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The Genius of Giles

January 7, 2020 in Comment

Rupert Besley writes:

Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies are back in the news.

It’s become something of a festive tradition to bemoan the lack of good viewing in the Christmas schedules. ‘Absolutely nothing on telly,’ goes the cry. ‘Last year was bad enough and this year is worse.’ And so it has seemed this last month.

The BBC’s star contribution to the season has been The Trial of Christine Keeler. It has been well received. I’m sure it is well written, well acted and well done, but I only half-watched the first episode before deciding to give it a miss. The main facts are well enough known, with characters too self-indulgent and story too sordid to grab my interest. As Peter Cook put it, ‘I go to the theatre to be entertained. I don’t want to see plays about rape, sodomy and drug addiction. I can get all that at home.’

The Macmillan era was far from Britain’s finest hour. The Tory government was led by a patrician figure hamming it up as quirky and characterful but trustworthy elder statesman straight off the grouse moors, ready to gull the public into believing they had never had it so good (remind you of someone?). On one thing Macmillan was right: the unpredictability of politics, with its potential for everything to be brought crashing down by things unexpected. ‘Events, dear boy.’

The Profumo story unfolded in the summer of 1963. That was the year that ‘sexual intercourse began’ (Philip Larkin). Sex came out from under the covers and dared to speak its name on the front pages of reputable newspapers.

Cartoonists had a field day, few more so than Giles. I was about to turn 13 and had little interest in or understanding of politics at the time. But I well remember the cartoon above appearing in my mother’s Sunday Express and the amusement it gave at breakfast. Then, as now, I marvelled at the genius of Giles and secretly hoped (in vain) that one day I might work out how to do something similar. I can’t, of course, and never will. The talents of Giles are not given to all, but it has been fun to see what magic he brought to the pages of a newspaper.

The cartoon above begins with a strong idea, even if that comes from the common cartoon device of bringing a larger issue down to a personal level that we can relate to. In lesser hands, that idea could still have fallen pretty flat. What makes this cartoon so wonderful is all that Giles brings to the artwork. The composition is masterful. Without need of great detail, he conjures up the comfortable, sunny world of the well-heeled Establishment, about to get one hell of a rocking. Instead of putting the central figures at the centre of the artwork, he has them already racing off to the left; this, together with the papers still in mid-air above the garden lounger, deftly conveys the urgency of impending crisis. Centre-stage is the small dog, yapping at heels and loving every moment. What member of the press or public could not identify with that dog? What puts the cherry on the cake is the expression captured on the face of each of those racing over the grass, especially the wife with long-held suspicions now rampant. Two days later, Giles followed the cartoon up with this (below) in the Daily Express. Genius.

Send in the Clowns?

December 8, 2019 in Comment, Events

Cartoon by © Rupert Besley

Rupert Besley writes:

[a personal viewpoint, not purporting in any way to represent the opinions of the PCO]

For the first time in my life I’m seriously wondering if humour might not be doing more harm than good. That’s a worrying thought and no conclusion I would ever wish to reach. I get to this point down the following route.

The expert analysis of recognised independent think-tanks all seems to agree that Brexit, hard or soft, will leave the country’s economy worse off than before and that those who will suffer most are those already hardest hit and at the bottom of the pile. And yet the parties pursuing this course (Conservative and Brexit) are those that have been riding high in the polls and especially so in the least well-off areas.

I can think of only one explanation for this and it comes in three parts.

Firstly, television has turned politics into a celebrity contest. The two-second conclusions of grassroots opinion foisted on us each day by television news are by their nature superficial and short. Vox pop verdicts may do people a disservice, but from them it seems that large numbers of voters are deciding not on policy or even party but just on the personality of each leader.

Next, no such Johnson-Corbyn dance-off begins on an even footing. The UK press, predominantly in right-wing hands, has seen to that. Boris Johnson, one of their own, is portrayed as loveable chump, accorded the status of national treasure and first-name recognition. The cameras love him, as he does them. For years the most widely read papers in this country have found space each day to vilify Corbyn (surname only), made out to be some kind of crazed communist blend of racist and terrorist. (The shame, perhaps, is that he himself does not do personal attacks on anyone.)

