Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reader's Digest cartoon: Spud-based mirth

I've got a cartoon in the May issue of Reader's Digest in the US:

This gag was initially sent out to several UK magazines, but was rejected. In those days, it looked like this:


I had to change the "British bobby", of course. I went for a more generic TV cop show style detective. I also thought that "assailant" seemed like a very British policespeak sort of word. They may well use it in the States but I thought I was on safer ground with "attacker". It's never straightforward sending gags to the US. You have to constantly think about whether certain words/concepts will be understood in the same way. As someone once said, we're two nations divided by a common language. And it goes way beyond lift and elevator.

(By the way, talking of British bobbies, if you've not seen Hot Fuzz yet: drop everything and go now. It's just hilarious.)

You'll notice also that as it was such a prestigious client I decided to do a bit more picture research on Mr Potatohead, to make him more accurate. It's not the first time said character has appeared in a cartoon of mine. This is from a few years ago:


Hey look: there's an interview with yours truly over at the excellent Chewing Pencils cartooning blog. Matt Glover, who runs the site, says: "This week’s feature artist surely has the coolest name any artist could hope for!" I must say, this is news to me, and seems a little unlikely, but I'll gladly accept the compliment. Thanks, Matt!

Cartoon festival fun

I wrote here a little while back about attending the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival, and being nervous about doing one of the 6ft by 8ft "big boards" there. Well, the festival was last weekend and was terrific fun, and the board went pretty well. So my cartoon comfort zone was extended a little bit.

I was worrying too much because I was thinking of it as some huge work of art, rather than what it was: a really big cartoon! Once I looked at it like that it became less daunting. The cartoon I picked was one that was in Reader's Digest last year. I re-drew it to scale, at 6in by 8in:



Then I added a grid of 1in squares so I could easily scale up the drawing to a grid of 1ft squares:



And here's the end result:


Artwork-wise, I felt that I couldn't really compete with some of the other cartoonists there – many of the best artists in the business. Some of their boards really were works of art. I'm not sure how I managed to get the lettering on the signs so off centre! Still, not bad for a first attempt. The important thing, for me, was that the cartoon got lots of laughs from members of the public. And what was particularly heartening was the number of people who said they recognised the kinds of characters and the scenario in the cartoon. Obviously that's what I was aiming at with this cartoon. I also sold the original drawing, which was a bonus!

It wasn't all work, work, work though. The festival is a key social event for cartoonists and so there was plenty of drinking, singing and scrawling cartoons on paper tablecloths. I'm the glassy-eyed fool in the checked shirt ...


Clockwise from bottom-left: John Roberts, Gerard "Ger" Whyman, Clive Goddard, Alex Hughes, Me, Will "wiLbur" Dawbarn, Ian Baker and Jed Pascoe.


Left to right: Nikki Harries, guitar maestro Tim Harries and me (playing egg-shaker percussion, with some considerable skill ...)

Thanks to Clive Goddard for these two pics. And thanks to the organisers of the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival for putting on such a fantastic event.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cartoonists' newsletter: My other job

I don’t blog here as often as I’d like to because a) obviously I spend quite a lot of time thinking up and drawing cartoons and b) a fair amount of my spare time is taken up with being editor of The Jester, the newsletter of the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain.

I took this pic for the club’s recent Members’ Directory, it shows a year's worth of issues, from April last year to March (there’s no January issue).

With remarkable restraint, only one of the covers is by me. The rest are by Alex Noel Watson (two covers), Terry Bave, Matt Buck, Clive Collins, Tim Harries, Louis Hellman, the late Jack Kirkbride, Ian Ellery, and Dave Parker.

I get paid to edit The Jester, but it’s not very much. I do enjoy doing it though. I was a journalist for 10 years, many of them as a sub-editor, at the Press Association, Daily Mirror and The Times. While I enjoyed the job a lot of the time, I would often find myself working with subject matter in which I had absolutely zero interest. Here I have a whole magazine on my favourite subject: cartooning!

Insert eggs-cruciating pun here

Sometimes when you have a really silly idea, you have to see it through. Last week my wife suggested that my 14-year-old nephew may be too old for Easter eggs. I joked, “Nah, just get him one of those Cadbury’s Queens of the Stone Age eggs.” (Like most 14-year-olds he likes his heavy rock/metal. ) At that point I knew I had to do this …

I was pleased with the way the band’s "sperm and egg" logo could be used for the window to the Easter egg!

And let’s not forget that all-important health warning on the back …

The best part is that for a split second, he fell for it.

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