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PCO Procartoonists – Graphic humour and photomontage

December 5, 2007 in General

Here is the last part of our trilogy of pieces about variety in graphic humour. It is written by Neil Hepburn aka Beau Bo D’Or. You can read parts one and two if you click on the photomontage ‘tag’ in that long list on the right hand side of Bloghorn. There’s also a good response from our own Bill Stott.

One Editor’s note, caution, there is some technical language here.

Over to Neil once more;

In my experience, getting noticed in the digital world means changing websites to blogs, or, in adding a blog to an existing website. While certain cartoonists maintain websites, few use blogs, which you might consider are only of benefit to those reacting to issues of the day. However, because of tagging and search engine technology, blogs can also bring enormous benefits for those who work with specific subject matter or themes.

How to speed – digitally.

If you have created images concerning credit fraud or, say, football, potential customers can discover your work reasonably quickly and efficiently. This doesn’t mean that you give away work for free to those not willing to pay. There are safeguards you can use which, although not perfect, can discourage all but the most determined web-savvy freeloaders. I argue, (somewhat controversially – Ed) in fact, that sometimes, it is worth allowing some sharing (free content), which can bring you to the attention of the paying customer. I appreciate there is a balance but we all have to work out individually what the best is for us.

I’m not claiming I’ve had any great commercial success, but, by promoting your talents using the basic methods which I stumbled upon and still use, you will get much greater exposure for the PCO and, I’m sure, help to shaft me and the photoshop artists in the process. While and its blog are a very good start, the site is, correctly, inward looking. I think you (the PCO) ideally need an additional showcase blog for potential customers, outside the PCO, running independently of blogspot, blogger and the like. It would probably cost less than £150 for the domain and hosting per year. Your own-hosted site will give you much more control over style, promotion and shared input. Possibly something similar to Daryl Cagle’s site but in blog format, allowing for feedback and linked to the main media websites but protected from ‘deep-linking’ and/or RSS feeds by the same, so the ‘resource’ is not used to provide links to illustrations that enhance their product.

One final point on digital promotion. Some websites have blogrolls that are three or four times deeper than the articles on their front page- the 21st century equivalent of the car as a penis extension. In my opinion, this is abuse of the blogroll system purely to drive traffic – some blogs linking to others, regardless of the views held on them. However, there is the case for your outward looking blog to have an extensive blogroll because you are a broad church, holding different views on politics, religion, humour and lifestyle etc. You would be quite correct in linking to a plethora of sites and reaping the benefit of the traffic and custom it generates.

So, that’s about it. There’s a lot more than I thought I was going to write.
I’m not ashamed of what I do as a photomontage artist, I’m probably a bit frustrated about the limitations and envious of the talents of the ‘traditional’ cartoonist.
When I discuss the various points above, I’m not trying to ‘teach my granny to suck eggs’, I’m hopefully, imparting digital knowledge that I’ve been lucky enough to gain over the last couple of years, and also to those whose work I admire.

And it remains only to say, a big thank you to Neil for all the time and effort he put in contributing his thoughts about the world of graphic humour and digital promotion for Bloghorn.

British cartoon talent

PCO Procartoonists – Graphic humour and photomontage – a response

November 30, 2007 in General

PCOer Bill Stott writes in response to our recent guest blogger Neil Hepburn. Matt Buck who edits Bloghorn agrees with very nearly all of it.

In cartooning, whether you use a steel nib and blackberry juice on vellum, or a wall full of Apple Macs, the main thing is to be graphically funny and have something to say. I think terms which divide, like “traditionalist” cartoonist are misleading.

I like jazz. Not, “I like traditional jazz”, or “I like modern jazz.” I like jazz. I don’t like all jazz, traditional or modern.

I like graphic humour. All graphic humour, if it does what it’s supposed to do.

I don’t like graphic humour which isn’t funny or is badly drawn or made. I know the subjectivity argument is impossible to avoid here.

Phenomenally successful pap like Scooby Doo left me bored stiff, whilst Fat Freddy’s Cat I could die laughing at, but, this doesn’t make Scooby Doo a bad cartoon.

Take Fat Freddy’s Cat. What makes it original, and for me, very funny, is a combination of the traditional and the new. Traditional is the panel story format which Gilbert Shelton used. New is (was, really, its 1970s) the bad language. And the cat’s constant camera mugging, usually with a morsel of feline philosophy. FFC reflected the age it sprang from – US West Coast drug use, sex and rock and roll – all neatly observed by an ugly tomcat who sported a decent pair of balls.

