Monday, June 6, 2016

In praise of gag cartoons

Here's an article I wrote for the Procartoonists blog five years ago, when I published my first collection of cartoons:

Whenever the media spotlight is turned on cartoons it is often those of a political variety. These cartoons shout the loudest and have news impact, but I think it's time to speak up for its modest cousin: the gag cartoon.

I have been drawing gag cartoons for the magazine market for about 15 years. I love the process of coming up with new ideas and, hopefully, getting them published.

Recently I've been sifting through my drawings from magazines such as Reader's Digest and Private Eye in order to put together a book collection. I'm not friends with any famous people so I had to write my own foreword for the book and decided to to put down exactly what it is I like so much about gag cartoons as a medium.

This was the crux of piece: "The single-panel joke is a perfect, self-contained unit of comedy, an instant hit of humour that doesn't demand much of your time."
I once heard the writer Will Self describe gags as "the haiku of cartoons". That may sound a little pretentious (from Will Self? Surely not?) but I think it's true, a gag cartoon is like a poem. Or a one-liner joke, perhaps. It is a small, carefully crafted article.

It doesn't have the grandeur or the, let's be honest, occasional self-importance of the political cartoon, but it is still designed to provoke a reaction: hopefully laughter.

I have heard some people claim that the gag cartoon is in some way an old-fashioned form. This is probably because it is so closely connected with magazines, so people think of crumpled, yellowing copies of Punch in the dentist's waiting room. Also, magazines and newspapers are "dead-tree technology", and that, we are constantly being told, is on the way out.

But, when you think about it, the gag cartoon is actually perfectly suited for this age of the short attention span and sits just as easily on a web page, or an iPad app, as a magazine page.

And long may it continue to do so.

Click here to buy Royston's cartoon books

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Referendum cartoon

Click to enlarge. Just because a cartoon is for a magazine about waste and recycling, doesn't mean it can't be about the EU referendum! From the May issue of Skip Hire Magazine.

Click here to buy Royston's cartoon book

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Spectator cartoons

Here are a couple of recent cartoons from The Spectator. One on over-sensitive university students closing down debate (which is proving to be a rich seam for joke cartoonists ...)
And one about a recent high-profile crime ...

Click here to buy Royston's cartoon books

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Private Eye cartoons

"I only drink Arts and Craft beer."

Yikes, my blog posts seem to have become more or less monthly (!) so I'd better get one in before this one ends. Here's a couple of recent cartoons from Private Eye.
"Before I begin, I should issue a Tigger warning."

The latter landed me, not for the first time, in "Pedantry Corner" on the letters page ...

I knew that as I read the books to my kids when they were young, but putting "The House and Pooh Corner" introduces unnecessary detail and ruins the immediacy of the joke. Here's another example of that.

The cartoon also seems to have kicked off one  of those Private Eye repeated jokes (it would probably be called a meme on the internet) and cartoonists have weighed in with warnings for trigonometry and Trigger from Only Fools and Horses. I've also got another in the latest issue. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Going live: Cartoons in front of an audience


Drawing live at conferences and events is something I've been doing more of over recent years, producing a memorable cartoon summary of speeches, workshops and discussions.

The process is variously known as graphic recording, scribing, sketchnotes, graphic facilitation, visualisation ... I tend to just call it live cartooning. The subjects can be many and varied, though this one, held last month, was something of a gift: a conference called Comedy on Stage and Page.

It was held at the University of Kent by the newly established British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (BSUCA) in association with the British Cartoon Archive. The photos are copyright BSUCA, and you can see more here.


Below is one of the finished pages. I completed eight by the end of the day's events. Get in touch if you have an event that could benefit from this kind of cartooning.


Click here to buy Royston's cartoon book

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Private Eye cartoon: Should've gone to Specsavers*

"Yeah, I like these, I'll take them."

From the current edition of Private Eye. Had my eyes tested recently. Resisted the temptation to crack this joke and drew it as a cartoon instead. *Other opticians are available

[Update 22/2/15] From the letters page in the following Private Eye:

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Another year over: 2015 in topical cartoons

It's almost the end of 2015, must be time for the traditional look back at the past 12 months via the medium of topical cartoons.

The year was just a few days old when the first major tragic story of 2015 happened. One that had particular resonance for cartoonists ...



