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Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival – The Exhibitions!

October 20, 2020 in Comment, Events, General

Exhibition poster cartoon by festival organiser © Roger Penwill.

Lovely to see a REAL cartoon exhibition on REAL walls! Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival may have been cancelled earlier in the year but the accompanying ’20-20 Vision’ show lives on at the wonderful Bear Steps Gallery in Shrewsbury. It opened this week and features 70 cartoons by 43 cartoonists including Steve Bell, The Surreal McCoy, Pete Dredge, Jonathan Cusick, Tat Effby, Wilbur Dawbarn, Ralph Steadman, Royston Robertson, John Landers, Steve Best, Jeremy Banx, Kathryn Lamb, Sarah Boyce, Tim Harries, Glenn Marshall, Andy Davey, Clive Goddard & Zoom Rockman.

The Bear Steps Gallery, a fifteenth century restored building. Photo © Glenn Marshall.

There is also a bonus exhibition in the upstairs gallery of cartoons responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo of the team hanging the artwork last Sunday © Tony Clarkson.

The PCO blog featured some of the cartoons selected for the ‘Vision’ exhibition earlier in the year and you can see them here.

Another photo of the hang © Tony Clarkson.

Here is a selection from the ‘No One Saw It Coming’ coronavirus cartoons display.

Ralph Steadman did a HUGE painting. A video of him in action as he creates it is displayed next a much smaller print of the work.

Cartoon © Ralph Steadman.

Cartoon © Peter Schrank

Poignant cartoon by Peter Schrank about isolation, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable during lock down.

Cartoon © Steve Bell.

Unsurprisingly Boris featured heavily in the exhibition. This by The Guardian’s Steve Bell…

Cartoon © Andy Davey.

…and another from Andy Davey.

Cartoon © Chris Williams

…and yet another. This by ‘Dink’

Cartoon © Grizelda.

Over-indulgence cartoon from Grizelda…although some of us didn’t drink sensibly even before the pandemic.

Caricature © Jonathan Cusik.

Fine caricature of Chris ‘Now Go Wash Your Hands’ Whitty by Jonathan Cusick.

Cartoon © Pete Dredge.

Back to school with Dredge.

Cartoon © Ken Pyne.

Ken Pyne takes us on holiday….remember those?

Cartoon © Royston Robertston…and Phil.

Pirate material by Rrrrroyston Rrrrrobertson.

Cartoon © Henny Beaumont.

No exhibition on this theme would be complete without a wave to the super-spreader himself. Henny here channeling Hokasai.

Cartoon © The Surreal McCoy.

Finally as we head into the second wave this cartoon by the Surreal McCoy seems perfectly timed.

Through the exhibition run we’ll be publishing more of the ‘No One Saw it Coming’ exhibits across the vast PCO media empire so keep an eye on our Facebook (@UKProfessionalCartoonists), Twitter (@procartoonists) and Instagram (@procartoonists) feeds.

For more Covid ‘fun’ we published a selection of infectious laughter earlier in the year here.

The exhibition at Bear Steps runs until 31st October and the gallery is open 10.00am – 4.0pm daily. (Covid measures at the gallery: hand sanitiser at the door, 6 visitors at a time with an eye kept on flow, in one door out through another. Face coverings to be worn)

Puppet caricature © Jonathan Cusik.

Here’s a fine video of the cartoon-form Mayor of Shrewsbury Philip Gillam introducing the show.

Congrats to all those involved from Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival and Bear Steps Gallery for putting the shows together in tricky times. Fingers tentatively crossed that the festival can return in all its glory next Spring!

  • Thanks to festival committee member Sarah Knap for extra info in this post.

The Olden Phrase

September 30, 2020 in General, News

Tat Effby writes:

So, the idea for my cartoon series In The Olden Phrase came to me a while ago. But it seems in these Unprecedented Times™ of mixed messages, sneezing into elbows and talking out of arses, there’s never been a better time to share my guide to contemporary buzz-speak.

Language is ever-evolving and I’m not complaining, I love words and I’m no grammar fascist; less po-tay-toes, fewer po-tah-toes… whatevs.

But when did ‘getting in contact’ become Reaching Out, ‘in the future’ turn into Going Forward, and ‘household hints’ equate to Life Hacks? And when did Platform get ideas above its station?

