Friday 31 December 2021

21 cartoons from 2021

 Its time for the end of year big blogmanay round up of cartoons I had published in Private Eye and other rejects ad notable doodles.  If 2020 was the year when I transitioned from drawing mostly Brexit to drawing Covid-19 then 2021 in terms of what got published was almost entirely pandemic related with vacations, vaccines and variants.  In my 21 cartoons I will try and sprinkle in some of the other notable events that managed to break through together with an awful lot of waffle.

1. Trump Insurrection

One of the biggest story of the year happened just days into 2021 on January 6th when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building which was in session to formalise the Joe Biden 2020 election victory.  Trump had endlessly told his supporters the election was stolen by the Democrats and he wanted his Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the result.  When he didn't the mob descended on the building, breached the cordon and live on TV we watched them inside the building.  They didn't manage to stop the presidential transition there were causalities, injuries and damage both to the building and the idea of American democracy.

This cartoon wasn't even drawn in 2021 it was from November 2020 when Trump was fervently denying a Biden victory.  I didn't miss drawing Trump in 2021 even though I'd got used to it and Biden was harder to capture.


2. Perseverance

On February 18th there was a new NASA rover on Mars called Perseverance which had a cool landing and its own helicopter.  It was the biggest robot rover since Curiosity and so I had to mark the occasion by drawing it.

3. Perennial Potholes

Every spring just like the daffodils the pothole cartoons appear with the gaping holes in poorly maintained tarmac everywhere.  As a cartoonist its a seasonal cartoon topic and this was my first cartoon of 2021 to appear in print in Private Eye.

4. Suez Canal

In March the Suez Canal was blocked for 6 days when the container ship Ever Green got buffeted by wind and wedged across it.  Cartoonists everywhere delighted in having a new metaphor to illustrate while authorities worked out how to clear the blockage and the cope with the shipping delays.  This was my cartoon.

5. Covid Variants

The history of Covid-19 in 2021 was really a history of major variants of the disease which were the ones that took hold among many mutations. Christmas 2020 in the UK was nerfed by a variant that arose in Kent that became known as the Alpha variant when WHO wanted to stop stigmatising the places that first sequenced these variants.  Alpha caused a big wave of virus in Jan/Feb in the UK in winter and as it was subsiding there was debate about whether other significant variants would arise.

I drew this cartoon which appeared in Private Eye in April (I used Noah's flood as a metaphor for the pandemic on more than one occasion).  There were reports of variants arising in Brazil and South Africa but it was Delta detected in India that became the dominant variant worldwide in 2021 (although the new variant Omicron will probably replace it).

6. The worst word of the year 

The worst word of 2021 was woke even though it began being banded around before 2021, this was the year it really got weaponised.

It reminded me of the "politically correct" debates of my youth where opponents of some progressive ideals found it was easier to ridicule and exaggerate parts of it rather than engage on the issues.  Certain parts of the press tired of writing the same stories about case numbers relished the prospect of starting a culture war based on some story about a charity researching slavery in its past, or the perception that old white guys weren't allowed on TV anymore.

In America still smarting from an election defeat and the inquest into an insurrection, right wing Republicans also seized on the culture war and invented a bogey man of Critical Race Theory in schools to win back some seats.  There was even an attempt while the BBC was being bashed to do a UK Fox News channels with the launch of GB News which thankfully ended up being an amateur operation but may still come back to haunt us.

Comedians kept coming forward to say how concerned they were about being cancelled for their views.  As a cartoonist I don't relish the prospect of a pile-on for some perceived offense to some group or other, but freedom of speech shouldn't protect us from criticism.

My only foray into the culture war came in this cartoon that was published in the Eye in May.  The conservative war on woke often pulls in religious groups which are far too aligned to political positions.  In my reading of the gospels Jesus can be interpreted as quite left wing and certainly not a conservative in the way he challenged the wisdom of his time.  In the published version they changed nowt to nothing which is probably better.

7. Amazon vs the high street

The home delivery firms like Amazon did a lot of business in the pandemic although there were stories about the behemoth making a loss (probably funnelled into Bezos rockets) which led to this cartoon in the Eye.

8. Going on an almost holiday

This year could be split into two questions "Can we go on our summer holiday?" and "Can we have Christmas?".  When the winter wave waned hospitality and tourism were desperate for a return to foreign adventures, but the government had to do a risk assessment on what locations were safe to visit.

The resulting traffic light system resulted in this cartoon which appeared in the Eye.  While Red and Green are fairly self explanatory the existence of an Amber maybe category just led to confusion.  The bus in the cartoon is a reference to the Cliff Richard Summer Holiday movie.