Finally, in any such competition, the guy-in-the-pub, say-it-straight, got-all-the-answers funster image of a Johnson or a Farage will come across to many (or any who don’t know them) as more appealing than the duller, dour, more complicated and apparently humourless mode of a Corbyn.  What else is there to explain the strong personal lead Johnson enjoys in the polls, regardless of his track record? Baffled by the complexities of the political situation and bored with its repetitiveness, people are looking instead for good cheer and light relief.

I accept that we live in an age when a political leader has to have ‘personality’ and be  good on television. They need that to carry the country with them. Things were different in the world I came into. Attlee was a modest man and self-effacing. Of him it was said, ‘An empty taxi drew up in Downing St and Clement Attlee stepped out.’  Stafford Cripps was not known for his laddishness. But, as Chancellor, he is credited with laying the foundations of Britain’s post-war economic prosperity. The Attlee government, which included the likes of Nye Bevan, Hugh Gaitskell and Herbert Morrison, created the NHS and greatly expanded the welfare state. Earnest, high-minded politicians, intent on tackling the ills of the world – but none of them great for a larf.

How might it have been, one wonders, if in those post-war decades the electorate had gone instead for the characters played by the most popular comics of the day? Ken Dodd for Chancellor, perhaps. Or Charlie Drake? Arthur Askey for PM or maybe Bernard Bresslaw. I only arsked.

Press One to Continue Nightmare

October 28, 2019 in Comment

Rupert Besley writes (mainly because he couldn’t get through on the PCO helpline):

I’m sure I’m not alone in my dislike of having other people’s words being put into my

Choose from one of the following options, then click on Next to continue:

– orifice

– earplug

– lexicon

– exhaust pipe

– rear end

– mouth

You know the kind of thing. Urgently needing to put right some wrong, you get trapped in the maze of a website, caught up in an endless loop of FAQs, FUQs (Frequently Unanswered Questions) and irrelevant options, none of them remotely applicable to your own particular circumstance.

In desperation you reach instead for the phone.

We are experiencing an unusually high level of calls and all our advisers are busy…cue cheering Funeral March music… Did you know that by logging on to our website you can find the answer to this and many other interesting questions?

35 mins and several bruises to the forehead later, it’s

Press 1 for Sales.

Yes, always they press one for sales. But listening to what you might have to say is the last thing they wish for. Instead, more options of zero relevance.

Customer Service? Disservice, more like. Contact Us, my

Select from one of the following:

– posterior

– kneecap

– eyebrow

– elbow

– elephant

– arse

I’m writing this from the cosy interior of a padded room, with spume-flecked fingers and froth still running down my chin. I am currently in a state of hostilities with my bank (which has robbed me of access to my online banking), BT (with whom my online account has now gone missing), the supplier of our solar panels (one small part of which is now not working as it should) and my doctor’s surgery and my pharmacy (at odds over my prescription). With each of these it is nigh on impossible to get through to the person who can put things right, thanks to the barrage of obstacles and blocking mechanisms put in one’s way.

BT (slogan, Helping You Communicate) are a case in point. My ongoing complaint, unresolved for more than 2 weeks, has now been escalated to Serious Stuff. I have been verified and validated by more voices in distant places than I care to list, have repeated my tale to each, but none has yet been able to find the account that we’ve had for years. Other telecom companies are available, all no doubt equally guilty of the same kind of practices. So, what has any of this got to do with cartoons? Not a lot, maybe, except that…

The digital age was meant to democratise, empowering individuals and giving them voice. Instead, the dark forces of commercialism and political interest, the rich and the powerful, are making use of digital media to skew information, manipulate minds, control thinking and stifle free expression. Cartoonists stand up to this. They (along with stand-up comics and other satirists) are crap detectors supreme. Cartooning in all its forms (gags, strips, caricature, leader page editorials) has the job of spotlighting (with brevity and humour) inconsistencies and deceit, hypocrisy, abuse and fraud. Cartoons fight back. Cartoons continue to be edged out of traditional forms of media, but they remain an essential part of any free Press and a necessary tool for highlighting things in need of correction. Cartoons get straight to the point.

