Saturday, 31 July 2010

David Wasting Paper

David Paccia is an American cartoonist who runs a blog mainly comprised of interviews with cartoonists from around the world. He sends out the same set of pertinent questions to each cartoonist, and publishes their replies along with a few samples of their work (like the one above), and a brief biog of each subject.

I'm delighted to be David's 149th victim, and the latest to be included on his blog, which you can find here, sitting proudly on top of my good friends and splendid fellow Brit cartoonists, Matt Buck and Noel Ford. There are some other very notable scalps that David has bagged over the past year, and if you're at all interested in what makes cartoonists tick (and who wouldn't be? :-P ), then it's well worth a trawl through when you have some time to kill.

Thanks, David!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Random oldie...

First in an occasional series of random favourites from my editorial cartooning days...

Princess Margaret taken ill...

If ever there was even a glimmer of hope that I'd some day be on the Queen's Birthday Honours list, this (among many others) would have put paid to it. The world's most famous dysfunctional family have always been excellent pickings for editorial cartoonists however, and for that alone, I have a very soft spot for them.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Hot Stuff...

This was one of the most enjoyable commissions of my career so far. When Nick Moore from Dr Burnorium's Hot Sauce Emporium initially asked me to envisage the character to front his business, I came up with the above sketch to hopefully satisfy his search for a malevolent travelling salesman type. I always have enjoyed the opportunity to draw malevolence, having been largely (though not completely) denied it throughout my career in children's comics, so I was very keen to have a go at it. However, from experience, I'm always aware that what the client asks for and what they actually want are not necessarily the same thing, and so I tend to hold back on drawing anything to extremes for a first draft.

I was reasonably pleased with the initial offering, and the hint of a darker side to the character, hoping that Nick wouldn't think I'd pushed it too far. He replied with fulsome praise for the drawing, but a passionate plea for much more evil, and his quite brilliant and inspiring vision of how to achieve it. This was music to my ears, and I didn't need to be asked twice - Nick left no doubt that he wanted me to really go for it, and I enjoyed every second of the project from there on in, as did he.

The result was the following three stages of the evil Doctor, who you can find fronting the Hot Sauce Emporium website at (warning - site does contain some colourful language). Nick was the kind of client cartoonists like me love to deal with - enthusiastic, hugely appreciative, focussed, driven, clear, and above all, mad as a hatter! He also sent me samples of his wares... his catchphrases of "Let's get out there and melt some faces!" and "Your Pain Is Our Pleasue" are entirely appropriate.




Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Some corner of a foreign field, that is forever England...

The tragically short-lived poet, Rupert Brooke, most certainly had a very different location in mind when he wrote 'The Soldier' back in the early 1900s, but for me, that corner of a foreign field that is forever England, henceforth will always be the corner spot of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where England's national soccer team camped out for the last three minutes of their game with Slovenia, desperately determined to hold on to their 1-0 lead, enabling them to claw their way into the Round of 16, and their ultimate humiliation at the hands of the German national squad.

For me though, those final three minutes were the true pinnacle of that humiliation, and even as a native Scot, it gives me no pleasure to recall it. Up until that moment, I had done my level best to will my English cousins to greatness, despite the inordinately poor performances over the three matches leading up to that point. The media triumphalism that immediately emerged from what ought to have been a moment of great relief and self-reckoning however, having only just managed to scrape past the least-fancied and smallest nation in the World Cup Finals, finally put paid to my new-found allegiance. That and the fact that England's next opponents were to be my mother's national team, Germany. Which meant I needed no other excuse to abandon all wafer thin hope of England progressing any further in the competition, along with my rapidly diminishing support. To be honest, that was my own turn to experience great relief and self-reckoning.

I have to admit that throughout the game against Slovenia, I was drawing the following piece, knowing that if it wouldn't be relevant immediately after that particular game, that it almost certainly would be at some point during the following week. And so it was.

I won't pretend that I didn't enjoy its creation, far more than the game itself, and I do hope my good English friends will forgive me for it.

Monday, 19 July 2010

How was it for you... ?

Now that new UK Chancellor, George Osborne's first Budget has had a little time to bed in, what's the verdict from those of you who live upon these Sceptred Isles? Pleasure or pain...?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

More Major...

I've had a number of requests which I'm going to completely ignore, and post a few more John Major cartoons regardless...

Major feeds German Chancellor Helmut Kohl British beef at Downing Street visit in an effort to persuade him to support the lifting of the worldwide British beef ban. It didn't work. He ate the beef, then beefed about being put on the spot...

