Wednesday 27 December 2023

23 Cartoons from 2023

 As we march through the 21st century every December I post my highlight reels of mostly topical cartoons from the year and this year we need 23 so buckle up...

1. Happy New Year

During the dying embers of 2022 I drew this end of year cartoon showing the baton being passed onto the baby drinking Prime 2023.  Being passed on by the weary 2022 was Covid and war both of which continued to cast a shadow over this year although Covid-19 was more in the inquiry rather than pandemic phase.  War galloped ahead of its fellow horsemen of the Apocalypse to drag more countries into its terrible grip.  I'm sure when I draw this again for 2023/24 the hope will be in the same ... please make 2024 more peaceful than 2023.

2. Valentines Day

My first cartoon of 2023 to make it into print and a Valentine's pun I was quite proud of.  The cost of living crisis keeps making everything more expensive, but on the upside it is a source of gags.

3. Thor day week

Talking of puns I tried to keep the pun ball rolling with this cartoon from the reject bin.  In general I'm in favour of an N-1 working week where N is the current number of days I'm working. 

4. Aesop's Cables

And yet I continued to try and do puns to little effect but I was quite proud of this effort at a time when every local junction was dug up and controlled with inefficient four way temporary lights.

5. Voter ID of Dorian Gray

The government was legislating to get UK voters to produce photographic voter ID at local and general elections in order to deal with "voter fraud" which is an insignificant problem compared with ensuring the general population are actually able to vote and have a recognised form of photo ID other than just a driving license or passport.  The proscribed list came out heavily weighted towards and old age pensioners were allowed to wield their bus passes, but students weren't which tended to favour parties that have older voters (Conservative) vs those who attract younger voters (not the Conservatives).

6. SNP Auditors

In the spring there was a series of stories about the SNP struggles to find a replacement auditor after the previous auditors quit.  The rumours then became a police probe into the SNP that would eventually lead to Nicola Sturgeon and her husband being questioned by the police and allegations around the purchase of a luxury .motor home.  Normally Scottish politics doesn't make that much of splash around the UK press but various SNP in trouble stories did for a time register in the headlines and still rumbles on at a less dramatic level.

7. Pillow Talk

One gag that wasn't topical but got published in Private Eye in May was this one about Pillow Talk.

8. Coronation

The "budget" coronation for the already King Charles was on 6 May 2023 when some folk in the country got excited for the pagentry, Penny Mordaunt wielding a massive sword and some employers (not mine) issuing bonus bank holidays.  I drew cartoons about the stone of destiny and this one from an a pothole's perspective of a street party (also didn't happen here).

9. Slow Marching

The crackdown on "noisy" or "disruptive" protests by a government not fond of scrutiny led to protestors having to adapt their tactics and so there was much talk of slow marching as an alternative to just blocking a road and how the police handled it.  So now the police can enforce some sort of minimum speed limit on people holding banners which lead to this cartoon.

10. Helicopter PM

Rishi Sunak our Prime Minister and executive emperor seemed to never want to take public transport when he could use expensive and environmentally dubious helicopter transport.  Also there was video of legions of police officers having to jog alongs his presidential motorcade when he did use the car,  This led to him being rightly mocked by cartoonists including this one who does have a pet dog.

11. It's a witch-hunt

In June there was a spate of Tory MP's resigning (by being appointed to ridiculous posts like Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead) trigger by-elections, except Nadine Dorries who said she would resign but then dragged it out for months.  One of the most high profile resignations was former prime minister Boris Johnson who was being investigated for misleading parliament but interpreted this as a witch-hunt, political hit-job and revenge for Brexit.  It was the same sort of language former US president Donald Trump was using the other side of the pond as the charges stacked up against him in various states.  All political careers end in failure but not all are accepted graciously and indeed this may not be the end for either of them particularly with the 2024 US Presidential election looming. 

12. New York New York

This year I visited New York for the first time which was frenetic and tall.  Just before I visited at the end of June Canadian wildfires and the direction of wind had turned the air quality in New York from disappointing to deadly and lead to various media pictures of an apolocalpytic orange-tinged Manhattan.  This is the rejected cartoon I drew about it.

13. Holiday Destinations

This cartoon I did get into Private Eye about trying to pick a destination that wasn't affected by wildfires as North America and the Mediterranean  were battling an earlier and fiercer wildfire season.  As terrible as it was for those who lived in these area the media only ramped up the coverage when UK tourists were being evacuated from beaches in Rhodes or elsewhere and having their yearly summer holidays nearly turned into nightmares. 

14. Actor's Strike

This cartoon which appeared in Private Eye was about the SAG-AFRTRA actor's strike which followed that paralyzed Hollywood production from July to it's resolution in November.  There was also a writer's strike about pay, conditions and the use of AI from the Writer's Guild that proceeded and overlapped this.

