Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Know your markets (and limits)

Knowing your markets is an important thing to be aware of when you draw gag cartoons. Sometimes you can guess which magazines might like a certain cartoon, but every now and then you get a surprise, and a magazine such as The Spectator takes a mother-in-law joke when you really didn't expect it.

However, with the following cartoon I knew only a couple of mags might entertain using it, so when they rejected it there was nowhere else to go, apart from this blog. I should point out my thinking behind it before anyone takes offence (oh, and I've censored the caption slightly for this online version). I do not in any way want to belittle AIDS, or charity, or the people who genuinely support certain causes. My issue is why should one cause be more 'fashionable' and worthy of celeb endorsements than another? It's something I've thought for a long time, and I was prompted to draw this back in May after the charity Wateraid issued a report about '...the inequity between the diseases that are killing children and the amounts of money being spent on them'.

I suppose the point I was trying to make might not be obvious, which would make it unpublishable (that, and the likelihood that it's not any good- who knows? Not me, I'm just the bloke who came up with it, so I'm biased). Perhaps I should steer clear of political stuff and concentrate on talking animals and mother-in-law jokes.
(Moral outrage aside, I quite liked this drawing, so these two WAG wannabes have been recylced in a new cartoon, minus ribbon, so might one day see themselves in print)

Sunday, 26 July 2009


This blog is entitled 'on cartoons and things', and this entry is more to do with 'things' than cartoons, but there will be the occasional reference to the world of scribbling.

Yesterday was a trip to London, with the intention of visiting one of my favourite art shops for supplies. First off however was a detour to Portobello Market. I prefer to avoid the scrum near Notting Hill, so I arrive at Ladbroke Grove and wander along the market that is under the Westway flyover. Should you ever find yourself in this part of the market I'd advise heading north up Portobello Road, away from the crowds. Here you'll find the cheaper dealers, and you might come across something interesting amongst the single ice skating boot and the packets of chewing gum on sale.

You also get to see the Trellick Tower on Golborne Road- designed by Bond villain Erno Goldfinger.

It's not everyone's cup of architectural tea, but I like it.
Didn't buy anything in the end- I ummd and ahhd over some old Punch magazines from the 1950's, but decided that they'd just end up in a box somewhere, so decided against buying them.

I eventually had to head back to the crowds at the Notting Hill gate side of the market, as that's where all the good food stalls are. Here you can find delicious healthy foods from across the globe- I avoid this and have a spicy bavarian hotdog of indeterminate meat (delicious!).
Entertainment was provided by this removal company...

Just next to Notting Hill Gate tube is this 2nd hand book/magazine shop.

Full of old graphic novels and comics it's a great place for fans of this sort of stuff to browse. Here I have to make a confession that will no doubt have me expelled from the cartoonist fraternity: I don't get graphic novels, and comics are things I haven't looked at since the 1970's (Saturday morning- Space 1999 on telly- new copy of 'Cheeky' comic in hand).
I've had a look at them, but can't see the appeal. I expect I'll be told otherwise, but they always seem to consist of the following subjects- dystopian cityscapes inhabited by psychologically damaged people (in the rain); angst ridden teenagers with issues (in the rain); werewolves and vampires, with issues probably (in the rain); oh, and sci-fi, which for me is just soap opera in space (unlikely to have rain in space, but i'm sure it can be included somehow).
I'll get me coat...

So, eventually I navigate a route through the tube system and emerge into Tottenham Court Road. A couple of minutes stroll into Bloomsbury and I get to my final destination- Cornelissen and Son is an art supplies shop that seems to have escaped from Harry Potter. Inside it's all creaky floor boards, wooden cabinets and drawers, multicoloured jars of strange pigments. You'd expect to find magic wands for sale amongst the art materials. They let me take a few pics.

After all that, didn't buy anything.
Nice day out though

Friday, 17 July 2009

Ch ch ch changes

Hopefully one of my favourite cartoonists, Wilbur, won't mind me nicking one of the themes he returns to every now and again on his blog- about how a style changes over the years.
I recently dug up what I think is the first cartoon I had published in Punch magazine, probably 10 or so years ago. I suppose you could say the drawing has a certain scratchy appeal, but I don't particularly like it. I was determined to use steel nibbed dip pens, because all my cartoonist heroes used them- most of the time I stabbed myself with them and dripped ink everywhere.

Not long after it was published the magazine folded- ok, all magazines fold, I mean shut down for good. Anyway, I also shut down my cartooning while the exciting world of IT Support took over my life.

Just recently, having dived back into the turbulent sea that is cartooning, I think I'm finally getting to a style I like- dip pens have been replaced by electronic stylus and computer, and stabbed fingers and ink smudges are no more. The majority of the drawings on this blog are in what I think is my new style. An interim style is what could be called my Rotring period- the first lot of cartoons I had published as I restarted cartooning were drawn with Rotring technical pens. Some of these cartoons are still only just being published, thanks to the delay between acceptance and publication- for example, this one in Reader's Digest...

It does appear, when you compare the styles in different magazines, that there are two 'Len' cartoonists-or maybe I have a split personality...?
(Who said that?!)

What is a cartoonist?

The trickiest bit, yet also the best (for me at least), is coming up with the ideas. The drawing part sometimes just seems a mechanical process to get the ideas out there. I do enjoy it really however, now that I think I'm developing a style I'm happy with. Other aspects of this business aren't so fun- I'm finding out that a cartoonist is in fact a :
Marketing consultant
IT technician
I think I work more hours now than when I was in an office (and there aren't any free biscuits).

Thursday, 9 July 2009


It's a tricky thing topicality- as a cartoonist do you draw something based around the news, when you know that every other cartoonist is desperately trying to sell similar gags? Sometimes it's better to come up with a cartoon that won't have to compete against other similar gags- cue the desert island or psychiatrist couch.

However, I was lucky with this one which I think is in this week's Spectator magazine (it's on their website, but I haven't checked out the mag yet).

Perhaps it got through because it had a slightly different twist to the whole redacted furore? Who knows- cartoon editors are a tricky lot to second guess- but they're all wonderful-especially those who choose my stuff (I think I should shut up now).

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Life Drawing

My only tuition in art has been a life class at the Charles Cecil studios in Florence, Italy last year. I was over there studying History of Art at the British Institute of Florence, and the life class was an optional extra- well, y'know, there's not much to see or do over there really, so I had to occupy myself. That is, in between pigging out on Bistecca alla Fiorentina and trying out most of the cocktails in the Art Bar.

But I digress...I wish I had more training in art, so it's good to see that Channel 4 is currently running a life class tuition on TV at lunchtimes. I know all my friends and family think that all I do these days is watch daytime telly, so here I am admitting it. My attempts at drawing what is on screen have been rather hopeless, so I had another go at drawing a live model in my house- Next Door's Cat (NDC). I went upstairs and found he'd snuck in through the back door and tried to camouflage himself against the brown fur (fake!) rug/blanket thing that is in the spare room.

I used a Japanese style brush pen- normally i draw my cartoons on the computer, so it was odd not to have the undo function to cover my ineptitude. Here is the result- let's play 'find the black cat on the brown fur rug'!

(for the musos amongst you-that's a microKorg being used by NDC as a base for his bed )