Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Seasons greetings to all who've been reading my ramblings this year. This cartoon (click to enlarge) was bought by Prospect magazine for its 2008 Christmas card. You can also see a festive cartoon by me in the Christmas Private Eye.

I sold a few Christmas gags this year, which almost makes up for the drop-off in corporate Christmas cards, due to companies cutting costs. Anyway, 'tis the season to be jolly, so let's not fret about the Credit Crunch for a few days at least! This blog is now taking a break and will return in 2009.

Have a great one!

Royston's portfolio website

Review of the Year type thing

As every magazine and newspaper you open at the moment seems to have a review of the year, from every possible angle, I thought I’d do a cartooning review year, as seen through this blog.

So, here are my personal 2008 highlights. If you think that it reads more like one of those round robin letters you get with Christmas cards, feel free to crumple it up and throw it in the bin.

The Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival was definitely a major highlight of 2008. This year’s was the best one yet in terms of the quality of the exhibitions. Plus, as ever, it was a great social gathering. Here's my "big board":

I really enjoyed being part of the Professional Cartoonists Organisation team at the Big Draw. We didn’t win but we did produce a striking banner. I got a kick from having cartoons exhibited at the Chris Beetles Gallery for the first time. I sold most of them, too. Which was nice.

Talking of exhibitions, they've had some superb ones at the Cartoon Museum this year. The most recent I attended was the Giles show, complete with a reconstruction of his studio. Then there was the Beano and Dandy one, which I reviewed for the PCO blog. But I think my favourite was the show of cartoons by the Punch cartoonist Pont, back in May, which I also reviewed.

This year I drew a strip for indie heroes The Wedding Present … but the best part was being name-checked on their new album as a result! Rock 'n' roll. I was chuffed to get a desert island cartoon published for the first time and I also got a kick out of the fact that one of my cartoons went to the Antarctic. I got a lot of great feedback from one gag more than any other this year, though – the one below, which was in Private Eye.

It just proves that everyone loves a cat cartoon! There are several other highlights I could mention, mainly social gatherings with other cartoonists. I tend not to blog about these at length, as they’re private occasions, but they're always great fun. And it never ceases to amaze me that cartoonists, who are all very much in direct competition with each other, tend to get on so well!

One gathering that I will single out, though, took place just last week ... a team of us from the PCO took part in an audition for the TV quiz show Eggheads. We don’t know yet if we’re gong to get on the show, but even if we don’t we had such a laugh doing it that it was worth it just for the experience. And, of course, we all ended up down the pub afterwards. Wish us luck!

Royston's portfolio website


Big Draw banners up for auction

Remember the Professional Cartoonists Organisation banner which we created at the Big Draw back in November? Well, the Campaign for Drawing, which runs the event, has put it up for auction on eBay.

The other "Battle of the Cartoonists" banners, by the teams from Private Eye, The Guardian and The Independent, are also for sale. All profits go to the Campaign for Drawing which, like any small arts charity, is always in need of extra funds.

In a press release, the campaign says:

"Six for the price of one! Individually signed cartoon strips by the brilliant Pete Dredge, Robert Duncan, Royston Robertson and Kipper Williams. A series of cartoon scenes on over-sized train tickets look at the painfully funny side of travel. There are six classic jokes with great appeal for all who have suffered on British public transport. Irresistible to cartoon fanatics, train spotters – anyone with a sense of humour!"

So get your credit card out. You'll need a pretty big bank balance as well as a big wall though!

Royston's portfolio website


Christmas cartoon: Snow fun

I've got two Christmas cartoons in the December edition of Reader's Digest. Here's one of them. Despite the fact that, as I mentioned last week, cartoon-wise it seems to have been Christmas for several months, my personal festive preparations have so far stubbornly failed to get going. So now I'm off to write some cards.

Royston's portfolio website


Oliver Postgate: Pure creativity in an age before audience research

You will have heard by now of the death of Oliver Postgate, the creator of several iconic children's TV programmes. The ones I remember most fondly were Ivor the Engine (above) and the marvellous Clangers.

Postgate, who was 83, lived here in Broadstairs. I saw him on the prom once, ambling along. I've heard people around here say they realised who he was only when he spoke, his voice recognisable as he narrated so many of his own programmes. But I recognised him instantly from many a nostalgic TV documentary.

