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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.

Cartooning Global Forum

December 13, 2018 in Events, General

The Surreal McCoy writes:

Monday (December 10th) was the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Earlier this year in October I was asked to attend the first Cartooning Global Forum day at UNESCO in Paris, to represent PCO (paying my own train fare). I made several useful contacts at this forum for future collaborations and will be following up with them in due course. Finally got to meet Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, (pictured below with Terry Anderson) who has finally had his travel ban lifted. (The next forum is being planned for October 2019, in between the weekends at St Juste.)

  

Photo ©The Surreal McCoy

Opening remarks from Terry Anderson, Deputy Executive Director, CRNI and PCO member:

 ÉTATS GÉNÉRAUX DE DESSIN DE PRESSE UNESCO – 03/10/18 WORKING SESSION 1 REDUCED INEQUALITIES and PEACE, JUSTICE & STRONGER INSTITUTIONS

Dear colleagues, it’s a great pleasure to open the morning’s discussion on the topics laid out by Jérôme. These are lofty goals but if we believe in the power and value of cartooning as a medium then I don’t think it is beyond us to contribute toward their realisation. And if this forum is the beginning of a truly global co-operative undertaking by all cartoonists’ organisations, something I confess by own has tried and failed to create in the past, then so much the better.

Briefly: no conversation in this context and setting on the topic of peace could begin without acknowledging the contribution of our friends at Cartooning For Peace, and especially so soon after the loss of their honorary president Kofi Annan. We send them our best wishes and commend their exemplary work in the promotion of cartooning as a means of crossing barriers of understanding and promoting human rights, tolerance and peace.

Nor can we gather in this city and fail to remember the singular atrocity that unfolded on its streets in January 2015 and how for one moment it seemed as if the planet was galvanised and united by a single sentiment, Je Suis Charlie. There are participants here today who lost loved ones and friends on that day; we grieve with them and honour their courage.

Over the intervening years we’ve heard much about cartoonists as “canaries in the coal mine” and how our problems are early indicators of a wider, insidious and worsening chilling of freedom of expression. I’ve used the metaphor myself in the past but increasingly I dislike it as it implies a degree of fragility and dispensability. We are not victims or victims in waiting. We are essential to the health of press and media and therefore crucial to democracy. I would cite last year’s Humor Amenaçat initiative in Spain and the subsequent distribution of the Illegal Times freesheet as an excellent example of cartoonists and their allies pro-actively taking an urgent message directly tothe populace without awaiting a gatekeeper’s say-so. They were ahead of the curve; the FreeMuse anticensorship organisation later declared Spain the world’s top jailer of musicians, specifically rap artists protesting their government.

 We kid ourselves if we believe the problems addressed by the UN’s SDGs are reserved wholly to the developing world.

CRNI knows the primary threat to cartoonists’ freedom comes from authoritarian governments, so I hope we’ll hear from those of you here who have first-hand experience of persecution by the state, by corrupt officials, military or police personnel. Share with us the means by which cartooning has exposed the malaise afflicting the societies in which you work. Where and when do you think cartooning has resulted in palpable change? For those who have come from larger organisations that work toward the goals of social justice and peace, have you used cartoons? If so, in what way and was if effective? If you would never use cartoons, tell us why. What lessons can we cartoonists glean from others’ willingness or resistance to the use of our work?

We are asked today to consider inequality. In very recent weeks we have seen how a cartoon proffered on one side of the world as fair comment can be interpreted on the other as an unwarranted, racist and misogynistic attack. No quarter was given in the ensuing debate; humourless snowflakes on one side, unrepentant white supremacists on the other. Very little humility or grace. Some (but hardly enough) acknowledgment of a bigger problem. Around the world editorial cartooning remains stubbornly male and, even in the multicultural west, largely white. We can do a better job of reflecting the diversity of experience and the inequalities that lie therein only if we are likewise as diverse. How may we at last achieve that? Positively discriminate and risk accusations of favouritism? Rely on merit, assuming a level playing field that simply doesn’t exist? For those who have encouraged newcomers into the profession, tell us about who wants to be a cartoonist in the digital media century and what we need to do to make our sphere a welcoming place for all. For those who have written policy with equality at its heart, guide us on best practice. And then more widely, tell us about projects you have undertaken that were designed to reach audiences not served by the typical press cartoon; the poorest or least educated in your society and minority groups of every classification.

