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#threefingers for Myanmar campaign

March 21, 2021 in Comment, General, News

The Surreal McCoy writes:

In collaboration with artists and creatives in Myanmar (formerly Burma), PCO are running #threefingers a social campaign in support of local cartoonists and artists, and in recognition of the deteriorating situation there. A landslide election for the National League for Democracy party was overthrown by a brutal military coup on February 1, 2021, sparking a national Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). 

Cartoon © Steve Bright

PCO members have been drawing a selfie giving the three fingered salute in solidarity with the movement. The three-fingered salute has become a symbol of resistance in protest and in art. Across the milk tea nations, from Myanmar to Thailand to Hong Kong, the gesture represents a global solidarity for democracy, defiance against tyranny, and the fight for freedom.

Cartoon © Dave Brown

The Tatmadaw (Burmese Army) has cracked down hard on protestors, as they have in previous civil uprisings. They have reigned with terror in Myanmar’s border states for generations, leading a vicious campaign to remove the Rohingya minority from the country, in 2017.

Cartoonists protest in Yangon.

Myanmar artists have used their art to project the nation’s voice and call upon artists and allies from all nations to raise three fingers for human rights, freedom and democracy.

Cartoon © Zunar

We are partnering with the Burma Campaign UK and Three Fingers.org, to bring the campaign to a global audience. The artwork will be displayed on the site with a view to selling (with the creator’s permission). All proceeds will be directed to Mutual Aid Myanmar, an organisation assisting civil society in Myanmar.

Cartoon © Kerina Stevens

Please retweet/repost whenever you can with the hashtag #threefingers and these social media handles:

https://twitter.com/Raise3Fingers

https://www.instagram.com/raise3fingers/

https://www.tiktok.com/@raise3fingers

Cartoon © Jeremy Banx

Cartoon © Rupert Besley

Cartoon © Steve Jones

Cartoon © Des Buckley

Cartoon © Martin Rowson

Draw The Coronavirus – The eBook!

December 17, 2020 in Comment, Events, General, News

The ‘Great’ Glenn Marshall (WINNER of Draw The Coronavirus competition) writes:

Many cartoonists, illustrators, artists and fly-by-nights have been taking refuge from the cruel world by joining in Martin Rowson’s regular cartoon challenges. He sets a subject and we all vent spleen (most of us were in lock down and online twiddling our thumbs-up emojis anyway so it gave us something to fill time between Joe Wicks and hitting the cooking sherry)

Cartoon by © Steve Bell

At the end of April, the Museums Association and the BBC launched ‘Museums From Home Day’. Martin, in collaboration with The Cartoon Museum, set the challenge of #DrawTheCoronavirus. The Musuem has now launched a fabulous ebook of the entries, featuring around 200 cartoons by 71 different artistes including Ralph Steadman, Glenn Marshall, Steve Bell, Ben Jennings, Glenn Marshall, Nick Newman, Jeremy Banx, Glenn Marshall, Steve Bright, Zoom Rockman, Grizelda, oh and Glenn Marshall.

Cartoon by © Rob Murray

ALL proceeds from the book are going towards the Cartoon Museum’s fundraising appeal to secure their long-term future after a difficult year with the pandemic. The eBook will be available to buy for a modest £10 from their online store,

Cartoon by © Grizelda

Here are couple of quotes from the press release:

Joe Sullivan, Cartoon Museum Director:

“It has been fantastic to see the creativity and humour of these artists in the face of coronavirus, reflecting issues everyone has been struggling with through lockdown, and using it as fuel to make us laugh. It is a pleasure to work with them all and share their amazing, work with everyone in this e-book. All proceeds from sales of the e-book go directly to helping the museum to secure our future, and we are very thankful to all the artists involved for donating their work to the e-book. Thank you too all our supporters for helping us to survive through the pandemic, and we hope this book brings you as much fun reading it as we had making it!”

