Cartoon for Big Draw auction

Here's a cartoon (click to enlarge) which I submitted this week for an exhibition and auction which is to be run by The Campaign for Drawing, the people behind the annual Big Draw events.

A larger version of this cartoon was featured on the Professional Cartoonists' Organisation's banner which we created at the St Pancras Big Draw last year. The banner itself will also be auctioned, if anyone's got enough room for it.

Details on the exhibition and auction are below. Click to read, or visit the Campaign for Drawing website. Why not go along and see if there's anything you want to bid for? The auction raises money for the Campaign so they can carry on their excellent work.

Royston's portfolio website


Interviewed by The Culture Vulture

Here's a link to another interview, a short one this time, for The Culture Vulture, the organisation behind the Travelling Moleskine project. It covers some of the same ground as the Your Thanet one, to be honest, but with the emphasis on matters Moleskiney. (More on that here.)

Royston's portfolio website


Digest caption competition: update

The deadline for suggestions for Reader's Digest's "Beat the Cartoonist" competition has passed, and you can now vote on your favourite caption. Or at least, that's what it says on the site, I couldn't see the four alternatives there. So watch this space, or, better still, watch this space: The "Beat the Cartoonist" web page

UPDATE UPDATED!: OK, the four options are there now.

UPDATED UPDATE UPDATED!: They're not there anymore, which I suppose means voting has closed. I belive that means the winner will be announced in the October issue, which comes out in about a month. Oh, the suspense! This is like The X-Factor. Of course, if the public don't vote my caption the funniest, I'll just sulk and point out that mine is the correct one as it's my blummin' cartoon, alright?

Royston's portfolio website

Interviewed by Your Thanet newspaper

One of our local papers, Your Thanet, has an interview with me today. Tom Betts from the paper sent me a bunch of questions via email. As I expected, it had to be edited a bit, because they also used one of my cartoons. (I thought an interview with a cartoonist without a cartoon would be a bit rubbish.)

So, in case you're interested, here's the full version:

How did you get into drawing cartoons?
Like most cartoonists, it’s something I’ve done since I was a child. Cartooning has always been there. I created strips for school magazines, I drew poster caricatures for student elections at college and so on. About 12 years ago I started sending gag cartoons to magazines on an on-spec basis and managed to get published fairly regularly. Then I set up a portfolio website (roystonrobertsonco.uk) and a blog (roystonrobertson.blogspot.com) and began getting commissioned work. Five years ago I gave up the day job and became a full-time freelancer.

Where do you get your inspiration?
This is almost the dreaded “where do you get your ideas from?” question. To which I usually reply, “Belgium”. But as you made the effort and used the word “inspiration”, I’ll try to give a sensible answer. The inspiration is all around us, I find. It’s in things people say and do, items on the TV, in the papers, new phrases and buzz-words, and so on.

Who do you work for and where do your cartoons feature?
My cartoons can be seen in magazines here and abroad such as Private Eye, Reader’s Digest and The Spectator. That’s the on-spec side of the job where you send out batches of cartoons and keep your fingers crossed. Then there’s the commissioned work, where people approach you to draw cartoons for books, trade mags, websites, adverts, you name it. I have worked for BBC Magazines, Oxford University Press, Channel 4 News and the Green Party, among many others. The most unusual commission I’ve ever had was the request to come up with six cartoons on the subject of “anaerobic digestion”. That’s the process of turning waste into bio-fuels. A tricky one, but I managed it.

Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m originally from Catterick, North Yorkshire. I’m 41 and now live in Broadstairs with my wife and two young children. We moved to the area from London a little over five years ago. I was a journalist for ten years, starting out as a reporter for local papers in northeast London and ending up as a sub-editor at The Times. It was a great job, but I was drawing and selling cartoons in my spare time and knew that I really wanted to do that as a career. Not the most sensible of moves financially, because life as a freelance is always precarious, but cartooning scores high in job satisfaction.

What keeps you in Thanet, when London must be a more convenient location?
Not really, you can work anywhere as a cartoonist because commissions come via the internet and finished cartoons can be delivered by email. A lot of cartoon-related events, gallery openings and so on, take place in London, so I’d be lying if I said that living in Broadstairs is never an inconvenience, especially when you get the midnight train home and you hear those three words that send terror through your soul: Replacement Bus Service. But spending time at the beach hut and the occasional ice-cream in Morelli’s makes up for it.