We need them more than

– hedgehogs

– biscuits

– chainsaws

– custard

– sometimes

– ever.

All cartoons by © Rupert Besley

Noel Ford 1942-2019

September 30, 2019 in Comment, General, News

Noel with daughter Sara at Nottingham’s Big Grin Cartoon Festival 2003. Photo © Pete Dredge

Pete Dredge writes:

It’s a cruel irony that it is only when someone passes  that the outpourings of love, praise and acknowledgement spill out from friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Such has been the response to the sudden and unexpected death of ace cartoonist and one of the founders of PCO, Noel Ford , who died on September 27th after a cruel return of the kidney cancer that was first diagnosed two years previously.

I suspect Noel would have been, on the one hand, hugely embarrassed, but on the other, quietly delighted by the tributes that have been pouring in on the forums and social media, not only for his cartooning skills but also to the nature of the man.

One of Noel’s many Punch covers.

Noel was a modest chap, never one to blow his own trumpet but was someone who would go about his business with the supreme confidence of knowing that he was, and had been for many years, on the top of his game. His game, of course, was cartooning, particularly gag cartooning and, at his peak, was producing double page spreads and covers for Punch magazine with audacious regularity.

Punch original from the recent ‘London Cartoon Show’ exhibition.

It’s pointless listing Noel’s professional credits, there are far too many to mention, but one of his many gifts was his ability to rally, organise and deliver cartooning projects. A professional cat herder, if ever there was one. I’ve seen Noel’s patient diplomacy, wisdom and common sense work effectively at close hand on many occasions when others’ egos, intransigence and misconceptions – no names! – would lock horns and all it would take was a few choice words from Noel to smooth over troubled waters. Such was the respect that his fellow professionals had for him. Take Noel out of the equation and many of these initiatives would never have seen the light of day.

A digital drawing for the PCO ‘GAGGED’ censorship exhibition currently on display at Saint-Just-le-Martel cartoon festival.

The Cartoonists’ Guild, College of Cartoon Art and, most successfully, the PCO had all benefitted hugely from Noel’s vision, perseverance and professionalism. Add to this his invaluable committee work on the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival and The cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain, Noel certainly put in much more than he took out from these extra-curricular calls of duty.

Clipping from ’80s magazine, either Weekend or Tit Bits (via Davey Jones)

Noel was born in Nuneaton on 22 December 1942 and  apparently displayed early signs of his future calling, drawing cartoons in chalk on the pavement outside the front door of the Ford family house. After leaving school it was at the Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts where Noel received the oft repeated advice we have all probably received, to “forget about any ambitions of becoming a cartoonist. You’ll never make a living that way”. The rest is Noel Ford cartooning history. Sadly, today, that  lazy, dismissive piece of advice is probably more pertinent that it would have been in the 1960’s and 70’s. More’s the pity that today the markets for showcasing Noel’s and other’s superb gag cartoon craft have all but disappeared.

Caricature of Noel by Bob Monkhouse and a picture of Bob drawing it (via Royston Robertson)

Noel was irritatingly multi-talented. Not only was he a superb draughtsman, he was also a gifted musician, writer and an early pioneer of the digital art platform as well as being a fine exponent of the Argentine Tango (check this.Ed).

Cartoon from the exhibition at the ‘Music’ themed Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival 2014.

It has to be said, Noel enjoyed the good things in life. Good food, fine wine, a good book, comradeship, country living, dogs and, above all, the love of his family and friends.

