Sunday, 29 March 2009

Pirate and Confidential

This is a simple idea from the days of yore, which took ages to draw, thus fulfilling some hidden rule about these things. That’s supposed to be Long John Silver, hanging out his washing and sending a personal message at the same time using International Maritime signal flags, for which I've provided a handy key. The parrot, I now realise, should have been the apostrophe on the top line, but it's the weekend.
You really need to click on it to see it properly, and if you don’t understand the joke you’d better click on this.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

On the shelf (and staying there): Gerd Arnst

Here’s one for the graphic designerds. In my college years, much to the bemusement of my friends, I discovered that I only needed a small proportion of my grant to stay alive, and that I could spend the rest on second-hand books. One such s-hb was a first edition (yes, and you can’t have it) of ‘Modern Man in the Making’ by Otto Neurath - ‘Director of the International Foundation for Visual Education.’ I paid 50p, and it may not have been in perfect condition but my tutor offered me lots of money for it, which I refused (yes, he couldn’t have it either).
Published by Knopf in 1939, it describes itself as ‘A unique text and picture book for the intelligent citizen - an analysis of the fundamental trends in the social, political and economic life of humanity.’ Packed with graphs, charts, maps etc, it’s printed by letterpress, in mainly black, red and blue. This ‘Isotype’ by Gerd Arnst, in a section called ‘Past and Present,’ is in six colours, perfectly registered. (You can count them, but you can’t have it).
Here’s a textract (the italics are mine too):

“Modern scientific methods and engineering have spread over the whole world, especially the technology of war, which is the backbone of the political and social life of the present time. The elimination of the strange is necessarily accompanied by unification. Photographs of a League of Nations Congress or of an international naval conference reveal Western dress and Western Uniform with very few exceptions. Progress from the colourful multifarious picture of the arms and weapons of the past up to the egalitarian sameness of modern uniforms is symbolic...
“… Mankind disposes of better equipment, better planning, and better methods for killing and tormenting fellow-beings than for making life and living-conditions secure.”

(No, you can’t have it - it's mine).

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A way in

This go-insidence was the idea that turned into ‘One Man and his Dogs.’ I thought of it, and then had to think up a book to go around it. This is how things work in my universe. What’s it like in yours?
Bizarrely the drawing for this idea is the smallest, worst drawn and worst printed in the book – it's almost invisible. Here it is, redrawn in Technicolor. I’d like to think it’s an improvement, but I’m not so sure. Perhaps there’s something I need to relearn…
That’s pretty much it for Pavlov & Co – for now.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Off the shelf: Me 8

The story: After the attention that followed the publication of Pavlov’s experiments has burned itself out in a tabloid frenzy, a veteran of Pavlov’s experiments is reduced to begging in the streets. A man walking past throws down coins, which he can’t eat. His begging bowl may be made of metal, in which case the ringing sound that results when the coins land in it can only increase his hunger. Ecce Cano.
Another story: At my degree show a few people actually bought copies of this book. Several other people stole them (a good sign, I was told), and I gave some to friends and family. I’ve got two good copies left, and a pile of bad copies, one of which was dismantled for scanning. No dogs were hurt in the making of this blog.
Sob story: After college I had a brief career as an illustrator before a family crisis, lasting the best part of ten years, engulfed me. I escaped for a while to become a childminder for some good friends who took me in and entrusted me with their son. During that time I gave up drawing altogether and became a comedian, with an audience of one.
Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Off the shelf: Me 7

Back to my own mongrel efforts. Here we see some dogs on a tram reading ‘Conditioned Reflexes in Dogs’ by I Pavlov. While a few of Pavlov’s dogs enjoy the fame that publication brings others want to remain out of the limelight, but find themselves given away by their strange conditioned behaviour.
You’ll be glad to know we’re nearly at the end of ‘One Man and his Dogs’ now. Then I’ll be able to put some colour back into this blog. It’s looking a bit pale.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Off the shelf: C Hemstock

At the same time I was desperately struggling to produce my book of dogs, my friend and fellow student, Clare Hemstock, was calmly and methodically producing her own book called ‘Ten Sheep,’ which made me feel like a child playing with crayons.
The book was based on an ancient shepherd’s counting system, the Lincolnshire version of which goes: yan, tan, tethera, pethera, pimp, sethera, lethera, hovera, covera, dyk; and it consisted of eight wood engravings containing ten sheep and one shepherd dog. My copy is no.7 in a limited edition of 100. This is my favourite image, appropriately titled ‘Pimp’.
After college we spent several years sending each other elaborate jokey letters, but eventually lost touch when she moved. I have no idea what she’s doing now, but she did once talk about pig farming.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Off the shelf: Me 6

