Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Chatter

You might spot a current theme (well themes) on a couple of the cartooning blogs I link to. It's old TV shows and dolls, er, action figures. That jammy so-and-so Mark Anderson has gone and picked up a bug-catcher Spiderman doll, er, action figure, and I want one. Mike Lynch, meanwhile is listing some great old TV shows (my favourites were My Favourite Martian, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, etc,etc) and Rick (Baby Blues) Kirkman mentioned Captain Scarlet. Well, it just so happens that I have my Captain Scarlet doll, er, action figure, right here beside me as I'm drawing. Yes, I've given up the helper monkey and Captain Scarlet now picks the pens for me. Today he chose a Rapidograph Ko-i-Noor:

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Actually, I gave up smoking about 10 years ago, and the urge to smoke has now worn off. My son smokes though. What can you do?

Yes! Feeling it again.

Things are a little slow, but I'm creeping back into it. Here's a handy tip, after a period of not working, begin by cleaning out your pens. I cleaned my US Rotring (Ko-I-Noor), my Rotrings and Staetdlers, and my brush pens, filling them all with FW Acrylic ink. Some pens I fill using a syringe from a compter ink refill kit, others with an eye dropper; very handy.

So, I'm also looking into a new market and it really is new for me, it's in Holland. I think my favourite Dutch cartoonist is Joost Swarte, but he's more an illustrator (architect, playwrite, etc), than a cartoonist. Hopefully, cartoons which refer to the current anti-smoking legislation in Scotland, transfer just as well to other countries. In the main, when it's a universal thing like smoking and smoking bans, they generally do. I've drawn smoking-related cartoons for publications in the US and Ireland:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Forced back to work.

Things are going well, considering the added complications. As usual the NHS staff were brilliant, beyond brilliant, in fact. Dom is home, and there's been a little set-back but she's telling us not too fuss. We're getting some hospital-type gear tomorrow so she's more comfortable.
Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers and good wishes.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Sorry, I won’t be posting until my daughter (she drew
And wrote Edward for Shoit Crock 11, see below) leaves
Hospital, and is back home, safe and sound.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


If any of you are tapping the links, you should have visited Mike Lynch's blog by now. I'm sure my Breetish Chooms are staring google-eyed at Bunny Hoest's house on Long Island. 'My God', they'll say 'that's the kind of estate you can get from a graphics panel?'. Well, no. Probably not, not any longer anyway (although Gary Larson could have afforded one, and maybe has one on that little island where rich cartoonists stay).

It's Mike's piece about redraws I want to talk about. I'd never done any and Mike mentioned his requests from the Wall Street Journal for a redraw and low and behold, about a week or two later, I got asked to do one. Of course you know the judges here, in the UK, wear wigs, but remember I was doing this cartoon for the WSJ. Charles and Kim suggested I add another character and they were right, it improved the cartoon a lot:

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


On a non-cartooning note, I've had 100 phone calls from a company that thinks it's hard. It's called Capquest and it appears to be staffed entirely by cretins. For some reason they've decided to pester me about a student debt, even though it's about 20 years since I was a student. I was appalled to discover though, that student loan details have been handed over to this crowd of deadbeats. Of course it's self-defeating because since this is a private company with none of the special rights awarded to Quangos like the Student Loan Company, all debts of around 6 years are Ultra-Vires. If any ex-students out there are being harassed (they usually breach the FSA and OFT guidelines on phone calling alone) by these cowboys, I suggest they look up this websitefor explicit details on how to complain.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Why is everyone else so talented?

I really like this cartoon, but it just isn't catching the cartoon editor's eye.

So, anyway, I stop for lunch and unwind a little, and I'm feeling pretty good, I'm enjoying drawing, I've got a couple of good gag cartoons down on paper (I think) and some comic pages done and then I go for a quick surf and I pop along Eric Drooker's site and he has made it even more brilliant than it was. I look over at my little drawings on my little table and suddenly I feel the climb back up onto my chair is akin to tackling all the Monroes (mountains of a certain height) in Scotland.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Beautiful Mutants

I've only just recently discovered the work of MARK MOTHERSBAUGH (I know, I'm slow), which is weird because I collect old Freak Show posters.

Crowned Jowells'

Would you believe it? I was drawing into the wee small hours, and then emailed lo-res cartoons in for approval, and one hour later the Jowells' split up. So the cartoon is caught up in a sort of purgatory between the scandal (newsworthy) and the 'seperation', because it features the Jowells's in bed together. Of course I'm deeply cynical about the 'seperation', not just because of the timing but also because of the Millibandish and Campbellesque syntax, supposedly from a man who barely seems able to string sentences together at the drop of a hat 'so, who'll pay for that then?'.

New Labour - Squeky clean, whiter than white...ah, well, I suppose God will judge!

I am, I must say, so astonished at how greedy these people are that I am beginning to suspect that there is a Heaven, that rich people do get in, and that you can take IT with you. How else can you explain these people?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Current Projects (all books)

These are all books and I'm working on them simultaneously, but individually, if you follow. Each project sits in its own A3-size wallet (transparent) and each one is taken out, in turn, about once a month, and I try to do about 3 to 5 pages of each. Sometimes I'd rather work on one in particular, but I know what the finishing order will be:

The working title for this is Private Lives, but I'll change that. I know what the actual title will be. That's me at the window of my old flat overlooking a Georgian Square in Edinburgh's Bo-Ho district of Stockbridge.

This was called Strange Fruit and it was drawn by brush, initially, it's been severely edited over the last year and it now has a new title, is drawn by pen, and is much longer, about 100 pages. It's a story about ghosts, growing up, and sectarianism in Scotland.

This is a page from Eddie and the Banshee, a picture book.