As the buzz-phrases kept coming, and kept grating, so did the opportunities to take the mick, so I started to compile a phrase book guide to the new vocabulary, the idea growing out of my previous series, Back in My Day, that appeared in Private Eye, back in the day.

The series is launching on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @oldenphrase where you can follow my easy-to-use guide to help sort your Big Dick Energy from your Big Dick Emery or your Pansexuals from your Pan’s Peoples.

Yes, In The Olden Phrase is a means to poke fun at topical verbal guffery, but, if I’m being completely honest with myself, it’s also a Safe Space for me to understand the screaming insanity of the modern world. I hope it may help others too.

You’re welcs.

(So also… when did sentences have to start with So?)

Still Splitting Fog

September 23, 2020 in Comment, General

Pandemic cartoon from Nebelspalter (1918) by Fritz Boscovitz. (The crowd is gathered round a sign saying, Flu – no assembly…’)

Rupert Besley writes:

As a student I had the good fortune several times to work abroad on holiday jobs in the north-east of Switzerland. Happy days. Swiss newspapers then were hard work to get through – great slabs of dense print, well beyond my linguistic skills and I’m pretty sure even those with German as first language found much the same. This was 50 years back and more, but I don’t think much has changed since (or not when I last tried reading a copy of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and collapsed under its weight).

From Nebelspalter 2012: cover page, cartoon by Oliver Ottitsch (to accompany a feature on mis-measurement). The boy on the right is saying, ‘you’ve got that ruler the wrong way round.’

But there was one publication that stood out on the news-stands and that was Nebelspalter, a satirical magazine with an eye-catching cartoon on its cover. The name means Fog-splitter, preferably with a heavy cleaver or axe. (All of which brings to mind Foghorn, the PCO’s own subversive publication for several years.) Inside were fine cartoons, including ones by the likes of Bosc, whose work needed no language skills to be able to enjoy.

Nebelspalter 2012: Mark Zuckerberg caricature by Michael Streuen.

Nebelspalter was founded in 1875, as ‘an illustrated humorous political weekly’, heavily modelled on Punch. Its finest hour was through the 1930s and 40s, when it took on Nazism in Germany and followers in Switzerland. Since then the publication has had its ups and downs. By 1998 its circulation (70,000 in the 1970s) had dropped to 8,000. But a last-minute rescue plan enabled the magazine to continue, appearing more or less monthly. In 2017 it had a print run of 21,000 and according to a market research study had 160,000 readers per issue (all such details taken from the entry on Wikipedia). These days it is into online subscribers. Nebelspalter reckons to be the oldest illustrated humour/satire publication still in circulation.

From Simplicissimus: 1903 caricature by Gulbransson of composer and Bayreuth Festival director Siegfried Wagner.

Another tribute act to Punch was Germany’s Simplicissimus, named after the hero of a raunchy 17th cent novel recounting the tales of one surviving the Thirty Years War. Simplicissimusfirst appeared in 1896 and was published weekly till 1944, suspended for 10 years and then revived, coming out bi-weekly in its last three years to 1967. For its first issue, 480,000 copies were printed – and 10,000 sold. Munich based, the magazine found easy targets for humour in Prussian military types and entrenched class snobberies. There were top names among the contributors – writers like Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Frank Wedekind, Hugo von Hoffmansthal and the illustrators included such stars as George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz, Ernst Barlach, John Heartfield and Olaf Gulbransson.

Simplicissimus, 1908: characteristically dark but powerful study by Käthe Kollwitz. In 1898 the work of Kollwitz was nominated for a gold medal in Berlin’s Great German Art Exhibition, but was denied it after Kaiser Wilhelm II was said to have opined, ‘I beg you gentlemen, a medal for a woman, that would really be going too far… orders and medals of honour belong on the breasts of worthy men.’

Both magazines owed a bit, too, perhaps to their counterparts in France with its strong tradition of satirical magazines. The German and Swiss publications are generally reckoned to have been always somewhat tamer and more restrained than the no-holds-barred swipes of their French equivalents.

I’ve not got to see a full copy of Nebelspalter for many years and am in no position to give any kind of review. But I’m cheered to see it is still going and long may that continue.