In talking about what Neil Hepburn has written for Bloghorn, ‘I’m going to use the term “photomontage” because its traditional. Ha! Its more or less what Photoshop is anyway, and is no more or less acceptable than stuff drawn with a pen on 220gsm paper, if it is good. How the art was produced doesn’t dictate its funniness. Photographs, manipulated or not, can be very funny. “Have I Got News for You” uses stills with an inappropriate voice – over to great effect.

However – I love that word – my real argument is with the fickle media; the bandwagon leapers who are so very easily seduced by newness; by iPods which are puffed by ads recommending them if you want to record BBC news and listen to/watch it later. Come on ! Get real. Technerds like them not for what they can do, but for the mere fact that they CAN. Once, “Turbo” written on the back of a Saab meant something. Now, my vacuum cleaner’s a turbo.

Editors tend to think they discovered photomontage, because getting a PC let them. What that PC didn’t do was invest them with visual discrimination. They’ve always had eyes, and it has always been a struggle being a freelance traditional cartoonist. Then, along came Photoshop, and Hey ! Look what I can do ! Who needs Steve Bell, Martin Rowson, Dave Brown? Bill Tidy, Mike Williams, where are you?

It matters not a jot how the gag was, or is, made. What matters, economically, is who judges it in the first place. Can the editor tell a good gag from a dying wildebeeste? Is the editor so narrow that he/she sees only Photoshop? The PCO has tried to make a start by searching for a level of quality work, judged by a jury of their peers. Applicants get vetted. They are accepted on a majority vote. Photomontage has (as yet – Bloghorn) no such system. Neil Hepburn is good. He makes me laugh; take notice. Lots of other manipulators aren’t and don’t. Just like some ‘traditional’ cartoonists.

Maybe, years down the line (that’s a thing you draw with a pen), when all the traditionalists are dead and gone and heirless, editors will suddenly discover hologramtoons – eye activated – all singing, all dancing little bods in 3D – right there on the page, and Mr Hepburn will feel the same sense of ignorant waste PCO founder members felt a short while ago.

Before then though, PCO could, and in my opinion should, keep this debate going. What matters most is the quality of graphic humour, not the manner of its making.

And to move Bill’s thoughts on, there will be one further piece from Neil coming up on Bloghorn early next week.
British cartoon talent

PCO Procartoonists – Graphic humour and photomontage

November 28, 2007 in General

Neil Hepburn aka Beau Bo D’Or continues his explanation of the art of digital image making.

I didn’t set out to do what I’m doing now. After many years doing a desk job where the most creative thing I did was my expenses, things went tits up for me and, while unemployed and waiting for letters of rejection to come in, I amused myself messing around with a copy of the poor man’s Photoshop, a program called Paint Shop Pro.

I set up a small website and started to get a bit of unwanted notoriety for what I did. I wanted to ease the process of updating the website, so I decided to use blogging software. This had unforeseen consequences, mostly good. Posting images became simple, hits went up (incredibly) and some media outlets came to visit.
I’ve had a couple of regular paid gigs (for static, mashed-up photographic images) as a result, but I believe the first proper one, for a national newspapers’ website, was offered for all the wrong reasons. Let me explain why I think this was the case.

One, I feel I may have got the job because the newspapers’ competition was also using my images (infrequently).

Two, I think the website wanted to differentiate itself from the newspaper by using digitally created cartoons, assuming that style of content should reflect the medium. I think it is pretty naïve to let the medium dictate style of content, especially when it is used to ‘declare’ that your digital product is different from your newspaper counterpart.

Brian Sewell once universally condemned ‘virals’ (viral joke or marketing emails) making the same related confusion between content and method of delivery (or access) that the former newspaper client made. If Sewell had made the same error when discussing his ‘type’ of art then he’d be slagging off gallery walls.

I’m sure there is a broad range of opinion on the validity of what I do but, as I said in my previous blog post, I kind of fell into this, whatever you may describe it as.

I think there is confusion amongst some cartoonists about what I attempt to do. Perhaps it is thought of as a shitty bit of cut and paste hurriedly done at a newspaper to do you lot out of some much-needed revenue. While some may choose to believe this, I believe this time is wasted, having a pop at the wrong people and failing to improve the situation with those who actually matter.

Even if you work out the correct target, having a pop at them directly, in the pub with friends or in a walled garden of your peers will do bugger all. If you make your work accessible – more accessible and visible to both the public and media – maybe they (the commissioning editors) will start chasing you.

