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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 Now, however, that question has been replaced by “are there any new angles to be had from the one, same, monolithically large single news story of the decade?”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.

Not the 2020 Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival

April 24, 2020 in Events, General, News

Cancelled poster by © Roger Penwill

Glenn Marshall writes:

This weekend would have seen the main events of the Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival  but sadly, like so much else, it has had to be cancelled. One of the organisers, Roger Penwill, commented a few weeks ago when the postponement was announced “We felt that we had no choice as the nature of the event, encouraging many members of the public to come to an indoor space, ran contrary to the guidance on tackling virus spread. More importantly we did not want to put at risk the health of any member of the cartooning community or their families”

The theme was ‘twenty twenty vision’ so the organising committee should’ve been visionary and seen Covid 19 coming!

In the meantime, here for your edification and delight, is a selection of optical illusionary cartoons selected by Roger that would’ve been part of the the Bear Steps Gallery exhibition. All drawn from/by the PCO fraternity.

In alphabetical order:

Cartoon © Nathan Ariss

Cartoon © Jeremy Banx

Cartoon © Rupet Besley

Cartoon © Andy Davey

Cartoon © Ian Baker

Cartoon © Neil Dishington

Cartoon © Pete Dredge

Cartoon © Tat Effby

Cartoon © Clive Goddard

Cartoon © James Griffiths

Cartoon © Jonesy

Cartoon © Kathryn Lamb

Cartoon © Chris Madden

Cartoon © Roger Penwill

Cartoon © Glenn Marshall

Cartoon © Ken Pyne

Cartoon © Royston Robertson

Cartoon © The Surreal McCoy

Cartoon © Wilbur Dawbarn

Cartoon © Kipper Williams

Cartoon © Noel Ford

This final cartoon is by the great Noel Ford (who I should really rechristen Noel Zord to keep alphabetic consistency) Sadly Noel died last year. He had been very involved with the festival since its inception and part of this year’s events was to be a retrospective exhibition of his wonderful work.

Thanks to Roger and all the others who’d put a lot of effort into preparation for this year’s jamboree, including Sarah Knapp, Tim King, Tat Effby, Jonathan Cusick and Jill Wild. Hopefully the Shrewsbury cartoon spectacle will be able to be rescheduled in the near future.

On Saturday I’ll be off to do my self-isolated vision themed big board in the garden….

Titanic achievement

April 7, 2020 in General

Pete Dredge writes:

Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”…Bill Tidy’s “Any news of the Iceberg?” All these great artists produced a prolific amount of brilliant work during their illustrious careers but, for some reason, they are mainly remembered for just one piece from their impressive canon. Indeed the former may well have been parodied  by the latter as cartoonists are prone to do but there’s no disputing the fact that the  Bill Tidy take on the Titanic disaster hit the gold mark that few others today seldom reach.

It’s a brilliant gag, but so many other Bill Tidy cartoons were too. What was it about this particular cartoon that elevated it to this higher status?

Drawn in 1968, had sufficient time elapsed since that disastrous loss of life in 1912 to make it fair game for humourists? Would  living survivors or relatives see the funny side? Maybe. Maybe not.

I can’t recall any similar treatments of the Amritsar Massacre of 1919 or the 1906 San Francisco earthquake disaster. Similarly I can’t see any appetite for having a go at 9/11 or Hillsborough in years to come. Maybe it was the futility of that “Man v Nature” mismatch, à la Captain Oates, or other similar noble sacrifices of a bygone era that left the door ajar for the likes of Bill Tidy to do their worst (or best). As I write, coronavirus jokes and gag cartoons are flowing from the pens of cartoonists but we have yet to reach the envisaged “worst is yet to come” stage. Maybe there was a quick-thinking cartoonist on board the Titanic doing the very same gag as Bill’s. We will never know, but hindsight and a cute polar bear are a wonderful thing.

Infectious Laughter

March 31, 2020 in General

Cartoon © Pete Dredge

Naturally many cartoonists have been indulging in some sick humour whilst trying to cope under lockdown. These are from the bunkers of Procartoonists members, including the very funny and worryingly accurate Dredge cartoon above.

© Sarah Boyce

Of course most of us are used to working locked down at home. This is Sarah Boyce’s take on home working.

© Neil Dishington

It has even allowed us to revisit the cartoon cliche, well demonstrated here by Dish.

