Friday, 27 August 2010

Who... ?

Over on the Cartoonists Forum, we recently enjoyed our very first monthly Caricature Contest, where all-comers are challenged to caricature a well-known figure, and the results are voted on by the forum members. The first 'victim' was Matt Smith, the latest actor to take on the role of the eponymous hero in the BBC's Doctor Who series.

As you can see here, the contest produced a very healthy response, and a terrifically diverse range of caricatures from all who entered. The worthy winner came from the pen of Hugh 'Shug' Raine, beating Paul Mahoney into second place, with Steve Ward and Rich Skipworth sharing third. We're currently building up to our second contest, with the subject of Gok Wan having been chosen by Shug, as is the previous winner's prerogative. If any budding or established caricaturists fancy participating, then have a look at the contest guidelines, and join in the fun.

Since I am currently organising the contest, and that involves receiving the entries before anyone else sees them (they are all posted more or less simultaneously after the deadline), I have banned myself from taking part. But I couldn't resist joining in the challenge, and this was the result...

It wasn't wasted however, as I'd been asked to contribute a cover for the PCO (professional Cartoonists' Organisation) magazine, 'Foghorn'. So, with a little addition here and there, the latest copy hit the virtual shelves recently looking like this...

For the uninitiated, 'Foghorn' is a truly splendid bi-monthly production, featuring the produce of some of the best of British cartooning talents. And guess what - it's completely FREE to view online. You can even subscribe to receive proper high-quality printed issues should you prefer a more tactile, sensual experience. Details available here.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Monday, 16 August 2010

Little Willy won't..

...go to the Hamilton by-election.

His own party told him not to. One of the better thought out Tory policies, I thought. This one also features another cartoonists' favourite, the enchanting Ann Widdicombe, prior to becoming a blonde bombshell...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Just William!

As promised, more Hague memoirs... (another soon)...

I've no recollection of what this was about, but I'm sure he paid paid dearly for it.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Another tearful farewell...

Here's a bit of self-indulgence I somehow managed to persuade my erstwhile employers at the Daily Record to publish in 2001. Again, similar to the John Major scenario, I was probably one of only a handful of Scots sad to see the resignation of William Hague as leader of the Conservative Party following his General Election defeat in 2001. He was great fun to draw and provided loads of ammunition for cartoonists, and I knew I was going to miss him.

This was further rammed home by his bland successor, Ian Duncan Smith, whom I later heard the great Gerald Scarfe somewhat bitterly describe as the only politician he could not draw. I'll dig out some more Hague cartoons later, hopefully, but here's the one I drew on that 'sad' day he was lost to the cartoonists' pen (he's back now, of course :-) )...

Monday, 9 August 2010

Blue Peter...

For anyone outside the UK, I have to explain that 'Blue Peter' is one of our longest-running and most popular children's television programmes, so old that I used to watch it as a kid back in the 60s. It's a kind of a magazine programme for kids, with pets and 'how-to-make' items, interspersed with various features that the good ol' BBC deem of interest to, and suitable for, this nation's children.

Naturally, having run for so long, It has gone through a goodly amount of presenters over the years. Most 'grow up' and move on to present more adult TV programmes, some just move on and are never heard of again. But every now and then, the show would be rocked by 'scandal', usually involving the misdemeanour's and private lives of its presenters.

The following cartoon was drawn in 1998, after one such presenter was caught using cocaine, and dismissed. The BBC decided to air an excruciating 'explanation' to its younger viewers by its Head Of Children's Programmes at the time. The cartoon uses one of the show's most loved catchphrases as its caption.

Blue Peter survives to this day, as does the presenter in question, Richard Bacon, currently hosting a weekday afternoon radio show... for the BBC.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Thick Skin.

I've had a lot of mileage out of this one, although none of it for financial reward. It was conceived as a very quick (10 minutes max) response to a debate on a cartoonists' forum revolving around the sensitivities of cartoonists, and what upsets us. It has had many outings since then, usually in personal emails to colleagues who are in need of a comforting word and a little reassurance, having been at the wrong end of criticism that some people seem to think is fair game when it comes to dealing with cartoonists, using language they probably wouldn't dream of using towards most other professionals.

It's not that we're a vain lot, though some undoubtedly are, as in any field. Nor are we above criticism. And what doesn't help us is that our focus is almost always on making people laugh, so actually a client being merely "pleased" (for most professions, the ideal outcome) probably isn't good enough for us deep down, and a client actually being displeased can come as a double blow to our pride and professionalism. Nothing short of a bout of hysterics followed by astonishment that you'd done the job so much better than they could have imagined will truly suffice.

But inevitably, we usually have to settle for a little less, and develop these thick skins. Normally, they're only needed at home, and are worn in relative privacy at the other end of a critical phone call or a disapproving email. But those of us who swim the shark-infested waters of live caricaturing gigs need to wear ours in public. Live caricaturing can be the most rewarding of jobs for many cartoonists in terms of instant laughter and praise from a live audience, sending one's ego through the roof. But even the best of the best will, at some point, encounter adverse reactions, and I have to say that on the rare occasions this has happened to me, it has always been from the female of the species.

Men are very difficult to insult in terms of their looks, and consequently (generally) much more fun to caricature. If you're a smart caricaturist, you learn very quickly that the fairer sex are a completely different kettle of fish. Sometimes, you have to capture their smile within a nano-second, as they sit grim-faced and terrified at what you're about to do to them. Many will openly ask you to "make them look beautiful". My stock answer is usually that I can't improve on what God has already done, which occasionally gets a blush, but more often than not, a "blow it out your ass" wry smile. Either way, it helps to ease the tension a little.

I learned at my very first gig, a wedding at Banbury Cross, that you can be too 'honest'. One 'woman of a certain age' sat for her caricature with a beautiful smile throughout, and was utterly charming, relatively relaxed, and quite chatty. Consequently, I took a little longer to complete her picture, but I was quite pleased with the result. The 'reveal' is usually the best part, and most people take it in very good spirit, and are generous with their appreciation. This lady maintained her lovely smile ("Result!", thought I), then followed it up with, "Wonderful - it looks just like my mother!". I zipped up my thick skin and contented myself with the fact I had at least captured the family resemblance. But that pivotal early moment taught me that for some sitters, the removal of ten years and ten pounds will gain you a friend for life... or for at least long enough to make your escape at the end of the night with your fee. A valuable lesson indeed!

So - now you know all my secrets, if you would like to hire me for your event, drop me a line or give me a call. More details on my website (see my 'lynx' on the right).

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

I am an Animator...


Okay, so it ain't exactly Disney, Pixar or Aardman, but it's my very first effort having been nursed into the process using Photoshop's animation facility, and I was well pleased that I got it to work.

The cartoon was originally drawn as a static gag for the Cartoon Caption Competition, but having had my initial animation lesson the day after I drew it, I thought it would be ideal to practise on, and so it eventually ended up as above. I couldn't resist posting it in its animated format for the competition, and despite it causing a fair bit of controversy (it was the first time any animation had been used), it actually won, which I was delighted and astonished at in equal measure.

My first feature-length animated film starts tomorrow...and probably always will.