15. The Twits

Elon Musk managed to kill Twitter at the end of July changing its name to X because a long time ago he'd bought the domain  The whole year has been a trial for Twitter users as first the platform became less reliable, then the launch of a paid tier meant that the free tier had to be nerfed, and finally Elon Musk did his best to bring back various banned baddies under the guise of free speech while using his platform to weigh in on all sort of issues driving away sponsors in the process.  Earlier in July fellow tech-bro billionaire Mark Zuckerberg launched a Twitter rival Threads which was popular for a while and led to this illustration of the proposed cage fight between them which never materialised.  The whole social media fragmented further as ex-Twitter founder Jack Dorsey threw Blue Sky into the mix if you had an invite and now I have to cross post to about 5 different platforms if I can be bothered.

16. Moon Landings

On 23rd-August the Indian Space Research Organisation landed Chandrayaan-3 a lunar lander/rover near the south pole the fourth country to land on the moon and the first to land near the south pole .  The budget of this mission was a fraction of what other countries have spent to try and land a rover on the moon and indeed only the previous week Russian's attempt to beat the Indians to the south pole crashed into the lunar surface.  This new space race to the moon inspired this cartoon which appeared in Private Eye.

17. RAAC and Ruin

Just before the English schools were due to return the government decided based on "new" information it had received that it had to close a number of them due to the presence of dodgy concrete known as RAAC or Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete.

No sooner had education secretary Gillian Keegan failed to quell concerns than it escalated and it appeared RAAC was in hospitals, prisons and anywhere else where buildings had been cheaply constructed and not replaced.  The government had to appear like this wasn't something it had been warned about for a while and it was willing to do whatever it took to solve it hence Jeremy Hunt found cash down the back of the sofa to solve it.

18. English Autumn

Here is a cartoon on a common theme that I drew at the end of Autumn which Private Eye liked but didn't use for a couple of months due to the glut of river pollution toons that appeared this year.  As a visual metaphor for the rancid mess of a government of 13 years that has allow the corruption of this basic resource for profit was too appealing to cartoonists.  It would be nice however if this wasn't still a cartooning topic in 2024 because the government finally introduced tough enough regulation and fines that private companies didn't feel they could dump raw sewage in rivers with impunity.

19. Long Term Decisions

Tory Party Conference season was seen as yet another chance for a reboot of Rishi Sunak's premiership after a disastrous summer of stories of crumbling concrete in schools etc, resignations and resulting by-election losses.  With no sense of irony Rishi Sunak set out to unveil a series of pledges to try and pull up his poll numbers while claiming they were tough but necessary long term decisions for the country.  An example was trying to up North Sea oil drilling and postponing the ban on petrol/diesel cars while still claiming we were on track with environmental targets in a "pragmatic" way.

20 Planet Earth 3

Apart from Barbie/Oppenheimer one of the cultural events of the year was another Planet Earth season featuring David Attenborough and capturing spectacular wildlife in high definition.  As well as drawing along with the weekly episodes I also got this cartoon into the Eye which lead to some feedback of people telling me their toddler found it hilarious, and another telling me why film sharks are called Bruce.  Apparently "Bruce" was the nickname of the shark in Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" franchise which was then referenced in Finding Nemo where the shark was also called Bruce.  The Planet Earth 3 series was not exclusively about sharks but they did make quite a few appearances.

21 Liz Truss Plot

This is perhaps my favourite cartoon I got published this year based on the famous engraving of the Gunpowder Plot by Crispijn de Posse the Elder (on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London).  Around bonfire night everyone tries to tie current events into the gunpowder plot and Liz Truss and her supporters rather than hiding were plotting with their own take on how the government should be run (because they did so well last time).  I got to redraw the etching in a fun cartoon style.

22 Covid For Christmas

Submitted a couple of months before Christmas this cartoon ended up not being too far off the mark with a number of people I know missing Christmas or the lead up to Christmas with either Covid-19 or strangely resilient colds.  One worry of mine was I had calculated the number of days based on the issue closest to when I submitted this cartoon and the Eye ended up using it in a later issue (the bumper one with four toons) and would they have left the number of days or adjusted it but they nailed it.

23 Conflict Christmas

I'm normally a big fan of Christmas but a couple of things made this year a bit less festive.  On the personal front I took a nasty tumble a week or so before Christmas and thanks to to a jaw injury was on a softer diet of squishy sprouts and no crunchy potatoes.  Also since October 7th there had been a war between Hamas and Israel after a surprise attack into Israel claimed over a thousand Israeli lives and hostages taken,  The ongoing conflict and Israeli invasion/bombing has turned Gaza into a war zone with many civilian casualties and much of the population displaced.  How cartoonists respond to such events has been discussed much this year with some cartoons and comments deemed to have taken sides or be open to allegations of anti-semitism or islamophobia, while others of the "won't anyone think of the children" are dismissed as not having much to say other than war is terrible especially for kids.  