@ Jeremy Banx

The over-seventies are particularly locked up under lockdown. This from the FT by Banx.

© Guy Venables

And of course we can’t touch each other. This from the ceiling of the household of the great master Guy Venables.

© KJ Lamb

Another art inspired cartoon this from Kathryn Lamb for The Spectator. A bit too much face touching going on there too.

© Dave Brown

Naturally a little bit of politics is inevitable as Boris belatedly tries to hold back the tide. Here the ‘Cnut’ Johnson is rendered by Dave Brown for The Independent.

© Andy Davey

More on Boris’s effort on containment from Andy Davey….with a rather precient final frame.

© Steve Bright

In international news Donald Trump’s every pronouncement is – as usual – going viral, as perfectly illustrated here by Brighty.

© Roz Asquith

Roz Asquith takes a wry look at how some people might work from home.

© Rebecca Hendin

A public information strip by Rebecca Hendin for The New Statesman

© The Surreal McCoy

With people struggling to travel back to their own countries an archive cartoon from the Surreal McCoy seems very apt.

© Glenn Marshall

While you lot all worry about catching Covid 19 I’m in blind panic that I’m down to my last 250 toilet rolls!!!

© Tat Effby

This by Tat Effby shows the toilet roll I missed buying!

 

© Colin Whittock

Colin Whittock also concerns himself with the toilet paper crisis.

© Rupert Besley

Some distance learning from Rupert Besley.

© Wilbur Dawbarn

More spatial awareness. This by Wilbur.

© Andrew Birch

Birch concerns himself with how criminals are having to adapt now we’re all permanently at home and burglary is less of an option.

© James Mellor

On a more positive note this is James Mellor’s tribute to the key workers who are being overwhelmed at the moment.

© Royston Robertson

and here’s a VERY true cartoon by Royston for the Nursing Standard.

© Graeme Bandeira

Graeme Bandeira has been producing some wonderful and moving cartoons for The Yorkshire Post. This one has been shared particularly widely.

© Nick Newman

and finally applause to Nick Newman for this cartoon in The Sunday Times.

Thanks to the PCO members for allowing me to pilfer their work.

Remember folks to clunk, click every trip and always use a condom.

Offensive Weapon?

March 16, 2020 in Events, General

Glenn Marshall writes:

Procartoonists recently hosted a panel discussion labelled ‘OFFENSIVE WEAPON?’ at the North London Story Festival. The talk centred around the issue of cartoons causing offence and where to draw the line. I was joined by Carol Isaacs AKA The Surreal McCoy and The Guardian’s Martin Rowson.

I opened with a brief look at the history of cartoons causing offence, including this one by Richard Newton in 1798, of John Bull farting in the face of George III – oh how we love a fart gag! Newton had his first cartoon published when he was 13 and went on to be supported by the radical publisher William Holland, producing further attacks not only on the Royals and Napoleon but also the slave trade. His short but prolific career ended when he died of typhus aged just 21.

This cartoon by James Gillray of the then Duke of York could’ve been a recent cartoon about the current Duke of York – it’s regularly pastiched. It was deemed acceptable when drawn 1792, but when it was included in a collection of Gillray’s work in the more puritanical Victorian era – around the 1840s – the books were impounded by the police for being obscene. It was only deemed suitable for the public at large in 2009!

Martin mainly talked about his own experience with offence. The cartoon above from the Guardian was his response to the 2017 van attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque, a comment on how some of the print media can incite hate.

Paul Dacre’s Daily Mail went apoplectic with a front page banner raging ‘Fake news, the fascist left and the REAL purveyors of hate’ and went on to an outraged ‘comment’ page. Clearly Martin was doing something right!

Bernard Verlhac (Tignous), Georges Wolinski; Jean Cabut, (Cabu), Stephane Charbonnier (Charb) Jean Cabut (Cabu).

Martin also talked about the Charlie Hebdo attack, paying tribute to the 12 people murdered including the four cartoonists above.

Carol, who is the PCO’s committee member for overseas, discussed issues around the globe of cartoonists who have been persecuted and censored. This covered many of the people we have campaigned for, along with our friends from Cartoonists’ Rights Network International

This is one of many great drawings Carol showed by the Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat who has had a long history of being attacked and censored by the current regime for his work. He now operates out of Kuwait.

