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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 Iron Lady vs the Cartoonists

June 11, 2013 in General, News

Margaret Thatcher © Jonathan Cusick @ Procartoonists.org

© Jonathan Cusick @ Procartoonists.org

An exhibition of Margaret Thatcher cartoons, The Eyes of Caligula and the Lips of Marilyn Monroe, opens at the Chris Beetles Gallery in London today (11 June).

The gallery is promoting the event with the caricature above by Procartoonists.org member  Jonathan Cusick. The exhibition features cartoonists including Jak, John Jensen, Larry, Ed McLachlan, Matt and Peter Brookes.

Running alongside it is a retrospective exhibition called Daggers Drawn: 35 Years of Kal Cartoons in The Economist. Both exhibitions run until 22 June. More details at the Chris Beetles website.

Cartoons as figures of speech

October 4, 2012 in Events, General, News

Cartoonist and Procartoonists.org member John Jensen has long characterised the connection between words and pictures in his work for Writing Magazine. His new collection – Figures of Speech – will now be launched at the UK Cartoon Museum next week. John kindly agreed to share some of the work from the book below.

John Jensen: Figures of Speech: heightened_impression @ procartoonists.org

© John Jensen @ procartoonists.org

Figures of Speech © John Jensen_Glaring_Omission_at_procartoonists.org

Figures of Speech © John Jensen @ procartoonists.org

Further details available from here.

John Jensen A Shriek from Figures of Speech @ procartoonists,org

© John Jensen @ procartoonists.org

 

 

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by Royston

Talking about Bateman

June 20, 2012 in Events, News

Bateman by Bateman

H.M. Bateman by H.M. Bateman

The cartoonist and Procartoonists.org member John Jensen is to host a talk on H.M Bateman at the Cartoon Museum in London next week.

The Early Bateman is held in conjuction with the museum’s exhibition The Man Who Went Mad on Paper. In the talk, on Wednesday 27 June at 6.30pm, John will explore the beauty and subtlety of the artist’s early work.

On Wednesday 11 July, Anita O’Brien, the museum curator, hosts An Unlikely Revolutionary, a talk looking at the impact Bateman had on 20th century cartoons in Britain and overseas.

The Man Who Went Mad on Paper runs until July 22 and is a must-see for anyone interested in cartooning. After that the museum hosts its summer exhibition, Animal Crackers, featuring cartoons and strips with a zoological angle. That opens on July 25. It is followed in the autumn by a show celebrating 75 years of The Dandy. We’ll have more on these exhibitions nearer the time.

For more details on exhibitions, talks and other events, visit Cartoonmuseum.org

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The Illustrators 2011

November 14, 2011 in Events, News

The Illustrators 2011 opens at the Chris Beetles Gallery in St James’s, London, this weekend, and runs until January 7.

The gallery’s annual winter show features more than 85 much-loved and respected illustrators and cartoonists from 1837 to the present day.

Contemporary cartoonists in The Illustrators 2011 include PCO members Jonathan Cusick, above, and John Jensen, alongside Christian Adams, Peter Brookes, Matt and Ronald Searle.

Also featured is work from big names from the past such as John Tenniel, Beatrix Potter, E.H. Shepard, H.M. Bateman, David Low, Donald McGill, Rowland Emett, Thelwell, Vicky, Giles and Larry.

The grand opening is this weekend, November 19 and 20, 10am-5.30pm, and as usual it is a selling exhibition. Original cartoons and illustrations are one-offs, so it gives the public the chance to buy genuinely unique Christmas presents.

Accompanying the exhibition is a 384-page catalogue, with more than 600 full-colour illustrations and many new biographical essays. This is available from the gallery. For more details visit the Chris Beetles Gallery website.

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Exhibition in aid of tsunami victims

October 12, 2011 in News

John Jensen tsunami cartoon
The Kyoto International Cartoonist Congress has organised an exhibition from which proceeds will go to victims of the Japanese tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Kyoto International Cartoon Special Exhibition features 300 cartoons from 127 cartoonists in 41 countries, including, from the UK, Martin Honeysett, John Jensen, Ken Pyne and Ross Thomson.

A detail from John Jensen’s drawing has also been used for the cover of the catalogue, above. The caption: “I’ve found our good luck charm. It’s not even cracked.”

The Bloghorn is made on behalf of the UK’s Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation

Mocking the twits of the 21st century

June 23, 2011 in Comment, News

Bloghorn Opinion logoMaster Cartoonist John Jensen wrote to Bloghorn about the stories of criticism for the one year postgraduate study into Comics and Visual Communication recently launched by the University of Dundee. We publish his letter below.

Tom Harris is an MP whose hobbies include astronomy, science, fiction, cinema, karaoke and tennis. He was a journalist before he became a politician. His activities, particularly his wide range of hobbies (how does he find the time?) suggests a broad interest in the world around him.