Copyright: illustrations 1-3 reproduced by kind permission of Nebelspalter.ch. The magazine has also most kindly provided the following link to its archive, enabling lovers of fine cartoon and caricature to enjoy its superb collection of work published in past issues from 1875 to 2010. Our thanks.

Cartoonists Rally Round Birthday Boy Carson

August 5, 2020 in General

Cartoon by © Martin Rowson

Dean Patterson writes:

Recently a lot of the best cartoonists in the UK, including many PCO members, went out of their way to draw a birthday wish for Carson, who is a very sick little boy with a brain tumour and had to spend his birthday in hospital getting chemotherapy…

Cartoon by © KJ Lamb

The boy’s family really wanted to send their thanks and let the cartoonists know what it meant to them. (They felt the cartoonists went beyond what could have been hoped for!)

Cartoon by © Andrew Fraser

I know everyone who contributed is very busy and their time important and it meant a lot, really, that so many still contributed. When I sent them over to his Dad he was utterly gobsmacked, with tears in eyes. His Grandfather also got in touch to ask me to convey his thanks to all concerned.

Cartoon by © Russel Herneman

So thank you! Not just from me but especially from the boy’s family for helping them celebrate the little lad’s birthday.

Cartoon by © Jeremy Banks

Cartoon by © Steve Jones

Cartoon by © Graeme Keyes

Cartoon by © Mike Stokoe

Cartoon by © Harry Burton

Cartoon by © Mumph

Cartoon by © Dean Patterson

Cartoon by © Ron McGeary

Cartoon by © James Mellor

Cartoon by © Glenn Marshall

Oh We Did Like To Be Beside The Seaside!

July 31, 2020 in Events, General, News

In the ‘old normal’ this weekend would have seen cartoonists flocking like seagulls to the wonderful Herne Bay Cartoon Festival. With this year’s event c19ncelled here’s a trip down memory lane with the fabulous posters from previous years and links to the festival holiday snaps.

2013 Poster by © Hunt Emerson

The Herne Bay event started as a bolt-on to the Duchamp In Herne Bay centennial festival and featured much Marcel Duchamp toilet humour including cartoons exhibited in the latrines of local pubs.

2014 ‘Cartoonists Beside The Surrealside’ by © Ian Baker

The following year in 2014 the cartoon festival became a thing of its own, but still keeping it surreal.

2015 ‘Cartoonists Beside The Surrealside II’ by © Jeremy ‘Banx’ Banks

The art theme carried on in 2015 with cartoonists manning easels in the bandstand.

2016 by © Dave Brown

In 2016 once more we stuck our toes in the water and drew seaside postcards..

2017 ‘The End of the Pier Show’ by © Chris Burke

In 2017 the live drawing moved over from the bandstand to the pier.

2018 ‘Turning the Tide’ by © The Surreal McCoy

2018 had the seaside theme ‘Turning The Tide’ with an extra focus on female cartoonists in celebration of the centenary of women getting the vote in the UK.

2019 ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ by © Martha ‘Marf’ Richler

Last year’s 2019 spacey theme was the Apollo moon landings. Little did we know it would be the last time cartoonists landed on Herne Bay pier for some time.

Fingers crossed we’ll be heading back with our buckets and spades, cramming the beaches in 2021!

Spectator Article: the future of cartooning

July 30, 2020 in Comment, General

A rare mass-gathering of Private Eye cartoonists in 2013 (Rob Murray standing, 9th from right)

Rob Murray writes in response to Nick Newman’s Spectator piece (see previous post):

Nick Newman, one of the UK’s best and most prolific gag cartoonists, has written an article for this week’s Spectator about the challenges facing our art form. He very kindly gives me a mention.

It makes for sobering reading: the number of open-call outlets for cartoonists has dropped massively in recent years; meanwhile, younger artists seem to be dissuaded by the likelihood of rejection, or simply prefer the perceived glamour and relative accessibility of monetising their work through social media platforms instead.

These are trends I recognise. When I was starting out as a cartoonist in the 2000s, more experienced nib-wielders would often tell me how unlucky I was to have missed out on Punch (which had folded several years earlier) – a magazine that would publish dozens of gags per issue, often phoning cartoonists out of the blue to offer them a double-page spread on which to go crazy.

