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John Jensen 1930-2018

July 6, 2018 in General, News

John with a ‘selfie’ which he did for an exhibition at the cartoon archive, Kent University. Photo © Pat Jensen

Sadly, it has been reported that John Jensen has passed away at the sprightly age of 88. John was a well respected and fondly thought of member of the cartoon community. He was a supreme and very versatile draughtsman.

 John was born in Sydney in 1930, the son of the cartoonist Jack Gibson (he took his stepfather’s surname in the 40’s)  In 1946 he studied at the Julian Ashton Art School, Sydney. His first cartoon was published in the Sydney Sun in 1946, and he then began contributing cartoons to various Australian publications.

John in Birmingham, 1953, Photo © Pat Jensen

In 1950 John worked his way to England on a cargo ship, and briefly became an actors’ dresser at London’s Piccadilly Theatre, before becoming a cartoonist full-time. From 1951 to 1956 he drew cartoons, caricatures and illustrations for the Birmingham Gazette and then for various publications in Glasgow including Scotnews, The Glasgow Bulletin and daily pocket cartoons for the Glasgow Evening Times.

Illustration of French cellist Paul Tortelier, © John Jensen

John had his first cartoon in Punch magazine in 1953 but became a Punch regular in the 70’s, prolifically drawing cartoons, illustrations and caricatures. He writes here about his memories of Punch.

Caricatures of Samuel Beckett & Joan Collins © John Jensen

He was also the theatre caricaturist for Tatler, and social cartoonist for The Spectator. He drew a strip for the short-lived Now magazine and on top of this he was the political cartoonist for The Sunday Telegraph from 1961-79 (he was one of the very first political cartoonists to work in colour.) Over this long career John has illustrated around 70 books.

From his  ‘Figures of Speech’ collection © John Jensen

John was a founder member and Chairman of the British Cartoonists’ Association, and of the Cartoon Art Trust. In 2002 he was given a ‘Grinny’ Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nottingham Cartoon Festival. During his time as a member of the PCO he regularly wrote for and featured on this blog.

Receiving his ‘Grinny’ award (pictured with Dave Follows), Photo © Pete Dredge

John was a regular at cartoon festivals and on one trip to New York ended up at the celebration dinner where Marylin Monroe sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to JFK. On a visit to Cuba in the 60’s he also endured one of Castro’s extremely long speeches.

Among the many anecdotes circulating about John over the past week I particularly enjoyed this one from the wonderful cartoonist Kevin ‘Kal’ Kallaugher:

‘Back in the 1980’s while I was still living un the UK I had arranged to meet John for a pint one lunchtime. When he arrived to the pub, I noted that he had a brace on one of his wrist which made his hand quite incapacitated. I was immediately concerned that this might be his drawing hand and that the brace might have consequences on his freelance career. When I raised this question with him, he shrugged it off.

“I just draw with the other hand” he said.

When I pursued this further I learned to my astonishment that John used both hands to draw his cartoons. He explained that each hand had a personality. His left hand (as I recall) was the imaginative, loose artistic hand and his right hand was the more technical and exacting hand. He would often do his conceptual sketches with the left and finish off the art with his right. Later he showed me samples of his cartoons that had contrasting styles which he explained was due to the amount of time one hand spent rendering over the other.

Soon afterwards, I wrote an article for a scholarly US cartoon related periodical called Target, where I interviewed John pointed out his amazing bi-manual drafting skills and displayed his work. Throughout the exercise, John was characteristically polite and kind…but still really did not quite see what all the fuss was about. This after all seemed quite ordinary to him.

This may have been ordinary to him, but to me John Jensen and his cartoons will always remain extra-ordinary’.

Mozart cartoon © John Jensen

More of John’s work can be found on his website.

A favourite family memory of John is how he could never resist an ice cream © Pat Jensen

Our sympathies go to John’s wife Pat and his family and friends.

I’m indebted to the British Cartoon Archive for much of the biographical detail.