In one he talked about creating live animation in the early days of TV ... using magnets. Sometimes they'd use the wrong side of a magnet and the characters would flip over on live TV! Of course, the shows were never recorded so they just moved on.

He and Peter Firmin made their programmes in an old barn in Blean, near Canterbury, completely separate from the BBC which screened them. I love this quote from Postgate from the BBC obituary:

"We would go to the BBC once a year, show them the films we'd made, and they would say, 'Yes, lovely, now what are you going to do next?'"

"We would tell them, and they would say, 'That sounds fine, we'll mark it in for eighteen months from now', and we would be given praise and encouragement and some money in advance, and we'd just go away and do it."

Oh, for the age before focus groups and audience research!

Royston's portfolio website


Christmas cartoons: A long time coming

Yes, it's that time of year again: the Father Christmases are out in force and Slade are on heavy rotation. But for many cartoonists it's been a long time coming, as we've been drawing Christmas cartoons on and off since the summer.

To do Christmas cartoons you usually have to adopt a pretty cynical tone. Most people, adults at least, are quite cynical about the festive season, I find. But the terrible truth is ... I actually really enjoy it! We don't go hugely overboard on it (I think disappointment often comes when you do) but I usually have a good time. So on that note, here's an alternative Christmas song ...

Royston's portfolio website

DIY cartoon: Fun with flat packs

Here's proof that even old, tired, neglected and rejected cartoons can find a happy home, somewhere in this big ol' world of ours ...

Thank you Dr Flat Pack! He's in Australia, wonder if he's a flying flat-pack doctor?

Royston's portfolio website


Return of the penguin and polar bear cartoon

I have blogged here before about my cartoon that went to the South Pole with South African National Antarctic Expedition. Well now the penguin and polar bear cartoon is being used on a T-shirt by the Bipolar Expedition, above, an Australian project which raises funds to find better ways to manage and diagnose bipolar disorder.

As the cartoon, which was first published in Reader's Digest two Christmases ago, has proved to be one of my most popular, I also used it when I got some business cards made last year.

Inevitably, though, it's one of those cartoons that some people just don't get. I used it on some Christmas cards two years ago and a friend told me that the conversation with his wife went something like this:

Friend: Ha, check out Royston's card!
Wife: Oh, yeah. A-ha-ha-ha.
Friend: You don't get it, do you?
Wife: No.

Well, you can't win 'em all.

Royston's portfolio website


Credit crunch/recession cartoon

Here's a cartoon for these lean times, drawn recently for a regular business client. Sometimes you can just about get away with the wordy caption.

So how's your recession going? I've noticed a drop in enquiries regarding cartoon jobs lately, which I assume must be down to people feeling the pinch. I've certainly done fewer company Christmas cards than usual, with some clients saying they're not bothering this year.

Still, as Mervyn King, the Bank of England boss is fond of saying, we'll get through it! As though we have any other option. Well, I suppose we could go for the whole jumping off a tall building thing. But for cartoonists, who have depicted that scenario many times, that would be too much of a cliche.

Royston's portfolio website

Book review: Oddly Distracted

Here is a review of my cartooning colleague Gerard Whyman's new book Oddly Distracted which I wrote for The Jester, the newsletter of the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain. Click the image to enlarge it and read the review.

You can see a preview of Ger’s book and order copies online at Lulu.com

Royston's portfolio website


Turner skies and seagull cries

I work in a converted attic room. I'm not quite up to posting "the artist's studio" type pictures at the moment, too much mess and general chaos. And not in an interesting way. Instead I offer this view from the window at 7am this morning.

I'm not much into photography but I was quite taken by this sky. Sometimes you can see why Turner used to regularly come down to this part of the world to paint the skies.

The birds are seagulls, of course, and do not fly south for the winter as they're hard as nails. So we get to hear their shrieks all year round! People who don't live in seaside towns love the sound of seagulls. Quite often I'll be on the phone to clients, who are usually based in London, and they'll hear the seagulls, which results in them breaking off and saying, with a wistful note in their voices, "Oooh wow, I can hear seagulls ..."

UPDATE 29/11/08: Just had another one. "Ooh, are you by the sea? What a lovely sound!" I always agree politely, of course, rather than saying, "Not when you're working all day right underneath the bloody roof they are perched on ..."

Royston's portfolio website


101 Uses for a George Bush

This cartoon was drawn for the blog 101 Uses for a George Bush, which was set up by the cartoonist Jon Kudelka.