This topical cartoon by Niels Bo Bojesen from Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-posten published in January caused the Chinese embassy in Denmark to demand an apology.

Following our talk, we were fortunate that the next speaker cancelled, as we ran into a prolonged and lively Q&A.

Our travelling GAGGED exhibition on suppression and censorship of cartoonists sound the globe also had an outing over the festival.

Thanks  to the festival organiser from Middlesex University for inviting us along.

The Wolf of Baghdad released

February 27, 2020 in Events, General, News

I’ve just wolfed down in one sitting the wonderful, recently published ‘The Wolf of Baghdad’ by PCO’s Carol Isaacs, AKA The Surreal McCoy, published by Myriad Edition. It follows the story of Carol’s family roots and the everyday life of the Jewish community in Baghdad, where a quarter of the city’s population were Jewish up until the little-known vicious pogram of 1941. Within a decade nearly all 150,000 had been murdered or exiled.

All illustrations © The Surreal MCoy

The wolf in the title originates from the Baghdadi Jews belief that the wolf protects them from harmful demons.

I love the illustrations of the ghostly characters and buildings and the limited, muted colour palette that evolves to segment different parts of the story. The wonderful, clean line drawing reminded me of Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’.
Although the novel is wordless it is punctuated by really insightful testimonies.

There is also a superb, evocative soundtrack which Carol performs on along with the band ‘3yin’ which is great to listen to while reading the book for the complete Surround-O-Vison experience!

Some quotes about the book:

The book has some great reviews including this from UK comic shop Page 45. This from The Jewish Cronicle and one from The Morning Star.

Carol and 3yin playing live with visuals from the motion comic at The Phoenix cinema in East Finchley last November.

The Surreal McCoy has recently been talking about the book at the  Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters in Kerala, India and has visited New York for a premier screening of the DVD at The New York Sephardic Film Festival 2020. There are also some shows coming up including Carol and 3yin playing live with moving visuals from the book at JW3 in London on 5th March. Recommended for a unique experience.

The book can be purchased direct from Myriad Edition

For updates on the project follow The Wolf of Baghdad blog.

PCO Cartoon Review of the Year 2019

January 1, 2020 in General, News

Cartoon © Brian Adcock, The Independent

Glenn Marshall reporting from behind the paracetamol bottle:

Once more it is time to look back with the traditional (well, third year running) PCO ‘Cartoon Review of the Year’. It was always going to be a very hard task to not just fill it with cartoons about Trump and BORXIT® so in the end I just gave up and ran with it!

So to set the tone here’s a great drawing from © Chris Burke.

Martin Rowson sums up the plight of cartoonists facing a metaphor shortage in 2019.

I’m having to restock my Brex-mageddon bunker as most of my haul is now well past its sell-by date. I should’ve taken © Andrew Fraser’s Valentine’s Day advice in Private Eye and just bought tinned goods rather than Greggs vegan sausage rolls and doughnuts.

This © Colin Dukelow cartoon from Private Eye sums up what many felt about the ‘B’ word by the end of the year…probably by the beginning of the year too.

In March Brexit was taken off the menu for a few more months. Cartoon served up by © Mike Stokoe in The Spectator.

Moving on to April the heavily redacted Mueller report was released. Loved this cartoon by •••• in the •••••••• •••••

Illustration by © Steve Bright

In Sports News: May saw Liverpool ‘pipped’ (GERIT?) at the post for the Premiership title by the WONDROUS Manchester City. Eat that Klopp (the PCO strenuously denies any bias in their reporters) After coming so close I really can’t see Liverpool ever winning the Premiership! (Nosramarshall)

In June ‘stable genius’ Donald Trump visited the UK. © Royston Robertson shared this cartoon to mark the occasion. Really Royston could post this daily, or even hourly, and it would still be applicable.

In more Trump news: In July Trump told four Democrat congresswomen ‘go back to the places they came from’. This was Steve Jones’ lunar take on it tying in with the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. (Private Eye)

I loved this Boris arse-faced Mona in The Guardian by Steve Bell. No idea what the story was, but I’m a Mona Lisa obsessive. I’m writing this review, so I’m putting it in.

A lovely drawing of the Time magazine ‘Person Of The Year’ (cue FUMING Donald) Greta Thunberg by © Andy Davey from The Evening Standard

© Wilbur Dawbarn’s Greta-inspired back to school clothing range, product placed in Private Eye.