9. Lilliput

My favourite pandemic cartoon of the year showed the other side of the travel restriction conundrum where foreign governments could set the rules on who was allowed in and if they had to quarantine or not.  Quarantine on arrival or when your returned was a risk you took when getting on an airplane especially when rules could change rapidly even while you were away.  Thankfully we went no further than the highlands.

This cartoon depicts Lilliput of Gulliver's Travels which is the only island I can remember him visiting (there was also the opposite one of this and a few others).


One from the reject pile shows how much more expensive everything was in 2021 with inflation starting to hit everyone in the pocket.  However if you only went on one holiday in the year you were willing to pay over the odds for the privilege.

11. England and Euro2021

This was the year of delayed sporting tournaments with the Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2020 being played in 2021.  The gimmick with this tournament (apart from Scotland qualifying) was multiple countries being the hosts which meant that England could play lots of games at home and with some Sterling performances made it all the way to the final. 

Being English and an international football fan the prospect of decent bloke Gareth Southgate winning a trophy should have been the highlight of my year, but as always the fans tried their best to ruin it.  Firstly there was the ongoing controversy with fans booing players taking the knee (see my comments on woke) and then on the day of the final despite not having ticket they tried to force their way into Wembley.  In the final Italy won 3-2 on penalties and the country went back to being grumpy.

In my cartoons for this showpiece I did not anticipate such success so I went with the delays for decisions from VAR technology which gave matches more of an American football feel with players standing around like Strictly contestants waiting to hear their fate.

12 Andy Murray's shoes

Anyone who has followed my sports illustrations know I love Andy Murray but he had a frustrating year on his come back with a bionic hip although he did take some notable scalps and got into a spat with Tsitsipas about bathroom breaks.  In the same match in the opening round of the US Open was another bizarre incident when he was sweaty from all his exertions, needed to change his shoes to stop slipping on the blue court and didn't have a spare pair.  It was like one of my boring underprepared anxiety dreams except in real life.  The Greek fought back to win prompting much Murray muttering and I sketched this as I watched.

13 Abba reform virtually

The big music story of 2021 should have been Taylor Swift's brilliant music and videos but instead was obsessed with an announcement from old Swedish pop band Abba who teased coming out of retirement for the most epic of comebacks.  Since my wife was a big Abba fan we watched the whole thing where super fans gathered in Scandinavia to not see the band just some videos, before only the Abba guys were in London declaring they had not only made a new album but were going on tour in one venue as holograms.

The whole hologram performance was not invented by Abba but they certainly are pushing it forward with a custom venue.  It made me think of other remote virtual performances and lead to this cartoon from the reject pile.

14 Raducanu

Every so often they try to make a good tennis sports movie and you end up with something like Brit rom-com Wimbledon.  If they ever wanted to make a great feel-good movie it should be about the non sweaty shoe side of the 2021 US Open where a teenager Emma Raducanu broke multiple records to win the whole thing.  As well as a final between two great teenagers it was the first time a qualifier male or female had won a grand slam without dropping a set.

How do you illustrate the most epic of underdog stories with a rejected cartoon about house prices which in the lockdown era went up and up.

15 Supermarket Shortages

If 2020 was the year of toilet roll shortages caused by panic buying there was a curious Brexit blimp in the autumn of 2021 when for about a week we had a fuel shortage followed by social media reports of supermarket empty shelves which was all down to a shortage of HGV drivers.  This was either caused by Brexit deterring EU lorry drivers coming to the UK with the new regulations, or not Brexit according to the government and something to do with pandemic stopping keen locals from taking their HGV tests to fill the worldwide gap in people who wanted to driving trucks all day with poor amenities and conditions.

It was around the time that the Great British Bake Off for 2021 was launching so I tried a pocket cartoon sized pair of caricatures of Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood.  Considering how few lines I used compared to my normal caricatures I thought it was a reasonable effort.

16 Uncontrolled migration

Another distressing news story of 2021 was the number of migrants and refugees trying to cross the dangerous straits of the English channel in dinghies aided by criminal gangs.  The visuals of this were much more impactful than the older routes of stowing on HGVs which has reduced thanks to technology or legal routes like claiming asylum which the government seems keen on making harder.

As someone who has needed the RNLI to rescue us on a yachting mishap (they are brilliant volunteers) it was frustrating to see them dragged into a political argument as to whether we should be rescuing human beings drowning or not.  The old tropes of migrants filling up the country and the French not pulling their weight seemed to drive certain portions of the populace to demand tough action be taken.