These days, Private Eye is the undisputed champion of gag cartoons in this country, and I’m delighted to be counted among its regulars. The Spectator and The Oldie also provide a fair few spots – and encouragingly, there are new titles embracing the art form, such as the recently launched Critic magazine.

The issue of young cartoonists coming through is a tricky one to solve – and something of a doubled-edged sword.

One of Rob’s first Spectator cartoons © Rob Murray

I sold my first cartoons to Private Eye and The Spectator when I was 26; I’m now 39 and I’m only aware of two – yes, two – cartoonists younger than me who currently sell to these magazines.

At the risk of falling into fogeyisms, the evidence does seem to suggest that younger artists are dissuaded by the demands of the job: it’s great fun, but can also be hard graft – and it can take many, many rejections before you even sell your first gag. When I started, I was working long hours in a ‘proper’ job – then spending late nights at the drawing board to meet self-imposed deadlines for work that would never be published. But without doing that, I would never have broken through.

At the same time, every cartoonist is fighting for their inch of white space in these magazines – do I really need some young star player rocking up and giving me a run for my money? In a word, yes.

Without new talent coming through and attracting the attention of the editors, even the most cartoon-friendly magazines might eventually run out of decent material, and give up on the gags.

And yet the audience for cartoons remains strong and enthusiastic. They are hugely popular with readers – and people are immediately intrigued when I mention what I do for a living.

A very early © Rob Murray from Private Eye

Like any artist, the cartoonist needs to adapt to the marketplace. It’s true that it can be difficult (if not impossible) to make a living by relying exclusively on the best-known publications. And even with fewer new cartoonists on the scene, competition for space remains fierce.

To some extent, I see these big-name magazines as my shop window – the place I can show off some of my best work, and reach a big audience. I then try and use those credentials to find well-paying jobs elsewhere – often by tempting the editor of a more obscure or niche title to add my work to their pages, when they’ve previously never even thought of using cartoons.

Instead of assuming the art form will become extinct on the printed page, we should all be finding ways to create our own markets and ensure that cartoons are here to stay.

Why does no one want to be a cartoonist any more? The lack of new blood doesn’t bode well for the industry’s future

July 25, 2020 in Comment, General

Written by Nick Newman for (and courtesy of) The Spectator with bonus cartoon content.

‘Nightmare!’ is how The Spectator’s cartoon editor Michael Heath has been describing cartooning for at least 30 years, but it’s truer now than ever. Eighty years ago, cartoonists were so celebrated that waxworks of Low, Strube and Poy were displayed in Madame Tussauds. Today, all that remains of Low is a pair of waxy hands in Kent University’s British Cartoon Archive. We are a vanishing species.

A © K.J. Lamb cartoon from Cherwell Magazine done during the time Kathryn was still at college.

There is a lack of new blood in the industry that doesn’t bode well for the future. When I was a student, getting published in Punch and Private Eyewas seen as the pinnacle of a career in humour. Many tried —and succeeded — from an early age. K.J. Lamb was selling gags to the Eyewhile still at Oxford. Ken Pyne was published in Punch when just 16 — as was Grizelda in Private Eye. The FT’s Banx was also a Punch stalwart by the time he was 20. That was then. Now we are all middle-aged and there are few youngsters snapping at our heels. The last time six cartoonists met at a Spectator party we had a combined age of over 350. In a recent photo of Eye cartoonists, featuring 45 of the top names, only one was under 30.

Punch cartoon from 1983 by a youthful © Jeremy Banks

Yet there’s every indication that cartoons are as loved by the public as ever. They are tweeted, shared, posted on Instagram; they go viral and get printed out and stuck on fridges. Pocket cartoons, pioneered by Sir Osbert Lancaster in the 1930s, are a particularly British art form and one that is still prized. Editors place topical gags on the front pages of newspapers, a practice rarely seen in France, Germany or America.

So why the dearth of new cartooning talent? The simple answer is that the opportunities have narrowed. Since the death of Punch, the main outlets for freelancers are Private Eye, The Spectator and the Oldie — and competition is fierce. Private Eye receives more than 500 submissions per issue and publishes up to 50. Every newspaper used to have regular pocket cartoonists — now only a handful survive. In straitened times for print media, the cartoons are often the first to go. Many of us lost work when lockdown was announced.

