Robert Duncan could draw a book about them…

book-illustrationMany years ago, in a far off land, I started doing book illustrations in my pleasing deceptively simple style, for publishers who obviously found me deceptively simple too. One of these was John Adams, whose toy company was a rip roaring success, and he and his lovely wife Sue decided to launch a publishing arm for their business.

In the first season I illustrated a series of small books that included, if my memory serves me well, which it probably doesn’t, Shadow Pictures, Magic, and all that. At the time I had just written my bedtime Bible story book for children, Once Upon A World, and I naturally edged it subtly across the desk at them. This had early Duncan cartoons on every page, and went on to sell over 80,000 copies and be recorded by John Le Mesurier. (Still available in remastered form on Amazon, so there).

Am I drifting from the point and turning this into a general promo about me, instead of being specific about book cartoons? Probably…

Over the intervening years (about 40 of them) I have been lucky enough to do the visual content of dozens of books – and I must say it is really rewarding. Not financially particularly, but the day when the parcel of finished copies appears at the doorstep makes it all worthwhile. First I admire the cover, second I flick through to check that the Chinese printers haven’t ruined my colours, and third – I make sure I have got a suitable name check. In many cases they mention me in the intro too – which is good for my delicate ego.

Click here to see some of my book illustrations

In my time I have done a lovely series of books for Pavilion, Curiosities of Golf, Cricket, Politics etc written by Jonathan Rice (Tim’s brother), more sports books, titled questionably Best Cricket Jokes, Football Jokes etc. Another golf book, this time a collection of rhymes about that noble sport, called Golf – The Rhyme and Reason (my title) by the wonderful Freddie Mitman, and…

Oh it goes on like that anyway. I don’t want to bore you. (I heard that…)

And so to today. Having just finished the pictures for some rather nice short stories by a lady called Hazel (That’s one accompanying this article) I thought it was about time to shout about this largely unnoticed arm of my dubious existence. So I made one of my little films about it and you can watch it here.

I am now in the process of alerting as many publishers as possible of the unique opportunity of giving me some work:  If you know any please tell them about me. After all, my special book shelf isn’t quite full yet…


A handy extra brain when you need it…


For more years than I care to remember, I have been adding occasional creative ideas and copy platforms to a handful of agencies who are working on a pitch or presentation, and want a different slant to their creative approach. All very hush hush – the last thing an agency wants is someone going around saying ‘That was my idea in the first place’ or saying ‘I did that’ when a nice ad turns up.  So now I have decided to formalise this shady and confidential service.

As I get older the idea of sitting there and turning out scribbled visuals in my light and experienced hand appeals to me. So – give it a name and a logo. An apple core with a single seed (the idea) deeply embedded in it. Call it Core Ideas.

My history and a large amount of my peculiar living has been looking at fresh products or services for the first time, and getting excited about producing new and different approaches to getting them to market, memorably and uniquely.

So there you are – a bunch of ideas and copy, stripped down to the bare bones – a sheaf of thumbnail sketches, words, arrows, thoughts, cross references – so you can say ‘Actually that’s fun. That would be good. That would work. Let’s try that.’

Core Ideas. A folder of original scribbles and ideas for £400 + vat. That’s the deal.

See the video. It says much the same thing, but in a more visual way.


Makes Ben Hur look like a B movie…

Regular followers of my bon mots will know that I have occasionally waxed lyrical about my conference cartoons. For the uninitiated, this is where I’m invited to a conference, and sit there listening to all the speeches and making up wise and witty gags about them. These end up on screen instantly, to take people away from the horrors of PowerPoint, or underline some point some bloke is making.

So I thought I’d make a film about it – and here it is! Loads of superb content left on the cutting room floor, hundreds of extras furious because they didn’t make the final edit, red carpets ordered for the premiere.

Just three minutes actually – to convince you that this is the way to go to save your conference. Drop me into the mix and the recipe will be perfect! (I wonder if anyone else has ever said that…)

Go to and follow the “link to Conference cartoons on the home page, or email me anytime on and I’ll tell you all about it and send you copious examples of past triumphs.

But not at this precise moment, because I’m on a plane heading for our pad in Spain with my darling family.

