Wednesday, 30 December 2020

20 cartoons from 2020

 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.



2. Crab Home ownership

Looking back on 2020 nearly everything I submitted after Covid-19 became a pandemic was topical in some way as if I lost my ability to just be funny about general things.  Back in February before everything changed I could still manage the odd funny animal joke like this one on crabs.




3. Dominic Cummings and Hilary Mantel

My other pre-pandemic Private Eye gag turned out to be quite prophetic.
  Back at the beginning of the year the PM's advisor Dominic Cummings was at war with the civil service trying to get his own sort of people in key positions and causing Sajid Javid to quit as Chancellor.  It was easy to think that all Whitehall was wary of him.
  The last in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel "The Mirror and the Light" was also due out at the start of March and so a topical cartoon was born from the marriage of the two stories as if often the case.  Dominic Cummings would go on to be caught breaking lockdown and the PM backed him when his defence rested on a flimsy driving to Barnard Castle for an eye test excuse.  After expending much political capital to keep his advisor while undermining public support for lockdown rules Cummings eventually quite after an alleged No.10 bust up involving various advisors and the PM's financĂ©e.
  I vowed to finish that Hilary Mantel book in lockdown but haven’t (yet).


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.



8. R number

Here's an example of a gag that I thought was original but then I saw lots of cartoonists doing similar takes.
  In the endless daily briefings that government ministers and assorted scientists did there was much discussion of the R number.  The R or reproduction number of a virus is how many people a person with the virus will go on to infect.  An R number of over 1 means the virus outbreak is growing and less than 1 means it is under control and shrinking.
  Since a pirate also says R I thought of this gag thinking I was being clever but plenty of other topical cartoonists also had the same thought.  Trying to come up with good topical gags is either getting in first with an idea, doing a good implementation of an idea or trying to come up with something off the beaten track.

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.

14 Eat out to help out

When the inevitable inquiry looks into government handling of the pandemic one well meaning policy will certainly be probed is Rishi Sunak's "Eat out to help out" treasury scheme that offered half price discounts to lure customers back to hospitality venues that had been shut during the first lockdown.

In hindsight it doesn't seem clever but we know that after a summer lull when relaxed rules allowed some to go on holiday or eat out there was going to be a second wave especially as schools reopened and workers were encouraged to go back into the office.  

I got some half priced burgers and a rejected cartoon out of it.


15 Second wave
The downside of shutting down the economy was that governments had to borrow eye watering amounts of money to keep everyone afloat which is why they tried in the Autumn to reopen schools, hospitality, work places and allow some inside mixing of households.

When numbers began to rise it was interpreted as regional problems with various excuses that required regional solutions so that more rural communities with smaller numbers of cases weren't penalised.

A UK government that had been reluctant to shutdown the country when numbers were rising back in March were equally reluctant to tell a public that had got a taste for freedom that they had to head inside again and thus there was a real reluctance to announce a second national lockdown.

I don't draw that many biblical themed cartoons but this one nearly got taken.

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.

18 Joe Biden
After four years of drawing Donald Trump it is time to learn to draw the next US president even though Trump has done his best short of really draconian measures to muddy the result.  Like Boris Johnson you get used to drawing political leaders in a certain way and when someone new comes along you need to find which distinctive characteristics you can hang your drawings off (hair for Trump and Johnson).

This was my best attempt at Joe Biden in 2020.



19 The nightmare before Christmas
Leadership in a crisis requires leaders that are prepared to speak uncomfortable truths and lead rather than react to events and public pressure.  The 2020 report card of Boris Johnson should say as well as dithering/delay he often overpromises only to under deliver.

The first lockdown was meant to be a matter of weeks, the second wave measures were meant to guarantee a return to normality by Christmas, further measures were then necessary to land a Christmas truce with the virus and as the facts that a resurgent virus cared not for holidays there was a big U-turn.

Even when experts were fairly sure Christmas with multiple households and multiple days wasn’t a very good idea Boris Johnson still stood behind his podium to merely urge caution until the emergence of a new mutated Covid strain in Kent provided the cover to drastically strip back Christmas just as people had ordered big turkeys, put plans in place and were nearly on the motorway. 

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.


So that's enough waffle for 2020.  Hope you all enjoy a much better 2021 and once the virus passes and we pick over the wreckage of the post-Brexit economy I hope the next year of cartoons will be more varied and cheerful.  As always you can follow me on various social media platforms where I post more often than I do in the blog.


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