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Can cartoons be both funny – and diverse?

September 16, 2021 in Comment, General

Cartoon © Nick Newman

By Nick Newman and courtesy of The Spectator. 

Of the many challenges cartoonists face — rejection, money, drink, or lack of — one of the trickiest is the growing pressure to depict diversity. Nowadays readers often write to publications complaining about the dearth of ethnic minorities in our drawings and demand for cartoons to be more inclusive.

It’s like being trapped in a bad political cartoon, walking a tightrope above a minefield. A quick survey of my colleagues in the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation highlighted the following:

  1. Cartoons involve laughing at someone. If that person is black, you risk appearing racist; even including a BAME character in the background of drawing can lead to accusations of tokenism (‘background box-tickers’).
  2. Including any minority character in a cartoon can run the risk of implying that the cartoon is about race and so can inadvertently politicise the cartoon.
  3. At the end of the day, it’s safer to make the pale, male and stale the butt of the joke.

Gag cartoons are about speed and recognition. Stereotypes are a form of visual shorthand designed to get an idea across quickly. The French? Man in stripy shirt. Teacher? Mortarboard. German? Fat man with sausage. Cartoons amplify for comic effect, which runs the risk of promoting race hate when depicting BAME characters. ‘I draw a lot of idiots saying daft things and don’t want any accidental inference that it is because of their race,’ says PCO chairman Clive Goddard. ‘Better to stick to white idiots than be misunderstood.’ British newspaper and magazine cartoonists are predominantly white, which can make any joke about ethnicity feel awkward or patronising. Cartoonists may be cowards, but we are not afraid to admit to our cowardice in avoiding the issue.

Cartoonists’ drawing styles present another problem. Characters with big noses can lead to accusations of anti-Semitism. One political cartoonist has been told to reduce the size of all Middle Eastern noses. Attempts to make cartoon characters more diverse can be tricky. Kathryn Lamb likens ‘inking in’ her cartoon faces to ‘blacking up’.

For caricaturists whose stock-in-trade is exaggeration, the problem is, appropriately enough, exaggerated. Morten Morland, The Spectator’s cover artist, says that whenever he draws Diane Abbott or Priti Patel, someone always complains. ‘It’s usually because they disagree with the cartoon itself,’ he says, ‘and need something to hit back with. So by hinting that the caricature is racist they aim to discredit the whole cartoon.’

In 2018, a caricature of Serena Williams by the Australian cartoonist Mark Knight of the Herald Sun was reported to the Australian Press Council for depicting her with ‘large lips, a broad flat nose… and [being] positioned in an ape-like pose’ while throwing a tantrum on court. The National Association of Black Journalists said the caricature was ‘unnecessarily Sambo-like’ and even J.K. Rowling weighed in, tweeting: ‘Well done on reducing one of the greatest sportswomen alive to racist and sexist tropes.’

Accusations of racism in cartoons stretch back to Gillray and beyond. The Georgian cartoonists depicted Africans as threatening and comical, with grotesque features and appetites. Cruikshank’s ‘The New Union Club’ (1818) is one of the most racist prints of the 19th century, depicting a debauched dinner held at the African Institution and attacking abolitionists such as Wilberforce. Two hundred years later the Commission for Racial Equality called for Hergé’s 1931 comic Tintin in the Congo to be withdrawn from sale because of its depiction of black Africans as simple, childlike and uncivilised. The New York Public Library locked its copy away. ‘Tintin in the Congo is a racist book,’ says the FT’s Jeremy Banx, ‘but Hergé was on a long journey, from King Leopold II to the Beatles, in which he ended up in a very different place to where he started.’ In later life Hergé himself referred to his early books as ‘youthful sins’.

There are lessons to be learned from history. In 1925 a glib cartoon by David Low portrayed England cricket’s run machine Jack Hobbs as a colossus compared with figures from history, including Caesar, Charlie Chaplin and a caricatured Muhammad. It led to rioting in Calcutta. As the staff of Charlie Hebdo found out, these days a cartoon of the Prophet is likely to get you cancelled — permanently.

