Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

"If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this drama ..."

Here's the Christmas card I drew for Private Eye this year. Click the image to enlarge.

I very nearly didn't send them this one because the caption, which you will surely have heard at the end of many a gritty TV drama, has been used in other contexts in cartoons. But I hadn't seen it applied to the story of Jesus, and as that concerns teen pregnancy, homelessness and child murder, it seemed appropriate.

I'm taking a blogging break until January, so all the very best of the festive season to you.

Review of the Year type thing

It must be time for what reality-TV presenters call my "best bits", a round-up of the highlights of my cartooning year, as seen through this blog (mostly).

Yes, I know it's basically a round robin, but at least I didn't print it out with dodgy festive clip art around the edge and I'm not boring you about my kids' achievements or any challenging health issues, so cut me some slack.

Presenting a talk and slideshow about my cartoons for the first time was certainly a high point of the year for me. I wrote about that experience here. It was a buzz getting an audience reaction to my cartoons.

The Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival, the fifth I've attended, below, was great as usual, and I'm now in the process of trying to think up cartoons on an Olympics theme for next April's festival. More live cartooning took place at the Big Draw, where I fought valiantly in the Battle of the Cartoonists – didn't win though.

It was great to be in an exhibition at the Cartoon Museum for the first time. Ink and the Bottle is entirely cartoons about drinking. Here's another from the exhibition, and a festive one too ...

"Oh no, look who's in..."

Another first for me was spending the General Election night at the Groucho Club. We drew lots of cartoons and people supplied us with lots of free booze as a result. That was a better outcome than the election. Here's a cartoon about the fallout from that ...

"Remember, it's not the winning that's important, it's the not losing ..."

More drunkenness ... this year the Cartoonist's Club of Great Britain celebrated its 50th, so we had a party and we even kicked it old school with a convention at Butlins.

"Life's a beach."

I usually include a couple of cartoons that went down well in this round-up. This cloudspotters' cartoon, which I thought was too odd to sell, generated a lot of good feedback.

"Ha ha, that cloud looks just like Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, 1929-1931."

A personal favourite was my Bayeux Tapestry cartoon. That also got a lot of reaction, though quite a bit was of the "I don't get it" variety. Scoring a hat-trick in the Reader's Digest caption competition caused me to do a lap of honour around the room.

I should mention all the great cartoons by other people I've seen this year in exhibitions, many of which I wrote about for the PCO's Bloghorn: Ray Lowry, Fougasse, Toy Tales, Modern Toss, Rude Britannia, and Roland Searle.

And finally, it's great to know that I can head into 2011 knowing that I am officially as funny as Matt!

If you've enjoyed my cartoons this year, why not commission me to draw some for you in 2011!


Carol singers cartoon: A Christmas classic

"I do love the traditional Christmas songs."

This cartoon is one of two I've got in the Private Eye Christmas Special and it refers, as I'm sure most of you know, to Fairytale of New York, by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

I love the song (I still have a battered 7in single of it somewhere) but I do find it funny that it has become such a Christmas favourite despite those lyrics.

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap, lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last

Like the best Christmas songs, it has an edge of cynicism and melancholy, the latter made worse by the tragically early death of Kirsty MacColl. I was a big fan both of her solo stuff and the contributions she made to records by some of my favourite acts, such as the Smiths and Billy Bragg. She was one of a kind.

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Christmas cartoon caption contest craziness

Can I really post two Santa Claus cartoons in a row? Well, it is [almost] Christmas. (Hang on, there's a pattern developing here ...)

Readers of the Daily Mail have been let loose on this cartoon, as it appears on their financial website This is Money, as the Austerity Christmas caption competition.

Click the link if you want to take part, apparently there's a suitably austere prize on offer.

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A few of my favourite things

"What happened to the old 'Naughty' and 'Nice' lists?"

If you're not completely fed-up with "Best of the Year" lists already, you may like to know that I (among many others) was asked to do one for the Forbidden Planet International blog.

It's a list of favourite comics/cartoons, films, TV and books from 2010 and can be read here: Best of the Year: 2010

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Deconstructing the snowman cartoon

Can I really post two snowmen cartoons in a row? Well, it is [almost] Christmas. Snowmen gags are great to do, as you can take the joke in so many different directions, as Bill "Calvin and Hobbes" Watterson demonstrates in these strips ...