Of course we don't want folk risking their lives to get to the UK but migration isn't going to stop so there needs to be legal routes to facilitate it especially when our own actions often contribute to it like reducing foreign aid and pulling out of Afghanistan.

Here's my attempt at another view of uncontrolled migration.

17 Live with it

All through the pandemic the Eye has given a couple of pages to Dr Phil Hammond to provide his insights as to where we are and often that is where most of my cartoons have been printed this year.

By October the vaccine jabs were being rolled out across the population and faced with a tough winter politicians were saying we had to learn to live with the virus which is a phrase that is both obvious and almost meaningless.  Living with a virus could mean anything from letting it rip to taking sensible precautions to mitigate it's worse effects.

Here is a cartoon that appeared in the Eye with my view of living with the virus.

18 Cop26

In local news politicians and activists from all the over the world came to Glasgow for a few weeks to talk about fixing the environment, before saying they would work out the details in Egypt next year.

Having big events in Glasgow is fun except for the disruption.  I hadn't travelled into work that often this year but when I do I use the Clyde Expressway which was shut for the duration of the conference so no-one got near to the dignitaries.  If I still lived in the West End it was slightly worse when they used the Kelvingrove museum for an event and cut folk off from their flats for a few photo ops.

Martin Rowson has been running Draw challenges on twitter all through the pandemic and one was on Cop26 when I drew this.

19 Standards - what standards?

With a massive majority the tussled haired Boris Johnson got used to be able to get away with almost anything even when Sir Keir Starmer asked pesky questions at PMQs.  The papers tried to highlight various times he let others pay for his wallpaper or holidays, but in the end Boris was his own worst enemy when he reopened the sleaze debate by trying to rescue his pal Owen Paterson from a fairly conclusive parliamentary standards slap on the wrist for lobbying for big bacon.

Instead of a slight ban from parliament Boris tried to rig the parliamentary standards committee by whipping his backbenches to support a Leadsom amendment, which they did and then complained how dodgy it looked causing an almost immediate U-turn and apology from those involved except the PM.  The papers then went looking for more stories for MPs with extra jobs in the Caribbean or using their positions to advocate for other interests.

October was the 60th anniversary of Private Eye the satirical magazine that publishes a lot of UK cartoonists including myself from time to time.  To celebrate various cartoonists tweeted their earliest cartoons to get published in the magazine.  Mine was from 2016 about David Cameron and the Panama Papers scandal which seems quaint now.  I remember drawing it and having it accepted before a weekend where it looked like shiny Cameron would fall except he didn't.  Since then I never under estimate the ability of politicians, especially Tory ones, to brazen out uncomfortable stories. 

Thus I wasn't that excited by the steady stream of sleaze stories and the only topical (rejected) cartoon I can find from this period is below and does include a jet pack.

20 Party-gate

Just as the sleazy standards scandals were subsiding along came another story that just ran and ran due to the government continually denying what later turned out to have supporting evidence.  In 2020 when we were all deciding how little to see our relatives over the festive period, there were allegedly parties in Downing Street and government with little regard to the rules they were telling us all to keep for the good of public health.

When the Mirror and others wrote not just stories but had videos and photographs gradually there was talk of a government investigation led by Simon Case who later had to step aside due to other party allegations.  We also go a throwback to the Dominic Cummings era with a garden party picture which formed the backdrop to one of my last cartoons of the year on another of Martin Rowson's Draw challenges.

Everyone does their own parody version of the 12 days of Christmas (Martin also did an excellent version) but mine tried to hit all the lowlights of the political year with some nods to Gove's raving and Sunak's sliders.  It works as a song if you mangle the original a little.

21 Three Wise Men

In  pandemic times the build up to Christmas seems to be talked about for half the year when the first Covid to cancel Christmas stories appeared.

I have always loved drawing Christmas cartoons and when I started my cartoon blog back in 2010 I used to draw a cartoon every day of advent.  One of my first was about Three Wise Men vs Three Wise Women and since then my depiction of the three wise men has remained much the same.

So when I was drawing Christmas cartoons for the Christmas issue of Private Eye and had a wise men idea I used my favourite characters and they published it.  The other very-2021 thing about it was it was another pandemic cartoon and about travel/holidays which was a recurring theme.

There are cartoon awards for pocket cartoons and when I looked through everything I got published this year nearly everything (potholes, Amazon and woke Jesus aside) was Covid-19 related although I did draw other subjects.  My main hope for next year 2022 is the virus either disappears or gets less deadly and I can move to drawing pilfering politicians and troublesome tech and we can all live fuller lives.

