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Opinion: Cartoonists and a new world

November 19, 2013 in Comment, General, News

You are here © Roger_Penwill_@_procartoonists.org

© Roger Penwill @ Procartoonists.org

The internet is a perfect medium for cartoons. Images can look much more striking on a backlit screen than they ever did in muddy print.

So the news that The Sun was dropping Andy Davey’s weekday editorial cartoon slot just as it finally attempted a serious transition to digital first publication is ironic.

I am a member of an endangered species … the cartoonists. In fact, my small colony is a sub-sub-species – the few who actually (well, as I write) make a living from the practice. The fact is that habitat change is threatening us.”
Andy Davey in an article for E!Sharp magazine

(In a fitting footnote, E!Sharp magazine moved from print to digital with the loss of Davey’s regular cover illustration).

Newspapers have been shedding journalists, photographers and cartoonists by the hundredweight over the past few years, as their print revenues have shrivelled. Few papers have managed the transition to digital presence while finding an alternative online revenue stream.

Obfuscation about their digital revenue clouds the facts but the basic problem of converting casual digital readers into paying subscribers remains.

© Ger Whyman at Procartoonists.org

© Ger Whyman @ Procartoonists.org

Publishing companies have tried two basic strategies. News UK papers The Times and The Sun are now both largely behind subscriber paywalls, amid huge tidal waves of PR and free giveaways. This was a a principled decision (nobody should work for nothing) but a rather brave one in a world where news and information is now free, instant and ubiquitous. The results are presently understood to be mixed.

The other model is the new-media idea that you give away your content and hope that spin-off merchandising and advertising revenue will flood in on the back of your increased global readership. Online services can be developed for a motivated and loyal crowd of customers.

© Dave Chisholm @procartoonists.org

© Dave Chisholm @ Procartoonists.org

The Guardian has attempted to make itself into the best upmarket liberal global news brand in this fashion. The Daily Mail has morphed silently into a sort of daily global Hello! magazine, titillating the masses with its “Sidebar of Shame”, in the process becoming the most widely read digital newspaper worldwide.

Significantly, neither of these organisations have been over keen to reveal how much revenue this accrues  and how it stacks up against their legacy costs of business.

But publishing companies and newspapers as product form only a small patch of land in the shrinking traditional habitat of the cartoonist. Magazines used to be a source of welcome revenue for scribblers. However, the rates of pay have been slashed over the years to levels of vanity publication. Regular readers and subscribers to this blog will also know about the direct-to-audience efforts that many cartoonists have made in recent years.

© Matt Percival at procartoonists.org

© Matt Percival @ Procartoonists.org

The traditional confidence in the utility of our skills leads the Guardian cartoonist and PCO member Martin Rowson to characterise our trade as parasites. Once the carrier dies, “like any hideous sensible parasite, we’ll just jump off on to the next host”.

And there is some truth in this.

In Georgian times, cartoonists plied their trade by selling prints of their work in coffee shops. The radical coffee shop died a death as the prim Victorians arrived. Consequently, cartoonists jumped on to new hosts ushered in by advances in print – Punch and similar magazines.

Newspaper circulation wars in the 1900s then saw a race to hire cartoonists, providing a very welcome long-lived carrier for us parasites. The chronic morbidity of printed newspapers means we have to find a new habitat.

Ed adds: And, of course, many of us are adapting successfully. If you have comments about any of themes in this piece please do add them in comments.

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: The Sun drops editorial cartoons from weekday editions

November 7, 2013 in Comment, General, News

Rome Burns © Andy Davey for The Sun @ procartoonists.org

© Andy Davey for The Sun @ procartoonists.org

Andy Davey writes:

After more than 40 years, The Sun has cut editorial cartoons from the weekday editions of the paper.

The paper has boasted a roster of excellent cartoonists to poke fun at the political shenanigans of the day. Names such as Stanley Franklin, Dave Gaskill, Keith Waite, Paul Rigby, Posy Simmonds, Tom Johnston, Bill Caldwell, Bernard Cookson and Charles Griffin have all served on the super soaraway paper. But recently, circulation of printed publications has sunk, taking with it into the deep briny blue a huge wad of advertising revenue.

I write as the most recent regular incumbent and my cartoons have now been dropped. No reason was given to me, but it seems likely it was a financial decision. Cartoonists, together with many journalists and photographers, are apparently too expensive for these times. It’s much more cost effective to fill the editorial page with a splash headline and a crowdsourced free or cheap image.

The paper will still run editorial cartoons by another PCO member, Brighty (Steve Bright), in the Sun on Sunday and in Trevor Kavanagh’s Monday editorial column.

