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can narrow it down and concentrate on a very specific theme, illustrating this with a load of cartoons, published and unpublished, on Nipper, the HMV dog.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 This unpublished one, in particular, drew a surprising, but oddly satisfying "Aaaaah!"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!


Talk and slideshow ready for arts festival

"Death, where is thy Sting?"

This weekend I'll be putting the case for when puns are acceptable (the case for the defence, above), looking at how to generate ideas, presenting the "journey" of a cartoon from rough idea to magazine page, and generally showing off and hoping for laughs, with a talk/slideshow at A Summer Squall, the Ramsgate arts festival.

I've put the slideshow together this week and have written a few notes to go with it. There will also (hopefully) be a Q&A session.

If you're in the area, come along. It's on at Ramsgate Library at 2pm on Saturday. Admission is free but you need to book. Tickets are available at the Custom House, Harbour Parade, Ramsgate, or by calling 07544-971 685.

For more on A Summer Squall, a three-day event which includes music, theatre, film, exhibitions, workshops etc, see the website.


Not Yet Sold: Art cartoon

"Funny guy, eh?"

Here's another rejected cartoon. One of quite a few I've done over the years which riff on the René Magritte painting The Son of Man. Here's one which did see publication, and so is all coloured in properly.

Click the link for more Not Yet Sold cartoons.

Once again, this gag has been given an airing in a non-earning fashion, as it appears in the latest edition 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.

Royston's portfolio website


Book illustration: Keeping it fresh

This week I've been drawing some cartoon illustrations for the updated edition of a school careers textbook, replacing the drawings by the previous artist: me.

The book is about writing CVs and applying for jobs and college courses. The last lot were drawn in late 2006 and the book came out in 2007, so I was a bit unsure at first that I'd be able to come up with a whole bunch of different ideas on the same subject.

However, a lot has changed since 2006, and now there are chapters on using social-networking sites and so on. We didn't even know what a Twitter was in 2006!

Anyway, above is an illustration from the old edition. That's genuinely how people used to look for work back in the old days of the mid-to-late-noughties, kids.

Royston's portfolio website

Angling cartoon: Tribute to a dead fish

Occasionally, local-paper stories which my cartoons accompany turn up on the national news. You may have heard this week about the death of Britain's biggest freshwater fish. Two Tone was a, er, local fish, from the Canterbury area. Here's the cartoon I drew.
"He was the carp of our hearts ... the people's oily freshwater fish ..."

It's a classic silly-season story if ever there was one, particularly when you hear that the fish has caused several broken marriages.

When I read that anglers were leaving messages of condolence on internet forums I decided the joke could be about the over-the-top way the public seems to react to death these days, and has done since the death of Princess Diana.

This cartoon shows that reference material can be a useful tool for cartoonists. I needed something to go with "the people's" so I looked up carp online and used the Wikipedia definition. I have to admit to chuckling at the idea of "the people's oily freshwater fish" as I drew!

Royston's portfolio website


Boardroom cartoon: The economic climate

"I think we must accept that things have got to get worse before they can get even worse."

It's been a while since I posted one of my boardroom cartoons, which I've drawn regularly for a business publication since 2003.

This one is about the current economic doom and gloom, with all the talk of cuts and more cuts. A cartoon for not very cheerful times. Still, I hope it raises a smile. Click the image to enlarge.

Royston's portfolio website


History cartoon: The Normans

Every time I turn on the BBC these days they're talking about The Normans, the new history series, so here's "another chance to see", to adopt the current TV euphemism for repeat showings, a Normans cartoon which appeared in Private Eye earlier this year. Click the image to enlarge.

This is one I will almost certainly be showing at my aforementioned talk on cartooning. Have I aforementioned that enough yet?

Royston's portfolio website


Morris dancing cartoon: For Broadstairs Folk Week

"It's important to keep up English traditions." – "Hic! I agree. The morris dancing is fun, too."

I drew this cartoon a while back, as I've always found it funny that hobbies such as morris dancing, bell-ringing, and the like, are usually just a cover for serious drinking, which is fair enough.

The cartoon is posted here to mark Broadstairs Folk Week, which begins tomorrow (August 6). It can also be seen over at the local Thanet website Isle One, along with a short interview with me, plugging my aforementioned talk on cartooning.

Folk Week means that the town will be overrun with morris dancers, musicians and lots of people with beards for the next seven days. It's always good fun and there's lots to see and do. I'm even planning a bit of time away from the drawing board myself.

Now, where did I leave that tambourine?

Royston's portfolio website


Cartoon talk at the Summer Squall arts festival

I'm going to be presenting a slideshow and talk entitled "Back to the Drawing Board" at Ramsgate Arts' A Summer Squall festival on the August Bank Holiday Weekend.

The idea is that I'll show a load of cartoons – mostly published but maybe a few rejected ones as well – read the captions and talk a little about themes covered, the background to the cartoons, the process of coming up with ideas and drawing the cartoons etc. Hopefully it'll raise a few chuckles and there will be questions and input from the audience.

The talk takes place at 2pm at Ramsgate Library on Saturday 28 August. Admission is free but you need to book. Tickets are available at the Custom House, Harbour Parade, Ramsgate, or by calling 07544-971 685.

A Summer Squall is a three day event with a wide variety of arts activities, including music, theatre, film, exhibitions, workshops etc, for people living in and visiting Ramsgate. For updates and more details see the Ramsgate Arts website.