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Opinion: The postcard’s future

June 5, 2013 in Comment, General

Rupert_Besley_on_Postcards_4_@_procartoonists.org

© Rupert Besley @ Procartoonists.org

Rupert Besley delivers part two of his article on the humble cartoon postcard. You can read part one here

Postcards and cartoons are the perfect marriage, the dream team, two forms of relative ephemera, each made for the other. Both are finding life tough at present, as old-style print gets edged out by new electronic media, and each has need of the other. Postcards must adapt to survive.

It has been done and can be again. In the 1980s, Scottish postcards were stuck in a rut of lurid images of heather, pipers and Highland cattle knee-deep in Loch Lomond (sometimes with faked sunset added on top). Along came Colin Baxter and Michael Macgregor, bringing misty, seductive, moody views of Real Scotland and whole new businesses were born.

© Rupert Besley @ Procartoonists.org

© Rupert Besley @ Procartoonists.org

Failure to change did for card-firms in the past. Dixon’s operated from an aircraft hangar of a factory, filled with huge presses that pumped out cards to fill every creaking carousel in the land. For a card to succeed, it had to sell in hundreds of thousands. But nobody wanted to see the same card year after year.

As with print-on-demand books, the technology is now here for small runs and rapid distribution. As papers and magazines cut back on cartoon “extras”, cartoonists need to explore new outlets for their work. Postcards need new life breathed into them; cartoons need more ways of being circulated and seen. The two should get together more often.

Rupert_Besley_on_Postcards_8_@_procartoonists.org

© Rupert Besley @ Procartoonists.org

Postcards are effective carriers of simple messages. Mostly the messages are equally trite on front and back. But the space is there for other purposes, whether for promoting a place, a business, a particular event, or campaigning on a topical issue. Or maybe just to spread a joke. (And why not?)

Cartoons, too, are handy means of encapsulating difficult ideas and sending messages that are witty, memorable and quick to take in. Make a set, put them on cards and hey presto: collectibles.

© Rupert Besley @ Procartoonists.org

© Rupert Besley @ Procartoonists.org

To take off again, postcards need a novelty factor, some new twist on all that has been done before. Marketing and making money from cards is never easy; they are low-price items and fiddly to deal with. Those are the challenges – and the opportunities.

Just don’t write off the humble postcard. It may yet have a future.

Thanks very much to Procartoonists member Rupert Besley for writing for us and for the terrific sequence of cartoons.

© Rupert Besley @ Procartoonists.org

© Rupert Besley @ Procartoonists.org

Opinion: The postcard is not dead

May 29, 2013 in Comment, General

© Rupert Besley for procartoonists.org

Procartoonists member Rupert Besley takes a look at a much-loved old form for cartooning: the postcard

In 1899 a Norwegian cruise ship doing the coastline despatched 20,000 postcards in the course of one trip*. The unfortunate crewman charged with postmarking each stamp suffered blisters to the hand.

In 1903 the British alone sent 600 million postcards – and that excludes the number sold but then not mailed, collected in albums or stuffed in drawers. 1902-15 is generally hailed as the Golden Age of the Postcard.

Everyone was at it and the postman could call up to five times a day. A cautious estimate puts the number of postcards produced and sold worldwide in the years 1895-1920 as at least 200 to 300 billion (most of them now in my loft).

Those days are gone. There are quicker, easier, cheaper ways of keeping in touch. Email and the txt mssge have done for the postcard, as have Royal Mail and the Post Office, intent, it would seem, on killing off all forms of postal communication. Kicked in the teeth but not yet dead, the postcard won’t let go that easily. Miraculous revivals have happened before.

The first postcard craze came on the back of improved cheap printing, increased travel and the passing of laws that gave holidays to workers. By the 1920s the novelty had passed. Card sales slumped and publishers went out of business.

Then, in the 1970s, came a second Golden Age, thanks to better colour printing and a new wave of foreign travel. Holidaymakers liked to show they had gone one better than their neighbours on choice of destination.

Again, it would not last for ever. Not many people beyond the collector Martin Parr were keen in the 1990s to seek out tired images of dull places where parked cars had not moved or fashion changed for 30 years.

The history of postcards and cartoons © Rupert Besley for procartoonists.org

© Rupert Besley for procartoonists.org

In 1998 the company J Arthur Dixon finally closed, the postcard side of its business being acquired by John Hinde. Within a few years Hinde’s, too, gave up on postcards, turning instead to novelty gifts from the Far East.

Judge’s hit the rocks (receivership) in 1984, but continued in new hands on a more limited operation. Bamforth’s hit similar hard times. And yet … Royal Mail recently recorded more than 106 million postcards still passing through their system in a year, 10 million up on 2001. The humble pc may yet outlive the PC.