Traditionally, papers have run editorial, gag and strip cartoons but this has begun to change over the past few years.

The loss of daily editorial cartoons from The Sun is significant but it is not alone in ditching its cartoonists. Last month, The Sunday Times cast off several long term freelance cartoonists. The Mirror dropped daily editorial cartoons years ago and The Observer had a clear-out recently.

Alongside this, rates of pay have been cut. In 2011, The i newspaper, sister to The Independent, decided it needed strip, gag and editorial cartoonists to make its content shine. Instead of hiring cartoonists at a standard industry rate, it ran a competition in the oh-so-fashionable form of a “Cartoon Idol” to find new talent. The pay was so derisory that only one cartoonist could afford to take up the offer.

We at Procartoonists.org may be biased, but we think cartoons are still loved and appreciated by readers. It is a shame to see them disappearing at a time when humour and satire is desperately needed.

Ed adds: Procartoonists.org thanks Andy for sharing his thoughts here.

Sun shine wears off for Davey

November 7, 2013 in Comment, General, News

The_sun_logo_@_procartoonists.orgThe Sun, the largest circulation print newspaper in the UK is now without a weekday editorial cartoonist after Andy Davey, one of our members, left the paper.

With Andy’s help we shall be writing about this story and what it represents during the next week but you will get advance warning if you read one of our recent posts from Nick Newman of Private Eye (also a member) and a large piece produced by the New Statesman magazine during last summer.

Match report: Warbury Warriors back at Wapping

January 10, 2013 in General, News

Striker magazine @ procartoonists.org

Striker magazine @ procartoonists.org

It’s a double for Pete Nash in a return to The Sun with his cartoon Striker.

© Pete Nash_Striker_cartoon_@Procartoonists

© Pete Nash

The 20-year run of Warbury Warriors football stories in the paper was broken in 2009 after a contract bust-up. The artist then took his star player Nick Jarvis and the team for a spell on loan at Nuts.

In his first spell at The Sun, Nash grew the stories from modest beginnings into one of the most popular features in the paper. As the printed output grew he developed a team of computer graphics artists to create the daily narratives.

There was also an attempt to launch a standalone magazine, above, between 2003-2005. You can read more about Striker’s business relationship with the paper here.

In the new storyline for the return to the paper reports have it that “his [Jarvis's] beloved club have been given three weeks to pay a £9million tax bill or face winding-up proceedings”.

Will Warbury survive?

 

Avatar of Royston

by Royston

Big drawings from The Big Draw

October 2, 2012 in General

To spare you lots of pictures of cartoonists bending over tables and displaying their bald spots – with the exception of the Big Girls Drawers team, of course! – we present a selection of details from the seven banners in the Battle of the Cartoonists in the V&A’s Raphael Room.

Procartoonists.org banner

The Procartoonists.org banner, a response to "The Sacrifice at Lystra", was created by William Rudling, Kate Scurfield, Guy Venables and Gerard Whyman

Private Eye banner

Private Eye drew "Paul Preaching at Athens". Banner by Martin Honeysett, Andrew Birch, Simon Pearsall and Henry Davies

The Private Eye team, captained by the non-playing Tony Rushton, emerged victorious once again.

Reader's Digest banner

Reader's Digest got "The Miraculous Draught of Fishes". Banner by Steve Way, Simon Meyrick-Jones, Nathan Ariss, Rob Murray and Royston Robertson

Big Girls Drawers banner

"The Healing of the Lame Man" by the Big Girls Drawers team of Chichi Parish, The Surreal McCoy, Kathryn Lamb and Rosie Brooks

Before the Battle, Rosie Brooks from the Big Girls Drawers team, who is also a member of Procartoonists.org, appeared on BBC Radio London to talk about The Big Draw and cartooning in general. You can hear it here.

Telegraph banner

The Telegraph team of Patrick Blower, Charles Peattie, Matthew Buck and John Springs took on "The Conversion of the Proconsul"

The Sun banner

"Christ's Charge to Peter" was drawn by The Sun team of Andy Davey, Clive Goddard and Tim Harries

The Sun team must be congratulated for getting by with just three cartoonists, compared to, say, the Reader’s Digest with five. The Battle of the Cartoonists is nothing if not an uneven playing field.