Download the outline of my conference cartoon service



As great a hero as the comic creations he drew…

Don Lawrence

Don Lawrence

I was brought up in Chestnut Cottage, a big old house in Pinner, reputedly used occasionally by Lord Nelson for trysts with Lady Hamilton, no doubt sailing his mighty galleon into the harbour of her heart.

Much has been recorded about my early years (solely by me) but I may not have touched on the subject of the flat in the west wing that my darling parents rented out to help towards the frequent and worrying costs of owning a big old house.

Len and Jean lived there for a while, and remained family friends for life, and so did The creeping Clibbon, who would grab your arm and tell you about his horrendous operations, which always resulted in ‘buckets of blood’. Later a friend of my father’s, Peter, moved in and wooed my sister in true Nelson style, to the extent that he became my darling brother in law, and was totally adored by everyone (especially my sister) until the day he died.

MarvelmancoverBut that’s another story dear reader. This tale concerns a young artist and his wife who took over the flat, by the name of Don Lawrence. (That’s the name of the artist, not the flat).

Anyway, imagine a small undernourished lad of twelve, misbehaving curly hair teased into a voluminous lump, crazy about drawing and art of any sort. Me.

I locked on to the unfortunate Don Lawrence to the extent that I couldn’t see enough of him. I would spend whole days sitting by his drawing board watching the adventures of Marvelman developing before me. At the cry of Shazam! mild mannered whoever he was turned into a super hero, intent on saving the world from baddies. (Where is he now?) Occasionally he would turn to me and say things like ‘This guy behind the desk. What should he look like?’ I would say ‘how about round glasses and surprised hair?’ And he would say ‘great!’ And a few weeks later I would receive my very own action adventure comic with my own character invention in it. Twelve years old? Wow or what?’

On one occasion I took a whole page of my own comic strip to him and he said it was a hell of a lot better than he could have done at my age. I still hold that as one of the best compliments I’ve ever had.

I went up to the flat one day and he’d done a drawing for me – a Marvelman body with a little skinny bearded bespectacled head on the top, with the inscription ‘I hope you suit your profession better than I do! Keep drawing Rob. Don.’

The reason for this pithy (that’s pithy) article is that I googled him recently to find out how he got on in later life. You should really do it. His artwork developed until he was supreme, famous and respected worldwide.

In case you can’t be bothered, here’s an excerpt from his Wikipedia entry:

Fame came with ‘The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire’, a science fiction epic written by Mike Butterworth and published in Ranger and subsequently Look And Learn from 1965 to 1974. ‘The Trigan Empire’ was a hit all over Europe, especially in Holland. Affiliated with the Temple Art Agency, Lawrence additionally worked on ‘Fireball XL5′ (in TV 21), ‘Thunderbirds’ (in Joe 90), ‘Blackbow the Cheyenne’ (in Eagle) and the erotic comic ‘Carrie’ (in Mayfair).

Not bad eh? I must have inspired him.

Don Lawrence lost his eyesight after a botched cataract operation and died in 2003. I owe him a lot, if it’s ok for me to be mentioned in the same breath…


Is there a k in knackered?

IMG_5111A week in the life of a cartoonist. Ready?

Last Friday I spent working on a storyboard for one of my speed draw film thingies (about 130 so far) in a bit of a flap because the following week was going to be hectic. And I don’t do hectic as well as I used to.

Got the storyboard done, although I didn’t understand what is was all about. Something to do with software. But not understanding my subject is nothing new, in fact in can be a great help because I write the first script too, and if I understand vaguely what I’m banging on about, anyone will.

So time for the weekend, and to take Jamie to a football tournament. I’m looking out of the window now, because it seems that every time I mention the words football tournament it immediately pisses with rain. Strange. Not today. It’s wall to wall sunshine. Anyway, I stood watching my little hero, fresh from his Players Player of the Year Award, as he scored a fab goal and showed the opponents that he and the team were not to be messed with. All this to a backdrop of black angry clouds, continuous rain, and nothing more than the occasional cup of sulky coffee to cheer me up. When we drove home we couldn’t have been any wetter if we’d jumped into the local pool on the way.

