This is my personal tip of the hat to George Herriman (he always wore a hat, possibly to deflect racist invective). He was the creator of Krazy Kat, a newspaper strip that ran roughly for 31 years from 1913 to 1944. I say roughly, because two of the main characters ran in other strips before 1913. My first encounter with Krazy Kat was when I perused the first edition of The Penguin Book of Comics and I loved it immediately. The world the characters inhabited and the language they used was completely different from any other cartoon I had seen. The writing was often purely phonetic which often meant that the strip needed to be interpreted inside the reader's head. For some reason, this deeply appealed to me.
The characters in my cartoon are, from left to right, Officer Pupp, Ignatz Mouse, Krazy Kat and Bix Beiderbecke. I shall explain all presently.
The three Herriman figures are NOT cut and pasted from any digital source. They were painstakingly copied using eye/hand co-ordination from a printed source. There were times when I had to use a magnifying glass, that's how dedicated I can be. The source poses for Officer Pupp and Ignatz came from the daily strip published on 18th November 1939. Krazy's came from 15th November 1939. Originally all three characters were wearing tutus, but I decided not to draw those. I wanted to draw them as they usually appear.
The title of this piece is Krazy Kat (Tone Poem in Slow Rhythm) which is also the title of a piece of jazz by Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra. If you click on the link you will notice that Bix Beiderbecke plays a nifty bit of cornet in the proceedings, hence his inclusion in my drawing. But, that's not the only reason for his inclusion.My step-father was a good man, but there wasn't much common ground between us. He was an Islington boy and a firm follower of Arsenal. I never had a strong interest in football. He didn't read a great deal of fiction, whereas I fervently devoured it. I loved comics and cartooning, whereas he was completely indifferent to them.
In the late seventies there was a programme on telly called Jazz 625. This sparked a mild interest in me and dad and I used to watch it together. Then, a few years later there was a documentary series about the history of jazz that really opened my eyes (and ears). A couple of years before he died, dad took me to see Chris Barber and his band at the Gordon Craig theatre in Stevenage. As Chris Barber was a Welwyn lad, you could almost say he was playing on home turf. The evening's programme of music was a mix of different jazz styles (Dad liked it trad.), but part of the evening was devoted to Blues played by John Slaughter. This was dad's first real introduction to the Blues and he said he enjoyed it. Where am I going with this?
After dad died and my mother went into a nursing home, it was left to us, the children, to clear out and sell our parent's house. Mum hated jazz which meant dad had to listen to his music through headphones. Over the years he had collected a number of jazz CDs and I hated the thought of throwing them out or selling them on, so I bagsied them.
I have to add here that there was a series on telly starring James Bolam called The Beiderbecke Affair. I hadn't a clue who Bix Beiderbecke was, but dad was very insistent about watching it, so watch it we did. One of the CDs dad left behind was in the Naxos Jazz Legends series. It was Bix Beiderbecke Riverboat Shuffle: original 1924-1929 Recordings. Track six is, guess what? All this time dad had been harbouring a love for a cartoon character he knew next to nothing about and pretty much passed it on to me. Life can sound some very odd echoes from time to time.
I didn't get any points whatsoever in this week's Caption Competition. Am I down-hearted? |Do I want to slash my wrists? Not a bit of it. I really, really really enjoyed drawing this cartoon and it made me laugh inside. I had to draw it incredibly quickly, because I only had a half hour window; although I had made some prepatory pencils the night before.
From the very start I wanted to keep things as loose and spontaneous as possible. To this end I only wanted the gist of the two main characters. I wasn't going to do a detailed, closely studied caricature of Edward Woodward or Christopher Lee, just a vague approximation and, to my eye, it pretty well came off. I also played around a bit with brush sizes which was pretty daring for me, considering the time constraint and how very quickly it could have gone horribly wrong.
So, on the whole, I'm very pleased with this effort. It is by no means the best cartoon I have ever drawn, but the lightness of touch is most definitely the general direction I want to follow.
For the uninitiated I ought to explain that this is my riff on The Wicker Man. The thought of Lord Summerisle whistling nonchalantly to Howie's question still amuses me. It never happened in the film, but it is essentially what the film is about.
I did the pencils for this some time ago. It was prompted by the fact that our young spaniel thinks fox's arse-waste smells wonderful if it's rubbed in liberal quantities around the chest and throat. Can you imagine some doggy advert in Horse and Hound? Merde de Raynardine - Oh how it lingers! Well that's obviously how our dog thinks, because we almost got to the point where no walk was complete without a roll in the latest fox offering.
We didn't quite encounter the mayhem depicted here, but if she realises that the shower has been turned on specifically for her, she tries to slope off and hide under the armchair. I hasten to add that she is isolated in the lobby if she stinks. She's only allowed near the furniture while I prepare the flea shampoo. Oh yeah. Fleas. Dog ownership is just one long round of unalloyed joy.
If fox poo becomes a bit monotonous she'll ring the changes by rolling in the putrefied remains of some unfortunate creature. The more advanced the state of putrefaction, the better. Beast or fowl, it doesn't matter. As long as it stinks!
