Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Santa's little helper

Christmas is upon us and in news rooms up and down the country, the search is on for stories with festive cheer.
This week, The Westmorland Gazette presented me with the tale of a reindeer. One which had escaped from a local garden centre, where it was giving rides to gnomes (or something).
My first sketch (see below) caused consternation in the news room. The last time the Gazette hinted that Santa MIGHT NOT EXIST, it unleashed a flood of letters from angry readers, e.g.: “How dare you upset my little Timmy, who I had vowed to keep in ignorance of the truth until he was 37.” 
Now, I'm all in favour of telling the nation’s young that their parents are peddling a big fat lie. It’s good preparation for when they find out there’s an even bigger whopper being put about. 
However, I was overruled. * In any case, of course he exists - the U.S. Military tracks him every year via radar.
Elsewhere in the news, protestors are getting their veins in a knot about Cumbria being used as a dump for nuclear waste. Campaigners lit a candle on the stump of Brockhole’s ex-monkey puzzle tree for unspecified, possibly magical, reasons. (They don't seem to have noticed that we've been dumping nuclear waste in the area since the 1950s.)
And finally, someone put a cat in a wheelie bin. Possibly a copy-cat incident.
Here are my cartoon sketches. Which would you choose to grace the front page? Let me know in the comments box below. You can find out if you were right on Thursday by visiting my website.

* Wait till they see next week’s Gazette investigation: WHAT REALLY LURKS AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR GARDEN: THE GREAT FAIRY MYTH!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Making Plans for Brockhole

Brockhole is the Lake District National Park Authority visitor centre and is justly famous. It's a Victorian mansion which stands in Thomas Mawson-designed grounds on the shore of England's largest lake.

It's a lovely old building in a superb setting. I'm quite fond of it.

But over the years it has suffered at the hands of consultants, planners and a number of folk who wanted to improve it, maximise it's visitor potential or chop bits down. As the Park has gradually withdrawn from servicing visitors - closing down many of its tourist information centres, for example - Brockhole is looking increasingly out on a limb, exposed to the cruel ravages of the UK recession and political whim.

Now we have yet another Masterplan. Yes, they've been making plans for Brockhole so that it can boldly go into the 21st century. This was reported yesterday in the Cumbria media, including my own Westmorland Gazette. Not unnaturally, I wanted to tackle it in my front page cartoon.

You can see the results below. My first batch was rejected as a little too aggressive. I submitted a second selection and … we went for a cartoon about Crooklands village constantly losing its electricity supply, whilst the rest of Cumbria gets superfast broadband.

What do you think? Was the right choice? Comments welcome below.

(The musical links in this week's blog are entirely gratuitous. I needed cheering up.)

Thursday, 6 December 2012


At this special time of year, what could be better than rushing into the countryside and throwing your clothes off for charity?
Well, any number of things. I can think of about a million. However, five female members of Cartmel Young Farmers Club decided to shed their kit for a charity calendar in aid of the Great North Air Ambulance, and St Mary’s Hospice, Ulverston. 
The Westmorland Gazette describes this “X-Tractor” event as involving “five farming lovelies”, which made me think that somewhere out there might be “five farming horribles”. But that was a distraction from this week’s cartoon.
Here are the four ideas I submitted to my steamed editor for the front page cartoon. “But which,” I hear you ejaculate, “did he choose? And was it the one I would have chosen?”
Calm down, dear reader. Make your choice in the comments box below and then throw caution to the winds and head to my website to see if you were correct.

If you want to contribute to the charity, you can buy a calendar by calling 07791413163.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leveson - the local view

Today sees the publication of the Leveson report into press misbehaviour. 

Fortunately, the Inquiry’s attention is directed at the national papers. In the regional press, naughty activities are much less prevalent. 

At the Westmorland Gazette, our idea of a successful hacking operation is getting the editorial photocopier to work. Our biggest local celebrity is historian Roger Bingham and no one’s sure if he even has a mobile phone. And the only ones likely to be papped by our photographers are the sheep.

Stories here can be just as exciting but our methods for getting them are less questionable.

So what are the headlines this week which drew the attention of the Gazette’s cartoonist?

Anti-nuclear campaigners are encouraged/discouraged/livid/deranged (delete whichever apply) by a local council leader claiming that using Cumbria as a nuclear waste dump will damage it's brand image.