Fiction or, if you want to be up-market, literature deals in words, whilst the cinema deals in pictures and they both, at their best, deal in ideas. So do comics, which deal in all these things.

The history of comics is itself a wonderful journey through time and many talents (admittedly some of them terrible!) but modern comics and graphic novels are revelatory. Countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Italy publish works showing the wide differences, and occasional resemblances, between each other. The United States and Japan share the comic experience but manga and its storylines is different from the storylines and violence found in Marvel Comics or in DC publications.

Many studies, either useful or just plain interesting, are to be found in those little story-telling boxes. The University of Dundee is offering a one-year Masters degree in comic studies: one year, not three. Probably too many students will try to enter what they see as an easy option, but someone perceptive and genuinely interested in the juxtaposition of words, pictures and ideas will not be wasting their time or ours – except, of course that of Tom Harris MP. After a hard nights karaoke, taking in a serious study of  ‘the relationship between international comics cultures’ would be just too tiring!

Bloghorn thanks  PCOer John Jensen for his thoughts and invites you to share yours in the comments below. If you are interested in the local reaction to the comments of Tom Harris and the issue you can read them at the Dundee Courier.

Foghorn magazine – Issue 49

March 4, 2011 in News

Spring has nearly sprung and so has the latest issue of Foghorn, the cartoon magazine of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation. In keeping with this issue’s musical theme, the magazine features an operatic cover by PCO’s Chichi Parish and is available to subscribers for the very merry annual price of £20 for six full colour issues.

What’s inside?

Noel Ford reminisces about his time as a guitarist in the Stormbreakers
Fellow guitarist Roger Penwill tells of  his love for the instrument
Tim Harries has a less than relaxing spa break
John Jensen gives us his musical memories
And you’ll find a full page of cartoons by the Surreal McCoy!

Plus…

…all the regular features – Buildings in the Fog, The Critic, The Foghorn Guide to…, The Potting Shed, Andy Davey‘s ‘Foggy’ strip and many more random acts of humour crammed in wherever we could find room.

You can read older issues of Foghorn online here, right up to our most recent issue.

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Cartoon contest is no laughing matter

January 25, 2011 in Comment

PCO cartoonist John Jensen takes a look at a Turkish cartoon competition:

Cartoon by Ahmet Ozturklevent

Turkey recently staged its 27th Aydin Dogan International Cartoon Competition and a 255-page catalogue was released, beautifully printed throughout in colour, with text in Turkish and English.

There’s a long list of successful exhibitors – 44 countries are represented – and a much longer list of entrants who did not get past the judges.

There are 127 Turkish cartoonists and a random count reveals that Serbia is represented by 35 entrants, China by 53 and Iran by 122. Four UK cartoonists participated but only Ross Thomson has survived, to exhibit two drawings.

The three UK cartoonists, who did not make it are Houmayon Mahmoudi, Stephen Mumberson and Alexei Talimonov. Maybe they didn’t draw enough brick walls and prison bars, of which there were plenty.

The first-prize winner, by Turkish cartoonist Ahmet Ozturklevent, is pictured above.

There is an overall sense of stifling bureaucracy while the threat of violence, usually implicit, is a common theme. There are few, if any, English-style jokes. Even Ross Thomson succumbed to drawing a couple of tanks, but at least they are not avoiding daisies.

In the exhibition there are messages galore for mankind – which mankind will almost certainly ignore.

The quality of much of the draughtsmanship is undeniable. The contestants can think, they can draw and they can be very witty indeed, but English-style humour, they would claim, is not part of their job description.

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John Jensen on wit and wisdom: Part 3

February 18, 2010 in Comment


In the final part of his series on wit and wisdom (read part one here and part two here) PCOer John Jensen argues that sometimes cartoonists get better results on a smaller canvas

International cartoon exhibitions should be encouraged and they will continue throughout the years. The symbolic stone walls, barbed wire and the dying doves will still be there, awaiting to be transmuted into the pure gold of a beautifully drawn idea.

Continental cartoonists are happy seeking and finding wit. British cartoonists treat wit with suspicion. Fortunately, not all cartoonists are limited to generalising, tut-tutting and philosophising about Life.

Political cartoonists, even though their symbolism is also limited, have an ever-changing world on which to draw. Topicality generates excitement, which is great.

Then there are the niche cartoonists: nerd speaking unto nerd, where words can be used, thus freeing up the ideas, and ideas are more specific. On the downside, many of the ideas, like some wines, would not travel well.

The problem is that broad themes can become boring. Topicality and the occasional use of words can sometimes produce more interesting ideas. Niche stuff, limited though it is, and usually not wanted by Fleet Street, is where the some of the best cartoons are found.

Small may not be beautiful but it is often very, very funny. What’s the problem?

What do you think about John Jensen’s article? Have your say in the comments below.