And so to Monday, where I totally forgot to go to the school for my Comic Club workshop session, because I was building up to an evening conference cartoon gig in Birmingham. Birmingham? I thought, oh no (or words to that effect) but journey, evening, giving client satisfaction, and returning to the fold tired but happy all worked out well. I will include a cartoon from this jolly evening in this write-up if I remember…

Tuesday was a free day, with time to finish my incredibly complicated cartoon to promote the Thame Music Festival. Got a bit carried away, with an aerial view of Thame and hundreds of happy punters swarming around the lovely streets. Musicians stood 50ft high over this throng – but if you want to see this masterpiece you’ll just have to go along and support this great event on 8th July. That’s if we haven’t all left the country exactly a month earlier…

A gentle evening with my proud beauty (that’s Cathy in case you’re wondering what I meant) and it was up at 4.15am to be ready to meet star videographers Alan and Ben to get to our very own exhibition stand at the Excel by 7am. That business about best laid plans applies here, so the M25 let us down. Possibly the first time this fine carriageway has done that to anyone. In spite of a delay which kept us still for over three quarters of an hour, we were parked under the dreaded venue by 7.45, only to be told that the exhibition hall didn’t open until 8am. So there was nothing for it, and it was a tough call, but we just had to have coffee and bacon sandwiches while we waited. Huh.

IMG_5140Cut to 7pm. I’ve done my stint but the boys have to come back tomorrow. We’ve had a great day, largely thanks to an enormous tv we hired, showing the film that Alan and Ben put together, showing the wonders of speed drawing films. Other stands seemed to be rather quiet, but we were packed out all day – and not just because we were giving away cute DVDs of aforementioned film. Mind you, I looked a bit grotty on big screen. Think we’ll use Doris Day style soft focus next time…

I travelled across London in the rain (and not a football tournament in sight. Maybe it’s me…) settled into a little hotel near Bishopsgate and suddenly realised how hungry I was. The effect of the bacon sandwich had obviously worn off. Directly over the road was an eatery called Absurd – so macaroni cheese, coleslaw, chicken wings and a mega glass of Sauvignon seemed to work. It was the sort of thing that people have to do…

Next day it was all about conference cartoons. In case you haven’t been attending, or haven’t bothered to print out earlier blogs on the subject and kept them close to your heart ready to enjoy in quiet moments, this is where I sit at the back and knock out about 25 mono cartoons inspired by the topics of the day. Occasionally this is done on a 10ft board, where passers-by make their own witty suggestions. Other times I draw a bit more publicly, with a large video camera stuck over my shoulder. So no pressure.

This time a truly terrifying woman got me drawing on an 80″ tv screen in front of an assembly of about 400. Luckily she’s paid me so she won’t have to see my terrifying side…

Home again, with the prospect of having a debrief (as we laughingly called it) with Alan and Ben, and then sending wise and witty emails to the numerous people who had found our speed drawing films just a bit brilliant.

Busy now, but we can still handle more.

That was the week that was, in the words of Millicent Martin…


Robert Duncan visits as lyricist, and 35 years later as cartoonist…

Florence-Conference-2000Back in the day (which is a cool way of saying way back when, years ago, when I was younger, time was… etc) I was working with darling teenage friends Gordon Waller (Peter and Gordon, number one with World Without Love, April 1964) and Robin Box (lead guitar with White Plains, Julie Do Ya Love Me, When You Are A King, 1970s) on a musical about Leonardo. I’m not saying we were teenagers then – we left that privileged position in the mid-sixties.

But dear friends we were, and if Gordon had managed to stay with us, change that to ‘are’.

It was the most exciting of times. We produced what we still consider to be a vastly underrated musical which, unlike today, didn’t have a naff song in it, and had several solid gold showstoppers. Thanks to sound man Bari Watts, genius director Peter Wheeler, and the Thame Players, we rocked the town to the extent that we predicted that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stranglehold on the West End musical was over. We took Leonardo into London for a brief and appallingly unsuccessful run, and returned home to lick our wounds. In my case, the wounds were mainly on my wallet. I lost the value of a small house.

But I digress (again, I hear you say). During the time I was deep into writing the book and lyrics for this masterpiece, I thought a trip to Florence would be in order. So off we went, finding time to visit the Uffizi, try out the local bars, and take a train to Vinci. A beautiful friendly place – giving me the line ‘Vinci, little town of inspiration’ which worked in well with Gordon and Robin’s riff or whatever they called it.