Jon Kudelka is inviting cartoonists to help him get 101 "uses" drawn before Dubya hands over the reins of the presidency to Barack Obama on January 20.

"In the spirit of international goodwill and co-operation that George has fostered over the long years, it’s only fair that the cartoonists to whom he’s given so generously give something back," says Jon.

Hear, hear.

I decided to do a cartoon based on one of the funnier moments of the Bush presidency: Pretzelgate. If only it had all been such a barrel of laughs.

Royston's portfolio website

Michael Crichton cartoon

No cartoon goes off faster, if you'll excuse the distasteful analogy, than a cartoon about the death of someone famous. By that I mean, if you don't sell it straight away, its moment is gone. You can't tout it around all the magazines.

This one did not sell. Luckily a gag like this is quick to draw! But it made me chuckle so I'm posting it here. I like the idea of the Jurassic Park author turning up one day and saying, "Told you so".

And his death happened in the week that scientists said they may be able to clone a woolly mammoth. As Jeff Goldblum says: "They were so busy working out whether they could, they forgot to ask whether they should." Or something like that.

Royston's portfolio website

I'd better watch out ...

My six-year-old son is getting pretty good at drawing cartoons. I love this Dennis and Gnasher he came up with last week, especially the way the dog looks like he's peering fiercely over the bottom edge of the paper. Note the enthusiasm with which the black stripes on the jumper are drawn ... he's torn the paper as a result.

Cartoons by his Dad


Cartoons in Private Eye Annual 2008

I've got a couple of cartoons in the above. Including this one:

It also re-appears on the back cover, though there was no extra dosh for that particular honour. The book can be found at Amazon.

Royston's portfolio website


Music cartoon: Another from the archives

Time for another delve into the archives. This one was published ten years ago on this very day, in the New Statesman magazine.

It's quite a detailed cartoon and I remember being pleased with the way it looked when reduced to fit a single column. Like most of my early cartoons though, it looks a bit clunky to me now ... particularly those fat-fingered hands. I was clearly also experimenting with different signatures, this one's overly ornate.

This is from before I had web access, so I would not have done any picture research to get the Village People right. A Google search now reveals that they're one short: Military Guy has gone AWOL.

The New Statesman still uses cartoonists, but sadly they no longer take on-spec stuff. I had quite a few published in there in the late 1990s/early 2000s. And while it is obviously an intelligent, serious, political magazine, they didn't always go for "clever" gags. Often they'd take ones that were very silly, like this one, or even a bit rude.

Shortly before this, they published a gag of mine that featured a couple in bed. The bloke is looking smug and the woman is wide-eyed, saying "I can't believe it, Jake. To think I actually thought it was an extra leg." I'd have said that was a shoo-in for Fiesta, perhaps, but no, it was in the New Statesman.

Royston's portfolio website


Desert island cartoon: A personal milestone

The desert island is probably the most well-worn gag-cartoon scenario. I've drawn a few over the years, though not that many. But I think this is the first one to appear in a newsstand magazine, which must be some sort of personal milestone, I suppose.

It is one of three cartoons by me in the November issue of Reader's Digest. I was surprised to see so many used in the one issue, though obviously I was also pretty happy about it!

Royston's portfolio website


Sex cartoon: What to do afterwards?

I was commissioned to do bunch of cartoons on the theme of relationships for a forthcoming book. Here's one of them. And, yes, it's yet another blogging cartoon. Surely the well will run dry on that theme soon?

As you can see, I've gone for that old comedy stand-by, the post-coital cigarette, to indicate that sexual congress has just taken place. But even as I was drawing the cartoon, I was thinking that it's probably a cartoon signifier that should be retired. It's difficult to know how else to suggest that they have just "done it", without the cartoon getting too graphic, but the post-sex fag does seem a bit dated. Maybe something else will take it's place. All suggestions welcome ...

Royston's website: clean family fun


Big Draw at very big train station

Another Big Draw has come and gone. This time at the revamped (and very large) St Pancras International in London.

My role this year was to be one of the four cartoonists drawing a banner for the Professional Cartoonists' Organisation, on the theme of "Transports of Delight". We were competing in the Battle of the Cartoonists against teams from Private Eye, The Independent and The Guardian. So we were up against such well-known cartooning names as Steve Bell, Martin Rowson, Dave Brown and Ken Pyne.

