London Love Story

Cartooning for the uninitiated

December 9, 2014

Frankie 2

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Political Cartoon Society’s annual Christmas bash. I suppose I don’t really need to say that it’s annual because most people do realise that Christmas only comes once a year, despite what Band Aid think, so it’s kind of redundant. But I’ve said it now, so we’re stuck with it.

I accompanied my husband along, who is himself a political cartoonist (for a New Zealand paper, though). There were sausage rolls, mince pies and copious glasses of wine on offer, so it was easy to convince me that this was a good idea. There was also a fantastic exhibition of British cartoons from 2014 on display and the announcement of the winner of the Cartoonist of the Year Award (Peter Brookes – in Italy, so I didn’t meet him), and Cartoon of the Year Award (Brian Adcock- very nice and he let Mark hold his trophy). We also met Jeremy Paxman, so you can see that the celebrity factor of the evening was immense.

Brian Adcock lets Mark hold his trophy

Brian Adcock lets Mark hold his trophy

Mark meets Jeremy Paxman

Mark meets Jeremy Paxman

Mark and Dr Tim Benson - the man who puts all this together

Mark and Dr Tim Benson – the man who puts all this together

Until I stumbled into a relationship with Mark (or should that be fumbled?) I never really paid much attention to political cartoons. I knew that they existed, and sometimes I’d open up a paper and see some scribbles I enjoyed, but they never occupied much of my brain space. This has changed. Mark (or ‘Chicane’, his cartoon alias since 1976) has opened me up to whole new world of satirical renderings – from Ralph Steadman to Ronald Searle to Sir David Low.

To be fair I did have some slight knowledge of Steadman already, due to a dalliance with the writings of Hunter S. Thompson born from a teenage obsession for anything vaguely related to Johnny Depp. And I probably would have discovered Searle sooner rather than later as I bloody love cats. I feel 70% certain that some of Low’s cartoons appeared in my Year 11 History course, but it wasn’t until Mark told me more about him that I actually learned his name and paid attention. It’s a bit ridiculous that I had never heard of him before, because he was New Zealander. There are only a few million of us, so I should be able to keep tabs.

Mark with one of David Low's cartoons

Mark with one of David Low’s cartoons

Though Low is currently dead, his legacy lives on as the cartoonist whose works were so biting and vicious that Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels made an official complaint to the British Foreign Secretary, and Low later found himself named on Hitler’s death list. That’s pretty badass for a few scribbles.

I could go on and on, getting into all kinds of interesting and historical cartoon nitty gritty. I won’t because I’m not a historian and blogs are brief. However, if you are interested in learning a little more about the art form, I do recommend Steadman, Searle and Low as fantastic gateway drugs into the world of cartooning. Read up about them, look at their cartoons, feel intellectually superior to your peers and then move into some of the more modern cartooning. Go to cartooning events. You’ll be able to easily spot the cartoonists – they’re always the ones with mismatched clothes, rumpled hair, a ‘don’t-give-a-fuck’ glint in their eyes and a wild menagerie of pens about their person. You’ll love them.

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