Inevitably there will be some overlap with the work to be discussed this afternoon. It’s virtually impossible to talk about education without including inequality and vice versa. So do not be afraid to introduce an idea here that can be returned to later. But for those still seeking a way to grasp the matter at hand, for me these two broad goals can be boiled down to a single word: fairness. So consider, how do we make our profession fairer and how may our work make the world fairer?

OPENING REMARKS TERRY ANDERSON, DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CARTOONISTS RIGHTS NETWORK INTERNATIONAL

Terry Anderson speaking at the forum. This and the headline photos ©DR Studio-irresistable/E.K.

You can download a full copy of the the report from the Global Cartooning Forum here.

Zunar is giving a talk ‘Laughter As A Political Tool’ at University College London on 17th January. Here’s a link for more details and for booking tickets.

Ten things you might not know

about copyright

March 12, 2013 in General, News

Our man Rob Murray attended a recent talk by Silvia Baumgart of Own-it, based at the University of the Arts London (UAL). Own-it advises creative practitioners and small businesses on intellectual property matters.

Over to Rob:

The session focused in particular on copyright and the increasing need for artists and illustrators to protect their work in the online era.

Listed here are ten key facts about copyright that might either be news to you, or a useful refresher.

  1. Copyright is automatic – it does not need to be applied for or registered – and protects a creative work until 70 years after the creator’s year of death.
  2. You cannot copyright an idea – only the way in which that idea is expressed.

    © Rob Murray @ Procartoonists.org

  3. Moral rights, which come with copyright and give the creator the right to be credited as the author of a work, cannot be assigned to another party. But the creator can waive moral rights in writing. If assigning (selling) copyright to someone else, a creator should assert their moral rights.
  4. If a magazine “buys” a cartoon to appear in its pages, unless otherwise stated in writing it is buying a licence to be the first to publish it. This does not prevent the cartoonist selling the cartoon elsewhere at a later date, or using it for any other purpose.

    Matthew_Buck_Hack_Copyright_ARTWORK @ procartoonists.org

    © Matthew Buck Hack Cartoons @ Procartoonists.org

  5. When a freelancer is commissioned to produce a cartoon or illustration, he or she automatically holds the copyright unless otherwise agreed in writing.
  6. By contrast, if work is created during the course of your employment, your employer holds the copyright and you have no moral rights over the work.
  7. Design work is treated differently, and falls under design right rather than copyright. When a designer is commissioned to develop or create a product, the commissioner owns the unregistered design right in the UK — which protects the appearance of the product (excluding surface decoration) for 15 years from creation or ten years from first sale. As with copyright, it is automatic.

    Ideas cartoon by Royston Robertson

    © Royston Robertson @ Procartoonists.org

  8. An image being easily accessible — for example on the internet — is often taken to mean that it is in the public domain, but this is often not the case, even when the creator’s name is missing. An artwork is only “public domain” if the creator (or copyright holder) has declared so, or if the copyright has expired.
  9. Selling a physical object you have created (for example, the original artwork for a cartoon) does not mean you are permitting reproduction or dissemination. Unless formally agreed, the buyer does not have the right to reproduce or distribute the image (with the exception of advertising the resale of the artwork).
  10. As a general rule, the decision to assign all rights to a client should not be taken lightly, and the creator should agree a substantially larger fee than they would for granting a licence. Once intellectual property rights are sold, they cannot be taken back and the creator will never again be able to profit from licensing that piece of work.