Another problem is financial. Some publications haven’t raised their rates since before the fall of the Berlin Wall, while others pay as little as £50 per cartoon. Compare that with the New Yorker, which is reported to pay between $700 and $1,400 per gag, depending on the artist’s ‘seniority’. One British publisher once asked me: ‘If we pay more, will the jokes be any funnier?’ I wish now I had said yes.

It isn’t just the lack of money that’s deterring new talent. There is also fear of failure. Rejection is a way of life for even seasoned cartoonists and today’s snowflakes can’t cope with it. I recently encouraged a promising young cartoonist to try The Spectator, which he did with immediate success. I still warned him: ‘You will get rejected. Everyone gets rejected.’ After two issues of ‘no thanks’ he has abandoned cartooning.

We veteran cartoonists do try to encourage the next generation, although it’s akin to committing professional suicide. The Cartoon Art Trust’s Young Cartoonist competition — judged by Fleet Street cartoonists — receives 1,000 entries a year. We joke that the objective is to identify the talent and then break their little fingers, but we stupidly don’t, and instead celebrate new stars and extra competition. Former winner Will McPhail is now a New Yorker regular; Rob Murray draws for Private Eye and the Sunday Times; Ella Baron for the TLS. All were in their twenties when they won, which suggests the talent is out there.

© Rob Murray’s first cartoon in Private Eye.

Oliver Preston, chairman of the Cartoon Art Trust, thinks alternative outlets distract comic artists. Graphic novels such as Kingsman, which was turned into a successful Hollywood movie franchise, are a more enticing means of earning aliving. Also, the ability to self-publish online cuts out editors who say, in the words of Heath: ‘You are not funny, Mr So-Called Funnyman.’ Ruby Elliot is a young illustrator better known as ‘rubyetc’ on Instagram, where she has 277,000 followers. Through her website, she sells merchandise, artwork and subscriptions to her cartoons.

Jon Harvey, the creator of Count Binface (who stood against Boris in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat in the last election), is the sort of sharp-minded political gagster who in another era would have drawn up his ideas and sold them to publications. Instead, he puts his jokes on Twitter to boost his online profile. It’s quicker, the response is immediate and, as he quips: ‘The editor of my Twitter page is more likely to take it.’ The theory is that getting noticed online may lead to commissions for radio and TV. He describes the internet as a ‘Wild West’ of opportunities for those who know how to self-promote or nurture a following.

For those of us brought up on dead wood who still find magic in newsprint, it may be too late to grasp these opportunities. So we continue to live the ‘nightmare’. How long the nightmare continues remains to be seen.

With many thanks to The Spectator for allowing us to reproduce this piece.

You can see an item featuring Nick on this story from BBC Newsnight (around 37 mins in)

Cartoonists protest summit of the International Labor Organization

July 13, 2020 in General

Cartoon © Steve ‘Jonesy’ Jones

The International Labor Organization (ILO) based in Geneva, Switzerland, is holding its virtual summit this week with the participation of heads of state and government, ministers, representatives of employers and workers. At CARTOONS FOR CHANGE we decided to invite cartoonists and illustrators from all continents to protest for 365 days, starting now during the virtual summit of the ILO, to demand that governments and multinationals stop child labor. It is unacceptable, cruel and illegal that 30 years after the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child there are still almost 300 million working children.
On the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labor, which was commemorated on June 12th, the CARTOONS FOR CHANGE initiative, which I lead, invited cartoonists, illustrators and creatives, from all continents, to contribute their talent and creativity, sharpen their pencils and crayons, in defense of hundreds of millions of girls and boys victims of labor exploitation. Thanks to this first open call, CARTOONS FOR CHANGE received expressions of interest from more than a hundred professional cartoonists from all continents.
Because governments, international organizations, and especially multinational companies have done little, if anything, to eradicate child labor and protect the world’s poorest children, we in CARTOONS FOR CHANGE call cartoonists, illustrators, and others graphic artists to carry out a global protest that will not last just 24 hours but #365DaysAgainstChildLabor.

