I thought I would take you through the creative (ha!) process for one of my more recent cartoons. This was an entry to the aforementioned Cartoonist's Club of Great Britain's Caption Competition. The weekly competition is absolutely perfect for an upstart crow like me. It allows me to think about cartoons. It allows me to experiment with ideas and it means that I'm competing with some of the best cartoonists in Britain. That being so, when I get awarded the odd point now and again, my pride-o-meter goes whizzing off the scale. The tick of approval from a professional means a hell of a lot to me.
Enny-whey, one particular week the caption was "It's not as easy as it looks." Which, in some weeks, encapsulates my thoughts on cartooning exactly. Sometimes I jot down several ideas in very rough formation; almost stick-figures, just to nail an idea, but this particular week an idea sprang, almost unbidden, into my mind. What was the worst thing you could possibly mess up in front of a crowd, prompting the instigator to utter the caption? Why, a public be-heading of course!
Look, this is just the way I think. I don't actually enact any of these thoughts.
I have a problem with my cartoons. I often think the finished, inked result is too stiff in comparison to the pencilled roughs. To my eye the roughs often have a vivacity and zip, for all their faults, that is often lacking in the final drawing, but I'll let you be the judge of that. This is the first rough I drew.
Initially I had the axe sticking into the victim's back, then I placed it into his head. Either way, to have the victim running about on the execution platform, screaming, was far too macabre to be funny. Even I have some sense of propriety. But I was pleased with the actual drawing of the victim - who may or may not be Charles I - , because it had a lovely sense of animation about it. A lot of my cartoons are very static.
So, this was my next effort. My thought process went as follows: Manic, screaming victim = unfunny cartoon. What about a fairly pissed-off looking victim? I thought the end result looked funnier, but at the cost of returning to my usual static figures. Yin, Yang. Swings and roundabouts and so on and so forth. The pissed-off looking maybe-King tickled my fancy.
I had a fairly good idea about seventeenth century attire. I've seen copies of Van Dyke's portraits and once there was a television series of The Children of the New Forest. What I'm saying is: I'm not a complete ignoramus, okay? Nevertheless, I didn't feel I had quite nailed it in the costume department, so it was off to messieurs Goo and Gle, image department, to get some semblance of verisimilitude. To my utter disbelief and astonishment, the entire population of England didn't stride around in riding boots (it would seem). So, perhaps I'm a bit more of an ignoramus than I thought I was. I find that as I get older I tend to cringe a lot more than I used to. This meticulous research led to rough number three.
Okay, so I gained some snazzy looking footwear, but I lost the crowd. I can't quite remember my reasoning for doing this. I suspect I thought that they cluttered up the drawing too much and took the emphasis away from the axe. Perhaps I just couldn't fit them all in. My drawings tend to be quite large. All these roughs were drawn on A4 sized typing/photocopying paper, as are the finished items. Thinking about it, I should have included the crowd. It was a public execution, when all is said and done.
The finished result is below.
Now, then. There are quite a few elements in the finished drawing with which I'm not entirely happy. I think the grey wash is too wishy-washy and the hands are far too naff for my liking. The executioner's expression is a bit nowhere too. But, there is a fair bit that pleases me. I think that, in general, I have the important expressions (annoyance and disdain) caught exactly as I wanted them, but all in all, still a fair bit of work to do. My intention is to re-draw this particular cartoon and add a different caption. Once I've done that I shall try to market it. I don't think it's fair to try and pass off somebody else's efforts (the caption) as my own
There you go. A bit of a lengthy entry today. I hope you enjoyed the walk. At least it didn't rain.
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