Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Jingle Sales

Welcome to Twixtmas, which is apparently the new name for that bit between Christmas and New Year. That time when some of us are back at work, and some are still enjoying time off. That time when some are still too stuffed to move and some are stocking up for New Year.
And most of all, that time when the New Year Sales have burst forth, seven days early.
According to retailers interviewed by The Westmorland Gazette, the sales have not been all they expected this year. The bargain hunters stayed home in droves, through a mixture of apathy, recession and ice. Not even the chance to beat the VAT increase brought them out.
So that was the subject for this week’s cartoon.
Not particularly easy and, as you can see from the first two sketches submitted, not all that inspiring. I did better with the second two. In fact, I thought the 4th was an idea of unsurpassed brilliance. This is, of course, always a sign that no one else will like it, find it funny or even get it. And I’ve been doing this job long enough to know that they may well be right.
See what you think. Feel free to add comments below, then rush out to buy a paper to see which one made the front page. And if you’re put off by the ice, you can see the cartoon on my website, in full and glorious colour.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Kendal Mint Quake

Dawn over Lakeland, the winter solstice and a full moon. But wait, what’s this? There’s a bit missing …
Ah, it’s a lunar eclipse. Always fascinating to watch and this one didn’t disappoint, with the moon turning a dark orange before fading into the early morning light and dropping behind the Langdale Pikes.
Lunar eclipses are not uncommon, although it’s been 362 years since one fell on a winter solstice. Astronomical coincidence, but the astrologers made much of it. As I’d cheated and watched the eclipse from the studio window, I had the computer to hand, so in addition to chatting on Twitter with a correspondent in Australia (“The eclipse is heading your way - it'll be with you in 20 minutes.”) I also took time to issue a few tweets mocking the astrologers.
Fast forward to 11pm. All is quiet. Outside the snow lies deep and even (obviously, we’d hardly be likely to bring it inside). Suddenly there is a massive roar. A jet overhead? An early fly past from Santa?
Check Twitter (much faster to report news than the lamestream media), no - it’s an earthquake! I knew I shouldn’t have mocked the astologers.
The US Geological Survey had details online within minutes - 3.5 Richter and centred on Coniston.
A few minutes later, the BBC announced it was breaking news, although in fact we hadn’t even broken a cup.
And lo, it came to pass that today’s Westmorland Gazette cartoon was about …
Well, you can see below. A nice Christmas gift for a cartoonist. These are the four sketches submitted to the editor and you can see which was picked by skating out on Thursday to purchase The Westmorland Gazette - or by scootling over to my website.
P.S. it may have been me who sent out a Tweet for food parcels for the Cumbria earthquake victims. Specifically for mince pies and sprouts.
P.P.S. To the wag who dubbed it the Kendal Mint Quake on Facebook … well done. I was planning to use that for the cartoon but you beat me to it.
P.P.P.S. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A clean getaway

There are several things I like about being a professional cartoonist. One of them is being paid to draw. The other is the unexpected. 
When the phone rings, you never know what might turn up.
Earlier in the week was a good example. I had a call from the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, part of the Newsquest group which includes the much-esteemed and world-famous Westmorland Gazette. I don’t usually draw for the Telegraph but they knew my stuff and had a story which needed a cartoon. Could I do it? Oh and the deadline was three hours away.
The story was one of those where the subject threatens to be funnier than the cartoon. Thieves had broken into a house in Oswaldtwistle at 1.30 a.m. and stole £3,500 worth of goods. But first, they broke into the outside hot tub and had a nice, warm soak.
Incredible, isn’t it? An outside hot tub in Lancashire. But true and here are the three ideas I pitched to the editor. You can see the one chosen at the end.


The Westmorland Gazette hits the news stands on Thursday morning. And as I haven’t been out to buy my copy yet, that means some of you may have a better idea of what is on the front page than I do. Which may sound unusual, given that I draw the front page cartoon.
Truth is, when I go into the newsroom on Wednesday at 2pm, the main stories are still slugging it out to see which of them is going to be the lead story. It’s not a pretty sight. There are vowels and apostrophes everywhere.
I take a peek, then sometimes duck behind the news desk and see what’s occurring in the calmer, more rarified environs of pages 3 and 5.
So this week, I had a choice of three stories to consider. The wackiest was a move by the Get A Life, sorry, County Watch, which has gone around putting up Welcome to Lancashire and Welcome to Westmorland signs. In Cumbria. Which took over from those counties (in South Lakes) in 1974. (We have no hope of ever going metric.)
In other news, Cumbria County Council has had its budget cut by more than was feared, thanks to the LibCon settlement. And a group of nine illegal immigrants were caught, heading for Cumbria. (I should point out that these were illegal immigrants from outside the UK, not from Yorkshire or somewhere.)
The four cartoon sketches are below. One of them manages to combine two of the stories (smug mode). If you’ve already bought the Gazette, you’ll know which one the editor chose. The rest of you, mosey on over to my website.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Gritty Stuff

As Cumbria continues to shiver in the icy grip of the coldest winter since the last one. And as the snow lies all about, deep and crisp and lumpy and bumpy and not particularly even … a cartoonist’s thoughts turn to this week’s Westmorland Gazette front page stories.
And the lead is … taraa, the snow. This is fine. I like drawing snow. Or rather, I like not drawing it. The master of snow cartoons is Carl Giles and I learnt from him that the best way to draw it is to leave it out. Swathes of blank. Works every time.
So what seasonal cheer did this week’s lead story have to offer?
Grit. Fearless grit and pluck. (James Naughtie take note.) Lake District residents have been out in force, battling the elements, clearing paths and looking after their neighbours. Meanwhile, a few are taking David Cameron’s Big Society idea the wrong way and deciding that Society is there to provide purely for them. And they’re nicking the grit. Reports are coming in of furtive 4x4 grit nickers roaming the district. The police have been alerted and will be in hot pursuit, just as soon as they’ve taken delivery of the huskies.
So, an ideal story for a snow-loving cartoonist and, as usual, I fired four ideas down the interweb to the esteemed Editor. You can see them below and the Ed’s Fave will be appearing tomorrow on the front of the Westmorland Gazette. And in full, 3D technocolour on my website.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Snow Joke

A couple of stories in tomorrow’s Westmorland Gazette caught my beady, cartoonist’s eye. The first is the front page lead (you read it here first) and t’other is buried inside somewhere.
The problem with stories that appear inside the paper is I feel impelled to explain them in the caption. And I only have a tiddly space on the front of the new, compact (not tabloid) Gazette. The way to get over this is to encourage the clever, hard-working subs (hello Phil) to put a one-line link above the cartoon - see story page 47 or whatever. But it’s hardly ideal as the reader still sees the joke before having any idea what it is about. (With a few of my cartoons, it doesn’t help.)
However … given that there is another, country-wide story featured in the paper, I thought it a risk worth taking.
The main story is about South Lakeland District Council and it’s development plan for the area. It includes affordable housing for locals, not before time. The second story is about some rather special chilli, made locally. This is so hot that it is set to get into the Guiness Book of Records.
And the other story? It’s been snowing …
As ever, the final cartoon will be in Thursday’s Gazette and on my website tomorrow morning. 
And if you want to read more about drawing cartoons for newspapers, well, there is only one thing I can possibly recommend.