Own-it offers free legal advice to help artists solve intellectual property issues. Visit the blog again soon for a look at some of Silvia’s recommendations for how to protect your work online and elsewhere.

Foggy and the new rock n’ roll

September 27, 2012 in Comment, General

Foghorn September 22 @ procartoonists.org

© Andy Davey @ procartoonists.org

Bloghornery – June 2010

June 30, 2010 in Comment

Foghorn Bloghorn for The UK Professional Cartoonists’ OrganisationThings the Foghorn saw this month…

by Royston

Frequently answered questions

September 25, 2008 in General

“I have a great idea for a cartoon! Want to hear it?”
“No.”

… US political cartoonist Daryl Cagle takes on the questions that people always ask cartoonists. Some of it is very specific to Cagle’s site, but much of it is universal and very funny. Here’s another favourite:

“When are you going to stop bashing President Bush?”
“Be patient. It won’t be long.”

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Mike Lynch for spotting this one.

The PCO: British cartoon talent

Teaching cartooning in Japan

February 6, 2008 in General

Martin Honeysett spent two years in Japan teaching cartoon drawing at a university. He talks about his experiences here.


One of PCO member Martin Honeysett’s cartoons from his time in Japan

How do you teach cartooning? All the cartoonists I know are self taught, although some may have done an arts course at some time. I can see how you can teach the elements of drawing but is it possible to teach the elements of satire and humour, the creation of ideas?

These were some of the many thoughts that buzzed round my head prior to and during the long flight to Kyoto, Japan, in late March 2005. I was due to become the first visiting professor at the Kyoto Seika University Cartoon Faculty. I was excited and somewhat nervous, not really knowing what to expect or what was expected of me.

I first visited Japan 20 years ago as one of a group of English and French cartoonists. A sort of cultural exchange organised by James Taylor, a publisher and cartoon enthusiast who’d managed to squeeze some funding from the Japan Foundation. The English element apart from James Taylor, consisted of Bill Tidy, Clive Collins, Roy Raymonde, Michael Ffolkes and myself.

The French contingent included Avoine, Bridenne, Nicoulard and Mose, the patriach of French cartooning, It was a great trip, two weeks of non-stop meetings, sightseeing and entertainment supplemented with warm and generous Japanese hospitality. Most of the time was spent in Tokyo but we also spent a few days in historic Kyoto, once the Capital. Professor Yasuo Yoshitomo who inaugurated and runs the cartoon department at Seika had invited us there.

The English contingent at least, was somewhat sceptical about the idea of a university teaching how to draw cartoons. I remember Bill Tidy, forthright as ever, standing up during a question and answer session holding a sheet of paper. “What you should do,” he said, “Is write down all the theories and teaching about cartooning and then …” He crumpled the paper into a ball and tossed it to the floor. Fortunately perhaps, the Japanese staff and students, looking on in bafflement, had no idea what he was on about.

I always hoped that I might return at some stage but thought less and less about it as the time passed. I heard later that Mose and Roy Raymond were regularly invited out for the bi-annual exhibition and I kept in contact by entering works for it and winning the occasional award.


One of PCO member Martin Honeysett’s drawings from his time in Japan

Then in 2002, out of the blue, I received an invitation to visit Kyoto for the exhibition. Not for the first time I was stepping into dead man’s shoes, for sadly, Mose had died.

I flew out with Roy and we joined another two cartoonists. Ponnappa from India and Pere from Spain. It was during this trip that I was asked if I would be interested in the idea of being a visiting professor. I said I was very interested but was cautioned that this was a tentative enquiry and in that Japan these things take some time to be decided.

So I returned home trying not to be too excited, looking forward to some sort of confirmation to arrive. It never did, so after a while I thought they’d given up on the idea . Then, two years later, I was again invited out for the exhibition and again asked if I’d be interested. I replied in the affirmative and this time it was confirmed.

For more, see issue 31 of The Foghorn.

British cartoon talent