The PCO has a new Chairleg

February 26, 2018 in General, News

After a very successful tenure as PCO Chairleg the venerable Bill Stott has decided to step down to spend more time with Joan Baez and his Jaguar XK8 – happily Bill will remain on the committee. Step forward Clive Goddard, who will be fitting into Bill’s Chairleg trousers. Clive needs no introduction but here’s one anyway penned by great man himself:

I was born in Berkshire at the very beginning of the swinging sixties. Unfortunately I managed to miss all the swinging by being at school and, of course, by being in Berkshire. 

As soon as I was old enough to hold a crayon I decided I wanted to be a gag cartoonist. Personally, I blame the late, great Roland Fiddy whose cartoons I grew up with in the otherwise tedious ‘Look & Learn’ magazine. Blessed with generous parents, I was hurriedly furnished with a copy of ‘How to be a Cartoonist’ by Walter T Foster which I studied thoroughly despite it being about 40 years out of date.

 

Published in Private Eye © Clive Goddard

At 19 I was hired by the Newbury newspaper to produce a strip which could be about any local issue so long as it wasn’t contentious, offensive or funny. A mere thirty years later I finally sold a cartoon to my first national publication, Private Eye. It was a joke about BSE; a dreadful livestock disease but an excellent source of humour and a major breakthrough in my fortunes. 

© Clive Goddard

Since then I have drawn for the likes of Private Eye, New Statesman and Prospect as well as for the likes of Playboy, Zoo and the Sun on Sunday, so I’m evidently not fussy. I have been commissioned by the BBC, OUP, Paperlink, the Metropolitan Police, the RNLI, The NHS, Mars Confectionary and just about everyone inbetween. I’ve also illustrated a huge bunch of ‘Horrible’ books for Scholastic Children’s books and written three comedy adventure novels for kids.

 

© Clive Goddard

Happily married with approximately four children, numerous cats and a drawer full of Sharpies, some of which still work. 

Re:Mona exhibition

July 31, 2017 in General

Glenn Marshall writes:

I’ve long been a Mona Lisa obsessive, now I’ve come up with a cunning way to get others to join in.

Along with Helen Wilde and Terry Sole of One New Street Gallery I’ve just hung the ‘Mona Lisa – Not Funny’ exhibition as a side-show to the excellent Herne Bay Cartoon Festival.

Some coded Monas ©Ralph Steadman

It’s an exhibition of reworked, reimagined & regurgitated Mona Lisas by artists, illustrators, designers and of course a plethora of cartoonists (mostly of this parish)

The highly acclaimed pizza restaurant ‘A Casa Mia’ next door to the gallery has even joined in with a ‘Mona Pizza’ which is available on their menu while the exhibition is running. ‘Delizioso’ as Leonardo would’ve said.

Opinion: The cartoonist and the editor

November 12, 2013 in Comment, General, News

Editor_and_editorial_cartoonist_a_metaphoe_@_procartoonists.org

© Andy Davey @ Procartoonists.org

Following the news that one of the UK’s mass market national newspapers had removed its weekday editorial cartoonist we asked Andy Davey to write about the strange relationship that lies at the heart of such jobs.

For the UK cartoonist, working outside of the beneficence of a major newspaper brings benefits and troubles; editorial freedom and financial uncertainty. Creative freedom and money are rarely thrown together at the same artist.

In general, print editors and proprietors control content with an iron hand, especially when they are paying for it. Tabloid editors for example, are a clever bunch. They know how to run tight, focused media organisations. There is little or no room for a dissenting voice. The paper has to speak with one voice on a narrow range of issues.

Cartoonists are not hired to express their idiosyncratic views of the world, they are there to draw an on-message gag about something that is being highlighted in the day’s paper (preferably on the same page). Topics that are fair game are often defined and limited by who the paper “likes” (politicians or celebs they seek to cultivate) at any one time.

This can become wearing for the cartoonist who likes to come up with his/her own ideas – and that is pretty well all cartoonists (It is one of the key identifiers between cartoonists and illustrators – Ed).

The constraint of the ‘‘family paper’’, hard as it has sometimes been to believe in the era of phone hacking, also prevents anything too graphic from being published. Consequently, editorial cartoons in the tabloids can often look like sad toothless pastiches of the deferential 1950s.