There’ll be one more piece of opinion from Mr Hepburn appearing on Bloghorn soon.
28th November 2007
British cartoon talent

PCO Procartoonists – Graphic humour and photomontage

November 25, 2007 in General

Following on from the start of our adventures into the broadest definitions of graphic humour, Bloghorn has asked Neil Hepburn, or Beau Bo D’or, one of the best exponents of photoshop jokes in the country to write for us and very kindly, he has agreed. This is the first of a number of pieces we are going to publish here examining the crossover between drawn and mechanical imagery and how the two can combine and conflict. Over to Neil and his thoughts on what exactly it is a photomontage artist does…

I‘m both intrigued and concerned to be asked to write a few lines for the Bloghorn and give my views on image manipulation, the media and promotion – even though I was just asked to discuss image manipulation (IM).The other topics are, however, inextricably linked to IM, or, some anticipated responses to what I have to say about it, so please bear with me.

First of all, I don’t consider myself a cartoonist.

I believe this term implies all or at least the greatest part of an image is created by hand and from scratch. I obviously don’t do that. If I could turn back the clock and regain some of the skills I had when I was a kid, then I would and I would be attempting to do what you guys do, maybe with the odd photographic twist. Maybe, with a little more patience, I could get my eye back in but I see that as a remote possibility. So, I cut up and piece together, mostly, photographic imagery but sometimes include my own ‘artwork’.

This ‘mashing up’ of existing images has its benefits but many more drawbacks. You are limited in what you can create and to get anything near to what you initially saw in your mind’s eye, you have to compromise on composition, accuracy, quality and frequently abandon any reasonable attempts at caricaturing. An audience (and some editors) may like the concept of photo-realism in a ‘cartoon’ but when you use photographic sources, your editing/manipulation must be of a sufficient standard to manage the expectation of a degree of photo-realism, which is both time-consuming and sometimes just too bloody difficult.(There are of course some IM styles, the screen/halftone tear and paste which can be quite valid which do not require skintone matching, proportion etc.)

Many may think IM is a quick process. It isn’t. Some images take a considerable amount of time and, if you do cut corners, it is painfully obvious. The sarcastic comments of ‘seamless’ can be deafening.

Talented artists do not have these constraints. You create from scratch, stretch, shrink and caricature but most of all, simplify while creating recognisable figures, scenes and faces, each of which can either be an integral part of the humour or so simple (yet so difficult to create well) that it does not distract from the humour or the message of your cartoon. Simplification is much more difficult when you work with a medium that is supposed to convey minute detail. So, what I do is compromise when I create an image like the one published here.

Bloghorn says there will be more from the talented Mr Hepburn coming up, so loosen up that creative thinking muscle.

25th November 2007
British cartoon talent

PCOProcartoonists on graphic humour

November 8, 2007 in General

Well, this wasn’t the graphic humour controversy BLOGHORN was planning to publish, but this set of jokes, below, was so good, we thought we thought we had better go with it anyway. The creator is called Cyriak Harris.

8th November 2007
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PCO Procartoonists – on photomontage

October 31, 2007 in General

There’s a thoughtful piece on the art of photoshop and photomontage here. It’s written by Morten Morland who draws for the Times, and it’s worth a read.

Speaking about photomontage, or photoshop, artists, Morland says;

Traditional cartoonists look at their work with a mix of fascination, trepidation and bewilderment. What many don’t know, however, is that famous ink-cartoonists like Low and Vicky also had contemporary satirists who used manipulated photographs to lampoon the political players at the time.

Well, do we?

Bloghorn thinks that Morten is right about there being some ignorance about photomontage as a form of image-making. A lot of this may be tied up with the technology brand name, Photoshop, which can raise the hackles of many cartoonists as it implies a mechanical technique, rather than the more natural human process of drawing.

There are many links to great examples of photomontage, both past and present. Great names of the past would include Helmut Herzfelde aka John Heartfield, who arguably, invented the form in the inter-war years. Good present British exponents would include Beau Bo D’Or, Leon Kuhn and The Spine.

We cartoonists cannot stop change in art and developments in the tools with which it is made, and published. But, perhaps we could explore and think about the past and future of making images-with-a-point, a bit more too. It might help put the economic changes, of which photoshop is a part, and which are challenging the ways in which we have made a living, into a brighter perspective.
31st October 2007
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