You are browsing the archive for 2018 October.

by Jonesy

Happy Birthday, Somewhen*

October 29, 2018 in General

© Rupert Besley

Rupert Besley writes:

(*That’s an Isle of Wight word, ‘somewhen’, and generally means ‘mañana’ or when the plumber says he’ll be back. It’s not a nice word, but has its uses.)

At some point last autumn, or maybe the one before, the PCO passed its 10th birthday. An occasion for celebration and festivities around the globe. If these were muted, that may have been down to the fact that no one knew for sure what date that was to mark. So, even if belatedly, here’s a reminder of some of the things that have been achieved over this decade.

The PCO came of mixed parentage, love child of the  Cartoonists’ Guild (now defunct) and of the UK wing of FECO (now in separation). Thanks to huge efforts put in by founding members (all still active in the Organisation) and the tireless work of its successive Chairlegs (Andy Davey, Nathan Ariss, Bill Stott, Clive Goddard), the PCO has survived a noisy childhood and an occasionally difficult adolescence to be standing sturdy still on its own two feet.

The PCO was set up to wave the flag for professional cartooning and to help navigate the profession through the increasingly choppy waters that lay ahead. Not a lot has changed. It’s the situation we have still and know all too well today. As a previous generation would have put it, SNAFU. Even so, without paid support (except on website) and all through the voluntary efforts of active members (alongside their own business and personal interests), the PCO has managed as follows:

almost 20 – all credit and thanks to individual organisers, committees and a great many volunteer helpers, annual cartoon festivals have been established and continued to run in Shrewsbury and Herne Bay (carrying on the spirit of Nottingham & Ayr), all of which the PCO has been very happy to support and play a full part in (along with occasional other festivals, as at Hastings & Southport).

Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival

the regular festivals each involve exhibitions, often 3-4 (or more) together. Beyond these, PCO exhibitions on particular themes have taken place in different locations eg Henley/rowing, Finchley/cinema, Beetles/art, Westminster Library/Gagged, Charing Cross Library/Not the National Portrait Gallery… along with regular invitations to participate in shows organised by, for example, the Cartoon Museum, Euro Kartonale and St Just.

for a number of years the annual Battle of the Cartoonists run by The Big Draw was a popular event in the capital, especially when held in a prize venue like the V&A. With that no longer taking place, the PCO continues to do its bit for public outreach, with workshops, talks and caricaturing marathons made part of exhibitions and festivals.

the PCO’s much-loved showpiece publication, Foghorn, ran to more than 50 issues over several years. With publication and distribution costs putting paid to its continuation, the PCO has had to rely in recent years on blog (1,695 posts on latest website) and Twitter (56.7k tweets) for getting its cartoon take on life out into the wider world. In 2015, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, the PCO worked with English Pen & Crowdshed to bring out the cartoon book Draw the Line Here.

since its inception, the PCO has relied on its website (re-vamped in 2015) for contact and communication. With more than 8k posts on 600-plus topics on its current Members’ Forum (along with access to 23,912 posts on 1,569 topics on its predecessor, the old forum), there is no shortage of information and comment to be had here on anything to do with cartooning.

repression of cartoonists, along with fellow journalists, continues around the world. The PCO has actively supported the efforts of CRNI to highlight the plight and work for the release of (and dropping of charges against) the likes of Eaten Fish on Manus Island, Musa Kart in Turkey and Zunar in Malaysia.

Closer to home, the PCO is engaged in the continual battle for space in the media for cartooning to survive and flourish. A good many letters have been posted on the subject and emails sent – along with the occasional award.

Links Abroad:
the PCO separated from FECO in 2017, but since then has still as much as (maybe more than) ever kept up active links with colleagues and associations overseas, such as France Cartoons, the Greek Cartoonists’ Association and NCS in America. Contact, collaboration and exchanges of the kind enjoyed here can only be to the benefit of the art-form. Bring them on, we say. And here’s to the next decade.

PS Please feel free, any PCO member, to put right any errors and omissions above.

by Jonesy

Joking of course

October 17, 2018 in General

© Rupert Besley

Rupert Besley writes:

Occasionally, maybe once a century, I have a twinge of sympathy for politicians for the care they must take in the choice of every word they use.

Cartoonists have it easier perhaps, as they are allowed to joke, scaremonger, exaggerate and tease. It’s what is expected of them and is their job. But, along the way, they can also make important points. Some of the most serious opposition to the manoeuvres of politicians in recent years has come from the pens of cartoonists.

Politicians, however, (with one notable exception, made prominent for entertainment value alone) are there to be taken seriously. All that they say can be taken down and used against them, each word scrutinised for self-contradiction or deviation from the party line. Like Gerald Ratner, those that dare to joke can pay for that a heavy price.

© Rupert Besley

When, in 2010, outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne left his successor in the next government a note saying, ‘I’m afraid there is no money’, it was meant as a light-hearted touch in an old tradition. In 1964 Reggie Maudling told Jim Callaghan, ‘Sorry to leave it in such a mess, old cock.’ Byrne, who had halved the country’s deficit in just four years, was blamed for everything. His joke misfired and was one he regretted ever after.

