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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)

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.

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