Floods have swept the area after a bit of rain.

And the council have given in to people who find it too difficult to type their car registration into the new parking machines.

Below are the ideas I submitted to my steamed editor. Which would you have chosen? 

Vote in the comment box and then paddle over to my website to see if you were correct.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Not shaken but stirred

And so to the Reebok Stadium in Bolton and the very swish De Veres White Hotel for the Boot Out Breast Cancer charity event. As I mentioned in my previous blog, this is a James Bond themed night and I'm on hand as the live cartoonist.

The event has booked two rooms - one with sponsors selling their services, the other for the ticket-paying attendees. This is the one with the bar, dance floor, roulette wheel and blackjack table. All very Bond.

The first customers start to arrive, some of the men in tux and bow tie, not so many of the women.

I cruise the room and develop a patter: "Pay attention, Bond, I'm not so much Q - more HB. My mission is to draw a cartoon of you and yours is to liquidate some funds for the charity …"

My first cartoon is of a tall guy who seems to be the centre of attention. That's because he's one of the sponsors - footballer and Sky Sport pundit, Ian Dowie. (I knew that, of course.)

I make an effort to spot the famous footballers. This is easier if you concentrate on the wives.

At this sort of gig, people want to be flattered, which is always a considerable strain for a cartoonist. I appear to be managing okay:

I tell these two guys to make it more Bond, less Brokeback Mountain. Their girlfriends find this funnier than they do.

As always, it's more fun cartooning people who don't know I'm drawing them …

Result of the evening? Money raised for charity. No one throws their drink over me. I get out alive.

Many thanks to Banu Adam and Dr Ahmed of DermaClinix for inviting me to take part.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Cartooning live for Boot Out Breast Cancer

Here's the thing. I am a cartoonist, not a caricaturist. The two skills are similar but one can't necessarily do the job of the other.

I always take great care to explain this when anyone asks me to do caricatures at an event. I will be doing cartoons. The results may be unpredictable. They'll be fun … but not necessarily what the victim subject expects.

For example …

On Friday 23 November I will be doing a cartoon gig at a James Bond Charity Event in support of Boot Out Breast Cancer. It's taking place from 7.30 at the Lion of Vienna Suite, DeVere Whites, Bolton (click the link to see the venue - posh or what?). Click on the ticket image below for more details or follow the link here.

It should be a lot of fun. I have no idea if my impromptu models will like the results. Why not come along and find out?

If you can't make it, give @DermaClinixBond a follow on Twitter. If I find wi-fi (and no one objects to the nose I've just given them), I'll live tweet the cartoons via my own Twitter feed - @colinshelbourn

(Phew. Made it all the way through without a single shaken-not-stirred joke. Well done, me.)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Sketchbook - The Times Business Forum

Earlier today I attended a business forum in the Coronation Hall, Ulverston, organised by the Ulverston Business Alliance.

Nothing unusual there, you may think. But this was a forum run by The Times newspaper. Yes, that Times - the one in London. Hurrah for a newspaper which admits that business life exists outside the M25 force field.

The panel consisted of business leaders, educators, a leadership expert (handy if aliens arrive and want taking to one) and the Barrow-in-Furness MP, John Woodcock. 

It was an interesting session and all kudos to the organisers. But it lacked a couple of major points: No small business representation (by that I mean really small …) and no Q and A session at the end. Other than that - all good. I look forward to more of this sort of thing.

To show I was paying attention, here are a few quick sketches of the panel. (As usual, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.)

Al Mather, Centre for Leadership Performance

Greg Rooney, GlaxoSmithKline and SLDC councillor Peter Thornton

Wayne Singleton, Tronic-Siemens

Marjorie Pickthall, Furness College

Harry Knowles, Furness Enterprise

Alisdair Nimmo, The Times

(Panellists John Woodcock and Rob Johnston eluded the blue pencil on this occasion.)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Going for a spin