Cut to 2017, and I got a call in my capacity as conference cartoonist – where I turn up, listen to the topics of the day, and draw mono cartoons about them. I say to these wonderful clients that I will do at least 25 in the day, and on this occasion I managed 36. Lovely people, lots of ‘I wish I could do that’ and ‘you’re amazing’ which drives me on for some reason, and the day was done. After a business-like gin and tonic we all went to a delightful and historic restaurant, and everyone was totally chuffed with (a) how the day had gone, and (b) me.

Tired but happy as the saying goes, I returned to the hotel with Hilary, the client, and we both enjoyed another business-like gin and tonic as a nightcap. Breakfast was arranged and I suggested we should go up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which I had remembered word-perfect from my eighties visit. A panoramic view of this beautiful city, with the River Arno meandering through it, and the Ponte Vecchio, with its curio shops, a bit like the old London Bridge we’ve all read about, crossing it in fine style.

Photos taken, grinning in front of the view to spoil it, it was time to get off to the airport.

Leaving this lovely place again. I took a photo of the plane and got a bollocking from ground staff. But there we are. This part of Italy hasn’t changed much for hundreds of years, but sadly security has.

‘Beastly Madness’ as Leonardo said, referring to war. Great title for a song. Thank goodness I used it back in the day…


Robert Duncan is dragged kicking and screaming…

Running-ManAs dozen upon dozen of nubile young women can testify, I have a fine manly figure. So Cathy’s suggestion that maybe we should join the gym came as a bit of a shock, and took a mean side swipe at my delicate ego.

But anyone knows that trying to disagree with women is a hopeless cause (e.g. Spanish apartment, new small dog etc…) so I concurred.

Early discussions dismissed the local leisure centre because the pool is always too crowded, and the local stately home is too far away (and too expensive).

We settled on an outing to the Oxfordshire, a beautiful golf course which nestles seductively, curvaceous under soft green sheets, only minutes away from our gorgeous country home. As we drove up the long drive Cathy mentioned that it looked as delightful as a safari lodge in the Savanna or somewhere. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but it was obviously going to be a day when learning curves were going to be bent beyond recognition, so I concurred (concurred again. I might change my name to William and become William the Concurrer…).

We met up with a fit young man who grinned with about two hundred teeth, and bounded off towards the torture chamber.

Now at this moment I should digress, and tell you that I have a small failing. Oh shhh. I tend to press buttons if they are there. Like when I was with Lotte in an x-ray room and I pressed a button because it was all red and pressy. An enormous x-ray unit came hurtling towards us, and if it hadn’t been for Lotte yelling at me it would probably still be moving… and would be due to pass our house by next Tuesday. Anyway, it stopped. It must have responded to the timbre of her voice. Digressing further, my son, who has inherited some of my genes (the stone wash flares) stopped the London Eye, and got us a good telling off from the man on the loudspeaker.

Back to the plot. Mr Fit showed us round the machines and explained everything. Strangely he seemed to be addressing Cathy most of the time. I translated this as evidence that he thought I was fit enough already.

I got on surprisingly well on the bike thingy, mastered the cross trainer (didn’t make it any more cross) and approached the running machine with trepidation.

“Start off gently” Superman said, “and build up gradually.” Well, it all seemed very simple. I was strolling along at a speed I could have coped with for at least three minutes when I noticed three buttons marked 2mph, 4mph and 6mph.

Not wanting to show Charles Atlas (that’s for the older readers) that I was a weakling and could easily have sand kicked in my face, I hit the 6mph button. The thing took off at high speed and, in spite of hanging on to the handles they provide, I flew off the end and landed badly a few feet back from the machine from hell. Everyone stopped running, pedalling, straining, and looked at me. People were saying “are you ok?” and other bloody pointless remarks, to the extent that I could admit to bruising of my pride as well as my sore knees. I limped out looking a bit like Mo Farah. A bit…

I have probably mentioned in the past how fabulous, and just plain gorgeous, my Cathy is. And on this occasion she didn’t disappoint. After the merest hand over the mouth to staunch a giggle she suggested we should repair to the bar. Love her. Don’t know why…

Here we are a few weeks later, and I have been to the gym virtually every day. Waving at said fit bloke I stride in, plug in the earphones, and listen to half an hour of Hancock, the Goons, Dad’s Army or Just a Minute. Anything to take away from the infinite boredom of exercise. How these marathon runners cope I’ll never know.

