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We Shouldn’t Be Doing This, You Know

May 24, 2018 in General


© Rupert Besley

Rupert Besley writes:

Every so often someone comes up with the idea of a cartoon competition. Trouble is, for most cartoonists, every day is competition.

Getting any cartoon into print was never a doddle. It took New Yorker regular David Sipress 25 years of submissions to get his first acceptance there. And it doesn’t get any easier.

Recent years have seen a drastic reduction in the market for cartoons of any kind – gags, strip, caricature, pocket, editorial. Certain humour publications have ceased to exist; other types of periodical have gone for saving pennies by first shrinking, then dropping, their cartoon content. Result: ever tougher competition to get into the few cartoon-friendly publications that remain. The odds on achieving success are stacked heavily against any brave soul who tries.

In such circumstances, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the natural instinct of any cartoonist on meeting another would be to plunge a sharpened 6H into the back of the other. But that tends not to happen. For one thing, cartoonists like cartoons. And so does the general public. Cartoonists enjoy each other’s work (even if the first thought is why the hell couldn’t I have thought of that?).

In business, it’s dog eats dog out there. In cartooning, it’s more like sniffing and licking. Cartoonists should be at each other’s throats. Just occasionally they are. But, more often, they team up to share tips and moans and to fight together for the survival of their art. That’s what the PCO, the Cartoonists’ Club (CCGB) and similar organisations are all about.

It is inconceivable, surely, that cartoons could die out. There’ll always be demand for the brilliant cartoons that come from those at the top of the tree. But that tree needs healthy, long roots to sustain it. Cartoons take time and money to do and, for cartooning to flourish, it has to provide a proper living. Cartoonists bring sanity and wit to a barmy world, one where vast sums can be found for charmless and bewildering artworks, while cartoons can be deemed no longer worth the paper they were once printed on.

Rupert Besley

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by Jonesy

An American cartoonist in Shrewsbury

May 6, 2018 in General

The author pictured before starting work on her big board…
…and standing behind the finished artwork
Maria Scrivan writes:
I am thrilled and honored to have been part of the Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival this year. 
It was an incredible group of artists from the UK, Belgium, Germany, Australia and the US. The exhibition, spread across three galleries in the town, was filled with top cartoonists from around the globe. 
We kicked off Friday afternoon with a luncheon at the Golden Cross, a restaurant so charming that I must have stopped to photograph it three different times. 
The medieval town of Shrewsbury, lined with storybook tudors, felt like you were walking through a fairy tale. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see a knight jousting a dragon to save a princess.
Jeremy Banx and his big board
The Saturday festival in the town square was amazing. There were caricature artists drawing the crowds and a bunch of us drawing “big boards” while a band played in the background. 
Drawing a “big board,” a 6 x 9 foot cartoon, was a new challenge. The event organizers provided us with red, yellow, blue and white acrylic paint to create all the colors we would need. Some cartoonists worked solely in black and white. 
I started with some loose pencil guidelines for proportion and ended up initially drawing the characters too small for the size of the canvas. One passerby remarked that she was surprised to see that I erased. I told her she should come by my studio and see the minefield of crumpled paper when I’m working.
Wilbur Dawbarn, Chris Ryder and the author in The Shropshire Star’s report
Royston Robertson and his big board
The town square brought out thousands of spectators of all ages, including the Mayor. It was so wonderful to chat with everyone and hear their stories. 
That evening, we had dinner in the Lion Hotel, that had once hosted Darwin and Charles Dickens. We ate in the same ballroom where Paganini once played, followed by a late night ukulele sing along. The Belgian cartoonists graciously brought Belgian chocolate (which makes me want to move to Brussels) and a few of us made the cover of the Shophire Star with a perfectly puntastic headline.
Caricaturists at work in The Square (l to r) Jonathan Cusick, Pete Dredge and John Roberts
I am so grateful for the new experiences and friends and to be part of such a lovely event. The volunteers were wonderful as was the town and the energy of the artists and spectators.
Maria Scrivan
Syndicated Cartoonist and Creator of Half Full
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by Jonesy

Marx and sparks from Martin Rowson

May 1, 2018 in General

© Martin Rowson/SelfMadeHero

SelfMadeHero is to mark the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth with a graphic novel adaptation of The Communist Manifesto created by Guardian cartoonist and PCO stalwart Martin Rowson.

The publisher says “Martin Rowson employs his trademark draughtsmanship and wit in this lively adaptation, which is both an incisive introduction to the ideas of Communism and a lucid explanation of its aims.”