Martin Rowson:

“Faced with an invisible enemy, a question should be nagging away at the back of each of our minds: what’s this virusy bastard LOOK like? And, as it’s our job to reimagine our leaders the better to enable us to laugh at them, who’s more qualified to define Corona in all its Pandemic Covidness than cartoonists? Forget electron microscopes – here you’ll find the truest & most accurate depictions of our Common Foe!”

.….and another quote from Martin Rowson:

“Challenge won by the Great @marshallcartoon

Here’s Martin talking about ‘Draw The Coronavirus’ on BBC Radio 4 Today programme back in April:

 

Cartoon by © Steve Bright

Cartoon by © Nick Newman

For anyone wanting to join in with Mr Rowson’s caricature challenges they’re frequently set on his twitter feed @MartinRowson

Cartoon by © Zoom Rockman

By the way, did I mention who won it?

 

Cartoons For Change child labour initiative

December 10, 2020 in Comment, General

Fernando Morales-de la Cruz of Cartoons For Change writes:

On the 72nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Cartoons for Change denounces violation of the human rights of 300 million child workers

The Cartoons for Change initiative brings together hundreds of cartoonists, illustrators and artists from all continents committed to the eradication of child labor and the strictest respect of human rights. 2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor.

The truth about Fairtrade & Ben and Jerry´s by Chavo del Toro from Mexico

Berlin, Germany – December 10, 2020. On the seventy-second anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Guatemalan journalist and activist, Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, founder and editor-in-chief of Cartoons for Change, denounces the continuing violation of the human rights of almost 300 million children. That is the number of boys and girls around the world who still today have to work in order to survive, deprived of the basic rights and freedoms supposedly guaranteed by the Declaration and numerous laws and treaties that followed it.

Although developed nations are bound by international and national laws to respect human rights and the rights of children, the European Union is today the largest financial beneficiary of child labor and misery in the rural communities that produce coffee, cocoa and many other agricultural products.

Fernando Morales-de la Cruz in front of the Euro sign in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo by Ferhat Bouda/AgenceVU

Switzerland claims to be an exemplary democracy, but Swiss-registered companies have more children in their supply chain of coffee, tea and cocoa than there are boys and girls studying in Swiss schools. Around the world, there are more than four million children working in the Swiss supply chain. This belies the assurances from Professor Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum and main promoter of the Swiss business model, that his organization, the most powerful business lobby in the world, is “Committed to Improving the State of the World”.

Industrialized countries such as the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea also profit by acquiring products and raw materials that exploit tens of millions of poor children. All of this happens despite the fact that all States have officially committed to respecting human rights and supporting Sustainable Development Goals. Even Norway, which claims to respect the human rights of all, has a huge sovereign pension fund which still invests in companies that profit from the sweat of hundreds of thousands of children.

Cartoon by © Glenn Marshall

The Republic of Germany benefits fiscally by charging very high taxes on products harvested with child labor and modern slavery. Germany collects a tax of € 2.19 for each kg of roasted coffee and € 4.79 for each kg of instant coffee. The German coffee tax is equivalent to almost 100% of what the globally-powerful German coffee industry pays to the increasingly poor coffee growers in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In 2019 the coffee industry paid up to 75% less than the inflation-adjusted price established in the 1983 International Coffee Agreement. Germany has collected more than 54,000 million euros in coffee tax since 1950, while the coffee regions that supply Germany suffer the increase of misery, hunger, malnutrition, child labor and forced migration for economic reasons. In contrast to the German coffee tax, in most of the coffee regions that supply the German coffee industry there is an almost total lack of schools, hospitals, nurseries, decent housing, living wages, pensions or social security.

“It is urgent to stop the exploitation of hundreds of millions of defenseless girls and boys. All industries, corporations and countries that profit from child labor must stop it even if it helps them generate billions of dollars yearly in additional profits and taxes. Today, December 10, 72 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 31 years after the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are still too many industries, such as chocolate, coffee, mining, clothing and many others in which child labor continues to increase, because it is highly profitable for multinationals and developed nations, ”says  Morales-de la Cruz, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Cartoons for Change.