Current Projects 2

In order to work on these book projects I try to concentrate on only a very few gag cartoon markets. I try to knock those cartoons out early, every day, to hit the deadlines. The rest of the time, after my admin' stuff, I work on the other projects that have to be finished. Perhaps good time-management is a skill that many illustrators overlook, but they certainly need it:

This is The Bee Man setting off on his journey. I did a Quick-Layering tutorial for this book page, in about 6 steps, and cartoonist Nigel Sutherland managed to cut even one of those stages, so it's down to 5 easy steps, I'll post a link to it HERE soon.

This is an early page from one of the greatest story's ever written, A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

And this is a page from one of the greatest poems ever written, Tam O'Shanter, by Robert Burns. After talking to Mike Lynch about this, I decided to go back to work on it.

This page is from The Mezzotint by M.R. James. I finished the entire thing just last month, a little behind schedule.

The Death of the Gag Cartooning Craft

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy drawing gag cartoons, but I'm not a masochist. There used to be a slew of markets, but they just are not there now. At one point, here in the UK, every national paper (and there was more of them) ran anything up to 6 cartoons a day, plus there was a variety of weekly, fortnightly, and monthly titles, from Weekend magazine to She, and , of course, Punch, publishing, literally, hundreds of cartoons every month. Now, Punch has gone the way of Weekend and only one daily runs cartoons.

In the US a lot of titles still use cartoons, but many have either closed-down, or just stopped using them.

If anyone asks my advice on gag cartooning today, I'm quite blunt and I advise them against even starting submitting cartoons. My advice is always, 'become an illustrator', even though the difference between an illustrator and a cartoonist is often simple semantics. Like most cartoonists of my generation I had a lot of avenues, bifurcations, that just aren't around today. I was an editorial cartoonist, an illustrator, a writer/illustrator for IPC, I drew and wrote a comic for IPC's Buster, I did a daily panel, a strip, adverts, paintings, books, and the odd cartoon. There just isn't the opportunity these days, as our publications either prefigured, or followed, the media trend of 'reality' over fiction and the predominance of the photograph over illustrations.

But that doesn't mean you can't draw for a living, it simply means that you might be better spending your apprenticeship (the time it takes to get published and then to earn a living) exploring other ways of making a name for yourself. In this respect I would suggest you draw mini-comics, attempt to get into indy anthologies, and develop a website to show of your goods. The portfolio you build up around this work, which you can take to Comic Conventions and the like, will almost certainly pay off better long term than gag cartooning, unless you are well connected, hugely talented, and incredibly lucky.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Free the One Wagner (Wagner One, really)

Cartoonist and cartoon historian Arnold Wagner has a terrific blog at the best of times, but he has really outdone himself with his article on Richard Dennison Taylor. You can Google RDT all you want and I'm betting that outside Arnold's blog you'll find very little info' on this fantastic cartoonist, and brilliant surrealist artist. Taylor's weird strip, 'Mystery Men', is likely to be even more difficult to find as a result of the more modern 'Mystey Men' comic book and film.

For a look at the strip you'll have to swing on over to Arnold's blog, but I can't resist showing one of RDT's paintings, which he may well have signed 'Horsolam vin Sshaddebok of Frodokom':

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The 11th Shoitcrock

I have heard through the grapevine that Shoitcrock 11 is landing on door mats in the US already. It won't get to the UK for weeks, but I can show you a sneak preview of the McKie contribution, which we did under our joint initials as K (Kim).D(Dom).R (Rod)McKie.

This year, instead of an anthology, it's a collection of mini-comics edited together in a fetching package by the very, very, hard-working Lou Copeland. My daughter Kim volunteered me for this, at very short notice, but her sister Dom was willing to add a story so there wasn't a huge amount of work to do. Our joint mini-comic is a little rough, for instance we couldn't trim the edges of the comics, but that's part of the charm of minis, I suppose:

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Mad Women still in that Attic.

I was thinking about the untimely death of Linda Smith and it struck me that if any male comedian had died in her place, no matter how mediocre his comedic talents, he would have merited more air time and more newsprint. I suppose we've come a long way since women authors pretended to be men, but it seems that some other professions, despite the odd token woman-in-charge, are way behind the times.

In cartooning, women play a huge role, but seldom turned up at the old Punch lunches, or even feature much in cartooning award ceremonies (with one or two notable exceptions). Britain's well-published female cartoonists have been particularly anonimous on the web, whilst males with little-or-no cartooning experience proudly proclaim themselves to be 'cartoonists' and are openly touting their 'work'. So, what I thought I'd do is point you at one or two cartoonists, mainly from the US and Canada, who are on the web as well as in print:

I'll search for links, if any are missing, I'll drop them in later. Drop me a line if you think you should be on my list (poor memory).

David suggested Carolita Johnson as an addition to my list. I popped along to her website and laughed out loud at her solution for bird flu. After seeing another bird cartoon, 'not puffy enough for you?', I'm now a big fan. Thanks for the heads up, David.

Carolita Johnson
Benita Epstein (one of my favourite cartoonists, male or female)
Stephanie Piro
Sandra Bell-Lundy
Kim Warp
Aline Kominsky-Crumb
Patricia Storms
Jessica Abel (Artbabe)
Raina Telgemeier
Hope Larson
Lynda Barry
Megan Kelso
Christine Tripp
Patricia Kadel
Elena Steier
Jenny Gonzalez
Lorna Miller

Linda Smith RIP

Linda Smith, R.I.P

I laughed out loud every time I heard Linda Smith’s droll humour.
She was incredibly funny.  I even watched Have I Got News for You
when she was on it.  I suppose those who knew her well knew she
Was ill with cancer, but it came as a shock to fans like me.  Forty
Eight is a ridiculously young age at which to die.  My heart goes out
To her loved ones.