© Martin Rowson/SelfMadeHero

The book is officially launched tomorrow, Wednesday 2nd May, 6.30pm, at The Water Rats pub, 328 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8BZ

You can see more of Martin Rowson’s work here

Visit the SelMadeHero website here

© Martin Rowson/SelfMadeHero

Cartoonists in Conversation

April 30, 2018 in Events, General

Jonathan Cusick writes:

A Friday evening talk has traditionally opened the public programme of the Shrewsbury cartoon festival. This year ‘Cartoonists in Conversation’ aimed to give the public an insight into the lives of cartoonists, whose work they would probably be familiar with but know little about the people behind them.

The number of cartoonists gathering in the town (this year there were 30) meant we had a stellar line-up to choose from. Jeremy Banx (Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Private Eye) resplendent in his beret, The Surreal McCoy (The Spectator, Reader’s Digest, The Sunday Times), Royston Robertson (Private Eye, Reader’s Digest, The Spectator) and Wilbur Dawbarn (The Beano, Private Eye, The Spectator) were joined by Ken Krimstein (New Yorker, Harvard Business Review) who was over from Chicago and brought an international perspective to the chat. Our host for the evening was BBC radio presenter Alex Lester,  a festival patron and cartoon enthusiast.

Line up: Alex Lester, The Surreal McCoy. Royston Roberston, Ken Krimstein, Wilbur Dawbarn & Jeremy Banx. Photo © Gerard Whyman

The discussion covered various aspects of life as a cartoonist, alongside some superb examples of their work. Topics covered included the creation of the work and their workspace, some ‘greatest hits’ over the years, stories of rejection slips, offence, their influences and inspirations, and of course a mention of Trump. After the main panel discussion came questions direct from the audience.

A silhouetted Banx talks about one of his cartoons. Photo © Gerard Whyman

An abominable Royston Robertson cartoon. Photo © Gerard Whyman



An influential cartoon by Bernard Kliban.

We were delighted that the event was a sell-out, and indeed extra chairs were added for latecomers.

Photo © Gerard Whyman

Hearty thanks for the success of the evening go to the cartoonists on the panel, and Alex Lester for all being fabulous. The Wightman Theatre set us up wonderfully and Andy McKeown of’s wonderful projection made the evening such a treat visually.

Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival in the rear-view mirror.

April 25, 2018 in Events, General

Jonathan Cusick, Pete Dredge, John Roberts and Helen Pointer ‘drawing the crowds’.

Rupert Besley writes:

The sun shone on the righteous – and on the cartoonists in Shrewsbury. It was a bumper gathering in the town this last weekend, with visitors and participants drawn from far and wide. Few more so than festival regular Dean Alston from Down Under, whose ace Big Board, along with a Noel Ford classic, was among the first things to greet arrivals in The Square. Close by worked guest cartoonists from the States, Maria Scrivan and Ken Krimstein, while further input to the international flavour of the day came from the strong deputation of Belgians, all involved in the European Cartoon Centre at Kruishoutem near Ghent.

Big boards by Australia’s Dean Alston and the UK’s Noel Ford.

US cartoonists Maria Scrivan and Ken Krimstein with their big boards.

Cartoon by Nikola Hendrickx from Belgium and Nikola in action.

The private view of the ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ exhibition at The Bear Steps Gallery.

This was the 15th Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival and the theme of Transport was a fertile and perfect choice. The galleries (Bear Steps, Theatre Severn & V.A.N, plus Wendy Shea exhibition at Participate) gave proof, if ever needed, of what can be done from kicking around a good subject and, back in The Square, heads spun towards the reassuring sight of Air Flight Marshall at the check-in desk for budget airline Icarus Air.

The GORGEOUS Glenn Marshall at the Icarus Air check-in desk.

Roger Penwill fronts the Drawma while Noel Ford, Wilbur Dawbarn and Royston Robertson take to the boards accompanied by The Surreal Accordionist. 

You can count on Shrews for good live music from beneath the Market Hall and so it proved throughout. Mid-afternoon came the Drawma, with mellow accordion softening the oohs and aarrghs of those there for quick-drawn gags and terrible puns.

Caricaturists Alex Hughes suitably in tropical attire for the unseasonal heatwave.

Elsewhere in The Square, the line-up of top caricaturists was kept hard at it all day (Hughes, Roberts, Pointer, Cusick, Leatherbarrow, Dredge & Ryder, with Christelle Jones at Bear Steps). Meanwhile, other Big Boards got filled by the likes of (with apologies to anyone inadvertently missed) Clive & Amy Goddard, Steve Best, Royston Robertson, Wil Dawbarn, Ross Thomson, Ger Whyman, Hunt Emerson, Rich Skipworth, John Landers, The Surreal McCoy, Jeremy Banx, Roger Penwill, Nikola Hendrickx & present writer, not forgetting fine graphic contributions too from Zoom Rockman and Patrick Holden.