We live in a sensitive age. Cartoonists agree on the need to promote diversity, but the complications are endless. Diversity itself is becoming a dirty word, suggesting ‘diverging from the white mean’. Meanwhile ‘inclusive’ is said to imply whites doing the including.

As the Sun’s Steve Bright says: ‘You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you don’t, you’re racist on the grounds of exclusion. If you do, unless there’s a perfect balance, you’re accused of tokenism, which is also racist. And if you achieve that mythical perfect balance — you’d have to draw 100 people in every cartoon, and colour them according to percentages of population — you’re obsessive, and quite possibly insane.’

Unfortunately, deconstructing cartoons also sucks all the fun out of them. As the great Barry Cryer says: ‘Analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog. Nobody laughs and the frog dies.’

This article first appeared in the 11 Sept 2021 issue of The Spectator

You can see Nick interviewed about this piece by Spectator TV here. Bonus points to Nick for sporting his PCO badge.

A Peer at Herne Bay Cartoon Festival 2021

September 8, 2021 in Comment, Events, General

A carousel of cartoonists. Photo by © Ray Covey

Apologies for the late running of our usual photo gallery of the Herne Bay Cartoon Festival but pictures were delayed by the HGV lorry driver shortage…so blame Brexit/Covid.

Join me now as we take a not-so virtual tour up the pier…

Photo by © Jason Hollingsworth

The start of the traditional cartoonists’ parade, pencil led by Zoom and Ace Rockman who are also carrying the Steve Coombes Memorial Trilby. It was festival co-organiser Steve who instigated the annual musical ‘March of the Cartoonists’. Steve sadly passed away earlier in the year.

Board by © Zoom Rockman. Photo by © Jason Hollingsworth

Zoom’s was the first board you were greeted by on the pier. A splendid rendition of Boris Johnson’s bottom that you were invited to speak out of.

Board by © Zoom Rockman,

Martin Rowson demonstrating where Boris generally talks from.

Board by © Royston Robertson

I’ve often wondered how Royston constantly produces such a large volume of great gags…here’s your answer, he’s cloned himself!

Board by © Des Buckley. Photo by © Jason Hollingsworth

We had plenty of Covid at the festival this year, thankfully in the cartoons rather than in the cartoonists.

Here’s Des Buckley’s ‘JABS’ movie poster. Next year we’ll be expecting ‘JABS II – THE BOOSTER’.

Board by © James Mellor. Photo by © Karol Steele

A flotilla of topical cartoons from James Mellor.

Board by © The Surreal McCoy. Photo by © Karol Steele

I’m a huge fan of the absurdist humour of The Surreal McCoy.

Board by © Guy Veneables. Photo by © Karol Steele

Guy Venables – a man preparing himself for post big-board beer ownership.

Beachwear collection by © Glenn Marshall

Andy & Karol Steele before entering the ‘m a r s h a l l interactive plastic wave machine’.

Board by © Clive Goddard. Photo by © Karol Steele

Clive Goddard with his chief colourist Amy Amani.

Board by © Clive Goddard. Photo by © Karol Steele

Procartoonist Chairhuman Clive on the exulted PCO podium.

Board by © Rob Murray, Photo by © Ray Covey

Rob Murray about to launch his dating app for shingles.

Finished board by © Rob Murray

Board by © Chris Burke. Photo by © Ray Covey

A second wave of Boris cartoons. This one brushed up by Chris Burke.

Board by © Jeremy Banx. Photo by © Karol Steele

Banx draws a blank.

Board by © Jeremy Banx. Photo by © Karol Steele

Jeremy’s board with filling.

Board by © Martin Rowson. Photo by © Ray Covey

More Boris, this time from the venerable Martin Rowson. He’s left the best bit to last.

Board by © Kathryn Lamb. Photo by © Karol Steele

Finally at the end of the pier K J lamb has yet another Boris stranded out at sea in a ‘Lie Boat’. Surely a typo?