 

Cartoon © Gilmar

The quality of the CARTOONS FOR CHANGE we have received is exceptional, the immense enthusiasm of cartoonists to join the cause is something I did not expect. This gives us the assurance that our global campaign will have a significant impact, despite the fact that those who profit from large-scale child labor, to reduce their cost of labor, are people and companies with criminal behavior. Exploiting a minor is a crime, exploiting tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of girls and boys, like too many multinationals do, is a crime against humanity, this according to international law.

 

Cartoon © Chavo del Toro

The European Union claims to respect human rights and children’s rights, but Europe is today the largest financial beneficiary of misery and child labor in the rural communities that produce coffee, cocoa and many other agricultural products.

Switzerland claims to be an exemplary democracy, but the Swiss Confederation has more children in its coffee, tea and cocoa supply chain than children studying in all Swiss schools.

Most “development aid” programs from the United States, Canada, the European Union, Norway, Switezrland, the United Kingdom, Japan, etc. which claim to help eradicate child labor and reduce misery not only do not reduce them but also serve to hide the cruelty of neo-colonial business models that are the true cause of misery, and therefore of child labor.According to data from the International Labor Organization (ILO), more than 152 million children in child labor situations. In my opinion, ILO child labor figures underestimate the total number of exploited children. In Asia the ILO underestimates them by more than one hundred million children, in Africa more than 30 million children. This means that the total number of children working worldwide today may be very close to 300 million.
It is absolutely unacceptable, cruel and illegal that 70 years after signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 30 years after adopting the Convention on the Rights of the Child, even the coffee, tea and chocolate they consume in the United Nations institutions has child labor. This is true in the ILO and also in UNICEF that claims to protect children around the world, and in all the centers of power and influence of the developed world, where they claim to support and promote the Sustainable Development Goals. It is urgent to stop the exploitation of hundreds of millions of girls and boys. There are too many industries, such as chocolate, coffee, mining and many others in which child labor continues to increase, because it is highly profitable for multinationals.

Cartoon © Antonio Rodríguez

According to figures from the ILO, worldwide, child labor is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71%), which also includes fishing, forestry, livestock and aquaculture, and comprises both subsistence and commercial agriculture; 17% of children in child labor situation work in the service sector; and 12% in the industrial sector, particularly mining.

Cartoon © Mangena

CARTOONS FOR CHANGE cartoons and illustrations will be published in the press and shared on the Twitter and Instagram accounts: @Cartoons4Change and Facebook: @Cartoons4ChangeNow.

If you want more information about CARTOONS FOR CHANGE, or about how you can contribute to eradicate child labor and abolish slavery, please contact us through any of the social networks.

These almost three hundred million extremely poor working girls and boys are largely innocent and helpless victims of the indifference of good people. This cannot go on like this. We have to change it!

 

How to draw a virus: spare a thought for the Covid-19 cartoonists

June 9, 2020 in Comment, General

Written by Guy Venables originally for The Spectator (with a smattering of bonus content cartoons):

While stumbling the 30 yards from bed to work, the freelance gag cartoonist is usually trying to decide which of the hundreds of news stories to draw a hilarious cartoon about that day. It used to be one of the most difficult decisions of the morning. Now, however, that question has been replaced by “are there any new angles to be had from the one, same, monolithically large single news story of the decade?”

My mother, similarly, at the end of the second world war, asked her own mother whether the newspapers would keep going because, obviously, there would be no more news to speak of now the war was over.

Cartoon © Guy Venables

Cartoonists evolve, like finches, on separate islands and rarely meet. That said, in the first week of lockdown each of us imagined we were the only ones to think of the link between the “man on the desert island” visual cliché and social distancing, so much so in fact, that the Private Eye cartoon editor asked us all politely to go back to bed and try to think of something else. So we all switched our attentions to loo rolls and stockpiling.

Then Easter came around and we all individually sent The Spectator “Jesus being told to roll back the stone and get back in the cave.” Then we all drew Joe Wicks. Then baking. A new type of mental filtering process had to be adopted, and cartoonists aren’t good at “new” (although a strangely large proportion of us have been adopted. Some several times). A proportion of us decided to concentrate on non-topical cartoons.