Happy 2022 everyone.

Wednesday 1 September 2021

#aughost 2021


You could do a prompt-a-day art challenge every month of the year if you wanted to there is now so many of them,  Of course the most recognisable is #inktober but hang around art twitter enough and you'll see plenty of others and this year Aughost is the third I've tried (Caricature Resolution 2021 by ISCA in January, March of Robots in March and now in August...)

AuGhost was setup by David Pietrandrea and Sommerjam as a daily drawing of something ghostly to a prompt every day in Aughost and there is tons of fun and varied artwork from artists of all stripes.

Last year I did a couple in the spare minutes before the day started but this year I spent a bit more time on my efforts and the main thing I discovered this year was how much wordless cartoons did for this sort of challenge for a couple of reasons.

Firstly with wordless cartoons or comics you aren't just making a picture but trying to tell a story without using word which has one obvious advantage that it works in any language as long as you don't include obscure cultural references.

So here are my favourites up top was a Lion King reference the circle of afterlife.

The prompt for day 3 was lottery and one of the nice things about ghostly prompts is that you can also go for thoughtful or sad and not just the gag every time as the overall theme is quite reflective.

Of course people are just scrolling so sometimes they are just feline like they want a cat gag to hit like on.

Then again sometimes you want to reward folk for taking time to roam around the image.  This one was on the theme cavernous and I hid contractionary  signs at the top.  It's relatable because everyone gets lost in Ikea.

Sometimes the fun is just to work out something for a prompt in this case elemental in which case I came up with sometimes around Earth, Wind and Fireflies with some ghostly gardening.

Sunday 9 May 2021

Martin Geissler Election Special


The Scottish Parliament elections fell in pandemic times so the 6 weeks of campaigning was a bit more muted than normal meaning all I saw of it were a few shouty TV debates and leaflets through the door.  Being a bit unsure of what conditions in voting stations would be I registered to vote by the postal time for the first time.

The other pandemic fallout was that results instead of being released in a thrilling overnight race to be first  to declare were spread over two days of counting Friday and Saturday as they could not have as many counters in the halls as before.

I missed the first day of mostly constituency results but had it on for most of the marathon 8 hours of coverage on the Saturday.  For part of this I drew the host Martin Geissler (who did a good job).

As it was in the lull between most of the constituency seats being declared and the list seats announcements I even made it onto the TV where Martin had to graciously react after hours of talking to Scottish politicians

I paused the TV so I could show my ma I’d been on the television.

Tuesday 2 February 2021

Hourly Comic Day 2021

 Right before Groundhog Day but after the January caricature resolution caricature there is a marathon comic challenge called Hourly Comic Day (not to be confused with 24 hour comics day).

The idea on HCD (1st Feb) is to draw a comic for every hour you're awake (Sarah McIntyre explains it well here).

The novelty of having to turn out a comic every hour usually fades when you're a few hours into it and you realise your family and employer probably wants you to actually achieve something other than drawing comics that day.  So my technique is usually to not attempt it every hour but every second hour.

The 2021 twist is everyone is mainly indoors looking at screens so the visual variety is less than previous years (in 2019 just before the pandemic I went into town and visited a bookshop and a cafe - unbelievable!).

So here is this year's 9 part comic documenting a day under lockdown.

Caricature Resolution 2021

 One of my resolutions for 2021 is to blog (a bit more) about what I’m up to art wise because even though I’m daily updating social media it is still nice to have some long form content that doesn’t get washed away in the endless trending streams of tweets and grams.

So a few days into January I discovered on the Instagram hashtag #caricatureresolution2021 run by ISCA the International Society of Caricature Artists. Like many other monthly challenges there is a prompt of a person to draw every day.

I like caricature but it isn't the same as drawing portraits and although I have drawn a few one I quite like some of the artists on this hashtag were doing amazing work so there is clearly room for improvement.  So where time allowed I vowed to try and caricature whoever came up that day.

I didn’t quite manage every day but I did do about half of them and here are my favourites.

This is Carol Channing from the last day prompt 31 by which time I was starting to get a feel for it so I might as well start with a more polished example.

Here’s Daveed Davis in his Hamilton role (how I miss live theatre or any sort of cultural event).

Frances McDormand from her Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri role.

Finally Martin Luther  King Jnr from the 15th using a slightly more painterly approach.

Do browse the Instagram hashtag if you want to see all the amazing caricatures done by artists across the world.

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