Free speech became a thorny issue, particularly at universities, where some student unions appeared to have a problem with it ...




Here in the UK, we had a general election ...





We saw the return of some old knitted friends ...



The demonisation of certain elements of, er, society ...



It seems we are now in an age where social-media sites introducing new buttons is news ...



... and tech company bosses are the subjects of movies.



Gadgets continued to rule our lives, of course ...



There were the usual health scares (delicious processed meats this time ...)



And -- seismic change alert -- a 5p tax on carrier bags was introduced in England ...



More tragic news from Paris almost bookended 2015 ...



But, here in the UK at least, we had some positive news as the year drew to a close ...



Have a happy 2016, all!

Click here to buy Royston's cartoon books

Monday, November 30, 2015

Paris attacks: Cartoon déjà vu

"You hate music, football, eating out and drinking? Might as well kill yourself now."

The current Private Eye magazine features a page of cartoons headlined "After Paris..." and this is my contribution.

As with the cartoon I drew after the Charlie Hebdo attack (from the Eye in January, see below) I felt like it would be better to do the kind of joke cartoon I normally do, rather than attempt something more symbolic.

So I used a similar format to that cartoon i.e. a face-to-face encounter between terrorist and victim. Somehow imagining an actual conversation between the two makes me think about the absurdity of the attacks and allows ideas to form. Obviously neither are gag cartoons in the "laugh out loud" sense, but hopefully they still work and make a point.
"Make sure you get my funny side."

Click here to buy Royston's cartoon book

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bookshop cartoon: Celeb culture

I can't recall what the autobiography was that I was looking for in a bookshop, but it inspired this cartoon as I remember being frustrated that all I could find was piles of books by Alan Carr, Michael McIntyre, somebody from Bake Off etc. Another inspiration was noticing that a library's Biography section had, bizarrely, been renamed People's Lives.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not totally against celeb biographies and, in fact, I'd heartily recommend Danny Baker's Going to Sea in a Sieve, which is a joy to read.

This cartoon is in the current edition of Prospect magazine. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Social-networking cartoon: Like or dislike?

Here's a gag about Facebook's recent experiments to introduce emoticons to express sadness, sympathy etc., rather than just providing the usual Like button.

I'm not sounding the death-knell of this blog with this cartoon but I think we have to accept that since the rise of the likes of Twitter and Facebook, there is more "conversation" happening on social-media than on blogs these days ... hence this is my first post of the month!

I will continue to post stuff here, seems a shame to stop after more than ten years, but you can also find me on Twitter and Facebook ...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Private Eye cartoon: What possessed me?

This is a gag that was in one of my sketchbooks for years before I drew it up, because I didn't think people would go for a joke about possessive apostrophes! I was wrong. It was in the last issue of Private Eye and I have had a very good reaction to it.

A Private Eye reader contacted the magazine to say that it reminded him of this postcard which was on sale for many years at Birling Gap, near Eastbourne. Clearly they need to read this.
Click here to buy Royston's immaculately punctuated cartoon book

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Herne Bay Cartoon Festival 2015


Having helped organise the Herne Bay Cartoon Festival on 2 August, and having put together articles for the Procartoonists blog and the Cartoonists' Club magazine about it, I thought I should probably put something on my own blog before the month is out.

The photo above by Gerard Wyman, in which I'm contributing to one of the "communal" boards, sums up the day for me: I'm wearing a silly hat to keep off the sun and sitting on the ground, knackered after an exhausting but hugely fun day. There's a lot more on the aforementioned Procartoonists blog, but here are a few other Herne Bay bits and pieces.


There were many cartoons about nuisance seagulls -- as they have been in the news recently and this was a seaside cartoon festival -- here's one of my contributions. Pic by Karol Steele.


This photo by Kasia Kowalska was taken at the opening of the Martin Honeysett exhibition. I mentioned to Tim Harries that we look like the worst ever blues duo, so he made this. 


I'm not sure that it would be easy listening, to be honest.


Talking of easy listening ... here's a cartoon from the main festival exhibition. Yes, I am a ukulele player but I do understand that the ubiquity of ukuleles these days is, er, not appreciated by everyone.

Cuttings from the Herne Bay Gazette. Click to enlarge and read

Monday, July 20, 2015

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