Cartoon © Guy Venables

But as Pete Dredge asked us all: “Do we draw everybody two metres apart even if it’s nothing to do with Coronavirus?” We didn’t know for sure but decided against it, as it would use up too much paper.

As things progressed and the death count rose there was a shift from looking at the situation to looking at the virus itself. Attack the villain of the story as we always say (We don’t always say that but we COULD). But how do you draw a virus? Somebody drew the virus. It was round with knobbly bits on. Right. We all drew gags about round things and added knobbly bits so you could tell it was biting satire. Then Matt from the Telegraph did it better and we all went back to bed again.

In my own personal sphere, it was a problem of pretence that bothered me. Now that my wife was at home all day the withering truth was slowly dawning on her of just how little work I actually do. I spend the afternoon trying to convince her that a hammock is a legitimate workplace.

I think of an idea but realise Nick Newman has already done it in the Times. Then I realise I’d just read the Times.

Long gone are the cocktail parties and trendy gatherings to which the cartoonist is never invited. Now he must rely on his own wits and hard work. Having never done this before we revert to our standard emergency operation of copying old Punch cartoons and hoping nobody notices.

Cartoon © Guy Venables

Another angle is of course to throw withering scorn at whoever’s in charge. This can limit the people to whom one can send the actual cartoon. Politically it’s a good idea to choose a point right in the middle of politics and shoot outwards. That way, come the revolution you can pin your badge on whoever runs the firing squads.

Cartoon © Guy Venables

I draw a gag about Dominic Cummings that gets lots of likes on Facebook and go back to the hammock, blissfully unaware that an hour beforehand, from some distant garret, Banx had sent a similar but much better Cummings gag to the Financial Times.

With thanks to The Spectator for allowing us to reproduce the piece.

Bottle Moments: Cartoons for Key Workers

June 3, 2020 in General, News


Rob Murray writes:

Six weeks ago, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and with the country on lockdown, I joined forces with psychologist and author Dr Kevin Dutton to launch Bottle Moments: a project using personalised cartoons to bring some much-needed joy — and to say ‘thank you’ — to frontline key workers.

Kev is a longstanding client of mine, with whom I have collaborated on several projects in the past (most notably illustrating some of his bestselling books, including The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success, co-written with Andy McNab).

No 34: “Giving my little niece, born just before lockdown, a big squeeze and telling my parents’ pup that he’s such a good boy” – George, NHS comms officer  

The idea for Bottle Moments is a simple one: we asked frontline key workers to contact us on social media and tell us about something that is getting them through this difficult time: a happy memory, an aspiration, or perhaps simply a special friend or relative they can’t wait to see again when this is all over. A moment they wish they could bottle and keep forever — something they think about to help them get through the tough times.

No 15: “Looking forward to cuddling this lovely fella, my Dad.” – Marion, general surgical nurse.

Key workers provide a photo or two for reference, and I bring their Bottle Moment to life as a quick cartoon, encapsulated in a bottle — which we then post on Instagram and Twitter.

The response has been incredible. Most importantly, the reaction of key workers themselves to the cartoons I’ve drawn for them has been wonderful — they have hugely appreciated the drawings and said they’ve brightened their days after a tough shift; some have even told us they’ve been moved to happy tears.

The media response has also been amazing. Amongst the highlights, Kev and I appeared on The Ian Collins Show on TalkRadio on 22nd May, and we were featured in the Daily Mirror on 28th (above).

But the biggest boost to our project came last Friday, when we were interviewed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (viewable here). Aside from giving us a platform to explain Bottle Moments to an enormous TV audience, the segment also featured two key workers being surprised with a cartoon I’d produced for them.

No 55:“I’m a key worker in a school and my wife works in mental health. We go to a lot of horror conventions which are stopped at present, including the Walking Dead convention. We’re looking forward to being back at these events.”  – Tim, school cleaner

Mental health was already a talking point before the pandemic, and lockdown has only increased people’s awareness of the need to hold onto positive memories and relationships. It’s also been very rewarding for me to see the positive impact a cartoon sketch can have on an individual.

So far I’ve drawn about 70 and counting — and we’re aiming to tackle as many as we can. Key workers can contact us with their requests via @BottleMoments on Twitter and Instagram, also using the hashtag #bottlemoments.