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can narrow it down and concentrate on a very specific theme, illustrating this with a load of cartoons, published and unpublished, on Nipper, the HMV dog.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 This unpublished one, in particular, drew a surprising, but oddly satisfying "Aaaaah!"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