Noel demonstrating his equestrian skills at Herne Bay Cartoon Festival 2017. Photo © Karol Steele

I’ll miss his mischievous twinkle and Muttley-like chuckle when something, invariably, would tickle his proverbial fancy.

Noel at one of the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival ukulele-thons. Photo ©The Surreal McCoy

With deepest sympathy to Margaret, Sara and family from all your friends at PCO.

Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival photo album

May 6, 2019 in Comment, Events, General, News

The ‘Plan B’ Shrewsbury Square. Photo © Tat Effby.

Glenn Marshall & Jonathan Cusick write:

With Storm Hannah due to roll in threatening rain and high winds the marquee company wouldn’t put up the festival’s gazebo roofing. Fear of airborne ‘para-boarding’ cartoonists made the festival organisers hastily arrange a Plan B for Saturday, which involved us decamping to the local Darwin Shopping Centre (every third business in Shrewsbury seems to contain the word Darwin)

A distant Steve Bell in front of a crowded audience. Photo © Jonathan Cusick.

Before that, on Friday evening Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell returned to the festival and spoke to a packed and enthusiastic crowd at the University Centre. Surveying his use of animals throughout his career, he picked out highlights including the penguin from his ‘If’ strip and ended with a few live drawings including his toilet-headed Trump. After twenty minutes of audience questions he signed copies of his latest book. A real treat for cartoon fans and definitely one of the highlights of the festival.

Saturday morning at John Cusick’s cartoon animal drawing workshop using exhibits from the Shrewsbury Museum collection. Photo © Jonathan Cusick.

Zoom Rockman cartoons stripped bare teaching how to draw his Skanky Pigeon character. Photo © Kate Lennard.

There were also well attended indoor talks by The Surreal McCoy and TWO by Clive Goddard (above) nothing to do with folk wanting to get out of the bad weather. Photo © Alison Patrick.

Meanwhile in the basement level of Darwin Shopping Centre dry and warm cartoonists began creating. Here Shrewsbury based cartoonist Tat Effby took to the big boards like a duck to water. Photo © Clive Goddard.

Luke Crump with one of his incredible ‘doodle style’ creations. Photo © Clive Goddard.

The Surreal McCoy hot-footed over from her ‘Wolf of Baghdad’ talk to fit in a board before hot-footing off again to join the ‘festival music ensemble’. Photo © Clive Goddard.

Jeremy Banx and Noel Ford mid-boards. Photo © Tat Effby.

Tim Harries & Rich Skipworth colouring in. Photos © Tat Effby.

John Landers’ snakes on a plain surface. Photo © Clive Goddard. 

Pete Dredge caricaturing Pa Marshall plus Jonathan Cusick really going with the animal theme. Photo © Tat Effby.

The 30 second rehearsal before the launch of The Shrewsbury Cartoon Players and Puppeteers inaugural performance of ‘The Animals Went In Two By Two’. Photo © Tat Effby. The Noah’s Ark was ironically moved indoors even though it would’ve been perfectly suited to the biblical weather conditions.

Royston Robertson featuring in the festival write-up in the Shropshire Star.

The festival produced a book of the ‘Drawn To Be Wild’ exhibition cartoons which is still available here price £9.95 + postage.

Thanks to all the organisers and sponsors for another successful festival that went down a storm.

Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival 2019 preview

April 13, 2019 in Comment, Events, General

It’s only two weeks until Shrewsbury International Cartoons Festival. This years theme is ‘Animals’ and has a very full programme. This year all the speakers happen to be Procartoonists members.

 

Friday 26th, 7.30pm

Fist up on the Friday night The Guardian’s Steve Bell will share his lifelong close-up study of ‘Political Animals’, from Tarzan Hesletine to Leopard May on Friday 26th April. Tickets are £10 and can be booked online via this link. A donation will be made from the event to Guide Dogs UK.

Saturday 27th April, 10.30am

On Saturday Beano and Private Eye regular Zoom Rockman will be hosting a strip cartoon workshop. Zoom first started drawing his strip ‘Skanky Pigeon’ for the Beano when when he was just 12 years old!