The postcard outscores new technology on several points. Gift or souvenir, it’s something physical and collectible, a permanent reminder. Stuck on shelves, perched on ledges, pinned on noticeboards, cards have staying-power.

They don’t even need posting to have an effect. Hans Fallada’s famous cat-and-mouse chase novel, translated as Alone in Berlin, is based on fact: from 1940, mysterious scrawled postcards appeared in the halls and stairwells of buildings, attacking the Nazi regime.

Rattled by the effects of this propaganda, the Gestapo took three years to find the perpetrators – not the major conspiracy it suspected but a modest, barely literate couple who had suffered family loss to the Nazi war machine. Gripping but grim. Postcards have that power.

Rupert Besley on Postcards and cartoons @_procartoonists.org

© Rupert Besley for procartoonists.org

Usually it’s a lighter message they send. In the 1950s my great-aunts lived together on virtually no income in a house unchanged since it was fitted out by their grandfather in the 1870s. On the walls hung dismal dark prints of battle scenes and death, from Nelson at Trafalgar to The Return from Inkerman.

But into the frame corners and front of each picture my aunts had inserted cheerful postcards guaranteed to raise a smile. Which brings me to cartoons (At last! – Ed). 

Thanks to Rupert from the scene setting and look out for part two of his postcards feature next week.

*Figures from An Entangled Object by B. Rogan, University of Oslo

“It doesn’t show signs of stopping” – UK snow cartoons

January 24, 2013 in General, News

Sloppy the snowman by The Surreal McCoy

© The Surreal McCoy @ Procartoonists.org

The snow may have been melting in some places but with some more forecast at the time of posting, we offer a selection of wintery cartoons from Procartoonists.org members. See if you can spot the Snowman riff.

Big-Issue-HMV2-snow-cartoon © Andrew Birch @ procartoonists.org

© Andrew Birch @ procartoonists.org

So much for a trip out to an art show.

Lichtenstein exhibition cartoon by Neil Dishington

© Neil Dishington @ Procartoonists.org

Antony Gormley snowmen cartoon by Royston

© Royston Robertson @ Procartoonists.org

Water on Mars © Rob Murray @ procartoonists.org

© Rob Murray @ procartoonists.org

525-careful-thats-hot © Huw Aaron @ procartoonists.org

© Huw Aaron @ procartoonists.org

Another hardy annual is the theme about transport.

12-01-20-heathrow-snow-72 © Steve bright @ procartoonists.org

© Steve Bright @ procartoonists.org

Snow in the UK cartoon © Matthew Buck hack Cartoons @ procartoonists.org

© Matthew Buck Hack Cartoons @ procartoonists.org

If you have seen a good wintery cartoon please let us, er, snow about it in the comments.

Young Cartoonists of the Year 2012

October 17, 2012 in Events, General, News

Our colleagues at the British Cartoonists’ Association have launched their annual Young Cartoonists of the Year competition. Details as below and applications to the UK’s Cartoon Museum by 7 November. Hop to it!

UK_ Young_Cartoonist_of_the_Year_2012 @ procartoonists.org

Young Cartoonist of the Year competition for 2012 @ Procartoonists.org

And have a look back at one of last year’s winners.

Foghorn goes forth once more

May 3, 2012 in Comment, General

Foghorn Cartoon @ procartoonists.org © Andy Davey

© Andy Davey

Regular readers might recall our previous life as the Bloghorn, the digital relative of the old-time printed magazine Foghorn. This legendary creature is a sage about the cartoon artform that our members exhibit, so we are pleased to welcome his weekly strip to the Procartoonists.org blog.

Keeping it brief 15th August 2011

August 15, 2011 in News

As it says in the subject line

Bloghorn from the UK Professional Cartoonists' Organisation

The other big event

April 28, 2011 in Comment, News

While parts of the country are reeling under the weight of Royal Wedding merchandise (see here) the UK is also having its traditional May elections.

Cartoonist and new Bloghorn contributor Rob Murray, writes:

Candidate Dafydd Trystan Davies is campaigning with something a bit different from the traditional manifesto, instead commissioning a cartoon strip that outlines his ambitions for the constituency he hopes to represent.

Example of an election cartoon leaflet from the 2011 local elections in South Wales. Image displayed at bloghorn for the UK Professional Cartoonists' Organisation

Image © Dai Owen

The strip, by artist Dai Owen, shows Davies travelling through Cynon Valley in South Wales and touches on his goals for public transport, employment, housing and the local health service.

Image © Dai Owen

 

Davies, the Plaid Cymru candidate for the seat, told the Western Mail that the cartoon has already gone down well with the public. “They’ve laughed and they’ve read it – two important things,” he said, adding: “It’s a fun way to get a message across to people who are by and large disengaged with politics.”

Bloghorn would like to see more cartoons being used in publicity campaigns, be they political, commercial or charitable.