My team-mates were Pete Dredge, who draws The Directors in Private Eye, greetings card maestro Robert Duncan (that's Rob and Pete holding the banner above) and Guardian business cartoonist Kipper Williams. We had two hours to draw the banner and it was the fastest two hours of my life. We came up with a series of single-panel gags where the frames were drawn to look like train tickets.

Left to right: Kipper Williams, Robert Duncan, myself and Pete Dredge

Voting was by members of the public, on a "who can cheer the loudest" basis and sadly we did not win. That honour went to the Independent, which was nice as the Guardian usually wins. We did get a lot of good feedback from the public though. The design of the banner was much admired, particularly as we were the only team that didn't go for the motif of a train careering off the tracks filled with politicians and City fat cats ...

Here are my gags from the banner (click to enlarge). We had planned to do one each but when we saw the banner we realised it was bigger than we thought! So we had to improvise and do one and a half tickets each, the second being a version of one I posted here just a few days ago.

See the full banner at the PCO blog

Royston's portfolio website


The Big Draw: Transports of Delight

Transports of Delight is the theme for the main cartooning event in the 2008 Big Draw campaign, which this year takes place at St Pancras International Station in London on Saturday (October 18).

The Big Draw is an annual, month-long campaign designed to get the nation drawing. I've taken part in the cartoon-based Big Draw events for the past two years, at Somerset House and Covent Garden respectively, and they're always fun.

This year, for the first time, I will be taking part in the ever-popular Battle of the Cartoonists, where four teams slug it out to produce the best 12ft cartoon banner. I'm on a team of four representing the Professional Cartoonists Organisation (PCO). My team-mates will be captain Pete Dredge, Kipper Williams and Robert Duncan. We'll be up against teams from The Guardian, The Independent and Private Eye.

The Battle of the Cartoonists runs from 3pm-5pm. The winning team is decided clap-o-meter-style – i.e. via vocal public approval, so please come along and shout for us!

There will also be workshops for all ages run by PCO members between 10am and 5pm. So that's the place to be if you want to learn how to draw cartoon characters, caricatures or comic strips.

Activities will take place in The Circle – second side entrance on St Pancras Rd and opposite the Gymnasium. I'm told that the dedicated area will be marked out with artificial grass and picket fencing so you can't miss us.

The Big Draw: Get involved

Royston's portfolio website


Life imitating cartoons

Here is a case of life imitating cartoons. Exhibit A: a gag published in Private Eye in 1998 ...

Exhibit B: A kids' animated film from 2008 which is about to hit a multiplex near you ...

OK, it's not a Disney film, and the focus is on Frankenstein's assistant, rather than the evil genius himself ... but still, it's a cuddly kids' comedy about creating a monster. I came up with the idea for the cartoon because I couldn't believe that they'd done a "Disneyfied" version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and I just thought, What will they do next? But even at the time I remember thinking that the idea of doing a kids' version of Frankenstein was probably not that far fetched. Turns out, I was right.

Here's another case of life imitating cartoons. I saw this on a cartoonists' internet forum this week (thanks to Simon Lake). Click the image to read it:

I was compelled to point out that I was killing much-loved cartoon characters 20 years ago! Along with a group of friends I used to run a self-published "adult" comic called DoodleBug in the late 1980s. With scant regard for the copyright laws, we had a regular feature called "Kill the Cartoon Character of Your Choice", which involved readers suggesting characters that they'd like to see dispatched. We would then oblige.

As a result, we had Garfield shot, Scooby Doo beheaded, Snoopy hanged, and Popeye beaten to a bloody pulp (after someone swapped his spinach for a tin of spaghetti hoops). It was all very juvenile, of course, but then we were juveniles. Well, almost. I was 19 when we started the comic. Here's one of the strips, which sees everyone's favourite cute canary meet his maker ...

Again you'll need to click the above image to read it. The similarity between the image of Sylvester the cat in my cartoon and in the Jimmy Cauty painting is incredible ... though I'm not alleging anything other than coincidence I should add.

Of course, the moral here is that if I had thought "art gallery" for these cartoons, rather than self-published comic, and if I'd written the script for a kids version of Frankenstein rather than doing that one-off gag, I'd probably be a lot richer than I am now.