Saturday 27th April, 11.00am

An exploration of the world of cartooning with ‘Fintan Fedora’ author, cartoonist and PCO Chair-human Clive Goddard.

Saturday 27th April, 1.30pm

After his earlier session Clive will be back again with more Fintan fun at new venue.

Saturday 27th April, 11.00am

The Surreal McCoy presents a preview of her audio-visual graphic memoir based on her Iraqi-Jewish family’s memories of their lost homeland.
The Wolf of Baghdad explores themes of displacement, refugees, identity and belonging.
After presenting an excerpt of the work, Carol will give an illustrated talk on the making of it and take questions from the audience in a Q and A.
Tickets can be booked online via this link.

Saturday 27th April, 12.00pm

An animal cartoon masterclass with Radio Times caricaturist Jonathan Cusick. Jonathan is also one of the festival organisers. You’ll be drawing using exhibits from the gallery, as Jonathan says ‘The great thing is the animals will not be moving’.

Team Goddard creating a big board at last years festival. 

On Saturday a menagerie of cartoonists will be be going animalistic drawing on big boards and caricaturing in the town square.

Throughout the weekend various exhibitions will be running including ‘Drawn To Be Wild’ at The Bear Steps Gallery and ‘The Lizards of Oz and Other Creatures’ an exhibition animal related cartoons by Australian cartoonist. More details on the festival website.

How to illustrate your point…

March 12, 2019 in Comment, General

Tim Ruscoe writes:

“At simply-communicate we know that cartoons are magnets to draw our readers’ attention so we can land messages with impact. And Tim’s work is both funny and memorable – whenever an article is illustrated with one of his jokes it gets twice the attention.”

Marc Wright, Publisher, simply-communicate.com

A phrase originally used by the well-known actor Roy Scheider in the 1975 blockbuster ‘Jaws’. He utters the line when he gets a good look at the size of the shark that is circling the small fishing boat he is on. Used in day to day life when a situation seems insurmountable. The film crew when making Jaws use this line all the time to indicate any problem that popped-up, a short cut to a description as to what is required to sort a job out but in a humorous way.

We use humour in so many ways, to emphasize a point, to change a relationship or a way of seeing the truth. Like irony! They say Americans don’t get it, ‘We’re going to need a bigger metaphor’

Getting your story told by communicating in words can have its problems with holding the attention of the reader, in film there is always something going on visually to hold the viewer until the interest returns, reading a dull section can switch you off and that is why illustrated text came in to being.

What do you get from this Six Nations Rugby blog banner with its French Title?

The blog described the way England play to the way the French move the ball around, making for an interesting battle, so the differences depicted are intriguing in many way to the reader. The idea of actually eating a snail is hilarious!

I illustrate with cartoons for Internal Communications, helping to tell a story, engage and entertain, by challenging the reader to interact with the writer as to what they have seen.

A piece on booking the right venue for a meeting-

Feedback-

‘’You think that’s funny I had that experience at…’’

‘’Is that the Matterhorn mountain in the background?’’

Being sympathetic to someone’s lot show your understanding of a situation, helping to keep morale up. Let the team’s feelings about the difficulties and changes that are going on be recognised, to say ‘’Hard luck but move on” won’t help these feelings and only result in employees becoming disengaged.

Pitching for a contract and not winning can be devastating, yet you must bounce back and do it all again and better! May be it wasn’t your entire fault…

Celebrate victories and examples of excellence both formally and informally. During times of difficulty, it is especially important for employees to feel like winners.

For some situations you have to be in the know to get the joke, it may be you have to be an employees to ‘get it’ this is a good thing as it shows your all united you all understand what’s been going on in the company, just made for Internal Comms with their finger on the pulse.