To denounce this cruel reality and defend 300 million child workers, Cartoons for Change has successfully convened cartoonists, illustrators, artists, teachers and students from across the world to participate in the global protest #365DaysAgainstChildLabor and in the event #BerlinWall2021.

Concept of Cartoons for Change protest at #BerlinWall2021

“Our unique worldwide protest and exhibitions will also use the Berlin Wall, a symbol of freedom in Germany’s capital, and other walls in other continents. Our objective is to pressure governments and multinationals to take urgent and concrete actions to stop the cruel, illegal but highly lucrative business models based on child labor and slavery” says Morales-de la Cruz.

Cartoons and illustrations should be sent to the email cartoons@itima.org with the highest possible resolution for printing, as some of them will be printed to be placed on the Berlin wall in sizes up to 1.6 by 2.40 meters. The Cartoons for Change are also being published in the press and shared on the Twitter and Instagram accounts @cartoons4change and @BerlinWall2021 and via Facebook @Cartoons4ChangeNow.

Cartoon by © Steve Jones

If you want more information about Cartoons for Change or would like to know how you can contribute to eradicate child labor and abolish slavery, please contact Cartoons for Change through any of the social networks, by email at info@cartoonsforchange.org or through the page www.cartoonsforchange.org

Cancer Sells

December 9, 2020 in Comment, General

Tat Effby writes:

Cancer isn’t funny. I wouldn’t dream of making jokes about it. Or so I thought until I got it, after which point I’m afraid it was open season.

I’ve written about my experience of breast cancer in a graphic short story called Cancer Sells. It was my entry for the Jonathan Cape / Observer graphic short story competition and I’m pleased to share it here. I wasn’t a cartoonist when I was going through treatment but I was a writer, so all the appalling, demeaning, disgusting and absurd incidents got squirrelled away where they percolated for a long time. It’s now 10 years since my brush with cancer, although it was less of a brush and more like being beaten about the body with a broom.

I actually have quite a lot to thank cancer for; first it didn’t kill me, second it led, in a round about way, to me becoming a cartoonist. It was one of those crossroads moments (not a Crossroads moment – that involves a lot more wobbly scenery) where the simple act of not-dying made me consider a change of direction. So I left my job as an advertising creative and eventually evolved into a cartoonist, and let me tell you I’m glad I did: I’ve never had so much sex or money.

This story won’t be to everyone’s taste, cancer is an awful disease and I couldn’t countenance making jokes about someone else’s experience, but this was mine, so here it is.

All artwork and story © Tat Effby

You can support and get more information on breast cancer here:

Breast Cancer UK

Pink Ribbon Foundation 

Cancer Research UK

Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival – The Exhibitions!

October 20, 2020 in Comment, Events, General

Exhibition poster cartoon by festival organiser © Roger Penwill.

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

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

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

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

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

Another photo of the hang © Tony Clarkson.

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

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

Cartoon © Ralph Steadman.

Cartoon © Peter Schrank

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

Cartoon © Steve Bell.

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

Cartoon © Andy Davey.

…and another from Andy Davey.

Cartoon © Chris Williams

…and yet another. This by ‘Dink’

Cartoon © Grizelda.

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

Caricature © Jonathan Cusik.

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

Cartoon © Pete Dredge.

Back to school with Dredge.

Cartoon © Ken Pyne.

Ken Pyne takes us on holiday….remember those?

Cartoon © Royston Robertston…and Phil.

Pirate material by Rrrrroyston Rrrrrobertson.

Cartoon © Henny Beaumont.

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

Cartoon © The Surreal McCoy.

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

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

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

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

Puppet caricature © Jonathan Cusik.

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

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

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

Still Splitting Fog

September 23, 2020 in Comment, General

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

Rupert Besley writes:

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

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

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

Nebelspalter 2012: Mark Zuckerberg caricature by Michael Streuen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.