Tabloid readers are conditioned to expect short, snappy articles and plenty of photos. The editorial pages, unlike the rather type-heavy pages in the broadsheets, are awash with images and banner headlines. Cartoons must fight to make themselves seen amid all this; even more so amid the flashing ads and animated pop-ups on the web versions.

A looser hand on the editorial tiller would allow stronger satirical graphic cartoons to attract the eye in traditional print and also in the relatively new digital environments.

Editor adds: Thanks to Andy to writing this. What do you think about editorial cartoons in the newspapers? Please free to dive into the comments below.

Opinion: Illustration is easier than cartooning

January 24, 2013 in Comment, General

Cartoonist_or_Illustrator_@_procartoonists.org © Bill Stott

© Bill Stott @ procartoonists.org

When it was suggested by the editor that I should write a piece to the statement, “Illustration is easier than cartooning”. I thought he also ought to reverse the notion and ask an illustrator too.

Trouble is, I’m not an illustrator so know little of their strange and arcane ways. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I have illustrated a couple of books in what might loosely be called a non-cartoon style. And many years ago whilst doing a fine art degree, a snotty lecturer suggested I should switch to Illustration because my work was “rather slick and commercial”. The fool! Did he not see that I was going to be the next Jack Vettriano?

Cartoonist and illustrator are very wide terms. If by illustrator we mean those driven souls who churn out graphic novels – how do they do it? – then give me cartooning any day. On the other hand if, as a cartoonist, you get lucky with a multi-panel strip of Doonesbury or Calvin and Hobbes or The Fosdyke Saga proportions and you don’t have time to draw anything but the same re-occurring characters day after day, world without end, how do you stave off madness?

Do illustrators feel the same? What little illustration work I’ve done rapidly became tedious. Same characters, different situations. Rather more interesting to write than to illustrate. Unless, of course, you’re Victor Ambrus who is brilliant enough to stop even Tony Robinson becoming tedious.

However – I love that word, it means you’re about to kick the foregoing into the long grass – a good cartoon drawing has to be a good joke as well. Thinking of a good joke can be a killer. “Good joke” means one which in the first instance makes you the cartoonist laugh. Whether it makes a commissioning editor laugh is another matter entirely (Ian Hislop is such a tease). Some days good jokes pop up like weeds. On others – like today – there’s a great desire to draw funny stuff but nothing happens and an unhealthy amount of daytime TV is watched.

There. My head’s nearly empty now. The only thing I’d add is the word “good”. Good illustration is easier than good cartooning. Must dash, DCI Banks is on.

PS. If anybody wants a definition of “good”, ask the editor in the comments.

Editor adds: Thanks to Bill for putting his head above the parapet.

Profile photo of Royston

by Royston

The artist as cartoonist

February 28, 2012 in General, News

David Shrigley fish cartoon

Review: David Shrigley: Brain Activity at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London

A vexed question of categorisation arises when it comes to the artist David Shrigley: Is he a cartoonist?

He and many art critics appear reluctant to use the term, but there’s no doubt that black and white line drawings, many of which are designed to provoke laughter, are what he is best known for.

And there are lots of them in this Hayward Gallery show, 117 new ones, apparently, and 42 larger painted ones. Let’s call them cartoons, for the sake of argument, and because one of them has got a desert island in it.

“The responses I would like are laughter, intrigued confusion and disquiet,” says Shrigley in the exhibition guide. That certainly sounds like the intent of a cartoonist and this stated aim is pretty much achieved here. Many of the cartoons elicited laughter and some were certainly disturbing.

Animation is also a key part of the show, most notably a very satisfying new piece called Headless Drummer, which speaks for itselfThere are also lots of sculptures. These mostly retain the wonky Shrigley style and are like 3D cartoons. There’s a sculpture of a very large tea cup, with what appears to be real tea inside it. But the best joke is on the wall alongside it, on the label that tells you the materials used: Glazed ceramic, tea, milk, no sugar.

Shrigley relies a lot on incongruity, a technique well known to cartoonists i.e. putting together objects and concepts that don’t normally sit alongside each other. So we have a gravestone etched with a short shopping list – a brilliantly simple idea that reminds me of that other cartoonist-done-good, Banksy.