How the author’s brief develops into the cartoon, it can be a list of facts and fiction to combined in to one drawing, current goings-on’s, maybe you have a joke that needs illustrating. I start with a rough first draft, we talk, we change or add stuff, when you’re happy I make the artwork in black ink, I can colour it up if required, I can animate it to a sound track, this is a great way to bring a process or tutorial to life keeping the viewers attention.

A private joke that only one department will truly understand creating interest from everyone, prompting interaction and engagement from others.

Private joke – See what I mean?

Many different seasonal reasons to make people smile, linked to work so sharing a common ground, a reminder to what’s on in a witty or just silly cartoon to send you on the way home.

A writer can engage and inspiring people through compelling stories and analogies.

A cartoonist can illuminate, embellish, adorn, enhance, highlight.

I don’t think there is any subject that can’t be made into a cartoon?

Tim Ruscoe

t.ruscoe@btconnect.com

All cartoons © Tim Ruscoe

What’s your favourite cartoon book?

March 2, 2019 in Comment, General

We’ve been talking in the inner sanctums of the PCO forum about favourite books on cartoons/cartoonists. Here I share some of our choices:

Steve Jones (Jonesy)

I could easily have gone with Sempe, Stauber or Ungerer – Steadman, in particular, was a really close call – but Matt Jones’ mighty labour of love blew me away. Ronald Searle should be worshipped as a god.

 Pete Dredge

Apologies for blatant trumpet blowing and self promotion. It was a long time ago (1982). It won’t happen again. When my cartoon career first took off in 1976 I had quite a purple patch (now a long distant memory!) where everything I touched seemed to turn to gold (plate)! Today I’m scratching around (does the Weekly News still take gags??) but I can look back at those early successes with a nostalgic eye and be somewhat grateful that there was a thriving market where a half decent cartoonist could get his/her foot on the ladder.

To be included in that list of Hitler’s favourite (mainly US) cartoonists still gives me a thrill. Whatever happened to those other guys?

Here’s a sample page from that tome:

Rupert Besley

No question which for me. It’s the book I grew up with and where I first discovered the joy of cartoons. Four books actually (Down With Skool!, How to be Topp, Whizz for Atomms & Back in the Jug Agane). My father was a headteacher and a new volume arrived each Christmas, to be fought over by the rest of the family for the rest of the year. The cover below is from a later omnibus edition.

The Willans/Searle collaboration was that rare thing in books, a perfect meeting of brilliant minds, with text and illustrations equally superb, each enhancing the other. And just as funny 60 years on.

Wilbur Dawbarn

A Searle book was the first thing to come to my mind, too. We could probably do a blog post purely on Searle books!

To throw in something different, then, here’s a collection of the also brilliant but considerably underrated Rowland Emett. What I love about Emett is the way he caricatured not just people, but trains and other vehicles, buildings, trees… everything! An absolute master of composition and chaos. Richard Ingrams once told me he didn’t like Emett’s stuff, it was ‘too spidery’, I think he said. The utter heathen.

Cathy Simpson

The Complete Molesworth is a strong contender, but perhaps ‘Bert Fegg’s Nasty Book for Boys & Girls’ does it for me. A friend gave me a copy of it when I was 16, and it was the first time I’d come across the work of the sorely-missed Martin Honeysett.

Roger Penwill

Russell Brockbank was a very early influence. He had a cartoon in the back of the weekly The Motor in the 50’s and 60’s. I read that mag every week as I was keen on cars (Dad worked for Ford’s) and loved the weekly dose of Brockbank humour. Over The Line is a typical collection, published in 1955.

Matthew Buck

Always enjoyed Philip Thompson and Mel Calman’s work together over many years.

Guy Venables

This was bought for me on Christmas 1981 and the foreword is by Tom Wolfe. It is a definitive collection of the finest satirical cartoonists from all over the world covering from the 60s to the 80s. Bletchman, Booth, Descloozeaux, Feiffer, Francois, Flora, Gorey, Koren, Bill Lee, Le-Tin, Levine, Mihaesco, Myers, Osbourn, Rauch, Roth, Searle, Steadman, Sempe, Sorel, Ungerer and Wilson. The young cartoonists brain couldn’t want a better introduction to satirical cartooning than this book which explained to me the sheer width of styles and scale of ambition ideas and narratives could have. If you haven’t got it, you should get it. Without it I probably wouldn’t have become a cartoonist.

