Monthly Archives: July 2014


A desperate attempt to find a new blog subject.

I was invited to ‘A celebration of the music of Tim Rice’ at the Royal Festival Hall this week, but I thought that if I chose this as my subject I’d only go on about how beautifully presented were some of my favourite songs from the oeuvre of this true witty genius. Or how gorgeous Sophie Ellis Bextor looked as she gave us Another Suitcase and Another Hall from Evita, in the loveliest version I’d ever heard. Or how Cathy got weak at the knees at the very sight of Tim Minchin. Or how absurdly expensive it was to buy two glasses of wine and a packet of crisps in the interval. Or how I managed to tell Sophie Ellis Bextor at the party afterwards how wonderfully she had sung. Or how I was reminded of the last night of Superstar, when Jesus stood next to me at the party bar and said, “Have they only got bloody wine?”

But I decided all this stuff was a bit self-indulgent, so I decided to write about my top shelf instead. I could have chosen to mention all the shelves, but you need a few spare ideas in your armoury. So top shelf…

On my top shelf

Click the photo to see it full size. ‘Esc’ to return

The first item a casual observer might spot is one of those little artist’s wooden drawing figures, carefully positioned so it looks like he is preparing to dive off the edge. A lovely little model of Snow White which I gave to my Mum after a visit to Disneyland, and took back after she left us to it, bless her. Next to the Disney princess of them all is a squeezy Purple Parking mini-bus. I do a regular cartoon for this wonderful company, that goes out via email to about a million people – so I was so proud of it that it found its way to my top shelf.

Next to that, a clay model of some Jumblies sitting in a sieve with a tobacco pipe mast. When my colleague Alan Fenemore and I decided to do an animated film of this Edward Lear piece of classic nonsense, the sieve had to go round and round (and everyone said they’d all be drowned…) so trying to work out the inter-relationship of all the elements in the sieve as it spun was beyond me. Answer? Make a clay model, photograph it thirty times as I revolved it, and trace the results. Constantly repeat the sequence and there you go.

Near it is the award we won for the finished Jumblies film – IAC 2013 Best Animation.

A lovely model of a yacht, very like the one a client of mine, half the Yachting Partners International team, once took me on from Cork to the Scilly Isles overnight. In spite of the fact that I told him I was much more adept at gin and tonics than ropes, he still whistled me aboard – and it was one of the best times of my life.

A big canvas of Cathy and me on our wedding day. Two photos of the resulting little chap, now five and a half, and a right one. An Oscar that the Thame Players presented to me for writing their panto Cinderella – the Sweetie Version, and all the scenery for it. Four or five 12′ high backdrops.. Among the gags in that masterpiece were a sign on the street scene pointing to Ma’s Bar (get it?) and special offers in a medieval shopping mall – Mall Teasers…

And lastly, two little wind-up Thomas the Tank Engine models.

There. Wasn’t that more interesting than the combined works of superstar lyricist Sir Tim Rice? No? Oh well…


My current daft way of making a living…

Speed_Drawing_stillSpeed drawing involves me sitting under a camera and some hot lights, drawing for all I’m worth (who said ‘that’s not much…’) and having to get it right first time – because it’s fab, easy to watch, and incredibly low tech.

And if it wasn’t for the editing genius of a certain Alan Fenemore…

So people come along and spend about forty minutes telling me what their company does. I then reduce it in intelligence until I can understand it, and rewrite it to last about two minutes. I work on the assumption that if I get it, everyone will. Storyboards follow, so everyone knows how the masterpiece will end up – because there’s no going back…

Result? A nice little film which wins hearts with its simplicity. A certain broadcasting company has had some, so has a mighty co that makes detergents and that sort of thing, and subjects have included cosmetics, power drills, naughty smoking things, holiday homes and gorgeous swimming pools. These discerning and talented people, who are obviously on the cutting edge of industry and life generally, use the films on their websites, at presentations and on YouTube.

Good eh?

Watch this very quick little film – so short that even you won’t get bored.



Unexpected conference fun…

I spend quite a bit of my life attending conferences and sitting at the back, churning out mono single frame gags about the subjects of the day. When I’m really motoring along I can produce up to thirty wise, witty and relevant cartoons for delighted clients.

