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Noel Ford 1942-2019

September 30, 2019 in Comment, General, News

Noel with daughter Sara at Nottingham’s Big Grin Cartoon Festival 2003. Photo © Pete Dredge

Pete Dredge writes:

It’s a cruel irony that it is only when someone passes  that the outpourings of love, praise and acknowledgement spill out from friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Such has been the response to the sudden and unexpected death of ace cartoonist and one of the founders of PCO, Noel Ford , who died on September 27th after a cruel return of the kidney cancer that was first diagnosed two years previously.

I suspect Noel would have been, on the one hand, hugely embarrassed, but on the other, quietly delighted by the tributes that have been pouring in on the forums and social media, not only for his cartooning skills but also to the nature of the man.

One of Noel’s many Punch covers.

Noel was a modest chap, never one to blow his own trumpet but was someone who would go about his business with the supreme confidence of knowing that he was, and had been for many years, on the top of his game. His game, of course, was cartooning, particularly gag cartooning and, at his peak, was producing double page spreads and covers for Punch magazine with audacious regularity.

Punch original from the recent ‘London Cartoon Show’ exhibition.

It’s pointless listing Noel’s professional credits, there are far too many to mention, but one of his many gifts was his ability to rally, organise and deliver cartooning projects. A professional cat herder, if ever there was one. I’ve seen Noel’s patient diplomacy, wisdom and common sense work effectively at close hand on many occasions when others’ egos, intransigence and misconceptions – no names! – would lock horns and all it would take was a few choice words from Noel to smooth over troubled waters. Such was the respect that his fellow professionals had for him. Take Noel out of the equation and many of these initiatives would never have seen the light of day.

A digital drawing for the PCO ‘GAGGED’ censorship exhibition currently on display at Saint-Just-le-Martel cartoon festival.

The Cartoonists’ Guild, College of Cartoon Art and, most successfully, the PCO had all benefitted hugely from Noel’s vision, perseverance and professionalism. Add to this his invaluable committee work on the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival and The cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain, Noel certainly put in much more than he took out from these extra-curricular calls of duty.

Clipping from ’80s magazine, either Weekend or Tit Bits (via Davey Jones)

Noel was born in Nuneaton on 22 December 1942 and  apparently displayed early signs of his future calling, drawing cartoons in chalk on the pavement outside the front door of the Ford family house. After leaving school it was at the Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts where Noel received the oft repeated advice we have all probably received, to “forget about any ambitions of becoming a cartoonist. You’ll never make a living that way”. The rest is Noel Ford cartooning history. Sadly, today, that  lazy, dismissive piece of advice is probably more pertinent that it would have been in the 1960’s and 70’s. More’s the pity that today the markets for showcasing Noel’s and other’s superb gag cartoon craft have all but disappeared.

Caricature of Noel by Bob Monkhouse and a picture of Bob drawing it (via Royston Robertson)

Noel was irritatingly multi-talented. Not only was he a superb draughtsman, he was also a gifted musician, writer and an early pioneer of the digital art platform as well as being a fine exponent of the Argentine Tango (check this.Ed).

Cartoon from the exhibition at the ‘Music’ themed Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival 2014.

It has to be said, Noel enjoyed the good things in life. Good food, fine wine, a good book, comradeship, country living, dogs and, above all, the love of his family and friends.

Noel demonstrating his equestrian skills at Herne Bay Cartoon Festival 2017. Photo © Karol Steele

I’ll miss his mischievous twinkle and Muttley-like chuckle when something, invariably, would tickle his proverbial fancy.

Noel at one of the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival ukulele-thons. Photo ©The Surreal McCoy

With deepest sympathy to Margaret, Sara and family from all your friends at PCO.

Laughter as a Political Tool

January 31, 2019 in Events, General

The excellent and courageous Malaysian cartoonist Zunar (Zulkiflee Ulhaque) recently gave a talk entitled ‘Laughter as a Political Tool’ at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London. There was also an accompanying exhibition of his campaigning cartoon work.