When, around 1790, Boyle Roche in the Irish Parliament declared, ‘I smell a rat; I see him floating in the air… I will nip him in the bud,’ most people appreciated the mix of metaphors and enjoyed the joke. When Owen Paterson said badgers had moved the goalposts, people took him literally and thought him a fool. I’m no Tory or fan of badger extermination, but I thought him hard done by for the scorn heaped on him.

© Rupert Besley

When John Piper chose to highlight Windsor Castle in his painting by the addition of a lowering, dark sky, George VI famously remarked to the artist that it was a shame he had not had better weather. The comment is used as evidence of House of Windsor philistinism. Maybe justified, but I like to allow for the possibility that the words were tongue-in-cheek.

I don’t care for emojis, but they do have a use in the absence of other signals of humour at work. Happily, cartoons make clear their purpose from first glance, and especially so when they come in a neat little box. It was Piper’s sidekick Osbert Lancaster (the two connected on stage design and worked together on the Festival of Britain) who in 1938 introduced to the UK from France the format of the pocket cartoon. He went on to produce 10,000 more over the next 40-odd years.

© Rupert Besley

An Osbert Lancaster original, encased in plastic is the trophy to be awarded next month to the Pocket Cartoonist of the Year at the annual Political Cartoon of the Year Awards. That, along with Pocket Cartoon of the Year, is a new category added to this year’s event in its 18th year. Voting for that is a nice chance to show support for and appreciation of an art-form that brings regular delight.

PS: For illustrations here, I had meant to use some Osbert Lancaster classics, but ran out of time for checking any permissions necessary. Or I could have begged current gems of pocket cartoons from colleagues, but didn’t want to pre-judge nominations and voting soon to come. So, I’ve gone instead with my own stuff (as nothing from me is going to be entered for any award).

Rupert Besley

© Rupert Besley

Portrait of the Not The National Portrait Gallery exhibition

October 3, 2018 in Events, General

Photo © Glenn Marshall

Clive Goddard writes:

I’m not sure how you measure these things in any meaningful way but I’m going to confidently declare that the PCO’s #NotTheNPG caricature exhibition at Charing Cross library was a complete triumph. For a start, the location was excellent, being in an area of central London visited by art loving tourists and now, thanks to the collective funds and effort of the  membership, kitted out as a proper gallery space with hanging facilities and frames which we can use again.

Poster featuring caricatures by Wilbur Dawbarn, Jonesy, Andy Davey and Simon Ellinas.

We could, I suppose, measure the show’s success in terms of the members’ response to the call for submissions. 47 different people had their work shown which added up to around 130 pieces on the walls (and tables and floor), whittled down in a painfully difficult process from over 300 submissions.

Photo © Jeremy Banx

How else to measure it? Well, people turned up. Not in their thousands, of course because it was a cartoon exhibition not a recording of the X Factor, but in sufficient numbers to make it worth doing and to stop the invigilators from sloping off to the pub. We were plugged in both Private Eye and The Evening Standard which certainly helped raise the show’s profile. And those that visited the show really liked it. The comments book was full of very complimentary things and there were plenty of encouraging words exhanged, too. It was also great to hear a lot of audible laughter coming from the visitors which made a pleasant change in the normally po-faced environment of an art gallery. Tate Modern really frowns upon people chuckling at their exhibits as I once discovered to my cost at a Turner Prize show.

Preview piece in The Evening Standard.

Better still, we sold stuff. Prints and originals on the walls quickly attracted those lovely little red dots which translated into total sales of nearly £3,000. This included a couple of hundred which the invigilators earned by selling more of their own work out of a grubby suitcase beneath the table.

Jeremy Banx, Christopher Burke and Steve Way at the Private View. Photo © Mika Schick.

The events were a great success too. The private view was well attended by many cartoonists, art editors and collectors most of whom behaved impeccably and didn’t get too drunk. Unfortunately Damian Hirst, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson and the other caricature victims on display, though cordially invited, were unable to attend due to some pathetic reason or other. I don’t know – they didn’t RSVP. 

Helen Pointer workshop. Photo © The Surreal McCoy

Helen Pointer’s caricaturing workshop went down a storm, attracting a full table of happy punters eager to learn and to try their hand/s at the dark art.

The panel discussion. 

The panel discussion featuring PCO heavyweights* Martin Rowson, Andy Davey, Rebecca Hendin, John Roberts and Chris Burke was a sell out**. Different perspectives on working practices and processes were shared and there was a dialogue between people working in slightly differing, yet overlapping, adjacent fields, ie: portraiture through a lens that included everything from event caricature to political cartooning to illustration gave a welcome broad perspective. And, again, most people behaved very well throughout.

The clash of the hairdos. Photo © Glenn Marshall

So now that it’s all over and Uncle Glenn has de-framed everyone’s work and is trying to find the SAEs they came with, we start thinking about the next one. Today Charing Cross, tomorrow the world!

Major thanks to everyone concerned.

Clive Goddard

PCO Chair-human

* In terms of talent not body mass index.
** In terms of numbers not principles.