Royston's portfolio website


The Best of Punch Cartoons

Punch is synonymous with British cartooning. The magazine closed in 2002 but as it had started in 1841 the name still carries a lot of recognition. I played only a very small role in the story of Punch: a handful of gags published in its final years. It was barely a walk-on part in the 160 years of the magazine, but I'm always proud to say that I made it in there.

Above: My first Punch cartoon, published in 1997, the year I began gag cartooning

Sadly, I did not make it into The Best of Punch Cartoons*, a new book which is out this week, so I was not invited to the launch party at Harrods yesterday ... but that wasn't going to stop me!

My cartoonist pal Clive Goddard passed on his invite to me, as he couldn't make it, so I phoned up Harrods (the Punch brand is still owned by Mohamed Al Fayed) and begged in a frankly unseemly fashion to be allowed to attend.

It was a great night. Lots of champagne and canapes, as you would expect, and the chance to catch up with fellow cartoonists and meet a few for the first time. The long-established guys reminisced about the Punch do's of old and lamented the fact that a magazine once seen as Britain's equivalent of The New Yorker is no longer with us.

Speeches were made by the publisher and the book's editor, and they pointed out many times that they were selling it at the launch at 20 per cent off. Although as someone pointed out (probably a money-savvy cartoonist) it's already cheaper than that on Amazon.

Those attending who did buy books were keen to get the cartoonists to sign them. I thought it only fair to point out every time that I'm not actually in the Best Of, but they didn't care. I think they were just fascinated and amused at seeing genuine, live cartoonists dragged out of their gloomy studios and into the glare of publicity.

Above: A Punch cartoon from 1998. Of my early efforts, I think this one got the most positive reaction from people

A fun night then, but every silver lining has a cloud: I was informed by those who are in the book that they have not received any payment. Sadly, this is not an unusual situation in British cartooning, but you do have to ask, how can it be right that cartoonists make no money from a book comprised solely of cartoons?

It's an excellent book, though, and a no-brainer as a Christmas pressie for the cartoon lover in your family (it's not exactly a stocking filler though, it's huge). So if you enjoy it, why not send a Christmas bonus to one of the non-remunerated cartoonists in the book?

Not me, you understand. Did I mention that I'm not in it?

*UPDATE 27/10/08: I have since found out that the book ignores the relaunched Punch of 1996-2002. It's a real shame that they didn't include any of the cartoons from that period, but it means I don't feel too bad about not being included!

Some Royston cartoons from existing magazines


Animals cartoon: What's in a name?

I spent an inordinate amount of time deciding on the names for the animals in this cartoon, which can be seen in the October issue of Reader's Digest. Click the image to enlarge it.

They had to be fairly ordinary names, the type that people have, rather than the names people give to animals. Yet it still took time deciding which one would be Pete, which one Trish, etc. Thinking up names for characters in single-frame cartoons is always tricky because they have to work just once. You can't come up with a name that the readers will get used to over time, as with a comic strip.

By the way, if I know you personally, and you have the name of any of the animal characters above, please don't take offence! Any similarity to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental. I just thought I'd better point that out.

Royston's portfolio website


Blogging cartoon on a cartooning blog

I've not had much time for blogging lately, so instead here's a recently published cartoon about blogging.

There are bloggers who, like the deluded fool in this cartoon, believe that people they know are hanging on to their every word via their blogs. But, of course, with a hundred gazillion other blogs to choose from, not to mention other websites and distractions, you can never assume that anyone gives a stuff.

Hang on a minute ... is anyone reading this?

Royston's portfolio website


Cat and dog cartoons

Over the years I have done many cartoons on the subject of cats and dogs, including the one above which was in Private Eye in 2004. So when I came to do a revamp of my portfolio site recently I decided to create a gallery exclusively consisting of cat and dog cartoons from various publications, for all you pet lovers out there.

Here it is: Cat and Dog Cartoons. Enjoy (I hope no one's allergic?).


Cartoon portfolio site updated

It's been more than a year since I've updated the content on my portfolio website (click screenshot above to enlarge), but I finally got around to it this week.

I have added lots of magazine cartoons from the last year, as well as examples of cartoons and illustrations for books, leaflets, websites etc. that I have done recently.

There's no major revamp but I have simplified the site a bit. Whereas before each gag cartoon had its own page, I figure that in this broadband age you can put several on one page.

Here's the site: www.roystonrobertson.co.uk.