Photo by © Karol Steele

Alex Hughes manning (or should that be personing?) caricature corner.

There is also a great film record of the event by Dave Painter of HUTC productions. You can enjoy it here.

Plaudits to Sue Austen and the team for getting the festival together this year under such trying circumstances.

Thanks to festival regulars Karol Steele and Ray Covey plus festival coordinator Jason Hollingsworth for the photos in the absence of usual PCO snapper Kasia Kowalska.

#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

The PCO Cartoon Review of the Year 2020

December 28, 2020 in General, Links, News

Cartoon by © Andy Davey.

Glenn Marshall wrote:

Once more my friends it’s time for the PCO Cartoon Review of the Year, featuring work from members of the PCO (speech) bubble. It’s been a difficult year to find humour in, although it would be a nightmare for cartoonists if any year was filled with just love, joy and kittens! I ended last year’s review with “So what fresh horrors will 2020 have in store?” – how little did we know!

As we chase off 2020 (envisioned above by Andy Davey for The Telegraph) one story seems to have dominated this year’s review over all others. Just for fun, see if by the end you can spot which one it is?

Cartoon by © Dean Patterson

To start us off the this cartoon by Dean Patterson sums up the year in one image.

Cartoon by © Andrew Fraser

Some family entertainment by Drew in Private Eye.

Cartoon by © The Surreal McCoy

This cartoon by Ms McCoy was from Lockdown 1.0 but works equally well now for Lockdown 2.5 (and counting)

Cartoon by © Matt Percival

…and from check-in let’s move on to the baggage area with a Percival cartoon reclaimed from The Spectator.

Cartoon by © Nick Newman

Nick Newman in the The Sunday Times on the looooong running Dom Com. In a questionnaire in The Sunday Times Nick recently cited this cartoon as a favourite he’d done this year.

Cartoon by © Glenn Marshall 

Some testing times for Cummings back in May.

Cartoon by © Rebecca Hendin

Rebecca Hendin’s very own lockdown guidelines appeared in the New Statesman.

Cartoon by © Jeremy Banx

Masker vs Anti-masker featuring Batman and Superspreader from Banx in the Financial Times. Jeremy was recently voted ‘Pocket Cartoonist of the Year’. You can see a report on the awards by PCO Chair-human Clive Goddard on the PCO YouTube Channel.

Cartoon by © Clive Goddard

…and talking of Clive Goddard.- in other news (was there any other news I hear you ask?) here’s Harry and Meghan doing some extreme social distancing from the family by Clive.

Cartoon by © Steve Bell

Can’t a have a cartoon review of the year without some Donald – hopefully not so much in next year’s! This splendid reworking of the Delacroix painting  ‘Liberty Leading the People’ (more like ‘Liability Bleeding the People’) is by Steve Bell in The Guardian. Steve was voted ‘Political Cartoonist of the Year’ in the afore-mentioned awards.

Cartoon by © Andy Davey

…and in The Daily Telegraph Andy Davey poured ‘Scorn’ (other bleaches are available) on Donald Trump.

Cartoon by © Sarah Boyce

The Black Lives Matter movement started after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Here is a creative twist on the phrase from Sarah Boyce published in PE.

Cartoon by © Rupert Besley

INTERLUDE: As a diversion from relentless bad news stories here’s a lovely, soothing cartoon and drawing from Rupert Besley.

Cartoon by © Chris Williams

School days are supposed to be the haPPEiest of our lives! Here’s Dink on the return to school in September.

Cartoon by © Tat Effby

The taking down of public statues also led on from the birth of Black Lives Matter. Later in the year there was a furore about the Mary Wollstonecraft memorial sculpture by artist Maggi Hambling. Tat Effby successfully clashes the two stories with a nude Clive of India.

Cartoon by © Steve Jones

In lack of live Entertainment News: Jonesy reports for Private Eye on the new rules for theatre goers…

Cartoon by © Kipper Williams

…and Kipper Williams took us to the cinema in The Spectator.