This drawing comes from the section called After the Famous Experiments. By this time Pavlov’s dogs have woken up to the fact that they’re being exploited and duped. They escape with the help of the Dog Liberation Front and go on the run. Here Pavlov visits the police station to report them missing.
It’s based on a true story – everything has been changed except the names.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Off the shelf: Me again (5)

This one comes from the Time Off section. It seems to have been a bit more carefully drawn than the others. I remember thinking about putting a scene of St Petersburg in the background. If you look closely at the white space you might just be able to make out that thought, failing to materialise.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Off the shelf: Me 4

Here Pavlov is trying to explain to his dogs how they’re supposed to associate the ringing of a bell with food. They’re not really taking it in. Eventually he has to try a different approach.
The idea was to print 50 copies of the book with offset litho. It was all very last-minute, so I didn't prepare the artwork in the right way and several of the printing plates turned out to be unusable. Some of them were redone and some I ended up scratching into to add some missing lines, as there was so little time left. The bookbinder managed to bind up at least 20 of the books in the wrong order and didn’t finish the rest until the day after the private view.
People told me such things were entirely normal.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Off the shelf: Me 3

Not knowing what you’re doing is often a very interesting state to be in, but it’s a bit tricky when you’re a month away from a degree show and you’re trying to produce a book of cartoons about Pavlov and his Famous Experiments on Conditioned Reflexes.
One important consideration in such a book would be narrative structure, but ‘narrative’ turned out to be too strong a word to describe the result. In the end the book consisted of randomly-arrived-at ideas hurriedly cobbled together and grouped into four sections: Before the Famous Experiments; The Famous Experiments; Time Off from the Famous Experiments; After the Famous Experiments.
This drawing comes from the second section (obviously). I remember being quite pleased with it because of its energy and ‘dogginess.’ It got a page to itself. Nowadays I'd carefully redraw the life out of it.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Off the shelf: Me 2

This one’s a bit boring, but it’s the title page so you’ll have to put up with it. Stop complaining. Click on it to see it bigger (it's just as boring).
I'll write more about the tortuous process of producing this book another day, when I feel a bit less like Rambo's armpit.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Off the shelf: Me

In my last year at college, having made the decision to be a cartoonist rather than a graphic designer, I produced a book of cartoons called ‘One Man and his Dogs.’ It was a part biography, part fantasy on the life and experiments of Ivan Pavlov, whose work with dogs led him to the discovery of Conditioned Reflexes, and a Nobel Prize. The whole thing is really one long riff on dogs, bells and food. I thought this week I’d post a few spreads from it, starting with this wraparound cover, based on the pied piper or the dance of death – take your pick. (You'll have to click on it to see it bigger).
In spite of spending lots of time feverishly sketching people in museums and galleries, my drawing skills were minimal. I was using a black Schwan Stabilo crayon, which forced me to draw large, against my usual habits, and then reducing the drawings to the required size on a photocopier (a technique that turned out to be a huge mistake as the printing was a disaster). Although the drawings are pretty ropey, there’s a looseness and ‘openness’ to them that I’ve since lost, and in some ways bad drawing is funnier than good. Oddly I seem to have lost the original drawings too, somewhere down the line. I may have thrown them away.

Sunday, 15 March 2009


This idea was my ‘logo’ for a long time, in the days when I did a lot of work for Women’s magazines. It went through umpteen redraws.
Sometimes an idea comes with a drawing attached; other times you have to struggle to find a drawing that does the idea justice. I have a file of ideas that I’ve never been able to draw up, some of them too interesting to 'waste' on a bad drawing. They’ll have to wait until I’m competent enough to draw them.
I'd rather have an idea without a drawing than a drawing without an idea.
This one is done in compacted charcoal and coloured pencils, my media of choice before I went digital. I still like the idea, but don't like the eyes. I've always had trouble with eyes (including my own).

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Virgil on the ridiculous

Back to the 17-year-old. At school one of the subjects I was subjected to was Classical Civilisations. The teacher, a Mr Murray, caught me showing someone how to draw Mickey Mouse while we were supposed to be reading The Georgics by Virgil. As punishment he made me do some drawings illustrating passages from the poem. I can’t remember how many I did but this is the sole survivor, only because I hadn’t quite finished it and didn’t hand it over with the others, thus saving it from the evil clutches of Mr Murray, who either liked them or threw them in the bin. Either way I never saw them again. This traumatic event has led me to associate missing deadlines with preserving my artwork and has destroyed my career – Curse you, Mr Murray!!
I don’t remember a lot about the Georgics, except that it was very long and there was an enormous amount of stuff about bees. Thus it is that I don’t know who those people are or why that watersnake is up a tree. I may not have known at the time. Frankly I wasn't interested - I was busy showing someone how to draw Mickey Mouse, wasn't I?

