Art cartoon: Stealing from the Masters

"All done, squire – bish, bash, Bosch."

This is one many art cartoons I've drawn over the years, in an attempt to make myself look clever. It's one of two gags by me that can be seen in the December edition of Reader's Digest.

Often with art cartoons I'll draw an approximation of the original, as I did with this Picasso cartoon and this Magritte one, but here it seemed as though using the original would work better for the joke, as the decorator character is supposed to have painted it ... and would be a lot less work!

You can see the full painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights (1503-4) by Hieronymus Bosch, in some detail here. It's almost like a bizarre cartoon itself, in all its wacky glory. I didn't put the usual "Apologies to ..." on this one as, well, it would have given the punchline away.

Royston's portfolio website


Never underestimate the power of cartoons

"I've called you in here to keep you in the loop, as we've made some very long term investments."

A business magazine I work for has run a short feature about my cartoons, alongside the editor's five favourite gags of the past three years. It is usually such a constant battle trying to convince people that cartoons can be a powerful asset for their business that it's a joy when you know someone gets it. Here's an excerpt:

"You can never underestimate the power of a cartoon to get straight to the heart of the matter and say succinctly what it can take several pages to explain. This was brought home to me when I attended an annual summit and found Royston's cartoon from issue 33 (above) as part of one CEO's presentation."

That could not be more on-message! Cartoons work. If you want to commission me, or to re-use any of my existing cartoons, email me on roystonrobertson [at] gmail.com.

For more, visit my portfolio site.


Restaurant cartoon: Watercolour challenge

"I'll have the soup of tomorrow, please."

I've been "kickin' it old school" today, breaking out the watercolours to produce some cartoons to submit for exhibition at next April's Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival.

Here's a sneak peek at one of them. The theme is Magic, Myth and Mystery so I did a new version of a cartoon published in The Spectator and The Week last year. The colours are actually brighter than they look here. I've not quite got the hang of scanning watercolours, probably because I don't do it very often. Any tips on how to make watercolours look good on screen welcome!

Royston's portfolio website

Weather cartoon: No November

I was asked to do a cartoon to accompany an article about unseasonably warm November weather, with trees in full blossom and roses in bloom in some areas. This put me in mind of the Thomas Hood poem November, because I'm such a cultured kinda guy ...

OK, I admit that I only know the poem because it was in a pop song years ago (Opus 4 by the Art of Noise). Anyway, it was a chance to do something a little different from the usual gag cartoon and I was quite pleased with the way it turned out.

Having said that, I may have made a mistake, as looking online now I'm not 100 per cent sure the poem is called November. I've also found references to it as simply "No!". That would make sense, as the word November is really a punchline. Either way, this is of course just an excerpt from the poem. You can read the full text here.

Royston's portfolio website


Art for Saatchi's sake

Having just watched School of Saatchi, a reality-TV show about wannabe artists, I think the one thing it proved is that with contemporary art it's not what you create that matters it's how you explain it.

The contestants appeared to be judged on their ability to waffle on about their work, rather than on the artworks themselves. So, in a bid to get my cartoons accepted by the Art Establishment, I thought it would be fun to take one of my old gags and give it the contemporary art treatment. Here we go ...

"Well, one of us is in the wrong cartoon" (2006)
Ink on paper, digital colour added

This piece is, at its heart, an indignant expression of the alienation of the modern condition. The Arctic, or indeed Antarctic, wasteland depicted here can be seen as a metaphor for the cold, lifeless expanse of our technological age.

A palpable air of mystery drives the work: Which of these animals, both in their way cultural icons, is out of its natural habitat, perhaps cast adrift by the vicissitudes of global warming? Penguin or bear? Or is it, in a very real sense, both? Or perhaps neither?

Or is it, in fact, us, the viewer?

What do you reckon? Can I get away with it? Anyone got Charles Saatchi's mobile number?

More art. Explanations available on request


10 pun-based jokes every cartoonist has done

"Yeah, we've been squatting here for a few months now."

This joke, from ten years ago, is clearly a "play on words" gag. I used to do a lot of puns and word-play gags back then. I do fewer of them now, though if I think of one that seems original I'll still run with it.

The problem with puns, you see, is that if you've thought of it, there's a very good chance someone else has too. So, I present ...

10 pun-based jokes every* gag cartoonist has come up with

1. Frog's porn (self explanatory)
2. An astronaut who "needs his space"
3. A wordy dinosaur said to be a Thesaurus
4. In tray / Out tray / Shake it all about tray
5. Lawrence of Suburbia (see also Suburban Fox)
6. A cyclops baby who has "got his father's eye"
7. His master's vice (Note. pun gags are often rude)
8. "This is from the artist's blue period" (See note no.7)
9. Eee-by-gum mail
10. Cavemen going clubbing

(*Well, every UK cartoonist at least. And yes, of course I include myself in all of these.)

For less common but still fairly popular jokes, see also NHS Very Direct, cats "landing on their feet", Gulliver's travellers cheques etc etc. If you've got any more, add them in Comments below.

The squatting cartoon appeared in Modern English Teacher magazine in 1999. The editor had seen it in the Journal of Silly, hence the strapline at the top. They did pay me for re-using it though, unlike JoS which was a small-press mag chock full of gags and offered only exposure. Normally such offers are best avoided but the JoS was quite widely seen and was great for those of us who were starting out at the time.

Royston's portfolio website


Business magazine cartoon: Bank on it

"I'm sensing that there's a lack of trust here, Mr Trubshaw."

Here's a cartoon drawn for an international business magazine to accompany an article about how difficult it is to know what to do with one's money these days (I wish I had that dilemma!) what with the lack of faith in banking after the financial meltdown, the Bernard Madoff scandal and so on.

Royston's portfolio website


The Other Royston takes on Walt Disney

Regular readers will recall that I blogged about the Other Royston, who worked as a cartoonist in Australia in the 1940s and who turned out to be a woman working under a pseudonym.

Well, Denise Miles, my correspondent in Australia who brought Other Royston to my attention, was kind enough to send me the 1941 Man annual in which she found the Royston cartoons. "I always like things to go where they will be enjoyed", said Denise, rather marvellously.

And this certainly has been enjoyed by me today. Each page (just under A4 size) is a full-page cartoon! Imagine something like that being printed today. And from the elegant cover by Jack Gibson, father of the UK's own John Jensen (who revealed to me that "Royston" was a woman) to the advert on the back, also by Gibson, it's beautiful artwork and cracking gags all the way. And there are loads by Other Royston (aka Victoria Cowdroy).

I'll post some more here in due course, but in the meantime, I just had to put this one up, as it made me laugh out loud (click the image to enlarge it):

My sincere thanks to Denise for sending me this, you made my day.

Royston's portfolio website


Cartoon illustration: Computer says no

A business magazine wanted to use a photo of the Little Britain character Carol Beer, she of the catchphrase "Computer says no", to illustrate an article. When it proved too expensive to do so, they came to me. I'm officially cheaper than David Walliams.

Royston's portfolio website

Page three cartoonist

Look, I wasn't going to mention it again, but they've only gone and put me on page three of the local paper. Shame about that grimace. Click to enlarge or read it here: Your Thanet

Update 6.11.09: Here's another cutting, click it to enlarge. This appeared in today's Kent Messenger. More egg-based wordplay!

Royston's portfolio website