It feels like 2020 is the year everyone wants to hate and while 2018 and 2019 dominated by drawing Brexit
1. White privilege and how not to do a chess cartoon
My first published cartoon of 2020 was a lesson in how to pay attention when drawing (especially when drawing chess). It started off as a gag about white privilege which was a big topic in 2020 but in my setup I got the board wrong which fooled no-one when it was printed in Private Eye. The magazine forwarded on some of the responses from the readership pointing out my error and printed one of them. The embarrassing thing was I should have know better when in non-Covid times I go to a chess club but here's hoping I don't make the same mistake with my next Chess cartoon.
4. The end is ply
My first Covid cartoon was a not very original desert island gag about the lone survivor turning back a boat full of rescuers (others did it better). A much funnier vein to mine was in the early panic buying of toilet rolls that led to this obvious pun. Future historians will ask themselves why toilet rolls was the go to item for a paniced population - a fact that never came up in apocalyptic movies.
5. Early lockdown rules
This is my favourite cartoon I drew in the pandemic and one that made it into Private Eye.
When lockdown hit you were allowed just one bout of outdoor exercise a day in the springtime which you spent dodging other people and tutting when others didn't obey the rules. Back then the rules were simple - it was only when there was more nuance that knowing when to tut at others became harder.
6. Cut your own hair videos
Weeks into the lockdown as well as working out how to navigate Zoom/Teams etc. the other problem everyone was facing was managing an increasingly scruffy hairdo and how to look presentable.
YouTube has answers for everything and so the common solution was to order clippers or scissors from the Internet and then watch videos to work out how to perform a DIY/home haircut.
7. Neighbourhood watch
My other Covid cartoon in Private Eye was semi autobiographical. When exercise and visitors were heavily regulated and people had time (due to furlough) to stare out their windows you could also be your own Private Eye and see if any of your neighbours were flagrantly or secretly breaking lockdown rules.
At the start of lockdown there was a sense of solidarity and community when people put coloured in rainbows in their windows and came out to clap for carers every Thursday at 8pm. While the lockdown was an emergency it was easy but as it dragged on and government advisors and ministers got caught not obeying the rules it all started to fray.
9. Be Right Back
There is an obvious mental cost to being endlessly immersed in 24-hour breaking news about the pandemic. You become anxious, always prepping yourself for the next crisis or thinking out numerous outcomes and consequences. Despite months of furlough (government sponsored sitting at home) it felt like you could never truly relax so you had to try finding things to distract yourself.
As a cartoonist with a day job it was a good opportunity to try and operate as if I was "freelance" with time to chase down every opportunity and devote time to side projects that would normally never get off the ground. In practise there was fewer opportunities around with exhibitions either postponed or reduced in scope and so I did numerous art challenges, charity projects and tried to finish a small press comic.
This cartoon comes from one of my longest running art challenges the CCGB public forum cartoon competition which still does inspire good ideas from various captions submitted by it's participants.
10. In fair Corona
Of course Covid seeped into all those art challenges that I was doing too with this example from the same competition referencing the opening line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
The lockdown closed nearly every cultural event which were deemed "non-essential" which was devastating for those who earned their living in these sectors. Musicians who couldn't tour might later on be able to host "virtual" events but those who did the lighting, wardrobe, electrics and other support functions were not as lucky and may have to look at the booming delivering boxes to houses sector.
Museums who rely on visitors for their income went onto social media to showcase their collections and raise awareness of their plight. The Cartoon Museum in London and Martin Rowson launched a mini challenge in April to #DrawtheCoronavirus which attracted many cartoonists to submit work for an online exhibition that became an ebook. This cartoon and another, together with some thoughts, made it into the ebook which you can buy for £10 to support the museum.
11. Cowboy masks
The coronavirus pandemic was a global battle where every countries apparent successes or failures were scrutinised and in the USA which every pandemic movie had assumed would have the most sophisticated response led by Morgan Freeman the pandemic grew exponentially. History will judge what the reasons for this were whether it was in the chaotic Trump presidency, lack of federal preparedness, disparity in state's responses or a cultural aversion to imposed measures but the US has consistency led the John Hopkin's Covid-19 dashboard for global cases.
The other global issue was around the use and effectiveness of masks. While some countries routinely used them for outbreaks and controlling respiratory viruses in the west putting a piece of cloth across your face to protect was a major issue for some. While there are some who really don't want to wear masks there is also those who don't wear them properly to cover their nose as well as their mouth.
12. Punch and Judy
This cartoon appeared in Private Eye around the summer and I don't remember which male celebrity inspired it except that in any given year there are plenty of candidates.
Sometimes we always consider folk dodgy and sometimes those who appear heroic in public turn out to be deeply problematic in private. In either case when allegations come to light PR companies may craft "apologies" to try and limit damage in the hope that something worse in the upcoming 24 hour news cycle will take the heated off them, reprieve their client and allow corporate sponsors to not have to abandon them.
13 Exams fiasco
Drawing topical cartoons about education subjects is tricky when you are in Scotland submitting them to publications based mainly in England. Drawing a schools out, or school's back cartoon and you have to bear in mind whether it's topical here or down south.
Occasionally it helps you out like when due to Covid exams were cancelled and the Scottish exams came out based on a dodgy formula that took into account the past performance of that educational institution. Predicting grades was always a tricky task that relied on teacher's assessments during a turbulent year but weighting results so students in less affluent areas were penalised for past sins lead to trouble. The outcry when Scottish Higher results came out leading to politicians scrambling to reassess grades was slightly ahead of English A level results being released with similar problems. Thus an 11th hour topical cartoon based on Scottish experience snuck into a Private Eye magazine which came out just as the A level political fiasco hit. For some reason it wasn't politicians like Gavin Williamson or John Sweeney who took the fall but people further down in the exams establishment.
16 Water on the moon
While there was much scientific attention focused on producing a vaccine there was other scientific discoveries in 2020.
In October NASA's SOFIA produced compelling evidence of water on the sunlit surface of the moon. The momentary distraction from other events was a chance to draw this cartoon.
17 US postal votes
The big international news story of 2020 was the US presidential election between Democrat ex-VP Joe Biden and Republican shock jock and reality TV star Donald Trump. The polls (which are never wrong) showed a substantial lead for Joe Biden that Donald Trump couldn't really claw back in the debates or after he caught the virus. Thus the battleground became how the virus was impacting the election increasing a reliance on postal votes which Donald Trump went on to attack relentlessly knowing his base was more likely to vote in person which would be counted early compared to postal votes.
Here is my second OK Corral joke of the blog post.
20 Hand Santa-riser
My last published cartoon of 2020 was in the Christmas edition of Private Eye and this isn't it (as it is still in the shops as I write this). If you look at my previous posts on my 2020 Advent cartoons you will see how this year inspired new Christmas themed cartoons that hopefully won't make sense next Christmas.
Talking about common cartoon themes if you drew a Christmas cartoon involving sanitiser and didn't pun it into Santa-tiser then you missed a trick.