Perhaps they don’t think.

No, that’s mean.

No it isn’t…


Off to Scotland to draw some wee piccies. Aye…

InnovationI left Luton on a wing and a prayer last Tuesday, heading for Glasgow to do one of my conference cartoon gigs. In case you haven’t been attending, I am invited to go to conferences and sit around listening to the speakers (on any subject, from satellite TV to colostomy care) and produce up to 25 wise and witty cartoon gags in a day. These are then used for websites, emailings, newsletters, or in very extreme cases (like Volkswagen) turned into little booklets to send to the delegates as a souvenir of the day.

But the whole thing has become more complicated, and consequently more fun. Very often the imaginative and ground breaking client will supply an 8 ft board for me to create a mighty cartoon featuring the topics of the day. On one occasion I trundled a large roll of paper to Munich to do this very thing – and they loved it so much it is now in pride of place in their boardroom. And I have drawn cartoons live on my iPad Pro so the happy punters can see them developing on the big screen. Or I scan the A4 pictures on a sensational app on my phone and transfer them via Bluetooth to the AV desk for immediate projection to the pre-mentioned big screen.

Good eh?

Anyway, enough of that short and very snappy commercial. To get back to the plot I was flying into Glasgow for a conference hosted by a well known computer company. I stayed in a hotel in the Gorbals, which used to be incredibly seedy, and you had to be a mean machine to even enter its dodgy streets. But it’s ok now, and a lovely well maintained area, without a flick knife in sight. I must say I was grabbed by the Gorbals.

Still with me after that? I arrived at the venue at 7.30am and was made very welcome by everybody. Soon I was churning out some fab cartoons which were immediately transferred to the walls of the venue, a fantastic old brewery which has recently been taken over and is well worth a visit. Not that I tried any of the product you understand. 26 cartoons and a happy client later I was enjoying a glass of wine with all the jolly delegates, who incidentally were asked to wear Scottish attire and responded in varying degrees of keenness, some wearing a tartan tie, others looking like they could give Rob Roy a run for his money.

That evening I had that lovely feeling that I’d delivered what I was being paid for, had come up with some highly original ideas, and had delivered my own peculiar way of making a living pretty well.

So there was only one way to celebrate. Another glass of wine in the hotel bar, and a gammon and chips with a fried egg! Boy, I know how to live…

My plane didn’t leave until 3pm the next day, so I spent the morning (a) having a major breakfast, (b) watching two episodes of Frasier which were totally brilliant, and (c) writing some bon mots a bit like this on my iPad for eventual publication to my adoring fans (how are you sis?)

I reached Luton Airport in a white-out snowstorm and spent the next two hours attempting to drive home, thanks to my kindly satnav’s choice of skinny ice covered c road short cut, where my car made up it’s mind to slide around exactly as it wanted, ignoring any driving instructions and tweaks that this seasoned driver attempted to add to the mix.

Tired but happy, as the expression goes, I got home to complete Jamie’s part of a Scrabble contest, because he’d totally lost interest. My seven letters were UTUFLCK to be added to the word ON.

Next day? Crisis speed draw job for a certain oil company – storyboard by 6pm, finished film by 4pm tomorrow.

I like being a cartoonist…


That’s what Robert Duncan seems to be doing constantly…

babyBefore all you sweetiepies say “we know that” or “tell us some news” or more likely “here he goes again” I thought I would expand (and expound) on my chosen way of making a living.

I think I may have mentioned in the past that I first hit on the wonderful idea of becoming a cartoonist when I was about six. I was soppy, curly hair shoved mercilessly into a voluminous powder puff blob on the top of my head, wheezy, and with a lisp that my mother thought was cute and nobody else did. And I was no good at sport. Result? I was in danger – so I decided that I would attempt to amuse everybody. That was in the late forties (oh stop it, I know I don’t look it) and still largely applies today.