Who are your heroes?
I’m not sure I have “heroes” as such. There’s always a risk that they’ll let you down. I am, however, a fan of the mini chocolate bars of the same name. Especially the Crunchies.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully doing the same thing but selling more cartoons and not worrying about working through a recession. A regular slot in a high-profile newspaper or magazine is the dream, really. In the short term, I will be seeing myself on the telly later this year: I’m part of a team from the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation who can be seen challenging the quiz experts on BBC2’s Eggheads.

If you had one wish for Thanet what would it be?
Faster, cheaper rail links would be nice. And fewer replacement buses.


A Kent horse and a seaside folk festival

Through the medium of a cartoon in a Kent newspaper, this week I attempted to solve an ongoing problem that is troubling the good people of the county.

For those not in the know, although Mark Wallinger's white horse design, which is to stand at Ebbsfleet, has been agreed (and dubbed "the Angel of the South" by the media) there are many in Kent who want it to be a rearing horse, the traditional "invicta" symbol of the county. With a little ingenuity, I reckon we could keep both camps happy ...

Might need a bit of extra public funding, and quite a bit of maintenance, but I reckon it could work!

More local news: Broadstairs Folk Week, the annual festival which takes over our town for a week every August, got going at the weekend. Here are a few on-the-spot sketches from the daily fun and games laid on for the kids at the seafront bandstand. Drawn on official Folk Week headed notepaper! (Click to enlarge.)

Royston's portfolio website


The Travelling Moleskine

I recently took part in a Travelling Moleskine project, as part of this year's Big Draw event. The Moleskine notebook is doing the rounds of members of the Professional Cartoonists' Organisation and idea is that each person makes his or her mark then passes it on, via the post, to the next volunteer.

The theme for the drawings is "naughtiness" and I gave them something old and something new. The old was this re-drawn version of a gag which featured in Prospect magazine in 2005.

"I don't need to check anything with 'the boys in forensics', I know it was you."

I traced this from a copy of the original and pasted into the Moleskine book. Cheating a little bit, I know, so I drew direct the following oddity directly onto the notebook page.

They were the naughty children we were warned about: Leaned back too far on his chair; The wind changed; Swallowed apple pips; Went blind doing "that"

It was a chance to do something different to the usual gags. It came out OK, I think, though I found it a tricky surface to work on as the paper is quite dark, plus it seems to absorb the ink very quickly, leaving a line considerably more dull than the deep black lines I'm used to.

Around 30 Moleskines have been sent out by the Culture Vulture, the organisation acting on behalf of the Campaign for Drawing, which stages the Big Draw every autumn. More details on the Moleskines can be found at theculturevulture.co.uk and you can see some of the works so far at this Flickr group

Royston's portfolio website


Swine flu cartoon

"With swine flu, we need to get the message across to the public that there is no need to panic."

This was drawn for a publication for health service managers. It's a regular commission I've had for some years, and the cartoon always features the same characters at a board meeting. So it was fun to put them all in swine flu masks.

You can see other cartoons in the series here, here, and (a very old one) here.

Royston's portfolio website


Five years as a full-time cartoonist

"Excuse me, could I have five minutes of your time?"

Today marks five years since I became a full-time freelance cartoonist. Friday 30th July, 2004, was my last day of salaried employment, then I had the weekend off to think, "Argh, what have I done?" before starting work on Monday 2nd August by staring at a blank piece of paper.

It's been an up and down few years, as most freelance work is, not helped recently by the recession. But the wolf has been kept from the door, even if he has sometimes got worryingly far up the garden path. And I have really enjoyed it.

I've developed far more, in terms of drawing and writing, than I would have if I had not had so much time to dedicate to cartooning. (The cartoon above, which appeared in Private Eye, was drawn not long after I went full-time, I think my style has developed a lot since then.) I have also had more time to get involved with cartoon organisations, events, festivals etc.

Anyway, I'll celebrate with a tipple tonight, and will drink to the next five years.

Help keep me in gainful employment by buying my cartoons!