I don't have a regular editorial slot being mostly an on-spec cartoonist so I haven't had to draw anything specifically on this subject and this is about as close as I've come to comment which is firmly in the latter isn't war terrible for kids category.

Of all the things we pass into 2024 please let us have resolved the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine before I have to do another of these blog posts.

A happy 2024 to you all.

Wednesday 5 April 2023

March of Robots 2023

 So March of Robots is an art challenge I've done a few times because who doesn't like drawing robots and these days of algorithms suppressing free to play content you need to put something out there.

My original stated aim was that I would do all 31 prompts but I'd limit the to no more 30 minutes work but while I managed all 31 sometimes I would get carried away such as this jungle scene for March 3rd.

Life as a human artist in 2023 is a bit frustrating not only are our tech overlords relentlessly fiddling with their platforms in ways that always seem to give you less visibility, generative art from AI is starting to appear on the platforms where those who type prompts in Stable Diffusion or the like are suddenly "artists" and hoover up the likes and praise from those who surf the content for pretty visuals without considering the effort that goes into creating that content.

Much of the AI chat in March was about ChatGPT-4 the AI language model still in Beta that can write your emails/homework/lazy derivative opinions in seconds.  Elon Musk and others were warning about the disadvantages of the unintended consequences of AI although the intended consequence of devaluing certain human tasks is also pretty horrific.  This entry from March 19 with apologies to the Simpsons and Matt Groening was probably my most popular post.

If you want to be generous to folk you would say we are still pretty enraptured by the novelty of this "free" tool not realizing that eventually it will be monetized by tech overlords so that those who provided the content the machines learned from and those who later leverage it will be lining the pockets of those who merely financed a cloud server farm with software.  In the meantime if you're relying on ChatGPT beware that it's usage is throttled which inspired this illustration from March 27th 

Back to Generative AI art vs human art.  On the Instagram explore page for the hashtag you can still easily spot the AI art that has gained traction even though the competition element of the challenge explicitly banned it.  Perhaps I'm a luddite for not embracing the inevitable rise of the machine learning. The Luddites are a good example of a professional craft who even with their campaigning still lost out to cheap mass produced cloth even though at the high end you might get someone to hand stitch your suit for the average Joe we're happy for robots to make mass produced consumer goods.

The established distinctive artists will still garner commissions and magazine slots but those starting out who rely on smaller commissions for caricatures, book covers etc. are going to struggle when a fast and "good enough" result can be delivered from a web site.

Who knows perhaps we'll leverage the technology is a good way to benefit society, but to do so we'll have to rein in some of the Mega Corps that are charging away with rapid AI development.  This cartoon from the 30th March sums up my mood.

In the meantime even if it not pulling in the big bucks there is a joy in the creation of artwork not just the social media attention for the finished article.  So to finish off March here is another robot

Friday 3 February 2023

Hourly Comic Day 2023

 Every Feb 1 is hourly comic day when comic creators torture themselves by attempting to post a comic for every hour they are awake.  My hack since I have a job is to post every 2-3 hours and even then this year it was a struggle.  Still now that Twitter has withdrawn the ability to make moments I have to preserve my 1st Feb 2023 on here for all posterity.


  • I did figure out how to do the poo stick test the next day (but didn't draw a comic about it)
  • The mindful challenge continued with mindfully unlocking a door but today the challenge is to listen to new music which I do like and I found a decent new debut artist
  • The windows still work

Tuesday 31 January 2023

Caricature Resolution 2023

 A new year is full of challenges the first of which was ISCA's Caricature Resolution which this year was alternating women and men featuring actors and the characters they had played in biopics which lead to some interesting discoveries.

For example day 9 was Temple Grandin an author and speaker on autism and animal behaviour including cows.  I listened to her TED talks on visual thinking and autism while I drew this caricature of her.

However the purpose of caricature resolution is to hone your caricature skills while being able to see how many other artists approach the same subject.  In a way it's daunting to compare your own efforts with masters of their craft but it was ever thus on social media.  It's sometimes easier when you at least have some familiarity with the subject like this one of Peter 

So sometimes you'd never heard of them, sometimes they were famous actors and occasionally you had to draw someone who you'd drawn before which gives you liberty to try a different approach.  This is Jazz age belle Clara Bow

In this case I feel my previous likeness was better but often with certain folk capturing their essence even if they are well known is elusive.  Denzel Washington was one who many artists thought was tricky and so I was pleased I managed something workable with him.

So who was my favorite - it was probably Ruth Bader Ginsburg of day 17 which without striving turned out better than I was expecting.

You can go onto Instagram and find all the awesome work on this challenge which proves there's always a higher standard to aspire to!

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