My cartoon above came about as I was trying to think up Christmas cartoons and decided to break the "classic" snowman image into its constituent parts: two lumps of coal, a carrot, two sticks etc. The joke more or less instantly came out of that process. This is one of two I've got in the current Reader's Digest.

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Cartoon about woman who dialled 999 over snowman theft

You may have heard or read about the woman who called the emergency services over the theft of a snowman. It has provoked quite a few chuckles on Twitter and Facebook.

It happened here in Kent – in Chatham, innit? – so one of the newspapers for the area asked me to do a cartoon. As a subject for humour, it was a bit of a gift.

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Cat cartoon: There's an app for that

"Lame. Haven't you got an iPad?"

Because everyone likes a cat cartoon, right?

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Evolution cartoon: The job interview

"So ... where do you see yourself in four million years?"

Sometimes it pays to do a bit of picture research. I could've gone for the standard ape-like caveman look with this cartoon, but I decided to do a Google image search for artists' impressions of early man. It paid off I think. I might put him in some other cartoons ...

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Skiing cartoon: Downhill from here

"Fancy a swift one?"

While we're on the subject of alcohol-themed jokes, anyone fancy another? This is a "what happens next" visual joke, not something I do a lot of, and took a while to get right.

I have never been skiing, and have no plans to take it up. I'm more interested in the other leisure pursuit shown here, so I also spent quite a bit of time making the pub look cosy, like the kind of place I like to be in on a cold winter's day.

This cartoon is one of two of mine in the Christmas issue of Reader's Digest. It was taken in the early part of this year but they saved it until the weather got cold again. It's appropriate now as much of the UK is covered in snow, though not here on the Kent coast, as usual, to the disappointment of my kids.

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Cartoons in 'Ink and the Bottle' exhibition

I've got a couple of cartoons in the above exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in London. Neither are quite as colourful as the Donald McGill cartoon above, because they're the original ink drawings that were later scanned and coloured, using Photoshop, for Reader's Digest.

Here's one of them, a spin on a well-worn theme ...

"Bloody students."

As you've probably gathered, all the cartoons in the show are on a drinking theme. I saw it last night and it's very well put together, covering the good and bad points of Britain's favourite leisure activity.

The exhibition is not chronological, instead cartoons are linked by different aspects of the theme. It's fun to see how many similarities there are, despite the different times, between Ally Sloper, Andy Capp, and Viz. Go see.

UPDATE: The Radio 4 discussion on the Ink and the Bottle exhibition is online: Listen here

More HMV dog cartoons (scroll down).


Desert island cartoon: Out of office

"I'm worried we might have exceeded our annual leave entitlement."

Yes, there is still life in the old desert island scenario. This cartoon can be seen in the December issue of Prospect magazine, which once compiled a list of new takes on old themes.

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Not Yet Sold: Kilroy was here

"Wot, no ladder?"

Time for another in my occasional series of rejected cartoons. I'm not sure why it's occasional, as rejection itself is pretty frequent in the cartooning game.

This is a bit of a bizarre one. I always thought it was a long shot, but the joke amused me so I drew it up. It may have stood more of a chance 30 years ago! When I was a kid the graffiti character that this is based on was quite popular, though it has been around since at least the Second World War.

For those who still have no idea what this is about, the character is popularly known as Kilroy, as in "Kilroy was here", though when I was a kid we knew him as Chad.

Wikipedia can fill in the gaps, and if you really want to get into it there's a website called kilroywashere.org !

Kilroy/Chad would often be seen peeking over a wall, lamenting the absence of something. Like this:

"Wot, no cartoon sale?"

Click the link for more Not Yet Sold cartoons.

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A note about my portfolio site

My portfolio website is now only at www.roystonrobertson.co.uk, not the old royston.dircon.co.uk address. If you have the site bookmarked, or have links to it on a website or blog, please update. Thanks!


One from the archives: Pets cartoon

"You've got more than one loyalty card? That's despicable."

This Reader's Digest cartoon from December 2007 makes a reappearance in the current issue of the Foghorn, the magazine of the Professional Cartoonists' Organisation.

You can read an archive of the Foghorn online, just click the button on the right-hand column of this blog (scroll down). To buy a print subscription to the mag, which comes out six times a year, go here.