PCO Chair-human Clive Goddard with PCO’s Treasurer-human Amy Amani-Goddard.

Steve Best applying blue.

Maria Scrivan ‘likes’ Royston Robertson’s twitter cartoon. 

Gerard  Whyman hogs some limelight.

The top of Rich Skipworth.

The Surreal McCoy and her surreal cartoon.

Jeremy Banx creates Noah’s limo.

Semi-big boards by John Landers and Roger Penwill.

Ross Thomson & Hunt Emerson drawing and colouring in.

Dean Alston and Wilbur Dawbarn doing some more drawing and colouring in.

Rupert Besley on a familiar scene from a cartoonists daily life.

Zoom of Crouch End draws Clive of India.

Helen Pointer’s ‘Introduction to Caricature’ workshop.

The cartoon workshops are an important part of the festival – this year tackling caricature, movement in drawings, an automobile barn dance plus Stop Motion animation (Barry the Shrew) and some fun paper planes (from Biggles Rudling). Festival patrons Alex Lester and Martin Wainwright came up trumps in their support of the Festival, the former using his radio interview skills to host the panel of cartoonists in conversation at the Wightman Theatre on the Friday evening. The latter was able to apply some of his editing experience to the list of rules drawn up for the Air Cartooning contest that rounded off the following evening. And, on the Sunday morning, while bikers gathered in their droves on the outskirts of the town, festival participants were treated to a fascinating tour of Historic Shrewsbury.

Rupert Besley wins the inaugural ‘Air Cartooning’ Cartoon Off ® Noel Ford

Thanks and full credit to all responsible, beginning with organisers Sarah Knapp, Bill McCabe, Tim King, Roger Penwill, Noel Ford, and Jonathan Cusick, along with all the volunteer helpers, and not forgetting the many participants (including visitors) who made the whole thing so successful.

Thanks also to Mika Schick for the excellent photographs.

More detail on the festival: Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival

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by Jonesy

Could witchcraft be a winner at the World Illustration Awards 2018?

April 25, 2018 in General

© Rebecca Hendin/BuzzFeed

One of the PCO’s newest members, Rebecca Hendin, has been shortlisted for the prestigious award

The series of editorial illustrations, created to accompany a BuzzFeed article on historical witch animals, has already cast a spell in getting her nominated – no mean achievement as the World Illustration Awards 2018 received a record 3,000 entries from across 75 countries.

© Rebecca Hendin/BuzzFeed

© Rebecca Hendin/BuzzFeed

Having spent three years at Buzzfeed as an editorial illustrator/designer, Rebecca is now a fully fledged freelancer with a client list that already includes Amnesty International, Donmar Warehouse, BBC and New Statesman. As if that’s not enough, her political cartoons are nationally syndicated in the US by Universal uClick, America’s leading newspaper syndicate.

You can see the illustrations in situ on the BuzzFeed website and a little more of Rebecca’s work here.

Details of the World Illustration Awards 2018 can be found here on the Digital Arts website.

© Rebecca Hendin/BuzzFeed

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by Jonesy

MY LIFE IN HIGH FINANCE (or My Love Letter to Accountants)

April 17, 2018 in General

© Rupert Besley

Rupert Besley writes:

I’m ending my career much as I began it. Not getting paid.

My first regular job in cartooning was with a local newspaper and I got £5 a week. Only I didn’t. This was more than 40 years ago. I had a full-time job and this was just a sideline, so the pay was ok by me for starters.

Before I landed this slot, I had done cartoons for magazine illustration and got occasional ones into humour publications. And from these each time, back came a nice little cheque plus remittance note, with no need from me to send in an invoice. I knew nothing about invoices and the editor of my local rag, when taking me on, never touched on any such details.

Thirteen weeks passed, my cartoons appeared and no money arrived. Slowly, dimly, I thought I’d better ask why. Before I got an answer, a letter arrived to me as creditor, telling me the paper had gone bust  (the owner ended up in prison for financial misdoings). I was told to go and swear at a solicitor, all right, commissioner of oaths, to say who I was in order to have any chance (there was none) of getting what I was owed. This cost me a further £1.

Move on 44 years and I’m back in the same kind of poop. For 30 years I’ve contributed each week to another local paper on my patch. I’ve never had to send in an invoice; they see to the paperwork. Or did. Three months have passed without payment forthcoming. At the end of last year the paper got taken over by a larger concern. Jobs have gone. I’ve spent this morning in phone-calls and emails round the country chasing up my measly dues.