Glenn Marshall

I could quite easily have plumped for the wonderful ‘Ronald Searle’s America’ book already chosen by Jonesy but instead I’ll pick this one on Timothy Birdsall (who Searle was a fan of) given to me by a friend. Shamefully I didn’t know his work at all, which appeared in Private Eye, The Spectator and The Sunday Times. He was more widely known for his regular appearances drawing live on the BBC show ‘That Was The Week That Was’. Here he is explaining how political cartoons are made.

I love his smudgy and yet detailed style. Sadly he died tragically young aged just 27 in 1963.

There should be a few suggestions here to send you scurrying to eBay but what are your favourites? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tomi Ungerer – ‘Expect the unexpected’

February 13, 2019 in Comment, General, News

Glenn Marshall writes:

I’m easily influenced by all sorts of things around me, as Tomi Ungerer said ‘I’ve always been a sponge, just absorbing whatever I see, whether it’s in daily life or in art’, and Ungerer, who sadly died last week, was particularly inspiring and influencial to me. I love his varied, playful and boundary-pushing work. He was often subversive and outspoken, and he saw himself very much as a satirist. This is a great quote taken from the Tomi Ungerer official website:

‘Satire is the outlet for my revulsion towards a society turned into a pigsty by materialism, consumerism, greed and arrogance. I have particularly aimed my pen at the bourgeoisie and its hypocrisy. I am a satirist to this day though more so in the medium of writing, collage and sculpture. I have been reproached for being obscene in my depictions, but what can I do, society is obscene and my drawings reflect this. And without mercy!’

I also love how he could turn his hand to many disciplines, including painting, collage, print-making, cartoons, graphic design and sculpture, often with a skewed and rebellious humour.

Cover and internal illustration ‘The Party’ 1966 © Tomi Ungerer

Over the years he produced over 140 books. The Tomi Ungerer Museum which opened in 2007 in Strasbourg, his town of birth, has around 11,000 pieces of his work (I’m not even up to treble figures yet!)

‘Business’ brush painting © Tomi Ungerer

I particularly liked the brisk drawings he did with huge paintbrushes and with very limited strokes; you can see him in action in the fantastic 2007 biographical documentary ‘Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story’. The title is lifted from his 1983 illustrated book about his years in Canada. Many of his drawings are wonderfully animated into life in the film too. It’s well worth seeking out. Trailer here

POTTED BIO:

He was born in 1931 in Strasbourg, growing up under the German occupation of Alsace during World War II which greatly affected him. In a very recent interview with The Comics Journal he is quoted as saying: “I was brought up and educated with hate, hatred of the neighbours, hatred of the Germans, hatred of the Catholics. It was nothing but hate, hate, hate.”

Cover for one of his most popular early children’s books ‘TheThree Robbers’ 1961, © Tomi Ungerer

After traveling around Europe he moved to New York with just $60 in his pocket and a case crammed with artwork and manuscripts. He’d always been inspired by Saul Steinberg and other artists in The New Yorker so it seemed natural for hm to move there. He soon picked up illustration and advertising work for publications including the New York Times, Life magazine, The Village Voice and Harper’s Bazaar and started getting his children’s books published.

‘Eat’ poster, 1967.                                                ‘Black Power/White Power’ poster, 1967
 © Tomi Ungerer.                                                © Tomi Ungerer

In the late ’60s he became more political, making posters against the Vietnam War and racial segregation. He believed he was being watched by the FBI for his political views and indeed was taken away and interrogated after a trip to China.

It was at this time he started publishing (very) adult illustrations in his books such as ‘Fornicon’ (don’t look them up on a work computer!). This lead to a backlash particularly as he was mostly known for his writing of children’s books.