An occasion I often repeat (so my ardent followers will have heard it before) was when my father, a tall distinguished golfing sort of Knightsbridge estate agent sort of chap, strode into my bedroom when I was sitting up reading the Beano (I was 28. No I wasn’t) and said “Robbie my dear boy. You must give up these pretensions of being an artist, you will work in the office like Michael (my brother – a tall, distinguished golfing sort of Knightsbridge estate agent sort of chap.)” At that very moment I decided that I would not follow this bit of fatherly advice, and would become a famous artist. I would go to art school, study under Peter Blake among others, leave after a year and till my own furrow or whatever the expression is. Of course I didn’t think of this at the time, I just decided to turn down the potential multi-million offer and do what I loved. After all, I would have turned out the most frustrated and dissatisfied tall, distinguished golfing sort of Knightsbridge estate agent sort of chap in the history of distinguished golfing sort of Knightsbridge estate agent sort of chaps.

Enough of that.

Suffice to say my darling Dad ended up being very proud of me, and at least I have a job that brings the response “Do you really do that for a living?” It is constantly fun and has given me a silly outlook on life that colours my entire world, from the way I go on at dinner parties, to the chat I constantly give to my long suffering wife, to the jokes and half baked advice I offer my little son and heir.

And in reply to your next eager question, this week I have done a speed drawing cartoon under camera about the pound perishing on a Guy Fawkes bonfire, completed 34 cartoons for a technical book which is now going to be funny, and done a series of quarter page cartoon ads for a fab vodka co (including the typography) to appear in The Week. Order your copy now to avoid disappointment.

Waiting in the wings is my alphabet book, AlphaBetty, which is good, and could be possibly half as successful as I think it ought to be.

No point in hiding your light under a bushel, so to speak. That’s what I do – and unlike some pop stars I could mention, I seem to get better at it all the time.

Compare that with retirement, playing golf in Bermuda, and wandering around looking distinguished. I don’t think so…


You’ve got to get up early to beat Robert Duncan…

mobile-receptionSo the alarm went off at 4am, reminding me in it’s subtle way that I would be cartooning in about five hours…. in Frankfurt. Gulp…

I got a sleepy kiss from my gorgeous Cathy ( which kind of made me want to stay) and left the house under the cloak of darkness. We’re a dramatic lot, us cartoonists.

I have a wonderful client called Purple Parking for whom I do a weekly cartoon (grammar) who has parking facilities at virtually every airport in Europe. Remember that place? Anyway, they always let me park free – and the barrier went up the moment I arrived, obviously because it recognised my number plate. A guy who was way too cheery for 5.30 in the morning took my keys and said leave it to him, and when I got back the car would be waiting – without even having to make a call. Brilliant.

At 7am I was taking off. At 8.30 I was in a hotel courtesy bus and at 9.30 I was drawing wise and witty cartoons inspired by the speeches and topics of the conference. By 6pm that evening this slightly jaded cartoonist had produced twenty five funny and relevant gags, had made line scans on my fantastic phone, and had blue toothed them to the AV desk to bung on the big screen. The joys of technology.

A fairly uproarious party followed, helped on by great canapés, loads of something sparkly, and an amazing honky tonk band that had been imported all the way from Barcelona, purely because they were so spectacular. They played up a storm and when the individuals were not in a number they would spend the time mixing mojitos and lining them up on the piano for us poor innocents to slurp. The lady who had employed me for this gig insisted I should try them, so I thought it would be rude not to…

Early night, which just goes to prove how sensible I’m becoming, and then back to the conference hall by 8am to make sure my projected cartoons were behaving themselves.

During the second day I added considerably to my cartoon collection, to the strains of such encouraging noises as ‘I wish I could draw like that!’ and ‘How did you absorb such a complex subject so quickly?’ And ‘these are much better than I expected!’ Inspiring stuff like that.

Tired but happy, as the Famous Five might have said, I left on a wing and a prayer at about 7.30pm and headed home to my little bunch of sweetie pies. Tired but happy with what I’d done.

The next day I felt knackered and had a shaking fit. Maybe it was the prospect of drawing a load of cartoons under camera for the opening of the Heath Robinson Museum the following day. But that’s another story…