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A shopping joke and some crazy cartoonists

This cartoon is on the front of the latest issue of The Jester, the Cartoonists' Club newsletter. The theme was shopping and I was amazed, and amused, that the Ed picked this cheerful cartoon.

Also in the issue is this photo from the recent club convention at Butlins. It's the obligatory "Cartoonists: we're a wacky bunch" pic.

Yes, that's right, we're holding our cartoons upside down! Will the craziness never end?!

These are the winners in the Great British Holiday cartoon competition. Pictured, left to right, are Pete Dredge, Rich Skipworth, me, and Tim Harries. Rich, Tim and Pete won first, second and third, respectively, and I won the public vote (for this cartoon). Thanks to Steve Willis for the photo.

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Textbook cartoon: Mr Logic

This is a textbook cartoon. By which, I don't mean it's a perfect example of a cartoon, I mean it was drawn recently for a school textbook. I quite liked the joke in this one, so I thought I'd share it.

As you can see, I have attemped to draw A Young Person. An absurdly large tie and ridiculously messy haircut just about does it. I'm down with the kids, me.

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Clown cartoon: It's not so sad

"As I feared, the X-ray shows that you are crying inside."

"There's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than the tears of a clown"

– Smokey Robinson

Well, maybe. But I can't help feeling that there are quite a lot of things sadder. Genocide, child poverty, that kind of thing. So pull yourself together, clowny.

I originally drew tears in mid-air on the X-ray. But that kind of thing looks a bit old-fashioned in cartoons these days, so I took them out. But then I worried that it looks like he's sneezing. Anyway, I sold the cartoon so I try not to worry once that happens. But these are the things that keep cartoonists awake at night.

Now that's sad.

More clowning around


Battle of the Cartoonists 2010

Well, the PCO/Foghorn magazine team put together a cracking banner for the Battle of the Cartoonists at the Big Draw on Saturday, but we were pipped at the post in the "cheer-o-meter" by Private Eye.

I've written a full report on the day's fun and games over at the Bloghorn. Pictured above, with the banner, are, left to right, Cathy Simpson, Ian Ellery, myself, Robert Duncan and Nathan Ariss. Thanks to Denis Dowland for the photos.

The theme was "Make your mark on the future", and here's one of my cartoons:

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Topical cartoon: The axeman cometh

The Apprentice: Spending Review Special

Here's a cartoon drawn for a local paper on the Government's spending review, which was announced on Wednesday. I've combined reality TV with grim old actual reality.

I think a lot of people thought beforehand that the spending review would mean that councils would be forced to cut back on wasteful excesses in the area of paperclips, custard creams and so on.

They forget that real cutbacks means cutting real people's jobs. It is quite staggering that that the Government, which generally aims to cut unemployment, is about to put half a million people on the dole.

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Drawing a line in the sand with the CCGB

"Life's a beach."

This is a cartoon drawn in the sand on the beach at Skegness, where the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain held its 2010 Convention and AGM last weekend.

As mentioned here before, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little wary about this three-day event: the combination of Skegness, Butlins and October seemed like some kind of elaborate joke!

But as I have been complaining for some time that the club has had few family-friendly events for several years (brewery tours are fine but not ideal with an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old in tow) I decided to take the plunge. It proved to be the right move as I, my wife, and our two children had a great time.

Cartoon by Noel Ford, after the famous poster by John Hassall

I didn't win the Cartoons in the Sand competition – there were too many desert island gags, I think! – but I did win in the Great British Holiday cartoon competition. There were three winners picked by the judges plus one voted by the public – "The What Do the Judges Know? Prize", as it was described – and I won that one, for this cartoon.
"This is rubbish, can we please do Ibiza next year?"

The highlight of the weekend was the excellent Saturday night gala meal, which included the prize-giving, a humour-based quiz, hosted by me, which went down well, and the always enjoyable informal sing-song led by Tim "The Ukulele" Harries.

As a bonus to all this, the kids got to enjoy swimming, play parks, and all the usual Butlins stuff. A note to regular Butlins-goers though: "All you can eat" is just an offer, not a strict instruction.

So, many thanks to the Cartoonists' Club for organising such a fun event. Hi-de-Hi, campers!