And then she expects my unconditional love! And yet she gets it. Bloody hound.
One gazillion umpty weeks ago I won the caption competition for two weeks running. The second winner is presented for your delight and delectation on the left here. Did I shout about it? Did I draw anybody's attention to the enormity of this event? Did I stoppeth one of three in order to go on and on and on and on and on and on about this fact? Did I eckers. In fairness, in my mind's eye, I did do an endless number of backflips down our street, hooting like an early Daffy Duck (Ref: Porky's Duck Hunt). But, that's not the point is it? I should have done all these things (except the backflips. I have a bit of a dodgy knee at the moment.). So, why didn't I?
Um. Don't know.
Right. To business. There are two Laurel and Hardy films that I can watch repeatedly and still laugh each time. One is Way Out West (the one with that glorious rendition of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.) The other is The Music Box in which Stan and Ollie are tasked to deliver a player piano to a house at the top of a long flight of steep steps. The words "heave" and "ho" predominate in this film and make no discernible addition to the eastng of the job. If you haven't seen it, please do watch it. It is a masterclass in demonstrating Sod's Law and I love it.
I'm not altogether sure how this idea came about, but I thought of M. C. Escher's Ascending and Descending and put the two together so that Stan and Ollie's labours truly become Sisyphean. The optical illusion is called a Penrose staircase and, to begin with, I tried to draw it freehand. Several times. Without success. In the end I traced over an existing example. Why try to re-invent the, er, staircase?
I should also add that if you click on the pic, you should see a larger version which, in turn, will demonstrate just how much research I undertook in order to produce the cartoon. Which won the Cartoon Club of Great Britain Caption Competition. For the second week running.
Just thought I'd mention it.
I just cannot believe my good fortune! I am the winner (Just! By two points) of this week's Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain's caption competition. As usual, I wish I had allowed myself more time. Had I done so I would have added an aspidistra or two and swags of velvet would have been hung about. The time I had set aside was gobbled up by me chatting to fellow dog walkers. Having said that, the need to work quickly certainly loosened up my style and gives the finished article a bit of zip and verve.
There used to be a Punch cartoonist called Sprod and bits of this week's drawing remind me of him. Enny whey, cheshire cat grin time for yaws truly.
Tada! This week's competition entry. Pre-pencilled, scanned and digitally inked. I consciously worked on perspective this week and I think the effort has really paid dividends. As usual, I was in a bit of a rush and therefore the drawing has suffered as a consequence. Having said that, I am very, very pleased with this. Got quite a few votes too, despite buggering up the caption. OOPS! Should have been "Now that could be a problem." It should have meant instant disqualification, but the gentle souls at the Cartoonists' Club are a very forgiving lot.
For those who think a homophone is a gay means of communication, steak sounds a lot like stake. Okay yah?
Two cartoons created purely on the graphics pad and not a single lead pencil or hot pressed sheet of paper in sight. And by crikey doesn't it show. I really need to give myself more time to execute these drawings and actually pay more attention to their composition. If I had drawn these in pencils from the word go I think I would have had a pair of little crackers. Neither cartoon is actually awful and lacking in merit per se, but they both could have been considerably better had I given myself more time in their preparation. More time and energy and a little less Merlot, perhaps.
This was my entry for the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain Caption Competition from a couple of weeks ago. I've reverted to scanning in preparatory pencils and using a much tighter line and, as a consequence, I am much happier with the result. It isn't perfect, but I am not about to point out any failings that are in the drawing. To my mind there are far more positives than there are negatives. The biggest positive, of course, is that I find it grotesquely amusing. So, what were the thought processes that lead to this - this - travesty? The caption was set by Steve Bright (this is me name-dropping) who opted for the wild card form of caption. Don't [blank] it... Now then, I don't know how many verbs there are in the English language, quite a few dozen I should think, but we are adding to the list daily by also employing nouns as verbs (to hoover, to text. What's wrong with vacuuming or sending a text message? Our cooker was built by Hoover, does this mean I hoover our grub every time I cook? No, it bloody well doesn't! --- end of rant). So, which verb to use from a choice of so many? In times of crisis my mind goes into default mode and I naturally thought of Frankenstein's monster being goaded by Igor (I know, it is rather worrying, isn't it?). What could Igor use with which to tease the monster? Tease, hmm, tease. Striptease? Yes, striptease could work. Except, Igor disrobing in front of the monster could be open to all manner of unintended misinterpretation of a homo-erotic nature. But, I still liked the idea of a striptease. Hmmm. Some time ago I attended two Burlesque shows; one at the Edinburgh Festival and the other at a place called the Wet Spot, in Leeds. I have to say both were far more entertaining and inventive than I expected, but thinking along burlesque lines of thought, I came up with the idea of an old-fashioned fan dance. It still goes on today, research revealed. There are specialist manufacturers of fans for fan dancing! Talk about niche markets! How do they make a profit? How many ostriches are there in the world?
Enny whey. I suppose there are still echoes of homo-eroticism in Igor's dance, but hardly exciting and hopefully amusing.