This is a very playful exhibition. At one point we are invited to crawl through a hole in the wall into the next room (though normal means are available for those who wish to retain their dignity). Contemporary art it may be, but you get the feeling that nobody is taking things too seriously.

Well worth a look then, and if you pay an extra £2 on top of your £8 admission you get to see the Jeremy Deller exhibition too, which is brilliant but doesn’t have cartoons in it.

David Shrigley: Brain Activity and Jeremy Deller: Joy in People are at the Hayward Gallery until May 13.

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The Wireless Cartoonist

January 3, 2012 in Comment

Radio isn’t the most obvious home for a cartoonist but thanks to BBC Radio 2’s Alex Lester it has found a regular one.  

Bloghorn Goddard Radio Cartoonist

Each month PCO cartoonist Clive Goddard provides a visual relating to one of the many offbeat discussion threads the night-time show throws up. Subjects can range from the secret thoughts of pigeons to confessions on putting bizarre concoctions in a blender. Perhaps unsurprisngly some make most sense to the show’s night owl listeners. 

The cartoon has been running since August 2009 and receives regular plugs by The ‘Dark Lord’ himself. Clive told Bloghorn its a great gig as I have a pretty free hand and have never yet had a rough (idea) rejected by BBC compliance.

We should add Alex Lester is a patron of The Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival which we will be covering at Bloghorn later this spring.

Doonesbury hits 40

October 27, 2010 in News

The first ever Doonesbury, published 26th October 1970

American cartoonist Garry Trudeau has notched up 40 years of drawing his comic strip Doonesbury. The strip first appeared as ‘Bull Tales’ in his student newspaper at Yale University from where it was picked for syndication in the national press.

As its popularity grew, rights for its publication were sold overseas and it has been a popular and long-running feature in the Guardian newspaper in the UK as a result. We know this because of the howls of protest when it was dropped as a part of an ill-advised redesign during 2009. The paper backed down and the strip was hastily reinstated.

The 40th anniversary of the strip is being marked by the publication of Doonesbury 40: A Retrospective, and by celebration of all things Doonesbury-esque in the online magazine Slate, including an interview with Trudeau.

Workshops at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2010

May 5, 2010 in Events, News

The Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival doesn’t actually finish at the end of the weekend.

Exhibitions continue in venues across the town and organisers run workshops for people keen to explore the skills of drawing and communication.


Cartoonist Wilbur Dawbarn ran one of these events and here are photos from his workshops. Bloghorn thanks Shropshire Council’s event development team for passing these along to us.


Some of the work produced will be displayed at the town’s Wakeman School and Arts College at the end of June.

An informant tells Bloghorn that Wilbur let slip he sometimes “meditated” on a subject for a cartoon while having a lie-in in the mornings. One of the older ladies immediately produced a cartoon of him lounging in bed – you can see it below.

"It's nice to finish the day's work before breakfast!"

Bloghorn thinks: If only…

Cartoon secrets revealed

April 7, 2010 in General

News reaches Bloghorn of a couple of British cartoonists revealing the tricks of the trade. Firstly there’s The TimesPeter Brookes explaining how he’ll be caricaturing the party leaders in the upcoming General Election. On drawing the current Prime Minister:

With Gordon Brown I’ll start with the hair, increasingly grey and much more coiffured these days. Then come the heavy, angry eyebrows above creased eyes, one unsighted because that is the unfortunate reality. The nose is short and stubby, with a flat base. The fleshy-lipped mouth is open in that odd gurning movement he makes with his jaw as he speaks. The ears are large, round and red. There are deep marks on the cheekbones that, with the bags under his eyes, give him that knackered, saturnine look, particularly when I add a blue-grey wash for five o’clock shadow. Sometimes I think I’ve just drawn Nixon.

Secondly, from the other end of the British cartooning spectrum we have Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons demonstrating, with video, how he goes about drawing a character digitally using a Wacom Cintiq tablet and Manga Studio software.

Of course, if you would like to see cartoonists demonstrating their skills in the flesh, we would heartily recommend you head to this years Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival, 22nd to 24th April 2010. But, if you can’t make it in person, we’ll be providing full coverage here on Bloghorn.