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Doing battle at The Big Draw

This weekend I'll be taking part in the Battle of the Cartoonists, part of the Big Draw Festival in London.

I'm on the Professional Cartoonists' Organisation team and we'll be competing against teams from Private Eye and The Guardian. The idea is that each team produces a banner on the festival theme of "Make Your Mark on the Future".

This year we're at The Scoop, an ampitheatre close to City Hall, aka the Greater London Assembly building, and Tower Bridge on the South Bank. The Battle takes place on Saturday between 3.15pm and 5pm. Voting is by public approval, so come along and cheer for us! There will also be workshops for cartoon enthusiasts of all ages.

I last took part in 2008, that's the banner we came up with above. That event took place at the revamped St Pancras station, hence the train tickets motif.


Private Eye Christmas cards

'Tis the season to be thinking about how near Christmas is getting, and Private Eye is on the case with its usual pack of festive cards for sale. And this year one of them is by me.

That's mine second from bottom on the right-hand side. I'm not putting it on here just yet, but you can see it on the site or, better still, buy sets of 12 cards online.

And if you'd like me to draw a Christmas card for you, it's probably a good idea to start thinking about it. Annoying, I know, but true!


Holiday cartoon: Farewell to summer

As the memory of a few bonus days of sunny weather fades, here's another cartoon I submitted for the Great British Holiday competition, which is part of the forthcoming Cartoonists' Club convention.

This is a coloured version of a Private Eye cartoon from summer 2009.

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Fairytale cartoon: Health & Safety gone mad

It's inevitable, with the amount of cartoons you produce working for magazines, that you like some more than others. This one I thought was just OK, a solid enough joke but generally I'd call it a batch-filler.

So, of course, it was the only one that sold in a recent batch sent to The Spectator, and can be seen in this week's issue.

Originally, I drew it for the CCGB online cartoon contest, in one of the weeks where you have to come up with a captionless cartoon. The theme was "Hot". However, completely "silent" cartoons, i.e. with no wording in them at all, are preferred, so it didn't do very well!

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Cave-painting cartoon: The untamed line

"No! It picture of hunt. It not 'really about inner conflict'..."

All cartoonists have favourite subjects to draw, and cavemen is one of mine. It's because you can go wild with the line, as the "costume" of the character is pretty flexible. And they're usually very ugly.

With a caveman cartoon, you're usually putting them in a modern context, so you're always aware that there's a chance the joke has already been done on The Flintstones! I use the word "modern" loosely as, amazingly, The Flintstones turned 50 last week.

I was reminded of this cartoon by a documentary I saw the other day which featured footage of J.R.R. Tolkien angrily denying that the Lord of the Rings was in any way a religious allegory, as everyone insisted on telling him. It must be annoying for any artist to have someone suggest a sub-text in their work that they never intended. Thankfully, this rarely happens in cartooning.

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Books cartoon: Thinking about inking

The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo

You may have seen quite a few cartoons around which play on Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Cartoonists often riff off each other's ideas to come up with new jokes, and certain themes take hold. This cartoon can be seen in the October issue of Reader's Digest.

If you saw my Ramsgate Arts festival talk last month, you'll have got a sneak preview of this. You lucky people.

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Owl and Pussycat cartoon: The British holiday

"This is rubbish, can we please do Ibiza next year?"

This cartoon is one of three I have submitted for a competition on the theme of "The Great British Holiday", which is being run by the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain.

Entries will be judged at the club's convention and AGM which is being held at Butlins, in Skegness, in October ... proving that the club certainly has a sense of humour!

We'll be going along as a family. I've been saying for years that the Cartoonists' Club should do some family friendly events, as it used to in its heyday, but I must admit to being initially a little wary of the combination of Butlins, Skegness and, er, October. Still, even if the weather is appalling, it's all about camaraderie and laughs really, so I'm sure a good time will be had by all.

The cartoon is from a short Owl and the Pussycat phase I went through last year ... here's another one.

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Officially as funny as Matt

"I know our brains see patterns where there are none, but you must admit that looks like Richard Dawkins."

It's nice to know that I can come up with the same joke as the nation's favourite cartoonist (editors take note.) Check out my cartoon from the August issue of Prospect, above, and today's Matt cartoon in the Daily Telegraph.