Earlier this year a cartoon of mine sold in a local gallery exhibition. To get my work on show required endless form-filling plus payment of £10 admin costs. By the time the gallery took 40% plus a cut for VAT, what was left was the same as the frame cost me. So, no actual earnings, but I did wait two months for my proceeds of the sale to be passed on to me. When I pursued the matter, I was told for the first time that I needed to put in an invoice (without knowing exactly how much the division of spoils should work out at). Another two weeks passed and a ratty email from me before I finally got my money back on the frame.

It’s tough being a freelance in any field, especially cartooning. It’s depressing having to spend almost as much time chasing up what one is owed as spent on the original drawing. But please don’t let me put you off. Keep at it, cartoonists. We need you more than ever.

Rupert Besley.

Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival 2018

March 25, 2018 in Events, General

Festival poster illustration © Wilbur Dawbarn

It’s only a few weeks now until the transport-themed Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival alights and this year it really is international with cartoonists shipped over from Belgium, Germany, Australia, the USA and Ireland.

Drawing in the crowds at last year’s festival.

The main event is the popular live drawing in the town square on Saturday 21st April. Cartoonists will be delivering up big boards and caricatures. There will also be opportunities for visitors to join in.

On Friday 20th, at 7pm there’s ‘Cartoonists in Conversation’ with PCO members Jeremy Banx, Wilbur Dawbarn, The Surreal McCoy and Royston Robertson hosted by BBC radio presenter Alex Lester. They’ll be addressing questions like: Can cartoonists find humour in anything? What’s a typical day? Do the times we live in affect the cartoons we get? Afterwards there’ll be a Q&A where you can put your own esoteric questions to the panel.

Venue: Wightman Theatre, 14a The Square, Shrewsbury. Tickets £5 (+booking fee). You can book here.

There are several workshops running over the weekend including:

© Tim Leatherbarrow

Tim Leatherbarrow on how to get movement and energy into cartoons.

© Helen Pointer

‘Introduction to Caricatures’ with Helen Pointer,

© William Rudling

and the intriguing ‘Make Your Own Giant Paper Plane’ piloted by Will Rudling.

There are also exhibitions a-plenty:

Are We Nearly There Yet?
Over 100 cartoons on the theme of transport.
10th-28th April
Bear Steps Gallery, St Alkmund’s Square

Shipped From Abroad
American cartoonists’ take on our ‘Transport’ theme.
4th April-27th May
Theatre Severn

More Belgium Imports
17th-28th April
VAN Gallery

Irish Cartoonist Wendy Shea (Irish Times)
Participate Gallery, Riverside
32-34 Riverside, Raven Meadows SY1 1PJ
April 7th-28th

More detailed information on all events can be found on the festival website, Facebook page and twitter.

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by Jonesy

The Inking Woman – 250 years of wit and insight

March 19, 2018 in General

© Myriad Editions

“It matters that we remember women’s history. Like so much art, women have taken a backseat. Now they are at the forefront and I am SO proud!”

Sandi Toksvig (Author, TV & Radio presenter and PCO patron)

This timely and welcome book celebrates the massive contribution women have made, and continue to make, to cartooning and comics culture. Many were and are – still! – criminally unsung because, for many years, cartooning has been seen as a male preserve. The Inking Woman rights many of these wrongs, pointing out that women have been drawing and publishing cartoons for longer than most realise.

© Sally Artz

In the early 1760s, Mary Darly illustrated, wrote and published the first book on caricature drawing published in England, A Book of Caricaturas. In the nineteenth century, Britain’s first comic character, a hugely popular “lazy schemer” called Ally Sloper, was developed by the actress and cartoonist Marie Duval (1847–1890). Cartoons were used by suffragettes to promote their cause and, during the Great War, artists such as Flora White and Agnes Richardson produced light-hearted propaganda comic postcards.

The 1920s saw a few women cartoonists appearing in newspapers on a more regular basis. Sadly, they felt it necessary to sign their work with their surname so most readers were unaware of the cartoonist’s gender. During this decade Mary Tourtel created Rupert Bear for the Daily Express. Another immensely popular and successful cartoon strip was born and, nearly a hundred years later, the character is still going strong.

© Kate Charlesworth

Myriad Editions’ website further explains the book’s timeline to the present day:

“From the 1960s, feminism inspired cartoonists to question the roles assigned to them and address subjects such as patriarchy, equal rights, sexuality and child rearing, previously unseen in cartoons. Over the last thirty years, women have come increasingly to the fore in comics, zines and particularly graphic novels.”