New Year's Eve, 1996. Plotting...

Desperate measures...

Going, going...


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Good old John Major!

Well, to be honest, not many people were saying that in Scotland back in the mid 90's when I first started drawing editorial cartoons for the Daily Record. In fact, there was only me and about five others who'd openly declare it, but I did so with gusto, and on a daily basis.

My reasons for doing so were never due to any political alignment with the former Tory leader or his party however. Any warmth I had for any of them was purely down to the fertile feeding grounds they cultivated for me and my fellow political cartoonists in Scotland, where they were reviled to such an extent that the well of inspiration positively overflowed for guys like me. I dearly loved them for that!

I recall vividly a conversation with the deputy editor of the Record, my left wing paymasters, as it became clear the Tories' days were finally numbered throughout the UK, and Scotland looked like it would at long last get the government it had voted for (how right and how wrong we were, simultaneously). I said it in jest, but it was a very real fear...

"If New Labour win the election, then scrap the Monarchy, and Gazza leaves Glasgow Rangers, I'll have bugger all left to draw."

I needn't have feared as it turned out, but that's for another time. For now, here's just one little bit of fun I had with poor Mr Major in his dying Prime Ministerial days (more later)...

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Taking a Liberty...

I read the other day that Tony Blair has been awarded a Liberty medal (plus $100,000, which he is generously donating to two charities - the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative), for "bringing liberty to people around the world". The medal is to be presented to him in an official ceremony by his old mucker, Bill Clinton.

I make no further comment, but it does give me an excuse to resurrect the following old political cartoon I did for the Daily Record, when the two then-World-leaders met in a summit at the height of the Monica Lewinsky Scandal.

With a few white hairs added, the cartoon might equally well apply to this latest news, only with the speech bubble tails changed around, and any stains more reddish in nature...

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

On a lighter note...

The lesson for today is, "Let sleeping cardboard boxes lie.".

Otherwise, you may just stumble across a newspaper clipping in your garage from over 30 years ago that makes you cringe, and your family fall about in utter hysterics.

Against my better judgement, and for any UK comic historians out there, I've decided to share. Just this once. Let's play 'Spot The Office Junior'...

Okay, let's not. I'm the really cute one on the left, 19 years old, and about nine and a half stone (look at that 30" waist! - I played a lot of sports back then). Next is current Beano Editor, Alan Digby, who will no doubt never speak to me again. The young Paul McCartney lookalike is Andy Sturrock, who (I seem to recall) eventually left comic writing behind to take up mussel fishing in the Western Isles. Then there's little Kirsten, whom it is hoped survived the ordeal with no major psychological trauma affecting her adult life. Sitting on the desk is Dave Donaldson, then chief sub editor of The Beano, but who went on to create the Nutty comic with a little help from yours truly. And the imposing figure on the right was, of course, Beano Editor, Harry Cramond, my first boss, and a huge influence on all that was to follow for me.

The door just behind Harry led into the Topper office, but it was permanently locked, and you had to go the long way round if you wanted to blow raspberries at their staff. You can clearly see our half-hearted attempt to cover up the dartboard for the photographer, and my desk was just to the left of where I'm standing. There were pages and pages of original artwork scattered upon every desk, a very different scene to the virtually paperless, computer-strewn offices of now. Happy days!

Never Hurry a Murray...

I regularly take part in what has become known as the "Caption Competition" over on the forum , mostly populated by cartoonists and cartoon enthusiasts, and where every week a bunch of us (any member can take part, and it's simple to join) all come up with a cartoon to fit either a given caption or theme. We then post our cartoons between noon on Saturday and noon on Sunday, after which all forum members are free to vote for their favourites. The winner gets to choose the caption or theme (themed cartoons are captionless) for the following week.

It started as a suggested one-off experiment from one of the members, and has proved such a hit with the regulars of the site, that next week's competition will be our 50th, and the winners, for the first time, will be awarded actual prizes!

It was all supposed to be a bit of fun, and so it remains, but the standard of entries has been hugely impressive, and seems to get better with each passing week. We have introduced a formal structure to it, with a set of rules designed to make it run smoothly, and so it seems to do.

Entrants are a true mix of experience, with seasoned veteran pros competing in the same arena as aspiring young cartoonists, and with the former by no means dominating the leader boards. It all adds up to a weekly challenge that has caught the imagination of a good number of us, and so far the turnout week on week has been consistently high, and shows no sign of abating. Naturally, some fall away when other commitments take priority, but most will return to play another day.

