

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The Wireless Cartoonist

January 3, 2012 in Comment

Radio isn’t the most obvious home for a cartoonist but thanks to BBC Radio 2′s Alex Lester it has found a regular one.  

Bloghorn Goddard Radio Cartoonist

Each month PCO cartoonist Clive Goddard provides a visual relating to one of the many offbeat discussion threads the night-time show throws up. Subjects can range from the secret thoughts of pigeons to confessions on putting bizarre concoctions in a blender. Perhaps unsurprisngly some make most sense to the show’s night owl listeners. 

The cartoon has been running since August 2009 and receives regular plugs by The ‘Dark Lord’ himself. Clive told Bloghorn its a great gig as I have a pretty free hand and have never yet had a rough (idea) rejected by BBC compliance.

We should add Alex Lester is a patron of The Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival which we will be covering at Bloghorn later this spring.

Doonesbury hits 40

October 27, 2010 in News

The first ever Doonesbury, published 26th October 1970

American cartoonist Garry Trudeau has notched up 40 years of drawing his comic strip Doonesbury. The strip first appeared as ‘Bull Tales’ in his student newspaper at Yale University from where it was picked for syndication in the national press.

As its popularity grew, rights for its publication were sold overseas and it has been a popular and long-running feature in the Guardian newspaper in the UK as a result. We know this because of the howls of protest when it was dropped as a part of an ill-advised redesign during 2009. The paper backed down and the strip was hastily reinstated.

The 40th anniversary of the strip is being marked by the publication of Doonesbury 40: A Retrospective, and by celebration of all things Doonesbury-esque in the online magazine Slate, including an interview with Trudeau.

Workshops at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2010

May 5, 2010 in Events, News

The Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival doesn’t actually finish at the end of the weekend.

Exhibitions continue in venues across the town and organisers run workshops for people keen to explore the skills of drawing and communication.


Cartoonist Wilbur Dawbarn ran one of these events and here are photos from his workshops. Bloghorn thanks Shropshire Council’s event development team for passing these along to us.


Some of the work produced will be displayed at the town’s Wakeman School and Arts College at the end of June.

An informant tells Bloghorn that Wilbur let slip he sometimes “meditated” on a subject for a cartoon while having a lie-in in the mornings. One of the older ladies immediately produced a cartoon of him lounging in bed – you can see it below.

"It's nice to finish the day's work before breakfast!"

Bloghorn thinks: If only…

Cartoon secrets revealed

April 7, 2010 in General

News reaches Bloghorn of a couple of British cartoonists revealing the tricks of the trade. Firstly there’s The TimesPeter Brookes explaining how he’ll be caricaturing the party leaders in the upcoming General Election. On drawing the current Prime Minister:

With Gordon Brown I’ll start with the hair, increasingly grey and much more coiffured these days. Then come the heavy, angry eyebrows above creased eyes, one unsighted because that is the unfortunate reality. The nose is short and stubby, with a flat base. The fleshy-lipped mouth is open in that odd gurning movement he makes with his jaw as he speaks. The ears are large, round and red. There are deep marks on the cheekbones that, with the bags under his eyes, give him that knackered, saturnine look, particularly when I add a blue-grey wash for five o’clock shadow. Sometimes I think I’ve just drawn Nixon.

Secondly, from the other end of the British cartooning spectrum we have Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons demonstrating, with video, how he goes about drawing a character digitally using a Wacom Cintiq tablet and Manga Studio software.

Of course, if you would like to see cartoonists demonstrating their skills in the flesh, we would heartily recommend you head to this years Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival, 22nd to 24th April 2010. But, if you can’t make it in person, we’ll be providing full coverage here on Bloghorn.

Daily Mail cartoonist retires

December 24, 2009 in General

article-1238107-07B10E52000005DC-78_306x423The Daily Mail has announced that pocket cartoonist Ken Mahood is retiring. Mahood, who next year will celebrate his 80th birthday, has drawn news and sports cartoons for the Mail since 1982. His first cartoon was published in Punch in 1948, a magazine for whom he was later Assistant Art Editor, and in 1966 became the first political cartoonist on The Times.

Matt Lucas to play Gerard Hoffnung

June 17, 2009 in Comment

Actor and comedian Matt Lucas (probably best known for Little Britain) is set to play cartoonist Gerard Hoffnung in a Radio 4 play. The play, titled Hoffnung – Drawn to Music is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of the cartoonist and is due to be broadcast in September. Hoffnung, famous for his cartoons of musicians and orchestras also played the tuba and was responsible for organising a number of music festivals at the Royal Festival Hall.

Birmingham Post cartoonist retires

October 17, 2008 in General

Bert Hackett, cartoonist for the Birmingham Post for over 40 years is set to retire.

Bert, 75, has drawn both the pocket front page gag and the main editorial cartoon five days a week since 1966, initially alternating with business partner Graham Gavin. This gave rise to their collective pen-name, Gemini, which Bert continued to use after Gavin stopped drawing in 1974. In his 42 years on the paper he has produced over 10,000 cartoons, the last of which appears in today’s issue.

Birmingham Mail cartoonist (and PCO member) Colin Whittock adds:

He was a crusty old bugger who appeared to be in deep depression when he sat hunched over his board puffing away on his pipe (when such things were allowed). Eventually he always came up with suggestions for roughs which yielded a good gag. Over the years he created many classics that rivalled the best in Fleet Street, but of course being on a Birmingham paper they weren’t seen by those that matter, so he never received an award for work that would certainly have been in the running if he’d been on a national.

He’s a brilliant caricaturist and many of his originals are stunning. Lately he’s been doing more coloured work but always using old-fashioned brush and watercolours, he never embraced Photoshop or the like. A class act for over 40 years, with a huge following of Post readers. He will be missed and I hope the Post will continue with the Birmingham papers’ tradition, (unusual for provincials) of always having an in-house cartoonist.

The PCO: Great British cartoon talent