Bill Stott writes for Bloghorn about different sorts of cartoonist:
The UK boasts quite a few inventive, informed and highly skilled political cartoonists many of whom don’t fool easily and must be the bane of leader writers’ lives in their ability to prove that the picture is often worth more than words.
However – don’t you love the word cartoonist? It usually presages a disagreement, and here is a head above the parapet.
Peter Brookes, of the Times, was recently named “Cartoonist of the Year” [read it here – Ed]. I wouldn’t have started digging this hole if the title had been “Political Cartoonist of the Year” because that is essential and its remit is admirably fulfilled, not least by Mr Brookes. But political cartooning is only part of the whole picture of cartooning.
The vast majority of cartoonists in the UK are not political cartoonists. Logic suggests that, because this majority has not just politics to lampoon but the whole of life as we know it, Jim.
So, I think there’s a problem. The usually non-political joke or gag cartoonist is disappearing fast from newspapers. Quite a few publications are buying in cheap syndicated stuff which struggles to be relevant. Recently a long-established Welsh newspaper dropped its regular gag and used a Canadian cartoon poking fun at Obama’s healthcare reforms instead. Cheaper, but hardly relevant and deeply unfunny to boot.
Stalwart magazines like Private Eye, the Oldie, Prospect and the Spectator do what they can, but they can only run so many cartoons. The UK’s never been big on nationally recognised cartoon users and nowadays Punch, and more recently Readers’ Digest, are either memories or at risk.
The cavalier way newspapers and many magazines presently ignore good joke cartoons makes the political cartoonist into a sort of protected species, and suggests that editors only think a cartoon is funny or useful if its got a very direct political subject.
So, long live our superb political cartoonists. Long live awards for our political cartoonists. But call the award “Political Cartoonist of the Year”. Otherwise folk might get the idea that political cartooning is THE only cartooning form.
Bloghorn agrees that variety is key to good cartooning. After all, it’s drawing life, innit? This also applies to where cartoons are seen and it doesn’t just have to be on pieces of dead tree.