The publisher’s website concludes: “This wide-ranging curation of women’s comics work includes prints, caricatures, joke, editorial and strip cartoons, postcards, comics, zines, graphic novels and digital comics, covering all genres and topics. It addresses inclusion of art by women of underrepresented backgrounds.”

We obviously couldn’t let this pass without highlighting the contributions of PCO members Sally Artz, Kate Charlesworth and committee member The Surreal McCoy. There is an honorable mention for the PCO’s Kate Taylor too.

© The Surreal McCoy

Based on an exhibition of the same name, held at the Cartoon Museum in 2017, and published by Myriad Editions, The Inking Woman is editied by Nicola Streeten, co-founder of Laydeez Do Comics, and Cath Tate, founder of Cath Tate Cards.

It is, quite simply, a must buy for cartoon lovers.

Read more about The Inking Woman, £19.99, here on Myriad Editions’ website


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by Jonesy

Equatorial Guinea: Artist Freed from Prison

March 7, 2018 in General

Ramón Esono Ebalé, cartoonist

Officer Admits Superiors Ordered Dubious Charges

(Nairobi, March 7, 2018) – An Equatorial Guinean court on March 7, 2018 released an artist imprisoned on dubious charges for nearly six months, 18 human rights groups said today. The prosecution dropped all charges against Ramón Esono Ebalé, a cartoonist whose work is often critical of the government, at his February 27 trial after the police officer who had accused him of counterfeiting $1,800 of local currency admitted making the accusation based on orders from his superiors.

“It is a huge relief that the prosecution dropped its charges against Ramon, but they should never have been pressed in the first place,” said Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers-in-Prison Committee. “We urge the authorities to guarantee his safe return to his family, allow him to continue creating his hard-hitting cartoons, and ensure that Equatorial Guinea respects the right to freedom of expression.”
The global #FreeNseRamon coalition, consisting of hundreds of artists, activists, and organizations devoted to protecting artistic freedom, freedom of expression and other human rights, carried out a campaign to direct international attention to his situation.

“Ramon’s release from prison is a testament of the power of collective work of hundreds of artists, concerned citizens, and NGOs,” said Tutu Alicante, director of EG Justice, which promotes human rights in Equatorial Guinea. “But we must not forget that dozens of government opponents who are not as fortunate fill Equatorial Guinea’s jails; thus, the fight against human rights violations and impunity must continue.”
Esono Ebalé, who lives outside of his native Equatorial Guinea, was arrested on September 16, 2017, while visiting the country to request a new passport. Police interrogated him about drawings critical of the government, said two Spanish friends who were arrested and interrogated alongside him and were later released.
But a news report broadcast on a government-owned television channel a few days after the arrest claimed that police had found 1 million Central African francs in the car Esono Ebalé was driving. On December 7, he was formally accused of counterfeiting. The charge sheet alleged that a police officer, acting on a tip, had asked him to exchange large bills and received counterfeit notes in return.
“Equatorial Guinea’s government has a long record of harassing and persecuting its critics,” said Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Ramon’s release is an important victory against repression.”
At the trial on February 27 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea’s capital, it became clear that the police officer who had made the accusations had no personal knowledge of Esono Ebalé’s involvement in the alleged crime, according to his lawyer and another person present at the trial. After offering details that conflicted with the official account, the officer admitted that he had acted on orders of his superiors, they said. The prosecution then withdrew the charges.
“We are delighted that Ramón was acquitted and is finally free,” said Angela Quintal, Africa Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists. “The fact that the state’s main witness recanted, underscores the point that authorities manufactured the charges in the first place. Ramon should never have spent a single day behind bars and we trust that he will not be subjected to any further reprisal.”
The human rights groups are Amnesty International, Arterial Network, Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, Asociación Profesional de Ilustradores de Madrid, Cartoonists Rights Network International, Cartooning for Peace, Committee to Protect Journalists, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Jonathan Price and Paul Mason, Doughty Street Chambers, UK, EG Justice, FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Freemuse, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, PEN America, PEN International, Reporters without Borders, Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

“Now that Ramon has been released, the authorities must launch a thorough and effective investigation into whether the charges against him were fabricated, and ensure that the criminal justice system is no longer misused to target and harass human rights defenders,” said Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Equatorial Guinea.

For more information, please contact:
In Chapel Hill, for EG Justice, Tutu Alicante (Spanish, English, French): +1-615-479-0207 (mobile); or @TutuAlicante
In New York, for Human Rights Watch, Sarah Saadoun (English): +1-917-502-6694 (mobile); or Twitter: @sarah_saadoun
In Washington, DC, for Cartoonists Rights Network International, Robert Russell (English): +1-703-543-8727; or Twitter: @BroDirector