All of which brings me to the cartoon above, which was my entry for this week's competition, and the caption, "It's Showtime!". I was really struggling for time and ideas this week, with my attention being diverted by both the World Cup and Wimbledon. So in the end, I decided to just try to fit the caption round a caricature of Britain's Number 1 tennis player, Andy Murray, who I really fancied trying to capture on 'paper' (or graphics tablet, if you will).

I started the drawing before he started his semi-final with Nadal, and my hope was that I could ultimately depict him charging onto Centre Court for the final on Sunday. Sadly, it wasn't to be, and I had to hastily change the backdrop to show him exiting this year's Wimbers, one stage too early. He played well, but Nadal was awesome - no doubt even more motivated than the young Scot by the early elimination of Federer. The winner of this game would be easy favourite in the final.

Murray seems to divide opinion within the UK, not always helped by his occasionally brusque manner, and fervent Scottish pride which can come across sometimes as anti-Englishness. But his time will come, and I think he is a quite remarkable young man. Not only for his masterful ability on a tennis court, but also for his single-minded determination and strength of spirit, which puts him above so many of his peers in the game. Remarkable for many reasons.

My eldest daughter is three years older than Andy Murray. Today she is a science teacher in the same secondary school that Murray attended in Dunblane, Perthshire. Fourteen years ago, Andy Murray was a nine-year-old pupil at Dunblane Primary School when gunman Thomas Hamilton shot dead sixteen of his fellow pupils and one teacher, on one of the darkest days in modern Scottish history. The scars of that day run deep throughout the nation and beyond. I can only imagine the depth they reached for those who were attending the school that day. For most, just coming to terms with life beyond that day is a remarkable achievement. To then find it within yourself to become one of the best tennis players in the world is truly staggering.

The Grand Slam titles will come. No hurry!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Born On The 4th Of July...

July 4th - a very good day for North Americans. The day they parted company from the British some 234 years ago.

July 4th - a very good day for the British. The day North America parted company from... well, we all did okay out of it in the end, didn't we?

On that same day, exactly 201 years later, a nervous 18-year-old boy climbed the outer steps of the headquarters of UK publishing giants, D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd., in Dundee, Scotland, to begin his career in journalism. Little did he know at that precise moment, that the editorial future he had secured himself during a rather bizarre interview ordeal just a couple of weeks earlier, was not to be (as he had thought) kick-started as a cub reporter on one of the company's prestigious newspapers, but rather as the office junior on the UK's biggest-selling and most famous children's comic, 'The Beano'. It would appear that somewhere along the interview line, they decided I was more cut out for kids' humour than adult reporting. I can't for the life of me think why, but "THRRRRRRRRRPPPPP!" to the lot of them, I say!

Within a week, I had written my first ever comic script. I was given a free choice by the editor to have a stab at writing, and I chose to go with a 'Pup Parade' story, drawn by Gordon Bell. I loved the pups (Bash Street dogs) as a kid, and it was a real kick to be sitting at a desk in the Beano office trying to dream up adventures for them.

Eventually I came up with something I thought might have a chance. I wrote it out about three times in the morning, left the copy I was most pleased with in the Editor's tray before lunch, and canvassed opinion from my office colleagues in the pub after a lunchtime curry. I was told that it wasn't a bad first attempt, but to be prepared for it to be dumped on a technicality. I had one of the pups impersonating a 'charity' dog statue to con people out of money, by getting them to drop coins in the slot he'd cut into an old hat he was wearing - it was thought that such dishonesty might not be acceptable. However, when I got back into the office, my handwritten script was back on top of my desk with a red tick beside the title. I actually had to ask my colleagues what it meant, not daring to believe my own interpretation. I was pointed in the direction of the typing pool, and told to deliver it there for typing up and sending out to Gordon Bell for drawing. A few short weeks later, it was being read by an estimated half a million people throughout the UK and 'colonies' (in terms of comic sales, they still existed), and I was on Cloud Nine!

I managed to pen over a dozen more before I had my first 'rejection', where I had '2-Gun Tony' threatening to brand his pet dog with an electric iron (the fact he was joking wasn't enough to prevent the axe), and only a further half dozen out of several hundred I wrote in my 18 months as a Beano sub editor failed to make publication. For an 18-year-old lad, whose only previously published work was for the school mag, it was a dream start to what was soon to become my cartooning career.