Occasionally, when I enter the newsroom at The Westmorland Gazette, there is one story which everyone expects me to do. 
Even before I’ve read the stories, a reporter will say, “Oh, are you going to do so-and-so. That would make a good cartoon.”
This naturally makes me suspicious that it involves sheep (perils of being a Lake District cartoonist) or toilets (perils of being a cartoonist).
But this week the reporter was right.
Earlier this week, a £220,000 limited-edition Lamborghini Murcielago was delivered to a local garage for an MOT. In order to test the brakes, one of the mechanics had to take it for a spin. Unfortunately he took this rather too literally, crashing into a Ford Focus and causing £20,000 worth of damage to the Lambo. The cost of damage to the Focus wasn’t given but assuming a write-off, I’m guessing about £47.15.
Only 4,000 Murcielagos have ever been made (possibly for reasons of taste), so the owner wasn’t too thrilled to find his 630bhp, 4-wheel drive Italian supercar looking significantly worse than when it went into the garage.
With ingredients such as these, this story will be all over the tabloids later this week so how could I not want to do cartoons about it?
Below are the contestants for this week’s front page. Declare your favourite in the comment box below and then roar over to my website to see if you were right. You could win a Lamborghini* (delivered in several instalments).

Click on the cartoon for a bigger, better, washes-whiter version.

* But not from this blog.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

iPad Mini Sketchbook

For this cartoonist, a trip to London involves two statutory pilgrimages.
The first is to the British Cartoon Museum. This splendid establishment is tucked away near the British Museum. It is funded entirely by private donation and its terrific exhibitions celebrate the best of the art form.
The second pilgrimage is to the Regent Street Apple Store to check out if the latest machines live up to the hype.
The iPad is intriguing, especially when you see what David Hockney has been doing with it. 

The original Apple iPad is too large for me to use as an everyday electronic sketchbook. But the iPad Mini is just right. 
The screen doesn’t appear substantially smaller or less sharp than its Retina-display big brother but the iPad Mini is notably lighter, neater and easier to hold. Just right for one-handed finger sketching.

I used the Paper app, because that’s what the Apple store has on the machines. I believe Hockney uses Brushes and I look forward to trying it out.
The Apple store has the machines set out to allow you to play. There is even a low table full of iPads for kids to use. There’s no sales pressure and you can explore for as long as you want. 
I ended up with one of the Genius Bar staff watching me to see what the Mini and Paper app could do. (Note to Apple: I’m available for hire to give demonstrations.)
Street sketching (and in pubs and caf├ęs) is an important part of what I do. I often research a drawing by sketching in the wild, then returning to my studio to scan and work up the drawing on my main computer. 
The iPad Mini makes process faster, more immediate. And more fun.

The Paper App site is here.
The Brushes App is here.
You can see more of David Hockney's wonderful artwork here.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Veg out

A horticultural theme for this week's Westmorland Gazette cartoon candidates.

Venerable organisation Cumbria In Bloom - which celebrates the best towns and villages in the area - is suffering a shortfall in its finances.

And Brockhole's famous, 110-year old monkey puzzle tree has finally been cut down, despite protests. The National Park Authority says it's been done in order to make the garden more in line with designer Thomas Mawson's original intentions. Complete with adventure playground.

None of which is as exciting as the US Presidential Election but that's the lot of the local cartoonist. Compensate by making Your Vote Count in the comments box below and say which cartoon you think should grace today's front page.

There are no exit polls, no unnecessary chads, no vote rigging … simply head straight to my website to see if you were right.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Going down a storm

There are a number of standard reactions when I tell people I do the front page cartoon for The Westmorland Gazette. These include:

"Oh, which cartoon do you do?" (there is only one)

"You don't look like a cartoonist."


"What's The Westmorland Gazette?"

The question I like least is: "Do you ever have a week when you can't think of any jokes?"

This is because it guarantees that I'll have difficulty thinking of any jokes that week.

So there I was, lounging about in editorial, staring at the ceiling and pretending to work, when up came new journalist Hannah. "Do you ever have a week …?" And my mind immediately went blank.

To be fair (to me and Hannah) it was one of those weeks when no single story sprang out as an obvious candidate for the cartoon. My first sketch was a bad-taste warm up. The second was about Kendal's twin-town Rinteln celebrating 20 years of twinning with a groovy sign in the main street of Kendal. Then a rare Australian black swan has been seen um, swanning about the river. And finally, a local artist held an exhibition only to have it closed down immediately when the curators realised he was more BNP than RAA.

So here is this week'squiz. Which did the editor choose? Would you have chosen the same?

Answers on a postcard - or in the comments box below. The answer will be revealed on my website.