Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A Tot of Rum

Today’s Westmorland Gazette stories had a number of splendid, potential cartoons hidden amongst them but the lead leapt out as having the most mileage.
Cumbria County Council and the NHS have conducted a Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire. It has revealed that nearly half of teenagers in the county have had alcohol bought for them by their parents. This is Not a Good Thing for teenagers but, clearly, Quite a Good Thing for cartoonists.
When tackling sensitive material like this, I have to be careful. A cartoon on a similar story about Alcopops, some years ago, so incensed the local skateboard community that I had to go into hiding. The newspaper had more letters about it than any other cartoon I’ve drawn. (I reproduce it below in the hope of generating a few more.)
A truly wise cartoonist would tiptoe carefully around this topic. However, good jokes are rarely the product of tact and tiptoeing, so ... 
The sketches I submitted are below and you can see the final artwork on my website from Thursday.
If, incidentally, this blog doesn’t appear next week, it will be because Akela has issued a fatwah.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Feeling Spent

Today’s visit to The Westmorland Gazette editorial office was more than usually exciting.
It’s usually pretty interesting for a humble Lake District cartoonist such as myself. 
The relentlessly high-tech office always has a hushed air of concentration, underpinned by a vibrant undercurrent of tension as some of the nation’s finest journalists relentlessly pursue the slenderest of news leads and turn them into finely crafted prose, honed to perfection for the great British public to enjoy over their cereals the following morning.
I usually shimmy into the office about 2.00 p.m. to be presented with the latest hot story as it is about to be splashed across the front page. I then take this over to the Cartoon Desk, summon a trainee journalist to sharpen all my pencils and then begin the arduous process of devising jokes to match the Olympian text.
Today was slightly different - no front page story. Well, there were a few contenders but the debate was still raging about which to use.
Fortunately, the rest of the nation was involved in following the government’s Spending Review announcement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Donny Osmond. 
Now, it doesn’t take a huge amount of genius to figure that some aspect or other of Osmond’s review is going to feature in tomorrow’s front page lead story. However, even allowing for that, I felt a bit smug when I’d done four ideas for the paper without seeing any stories. You can see the sketches below.
Which was chosen will be revealed in tomorrow’s paper, along with a front page which will be a surprise to us all, not least me. Of course, I left the cartoon with them at 5.00 p.m. so it is entirely possible they wrote a story to fit the cartoon

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Swords Drawn

Another mixed bag rich variety of stories for potential cartoons in this week’s Westmorland Gazette
A local chocolate manufacturer - Wilson’s of Kendal Mint Cake fame - has been producing a range to tie in with TV’s ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. This show is designed to ritually humiliate D-list celebs by making them eat grubs and insects in the jungle. The chocolate range enables you to recreate this experience by eating chocolates disguised as grubs and weevils. Or something.
They’ve also produced a Marmite flavoured chocolate bar. The Gazette conducted a street survey on this and one interviewee said it would be a lot better without the Marmite. (I am not making this up.)
Meanwhile, for reasons known only to the Chief Constable, Cumbria Police have decided to call their anti-poaching campaign Operation Samurai. I was hoping this sketch wouldn’t get chosen as I was running late and it was going to be tricky to draw. No prizes for guessing which one was chosen, then.
The four sketches submitted are below. As usual, the final cartoon is on the front page of this week’s Gazette or can be seen on my website.

Friday, 8 October 2010

By Royal Appointment

After two weeks when the Westmorland Gazette front page featured stories I had tackled before, this week I had a diverse range of new topics to tackle. This can also lead to problems. It’s easy to take a scattergun approach and skip across the surface of all of them, without producing a very satisfactory cartoon. 
A number of eco-homes have been built on a local estate without, it seems, any planning permission. Despite having been there for a while and being home to a number of people, they now have to go. The residents are being evicted, the homes demolished. Meanwhile, the Royal Academy is spending large sums of money to recreate a Lakeland barn in its London HQ, to commemorate Kurt Schwitters, the sculptor. Schwitters built something similar in the Lakes, although the original has now gone. These two stories have a pleasing symmetry when on the hunt for a cartoon.
A third story had a Royal connection. Prince William (if you lose track, he’s the one that’s next but one in line to the throne) is now serving with RAF Rescue in Anglesey. Morecambe Bay is part of his beat, so he could be dropping in any time soon.
Here are the sketches for the cartoons. Scroll to the end and you can see which was chosen. The original sketch was almost - but not quite - better than the finished artwork.