I should point out that I am in no way accusing Matt of plagiarism. Cartoonists often unwittingly come up with jokes that others have done. I've certainly done it. It tends to happen as we're all thinking about similar topical themes and working within the limited parameters of the joke cartoon.

Still, as I say, editors take note! ... Royston's portfolio website

Hat tip to my cartoonist pal Wilbur Dawbarn for spotting it.


Religion cartoon: Screaming Pope

As Pope Benedict is due to visit Britain this week, here's a cartoon I did a while back about scandals in the Catholic Church.

This was drawn and coloured completely with brush pens in a futile attempt to recreate one of Francis Bacon's haunting "Screaming Pope" paintings (this one: Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent.)

I was brought up as a Catholic and was even an altar boy, though thankfully I never suffered any abuse (no inappropriate jokes, please!) But, as you can probably guess from the cartoon, I'm now officially in the "lapsed" category.

More "art" cartoons


Not Yet Sold: Cowboy cartoon

"Actually, my name, if you had bothered to ask, is Keith."

Geddit?! He's been through the desert on a horse with no name! You know, like in the song? Oh, suit yourselves.

Perhaps the joke is a bit obscure, or expects a bit of a leap of logic, either way this cartoon is a long-time occupant of the rejected pile. Click the link for more Not Yet Sold cartoons.

It made me laugh, anyway. I liked the idea of a horse called Keith. My kids have a similar sense of humour, I think. We recently got an adorably cute kitten and they decided that he is to be called Mike. Not Fluffy, or Mr Tibbles. Mike.

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Family cartoon: Back to school

"You don't have to look quite so happy every time you see that sign..."

As the summer holidays draw to a close, here's a "back to school" cartoon, drawn for a local newspaper. I'd be lying if I said this was in no way autobiographical. Sorry, kids!

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What a laugh: Cartoons with an audience

My cartooning talk and slideshow at the Summer Squall arts festival in Ramsgate went very well, I'm relieved to be able to report. I'd been a little nervous beforehand, mostly wondering if people would laugh at the cartoons (in the desired way, that is) but laugh they did.

As we cartoonists work alone we don't usually get much feedback on our jokes, bar the odd email, or comments from friends, and you're never there to actually see and hear the reaction to your work. So it was a rare privilege to have an audience.

The caption on the opening cartoon above is "Ooh, tough crowd." Tempting fate, I know, but thankfully they weren't.

I was relieved also that plenty of people turned up for the talk, which I named Back to the Drawing Board (after the Peter Arno cartoon which introduced the phrase to the language) despite the fact that there were alarmingly few pre-bookings. The room was full to capacity and I'm told there were around 45 people there, of all ages too, from children (I'm glad I removed a couple of the more risqué cartoons) to senior citizens.

The talk took place in the seminar rooms at Ramsgate Library, and included showing the creation of a cartoon from beginning to end, starting with notebook rough, on to the pencil drawing, below ...

... through to the inked version, the scanned and amended version which gets sent out, the full-colour version, when required, and finally the cartoon on the magazine page, below.

It was the cartoon below, from Reader's Digest in 2008, because I'd saved the original pencil sketch (which I normally throw away) for a planned "beginning-to-end" blog post that never got written.

"I'm uncomfortable with the idea of Hangman, so Josh and I are enjoying a game of Whole Life Tariff."

I showed how to generate ideas by riffing on favourite themes, such as art and paintings -- as it was an arts festival -- and how you can narrow it down and concentrate on a very specific theme, illustrating this with a load of cartoons, published and unpublished, on Nipper, the HMV dog.

The latter was one of the most successful parts of the talk. This unpublished one, in particular, drew a surprising, but oddly satisfying "Aaaaah!" from the audience ...

There were also sections on cartoons with very long captions (as an example of how sometimes you can go against the grain and still have a cartoon that works), new spins on old cartoon themes such as the desert island, captionless and wordless gags, and puns to avoid. I finished up with a selection of my personal favourites, ending with a cartoon that features a truism relevant to all cartoonists:

"Sure, I came up with fire, and the wheel, but you're only as good as your last idea."

So, a success and a very enjoyable experience. And now that I've done my first cartoon talk I can announce that I am available for weddings, parties, bar mitzvahs, funerals ...

Booking now!