For these reasons much of his work became blacklisted with many of his books removed from libraries. In 1970 he escaped to Nova Scotia before moving to Co.Cork in Ireland with his third wife Yvonne Wright in 1976 where he settled until he died aged 87.

The above three drawings are from the book ‘The Underground Sketchbook’ 1964, © Tomi Ungerer

There are two big exhibitions opening in Paris this spring that he’d been working towards. I certainly plan doing a Eurostar mini-pilgrimage to those. I will add the exhibition details when they are available.

To end here’s a clip of Ungerer that was posted on the Tomi Unger website which includes his thoughts on death (Video by Brad Bernstein & Rick Cikowski)

Our commiserations to Tomi’s family and friends.

NB: I’m indebted to the fine obituaries in The Irish Times and The New York Times that I mined for biographical detail. There is also a good interview with Ungerer on Design Boom

 

Hats off to JR

February 10, 2019 in Comment, General

Caricature by © Rupert Besley

Rupert Besley writes:

…John Ruskin, that is. It’s his 200th birthday in February and there are events lined up to mark the occasion. One such is Chris Beetles’ forthcoming exhibition ‘Ruskin’s Artists’  (13 Feb-2 Mar), celebrating the work of those he cherished.

Helen Allingham ‘A Devonshire Cottage’ (from © Chris Beetles Gallery catalogue)

A shame for me I don’t have a spare £6.5k kicking around (so far, searches of jacket linings and sofa backs have brought in only one parking ticket and two licorice imps). With that kind of money, I’d be straight on to Beetles to buy up one of those Helen Allingham watercolours.

Ruskin was a polymath of the first order. It would take more than a page to do justice to the full range of his accomplishments. No mean artist himself, he achieved a great deal more as art critic than any since. He was hugely important in championing the genius of Turner and he played a big part in the 20,000 artworks of the Turner Bequest being saved for the nation. He greatly influenced the Pre-Raphaelites and was the inspiration behind the Arts & Crafts Movement that followed on (Wm Morris, CR Ashbee, Walter Crane etc, whose fine creations currently star in the BBC series on Fri nights).

Wasn’t it Brian Sewell who was given to making disparaging remarks about ‘mere cartoons’? This, certainly, is a BS quote: ‘there has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness.’Refreshing, then, to see (as the Beetles Gallery blurb points out) that, well over a century back, Ruskin was equally supportive of female and male contemporary artists and that he considered Tenniel cartoons to contain ‘as high qualities as it is possible to find in modern art.’

Ruskin was much mocked in his time and repeatedly since. Leaving aside as less important his poor form in the marital bed, Ruskin the thinker and writer was way ahead of his time. Gandhi claimed Ruskin as a major influence, as had Tolstoy and the founders of the Labour Party. Outraged by the downsides of industrialisation, capitalism and urbanisation in full swing around him (ugliness, pollution, disconnect from nature and, above all, exploitation of and deterioration in quality of life for the working classes), Ruskin positively exploded with solutions, all of them still attractive today. Much of what he proposed had to await the arrival of the welfare state, but institutions that owed much to his thinking, such as the National Trust and the National Parks movement, came about in his lifetime or soon after. Other concepts that he worked on, like the greenhouse-effect and fractal geometry in nature, had to wait their time, some century and a half later.

Visionary, conservationist and social revolutionary, Ruskin put his ideas into practice where he could. Believing in the power of art and natural beauty to transform lives and restore human dignity, Ruskin taught a generation to see things differently. And he took on establishment snobberies that allowed intellectuals to look down on manual work. As Oxford’s first Professor of Fine Art, in 1874-5 he got undergraduates – including the young Oscar Wilde – to work on road-mending in N Oxford as a way to teach them the virtues of physical labour.

Ruskin’s high-minded aims in art rather outshine the me-me-me, self-publicising commercialism of so many artists fêted today. JR is one to remember, I reckon.

 

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