Retail News: In October it was announced that, following a spate of high street closures, Debenhams was facing financial difficulty. © Sarah Boyce may have put her finger on why with this Private Eye cartoon.

Back to climate change: © Kathryn Lamb had this seasonally adjusted cartoon published in The Spectator….

… and this inflammable Private Eye cartoon by Clive Goddard. Sadly this could be a current scene from the Australian Met Office.

A cartoon by © The Surreal McCoy from Prospect which could virtually apply to any of 2019’s news stories.

Cartoon by © Nick Newman, The Sunday Times.

In November Prince Andrew pizza expressed his views on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal to Emily Maitlis. I suspect he’s someone else who may shy away from being interviewed by Andrew Neil in the future.

On that subject here was a rather prescient cartoon by © Kipper Williams actually from a June issue of The Spectator!

Also in November Boris visited flood-hit Yorkshire mostly to gargle his campaign message. Illustration by © Rebecca Hendin for The Guardian.

And still on matters aquatic (and to mention someone other than Bojo) here is Dave Brown’s cartoon for The Independent of Jezco and Joswin getting their campaign messages across…or not.

©Zoom Rockman in Private Eye visits the polling station.

As we head into the New Year here’s another excellent cartoon by •••• from the FT showing you can get new life out of a cartoon metaphor Mr Rowson.

© Brian Adcock, bookends the year with this offering from The Independent.

So what fresh horrors will 2020 have in store? I expect A LOT more about him, him, and more him!

Thanks to Procartoonist members for the use of their cartoons.

Happy New Year from the PCO.

Political Cartoon Awards 2019 – The Results

December 17, 2019 in Events, General, News

The winners! Peter Schrank standing in for Peter Brookes, Photo © Kasia Kowalska


Clive Goddard writes:

Another year of backslapping and mingling with strangers has been and gone at the glitzy Poltical Cartoon Awards. This time the whole event was forced to decamp from its usual palatial venue due to ‘the impending election’ causing everyone to cram into the offices of the sponsor over the road. The body heat generated by the assembled humans made the free, cold beer even more essential.

Veteran MPs, Kate Hoey and Ken Clarke had been dragged away from their respective sofas and selflessly agreed to miss Emmerdale in order to hand out the gongs, almost all of which went to the younger end of the cartooning spectrum. The winners, featuring a good showing from PCO members, were as follows:

Political Cartoon of the Year, 
Rebecca Hendin, The Guardian.

Runner up Politcal Cartoon of the Year, Ben Jennings, 
The Guardian.

Political Cartoonist of the Year
, Dave Brown, The Independent.

Runner-up
 Political Cartoonist of the Year, Peter Brookes, The Times.

Pocket Cartoon of the YearZoom Rockman, Private Eye.

Pocket Cartoonist of the Year
, Jeremy Banx, Financial Times.

Jeremy Banx says a few words, Photo © Ellwood Atfield

Cartoon Glenn Marshall meets Ken Clarke, Photo © Lord Lucan

Zoom Rockman meets Ken Clarke, Photo © Ellwood Atfield

Rebecca Hendin meets Ken Clarke, Photo © Ellwood Atfield

Brian Adcock meets Ken Clarke Photo © Donna Payne


Bringing Animals to Life cartoon workshop

October 30, 2019 in Events, General

Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery have asked Jonathan Cusick to repeat the animal cartoon workshop he ran during this year’s cartoon festival, during the October half term.
‘Bringing Animals to Life’ is on Halloween, 31st October. It’s one of the activities they’ve ran to tie in with a major exhibition by local comic leg-end Charlie Adlard. (‘Drawn of the Dead’, on show at the museum until 3rd November). Fellow PCO’er Tat Effby ran a family zombie portrait workshop in August.
Jonathan shows various key principles for cartoon drawing, then visitors get to apply these directly in a drawing session working from various exhibits from the museum’s taxidermy archive. In April the selection included squirrels, ducks, owls, badgers, crows and an alligator. It’s fun and for artists of all abilities and ages; a perfect half term activity for the family.

Places are limited, the April workshop sold out.
Tickets are £8 and can be booked via https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/shrewsburymuseum and include all-day entry to the museum.