Cartoon by © Royston Robertson

Excellent cartoon from our technology correspondent Royston Robertson. I think we’re all suffering from a bit of this, indeed I’m sure I have ‘Long Zoom Fatigue’

Cartoon by © Martin Rowson

Didn’t have to have my arm twisted to use this pretty bullying cartoon by Martin Rowson for Kevin Maguire’s The Mirror column.

Cartoon by © Graeme Bandeira

In sports news Graeme Bandeira puts his hand to a caricature of Maradona for The Yorkshire Post. For some bonus content you can see Graeme’s cartoon that won ‘Political Cartoon of the Year’ in the awards report mentioned earlier,

Cartoon by © James Mellor 

In more sports news James Mellor takes to the fairways. Like many I took up indoor grouse shooting.

Cartoon by © Guy Venables

Back to Trump who, at time of going to press, STILL hasn’t lost the election. This by Guy Venables in his regular slot for The Metro.

Cartoon by © Ed Nay

Clever drawing by Nay. Can you see what is yet?

Cartoon by © Steve Bright

A contender for Man(iac) of the Year, the dyed-hair Trumpublican attorney Rudy Giuliani. I loved this caricature by Brighty.

Cartoon by © Pete Dredge

A substantially funny cartoon from Pete Dredge served up in The Spectator.

Cartoon by © Pete Songi

A fabulous homage to Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’ by Pete Songi culled from Martin Rowson’s twittersphere #Draw2020challenge.

Cartoon by © Dave Brown

Talk about Johnson being out of his depth with everything from PPE, Cumming’s eye tests, track and disgrace etc etc etc, You feel Boris just hasn’t got it….well he did get it, but you know what I mean. This from The Independent by Dave Brown really sums up Boris’ year.

Cartoon by © Roger Penwill

Roger Penwill takes to the road for ‘Roadway’ (the magazine from the Road Haulage Association). It’s about the Kent lorry parks post Brexit, but became even more relevant with the closed border before Christmas.

Cartoon by © Wilbur Dawbarn

This BBC balanced offering from Wilbur plucked from The Spectator…

Cartoon by © Zoom Rockmann

…and more Christmas fun. This taking the Santa knee from Zoom Rockman in the Private Eye Christmas special..

Cartoon by © Chris Burke

Let’s end the year with this lovely festive offering from Chris Burke, it’s what we all wanted in our stockings this year.

So a Happy? New Year from all at PCO megacorp.

Now, I wonder what fresh horrors 2021 will have in store?

Cartoon by © Martin Rowson for The Mirror Kevin Maguire column.

 

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?

 

Cartoonists Rally Round Birthday Boy Carson

August 5, 2020 in General

Cartoon by © Martin Rowson

Dean Patterson writes:

Recently a lot of the best cartoonists in the UK, including many PCO members, went out of their way to draw a birthday wish for Carson, who is a very sick little boy with a brain tumour and had to spend his birthday in hospital getting chemotherapy…

Cartoon by © KJ Lamb

The boy’s family really wanted to send their thanks and let the cartoonists know what it meant to them. (They felt the cartoonists went beyond what could have been hoped for!)

Cartoon by © Andrew Fraser

I know everyone who contributed is very busy and their time important and it meant a lot, really, that so many still contributed. When I sent them over to his Dad he was utterly gobsmacked, with tears in eyes. His Grandfather also got in touch to ask me to convey his thanks to all concerned.

Cartoon by © Russel Herneman

So thank you! Not just from me but especially from the boy’s family for helping them celebrate the little lad’s birthday.

Cartoon by © Jeremy Banks

Cartoon by © Steve Jones

Cartoon by © Graeme Keyes

Cartoon by © Mike Stokoe

Cartoon by © Harry Burton

Cartoon by © Mumph

Cartoon by © Dean Patterson

Cartoon by © Ron McGeary

Cartoon by © James Mellor

Cartoon by © Glenn Marshall

Oh We Did Like To Be Beside The Seaside!