Cartoon from Reader's Digest humour issue

This cartoon is in the September issue of Reader's Digest which is billed as a "special humour issue" and features a bumper crop of cartoons.

Yet again, this is one that came to me while on a train, this time while playing Hangman with my son. Yes, I know I should switch off from work more often, but cartoonists rarely do, particularly as so many jokes are gleaned from everyday life.

Like my son and I, the pair in the cartoon are playing the game with film and TV titles. No prizes for guessing the film here. It's one that has inspired several cartoons by me over the years.

Royston's portfolio website

Toilet humour

I have writen on this blog before about what a boon Google Image Search is for the cartoonist. But sometimes it's just a distraction.

Yesterday I needed a picture of a toilet in profile for a commissioned job (it's not as bad as it sounds!) Quite a tricky thing to draw, off the top of your head, if you want to get the curves and pipes etc correct.

I could have popped downstairs to the bathroom for some real-life reference, but what's quicker than Google?

The trouble is, putting words like "toilet" and "lavatory" into Google is asking for trouble. It turned up all kind of weird stuff and took me down avenues I should have avoided. Here are some samples, and this is at the acceptable end. Well, the least graphic anyway.

What is that guy doing in the first pic? It doesn't look like my idea of a good time.

Royston's portfolio website


Chav debate: Cartoonists don't have to be nice

Here's a cartoon I drew last week to illustrate an article about new words in the Oxford English Dictionary, including slang phrases such as "muffin top". For those who don't know what that means, well I hope it's obvious from the cartoon.

As you can see, I have depicted characters that you might, in the current British parlance, describe as chavs. I sometimes do this in cartoons as a shorthand for a loutish or yobbish person. The Burberry baseball cap and sportswear usually does it.

But should I be doing this or does it merely show that I am a middle-class snob with a deep level of hatred towards the working class? That's what the Fabian Society would say. Last month the think tank said that the word chav should be banned.

I thought about this at the time, and can kind of see what they're getting at, they're worried about people being demonised. But isn't it patronising and insulting to imply that chav equals working class?

I guess I have to admit to being middle class because I went to university, read The Guardian, and have a passing acquaintance with sun-dried tomatoes, but my upbringing was working class and I know, possibly unlike the Fabian Society, that there are all kinds of working class people, many with no interest in designer sportsgear and hanging out at bus shelters.

It was left to Simon Donald, co-creator of Viz, to be the voice of reason when he pointed out that the word chav is meant to be a term of abuse. He has a point, it's like saying that the word idiot should be banned as it is offensive to idiots.

But the real question is: should I as a cartoonist even concern myself with the debate? Cartoonists don't have to be nice. Cartoons are meant to provoke and offend on occasion. That's why when Viz launched it was the funniest comedy around in any medium, because unlike the comedians on the TV and the radio they weren't constantly worrying about offending certain sections of society.

I'm not advocating a return to the days when racist and sexist humour was dominant, merely suggesting that we don't need to be concerned at all times about who gets upset by jokes and cartoons. Lampooning louts and idiots goes back to the days of Hogarth, so Burberry baseball caps won't be disappearing from my cartoons any time soon.

Anyway, on balance I probably do more jokes about the middle classes (see the Reader's Digest and Private Eye cartoons below). Everyone is fair game.

Royston's portfolio website


Time for change

Regular readers (I know you're out there) will have noticed changes to the way this blog looks. I've been fiddling with it a fair bit, switching to a more customisable template and so on. I'm still trying out various things, experimenting with colours etc, so bear with me if, on occasion, it all looks a bit odd.

One major improvement is the blog list, which now automatically changes order with the most recently updated at the top. I'm sure this feature has been around for ages, but it was new to me! If anyone knows of any other good cartoon-related blogs I should add, let me know.

Royston's portfolio website


The talking-object cartoon

My cartoonist friend Alex Matthews tells me that he has been trying for ages to get a talking-object cartoon published in a magazine. And he's finally succeeded, with a cartoon featuring a talking stagalmite (or is it a stalactite?) in Prospect magazine. You can see it on his new blog.

This got me thinking because I've really not done a great deal of talking-object cartoons. I've done plenty with talking animals, but not your actual inanimate everyday objects. And, really, you don't see that many around, unless they're by the master of the technique: the New Yorker's Charles Barsotti. He's given life to many an lifeless object. A great talking pasta gag springs to mind.