Happy July 4th!

Unfortunately, I no longer have copies of the early Beano comics that contained the stories I scripted, but one rather apt page was reprinted in a book collection that DC Thomson issued a few years back, written to commemorate Scotland's infamous folly at the World Cup in Argentina, 1978, and drawn by the prolific Gordon Bell. By this time, I had secured the 'Pup Parade' story as my own weekly task, and this would have been written around eight weeks before publication, with no knowledge of the travesty that was about to befall Scottish football during the time of publication...

Friday, 2 July 2010

What's up, doc?

I've just come across the very first editorial cartoon I ever drew, for the Sunday Times Scotland section (as mentioned in my last post). It's very tall...

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Record achievement...

In my mid teens, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, other than it would involve drawing. It wasn't the only thing I could do moderately well, and there were numerous other options open to me based on my academical achievements, but none that came anywhere near drawing on the scale of fun things to do for a living. I vividly recall writing that essay, the one where we put down on paper how we intend to spend the rest of our lives earning a crust, and fantasising about my dream job as a political cartoonist for a national daily newspaper. I was never short of grand ideas back then, but even I recognised that as pure wishful thinking, and filed it under 'unobtainable'.

Ten years on, I was very happily drawing comic pages for the Beano and Dandy, already a job beyond my wildest dreams, but I still allowed myself the political cartoon reverie from time to time. Another ten years later, and it 'suddenly' happened.

I had a very brief flirtation with political cartooning (or editorial cartooning, to give it its more usual description) after landing a regular slot illustrating a weekly 'profile' article for the Sunday Times 'Scotland' section (only available in Scottish editions, and bizarrely renamed 'Ecosse' not long after I stopped working for them). I somehow managed to persuade the editor of the section to let me do an occasional editorial cartoon, and I had a handful published before a change of editor resulted in a change of format... and sadly for me, but not unexpectedly, the dropping of the cartoonist.

However, I had been given a taste for political cartooning, and I was instantly hooked. And so a few speculative envelopes were dispatched to a handful of publications, far more in hope than any expectation, containing samples of political caricatures I'd quickly put together. Within a fortnight, I found myself sitting in the plushest office I'd ever seen, in a tower block overlooking the River Clyde in Glasgow, having been summoned to appear before the editor of Scotland's biggest-selling national newspaper, The Daily Record. I don't mind admitting it was a brown trouser moment.

I went with the intention of attempting to persuade Mr Quinn ("Terry" came later) to allow me to draw them one or two cartoons a week. I was greeted with the words, "Where the Hell have you been hiding up till now?", and an offer to engage in a two-week, fully paid, trial run, with the aim of appearing in the paper six days a week. At that point, I was looking for hidden cameras!

I should point out that the editorial cartoons I drew for the Sunday Times were completed on the Thursday before publication, with several days to come up with an idea, and nearly 36 hours to tweak things before the presses rolled if needs be. The Record job required that I come up with 4-5 topical ideas a day, bite my nails while they chose one (if they didn't like any of them, I'd have to offer them more), then work like lightning to complete the chosen one before the six o'clock deadline. At that moment, in that office, I had no idea if I could handle that sort of pressure even once, leave alone six days a week. But I wasn't about to tellhim that!

I did, however, knock him down from six days to five, insisting that I have a proper weekend break. But my legs were literally trembling as I left the office and made my way to the car for the journey home to Perth. 60 miles without recalling a single moment of the drive. I had no idea if I could do any of what I'd just confidently agreed to.

The trial period consisted of me submitting ideas on a daily basis over a two-week period. The cartoons were not intended to be published, but would be judged by the editor as if they were. If I cut the mustard, then I'd be swimming without a float after that. At the end of the first week, I took a call from the editor's secretary to tell me the fortnight's trial was to end there. I was pretty disappointed not to have even made it to the second week, but ready to accept the old maxim that the editor's decision is final, and thank him for the opportunity.

Thankfully, I paused just long enough before delivering my gratitude speech for the Ed's sec to inform me that he loved the work so far, had almost used one of the trial cartoons during the week, and wanted me to start for real in two days time.

This time I was in my own home - no hidden cameras to look for, so I listened out for Jiminy Cricket singing instead...


Here are two cartoons from the same day on that trial week. One of them is the one they very nearly printed - I think (as I often did throughout the years I worked for them) they chose the wrong one. Maybe you'd like to hazard a guess...