July 31, 2020 in Events, General, News

In the ‘old normal’ this weekend would have seen cartoonists flocking like seagulls to the wonderful Herne Bay Cartoon Festival. With this year’s event c19ncelled here’s a trip down memory lane with the fabulous posters from previous years and links to the festival holiday snaps.

2013 Poster by © Hunt Emerson

The Herne Bay event started as a bolt-on to the Duchamp In Herne Bay centennial festival and featured much Marcel Duchamp toilet humour including cartoons exhibited in the latrines of local pubs.

2014 ‘Cartoonists Beside The Surrealside’ by © Ian Baker

The following year in 2014 the cartoon festival became a thing of its own, but still keeping it surreal.

2015 ‘Cartoonists Beside The Surrealside II’ by © Jeremy ‘Banx’ Banks

The art theme carried on in 2015 with cartoonists manning easels in the bandstand.

2016 by © Dave Brown

In 2016 once more we stuck our toes in the water and drew seaside postcards..

2017 ‘The End of the Pier Show’ by © Chris Burke

In 2017 the live drawing moved over from the bandstand to the pier.

2018 ‘Turning the Tide’ by © The Surreal McCoy

2018 had the seaside theme ‘Turning The Tide’ with an extra focus on female cartoonists in celebration of the centenary of women getting the vote in the UK.

2019 ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ by © Martha ‘Marf’ Richler

Last year’s 2019 spacey theme was the Apollo moon landings. Little did we know it would be the last time cartoonists landed on Herne Bay pier for some time.

Fingers crossed we’ll be heading back with our buckets and spades, cramming the beaches in 2021!

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.

Not the 2020 Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival

April 24, 2020 in Events, General, News

Cancelled poster by © Roger Penwill

Glenn Marshall writes:

This weekend would have seen the main events of the Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival  but sadly, like so much else, it has had to be cancelled. One of the organisers, Roger Penwill, commented a few weeks ago when the postponement was announced “We felt that we had no choice as the nature of the event, encouraging many members of the public to come to an indoor space, ran contrary to the guidance on tackling virus spread. More importantly we did not want to put at risk the health of any member of the cartooning community or their families”

The theme was ‘twenty twenty vision’ so the organising committee should’ve been visionary and seen Covid 19 coming!

In the meantime, here for your edification and delight, is a selection of optical illusionary cartoons selected by Roger that would’ve been part of the the Bear Steps Gallery exhibition. All drawn from/by the PCO fraternity.

In alphabetical order:

Cartoon © Nathan Ariss

Cartoon © Jeremy Banx

Cartoon © Rupet Besley

Cartoon © Andy Davey

Cartoon © Ian Baker

Cartoon © Neil Dishington

Cartoon © Pete Dredge

Cartoon © Tat Effby

Cartoon © Clive Goddard

Cartoon © James Griffiths

Cartoon © Jonesy

Cartoon © Kathryn Lamb

Cartoon © Chris Madden

Cartoon © Roger Penwill

Cartoon © Glenn Marshall

Cartoon © Ken Pyne

Cartoon © Royston Robertson

Cartoon © The Surreal McCoy

Cartoon © Wilbur Dawbarn

Cartoon © Kipper Williams

Cartoon © Noel Ford

This final cartoon is by the great Noel Ford (who I should really rechristen Noel Zord to keep alphabetic consistency) Sadly Noel died last year. He had been very involved with the festival since its inception and part of this year’s events was to be a retrospective exhibition of his wonderful work.

Thanks to Roger and all the others who’d put a lot of effort into preparation for this year’s jamboree, including Sarah Knapp, Tim King, Tat Effby, Jonathan Cusick and Jill Wild. Hopefully the Shrewsbury cartoon spectacle will be able to be rescheduled in the near future.

On Saturday I’ll be off to do my self-isolated vision themed big board in the garden….