Anyway, I looked through my files and could only find one published example, and it's almost ten years old. This was published in 1999 in the now defunct Metro supplement which came with the The Times on a Saturday.

I've always had a fondness for this one, probably because it's so very, very daft, and I never thought anyone would actually print it! I like the world-weary look on the ironing board's, er, face.

Looking through my unpublished gags, I found I've done maybe three or four others but none I want to share here because one is quite recent and is still "doing the rounds" of the magazines, and the others are, well, not that great. OK ... I have no shame, here's one. Talking punctuation marks, anyone?

Actually I rewrote this cartoon for a commissioned job. It became one of several cartoons illustrating an in-house style book (a guide to grammar usage etc.), but the rewritten line came from the mouth of a human.

It was an interesting exercise to look through my talking-object gags because what I realised was this: in every one of them the technique is used to illustrate a pun! So maybe a little thinking outside the box is in order and I need to find other ways of utilising this little-used cartoon technique. But I don't think Mr Barsotti will be too worried just yet.

If you have any links to great talking-object cartoons that I may have missed, let me know.

Royston's portfolio website


Cartoon exhibition: A Beano beano

Last week I went to a preview of the Beano and Dandy Birthday Bash exhibition which is currently running at the Cartoon Museum in London. Here's a short review I wrote for the PCO blog:

I attended the preview of Beano and Dandy show and can report that, as you would expect, it's great fun.

For the cartoonist geeks among us it's a chance to peer up close at original artwork drawn by some of the much-loved masters of comic art, such as Ken Reid and Dudley Watkins.

But there's plenty for the younger comic readers too, including activities and quizzes. Can you name all nine Bash Street Kids?

The exhibition spans eight decades and takes in all the Beano and Dandy characters you'd expect to see, from the iconic figureheads of Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan to much-loved characters from the past such as Brassneck, Winker Watson and Pansy Potter (The Strongman's Daughter, of course).

A highlight for me was the wartime strip showing Lord Snooty taking on Adolf Hitler. Der F├╝hrer is unhappy that the Beano is keeping the British nation cheerful and vows to get rid of it. But Snooty and his pals have other ideas. A classic.

I'll certainly be returning with my kids, and I suggest that anyone with a love of British comics puts it on their must-see list for the summer and autumn. The exhibition runs until November 2.

The museum is running Beano and Dandy events for children throughout August, including family fun days, cartooning masterclass sessions, and chances to meet Beano artists. For more, visit the Cartoon Museum website.

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Cartooning in the media

This is a version of a cartoon I had published a few years back. I use it by way of illustration, though really it has nothing to do with the following article which is considerably less cynical. It is a short piece I wrote for the PCO blog about media coverage of cartooning

There’s no doubt that cartoons are enjoying an unusually high profile in the British media at the moment.

We’ve seen acres of coverage for the launch of new kids’ comic The DFC, the 70th anniversary of The Beano and Phill Jupitus’s comic strip programme on Radio Four. There has even been a graphic novel serialised in The Times.

So, are cartoonists happy about this? Not a bit of it.

I agree with Neil Dishington, who wrote on the PCO blog yesterday, that the Phill Jupitus thing was nothing special, but is that because we’re cartoonists and therefore he’s preaching to the converted? I think it’s likely that many listeners would have found Jupitus’s sincere enthusiasm about comic strips quite infectious.

Isn’t it a good thing that shows like these exist? Is it not the case that the only thing worse than the media talking about cartoons is the media not talking about cartoons?

But they misrepresent cartooning, some cartoonists cry, it’s obvious they don’t know what they’re talking about. Well, maybe. I’m sure I heard James Naughtie talking about "animators" at The Beano on the Today show on Monday, but is there a single profession that doesn’t think it is often misrepresented by the media? I know journalists who think the media misrepresents them.

Another common complaint is that any media obsession with cartoons is just a passing fad. Again, that may be true, perhaps they’re using cartoons to cheer us up amid all the credit crunch stuff, but then that is the role of most cartoons. And let’s not forget that the media treats many subjects in a faddish way before moving on to the next thing.

And as for the grumbling over celebs such as Jupitus drawing cartoons, cartooning has always been something where everyone wants to have a go. That's because it's fun. We often encourage that attitude, at events such as The Big Draw and the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival.

All you can do is keep on doing good cartoon work and hope that those who commission cartoons for publication will realise that it is best to go to a professional.

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