Zunar speaking at the event (pictures of him in handcuffs featured heavily as he’s frequently been arrested)

Back in his home country he has faced continued harassment and censorship for standing up against government corruption. His books have been banned and the printers harangued for publishing them. His Kuala Lumpur studio has been raided and thousands of his books confiscated. He’s been arrested on numerous occasions and some of his exhibitions have even been physically attacked. He was charged under the Sedition Act and faced the prospect of 43 years in prison. He was also banned from international travel up until last year.

The discussion was focused on how humour can be used to challenge existing political structures and was part of the IAS Laughter programme of events.

Cartoon by © Zunar

Zunar told the story of how the Head of Police ordered his arrest via Twitter – since then he has playfully tucked a drawing of the police chief using a mobile into many of his drawings (see above cartoon)

Zunar with CRNI’s Terrry Anderson (and a drawing I did of him during the talk)

He also spoke passionately about the need to stand up against political injustice and corruption. He said ‘How can I be neutral? Even my pen has a stand’.

Zunar was presented with the Cartoonists Rights Network International Courage Award in 2011.

Thankfully things have eased up for him since the regime he pilloried has been removed from office (although he joked that he will really miss drawing former Prime Minister Razak and his wife Rosmah who gave him so much material)

Zunar with The Guardian political cartoonist Martin Rowson at the exhibition after the talk. Martin described Zunar as one of the bravest people he’s ever met.

Cartoon by © Zunar

More can be read about Zunar’s long fight in this Guardian article.

He is planning a book about his experiences and will hopefully be visiting the UK again later in the year to talk about it.

Hector Breeze RIP

January 6, 2019 in General

Cartoon from Private Eye – A Cartoon History

Rupert Besley writes:

The sad news of the passing of Hector Breeze not long after celebrating his 90th birthday, has, unsurprisingly, brought in a flood of tributes from fellow cartoonists, all recognising the greatness of the man along with the warmth, charm and wit of his cartoons. Hero, wonderful, great, favourite, brilliant, classic, prolific… are words piling up on the PCO forum from the pens of Pete Dredge, Noel Ford, Roger Penwill, Mike Turner, Neil Dishington, Andrew Birch, Glenn Marshall – and expect more to come as the news spreads.

Hector Breeze

Hector Breeze developed what was surely the perfect cartooning style for the kind of pocket-sized gags he churned out so prolifically and successfully over so many years (since the late 50s). With their robust lines, economy of detail and strong use of solid blacks, HB cartoons were instantly recognisable as his and stood out a mile off as funny. Central to them were his stock characters, ever charming, ever bewildered. Tramps, army chaplains, oddballs, kings. You had to warm to them.

‘Gentle humour’ is a damning phrase, usually coded for ‘not funny’. Hector Breeze cartoons were never savage or angry, but they were funny. Damned funny.

Private Eye cartoon

He sold his first cartoon to Melody Maker in 1957 and over the following five decades and more, Hector Breeze cartoons brought sheer enjoyment to national publications that included Private Eye, Punch, the Evening Standard, the Mirror, Sketch, Guardian and Express. Having begun in a government drawing office, he later worked in advertising. Among his other skills (no surprise from the clarity of his signature) was letter-carving in stone.

A collection of Hector’s work produced by Private Eye in 1973

As with Sprod, it took me some while to discover that Hector Breeze was his real name and not something dreamt up as pen-name (he couldn’t have hit on better if he had tried).

In 2011 the PCO Blog team put together a piece on the Top Ten of Cartoonists’ Favourite Cartoonists. Pete Dredge’s choice was Hector Breeze, illustrated with a perfect gag and summed up exactly right:

‘Out of the mouths of his mundane, benign, chunkily drawn characters comes the sharpest of captions.’

In 1996 Ralph Steadman wrote that Breeze’s “clumsy bewildered characters restore my faith in the seriously daft.”*

Cartoon from the Hector Breeze Private Eye Cartoon Library

From Pick of Punch, 1973

Our thoughts are with Hector’s family.

*Quote and photo courtesy of  The British Cartoon Archive

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.