Guardian banner

"The Death of Ananias" was drawn by the Guardian/Observer team of Kipper Williams, Dave Simonds, Nicola Jennings and Harry Venning

Photographs by Gerard Whyman, Nikki Harries and Royston Robertson

The Sun shines on cartoonists

August 8, 2012 in General, News

Tim Harries strip cartoon

© Tim Harries for The Sun @ Procartoonists.org

Tim Harries has started drawing a new strip for children in The Sun, one of many Procartoonists.org members providing cartoons for the UK’s best-selling paper. Tim told the blog:

“I got a call asking for a strip to run in a kids’ pull-out section of their TV guide during the school holidays. The deadline was tight but I had a family strip in development that I thought was suitable, they liked it and went with it, asking me to make the teenage son the main character. They came up with the title “Adam’s Adventures” – seems as good a title as any! The initial plan was to run for four weeks, but that’s been extended.”

Clive Goddard's Sunday Smile

© Clive Goddard for The Sun @ Procartoonists.org

Procartoonists.org member Clive Goddard has been drawing ”Sunday Smile”, a cartoon panel with a historical theme, above, for the Sun on Sunday since it launched earlier this year, above.

Editorial cartoons in the paper are regularly provided by Steve Bright, Andy Davey and Gary Barker. Click here for an archive of their cartoons. So if you see a cartoon in The Sun, the chances are it was the Procartoonists wot done it.

US Open champion McIlroy bags cartoon

June 23, 2011 in Events, News

Golf’s man of the moment Rory McIlroy added a unique cartoon memory to his recent US Open victory. You can find the classic handover of artwork photograph in this story from The Sun.

Bloghorn_McIlroy_Wimbledon © Andy Davey_cartoon for The Sun

© Andy Davey cartoon for The Sun

Bloghorn hat tips PCO cartoonist Andy Davey.

2010 Election cartoon round-up

May 12, 2010 in General

Keep Calm and Cameron cartoon ©Nathan Ariss Find his portfolio at http://www.procartoonists.org UK Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation

Alex Hughes reports.

You may have not noticed, but there’s been a general election in Britian recently. And a general election means it’s open season for the political cartoonists, so here Bloghorn presents a brief summary of the events of the last month or so in cartoon form, starting at the beginning of the election with Dave Brown of the Independent on the runners and riders and the Guardian‘s Martin Rowson on the approaching media obsession.
During the campaign The Guardian‘s Steve Bell talks about drawing at the manifesto launches, the Sky debate, and drawing Nick Clegg, Peter Mandelson and David Cameron (and the cartoon that came from this).

The TV debates may have changed the direction of the election, but they were seen differently by Tim Sanders in the Independent, Dave Brown, Peter Brookes of the Times, Steve Bell and Paul Thomas of the Daily Expesss,whilst Morten Morland of the Times produced a series of short animated responses to each of the debates (ITV, Sky, BBC).

The debates lead to widespread Cleggmania as seen by Stephen Collins in Prospect, Matt in the Daily Telegraph, Martin Rowson and Paul Thomas, and the inevitable media backlash as satirised by Peter Brookes and Dave Brown.

Gordon Brown made what was probably the biggest political gaffe of the campaign by calling a member of the public a “bigoted woman”; Peter Brookes, and Dave BrownMac of the Daily MailPaul Thomas provided their own takes on Bigotgate.

The election night itself inspired Tim Sanders and Matt, but as we now know it resulted in a hung parliament, as shown variously the Sun‘s Andy DaveyDave Brown, Matt, Peter Brookes, Paul Thomas and Mac (and even a hung parliament themed game), Gordon Brown’s departure as seen by Nick Garland and eventually the Con-Lib coalition Christian AdamsTim SandersMorten Morland and Martin Rowson.

Looking forward to the challenges for the new Government were Harry Venning’s Clare in the Community and Kal in the Economist, and looking back, Bloghorn‘s very own Matt Buck produced a series of  weekly despatches for the Guardian from the 1710 campaign as seen by Tobias Grubbe (2, 3, 4, 5).  The Times produced a 9 page comic summary of the election campaign available for download here (PDF, 7Mb).

(“Keep Calm and Cameron” cartoon by Nathan Ariss).

The Editor adds: We are bound to have missed many other great examples of cartooning so please do feel free to add things you have seen in the comments. Thanks.

Striker goes Nuts

January 20, 2010 in General

Football-themed comic strip Striker is to transfer to lads-mag Nuts. Cartoonist Pete Nash’s strip was originally drawn in 2D  and first appeared in the Sun in 1985. It became the first UK computer-generated 3D strip in 1998. Following an on-off relationship with The Sun newspaper in recent years, and a brief venture as a stand-alone comic from 2003 to 2005, Striker will become a full-page weekly strip in Nuts from 26th January.