Friday, 13 March 2009


Sticking closely
to my chronic
illogical order,
here’s another
one from way up
my sleeve.
I don’t remember
doing this, but I
did it and here
it is.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Short pose

This, I’m afraid, is another college thing; a rough for a drawing which was exhibited and sold. It’s a joke about Pirelli calendars. There was a year when they covered their young ladies in tyre tracks, so I wondered whether, if this young lady posed in the road, she might gain some tyre tracks of her own.
I almost called it Pirelli Jelly.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Off the shelf: H M Bateman

‘The Colonel implores his daughter to be reasonable’ is one of my favourite cartoons by Henry Mayo Bateman. Described by GK Chesterton as ‘the master of wild exactitude’ (whatever that means), Bateman became very successful during the ‘20s and ‘30s mainly through his ‘The Man Who…’ series for the Tatler.
Like many cartoonists he really wanted to be a serious artist but didn’t quite make the grade – it was said of him that he ‘lacked a sense of humour.’
This drawing comes from a collection called ‘Colonels,’ published in 1925, but here is reproduced from a biography, predictably titled ‘The Man Who Was H.M. Bateman,’ from 1982.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Indoor plant

To escape from the last post, here’s a jump-cut to some flower power drawn not too long after I left college, when I’d rediscovered the joys of compacted charcoal and coloured pencils. I was ‘slightly’ influenced by Magritte in those days (see here) and this one may have been ‘slightly’ influenced by ‘The Unexpected Answer’ - either that or Tom and Jerry.

Sunday, 8 March 2009


Having got the bug for posting ancient artefacts I’ve been digging into deeper archaeological layers of mud in my cupboards. It’s amazing what you can find down there. Here’s a page of cartoon-like accretions, which I didn’t realise had survived the ravages of time and limited storage space. Who knows how old I was when I drew these - my teenage years were fairly gruesome so I’m assuming it was before then - maybe 11 or 12. The first one, Long time no sea, is a copy of a joke I'd discovered in a comic called Whizzer and Chips and was very impressed with at the time. The others are typical boy’s humour, ie. not remotely funny.

Saturday, 7 March 2009


This was an idea for a screenprint which never happened so I tried out my new coloured pencils.
I was thinking alot about paradox at the time and wanted to be a Paradoctor. It seemed to me that if you took anything to it's logical conclusions you'd end up with nonsense.
In the end I wasn't intelligent enough to be a Paradoc, so I settled for a career as an Oxymoron instead.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Country music

A straightforward student pun with no bass notes, and a quavering attempt to draw some ‘countryside’ in the background. This is a scan of a photocopy as, believe it or not, I sold the original - even though it was very small due to the size of the music stave I traced it off. I can't remember how much I got for it - probably just enough for a cup of tea and a bun.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Off the shelf: Ronald Searle

It was Ronald Searle’s 89th birthday on Tuesday. This is ‘Gemini’ from his 1977 series called ‘Zoodiac’ – fantastic idea, beautifully drawn. It’s from a French anthology ’45 Ans de Dessins’ published in 1984. There’s a tribute blog by Matt Jones that’s worth a look.
Apart from the creative idea, Searle’s three requirements for success are working discipline, absolute command of the medium and constant productivity. Crikey – I thought you just had to ‘Believe!’

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


Another weird object from
back the way I came.

What’s it all about?
Who knows, but I obviously
thought it was interesting
enough to draw up – and
now I’m finding it interesting
enough to put on my blog.

Or have I just run out of
old stuff to post?

No - more old stuff
to come!

Monday, 2 March 2009


Another extraction from studentistry, this time drawn to a brief.
In the early ‘80s some sparky marketing men had the idea of bringing out a new British cheese, the first for 200 years, with the made-up name of Lymeswold, and we had to say something about it in an ‘illustration.’
This idea came disturbingly quickly and I assumed it was too obvious. It seemed to fit the brief a little too well, and I was never any good at following briefs, preferring to use them as starting points to wander off on some tangent of my own.
The cheese was taken off the market after less than ten years - because it was shit.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Off the wall: Spike Milligan

Spike Milligan, ‘a hero with coward’s legs’, was something of a hero to me growing up. Comedy writer and performer, poet, jazz musician, playwright and campaigner, he suffered from manic-depression (bipolar disorder), thought to have resulted from shellshock in the WW2, which made him a part-time genius. Known as the Comedian’s Comedian, he wrote and performed in over 250 episodes of The Goon Show for BBC radio in the ‘50s, then did the ‘Q’ series on television from 1969-82. Both shows had a huge influence on British comedy, including Monty Python. His comedic style mixed surreal situations with a kind of dogged literal-mindedness, subverting both logic and language itself.
"My Father had a profound influence on me, he was a lunatic."
"Are you going to come quietly, or do I have to use earplugs?"
"A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree."
This drawing ‘I am afraid of the dark’ is another one on the wall close to my workspace. It comes from a book of poetry called ‘Small Dreams of a Scorpion’ published in 1972.