Substitute Nurse Cartoon

I have done this strange arm to my already strange way of making a living for many big and well known national companies, including Coutts, LV Insurance, Peugeot, EDF, World Wildlife, Bafta… And a brilliant two day gig for Volkswagen. That was easy – it was a team building event at Silverstone, where there were plenty of very drawable cars around, and all the people were learning new fun skills like plate spinning and juggling (get the metaphors?) Anyway, they filmed me over my shoulder and instantly projected it onto a 20ft screen – so no pressure. At the end of all this I had produced about forty drawings which pleased the client so much that they produced a neat little A6 perfect bound booklet of them to send to all the delegates as a reminder of a great day.

And before you totally lose interest (I heard that) I give you this fine example because of the trepidation I felt last Tuesday when I had taken on a similar job for a company that makes colostomy bags and anything else remotely connected with stoma care. Gulp… My natural tendency to make doubtful jokes about almost everything (which can get my wife mad) had to be put on hold. It’s just not a funny subject. But here’s the good bit. The do was in Leicester so I had to stay overnight. Since the conference was for about 250 nurses and me, I was told quite firmly to behave myself. Cut to the pre-conference dinner which was great fun, especially when said nurses all did the conga and dragged me in (really unwillingly…) The next day couldn’t have been more different from my expectations. Brilliant speakers who weren’t averse to talking about the mucky side of the subject, and cartoon ideas galore. Favourite was a bloke being frisked in airport security, saying ‘Of course it’s not a bag of drugs, do you want to smell it?’

A whopping 36 cartoons later I was on my way home. Job done. Client delighted and talking about a booklet in the Volkswagen style. With a new and enormous respect for these fantastic nurses and carers who make life so comfortable for the people who have to wear these bags all the time, and still get on with life. One speaker, a very famous man and colostomy bag user, had managed to do his bit towards creating a little daughter who is the light of his life. And the story he told about a chocolate soufflé incident in New York is best not repeated in public…



A visit to the Hergé Museum, the home of a legend…

The whole idea of going to Belgium to see the sister of my stepson and ward Sam, and to meet her new little chap, was beginning to get tiresome. Driving to Dover to catch the ferry at the height of the terrible weather was worrying – even the big traffic signs on the M40 warned of delays at that white cliffed paradise, and they were more than two hours drive away. The M20 contained every lorry in England (probably containing immigrants trying desperately to get out) and my kindly sat nav had come up with a new route which landed us in the biggest traffic jam I’d ever seen. So started four hours of waiting…we couldn’t get out and only moved forward when presumably some bloke announced to his depressed family that he couldn’t be bothered to wait and did a quick u-turn. Home for tea and wine.

We sat there until they let us on the 4 o’clock ferry (the only one that day) and were finally allowed to have a pee – where I met someone who’d been waiting since 8am.


But I digress. The high spot of the trip for me was to be our visit to the Hergé Museum – a few miles away from our hotel in Leuven. I tried “I’ve lost that Leuven feeling…” to lighten the mood, but this was greeted with a rather starchy “How long have you been working on that?” So I decided to leave it.

The Hergé Museum is a fascinating and inventive place. A beautiful purpose built building, with walkways, loads of layers, and lots of lovely rounded corners. Everywhere are enormous vinyls of young Tintin, which on close examination have that roughness of line which makes it a true enlargement of the original, as opposed to a clean cut vector line. But what do I know – that’s probably exactly what it is.

My main quest, apart from heading for the shop to buy some needless Tintin goodies, was to examine the beautiful pencil work which Hergé seemed to do constantly, before they were inked in to such an effect that even Andy Warhol was inspired – quoting the greatest Belgian (apart from Jacques Brel) as one of his key influences. Hergé’s reward was a typical Warhol with his mug shot in it four times. Praise indeed…

Anyway, my little boy Jamie, and Sam, seemed engrossed with the mini-movies that were on display – King Kong and that sort of thing. More inspiration for this prolific artist – so I wandered off to my pencil sketches, and was just examining one when my glasses fell off and smashed on the floor. I picked up the bits and threw them in a bin, only to be told by Sam that I could have used one of the lenses as a monocle. Good thinking too late…

Hergé was editor of Le Petit Vingtieme, a children’s supplement to a Belgian newspaper, from 1928 – and when he’d got his feet firmly under the table he introduced his new character Tintin to the mix. From 1929 to his death in 1983 Hergé apparently drew Tintin without stopping. He completed 23 comic books which hopefully we all know and love, and oversaw the production of an enormous range of spin-offs, from T-shirts to TV series, watches to wireless programmes. Pity he didn’t have a chance to see Spielberg’s ground-breaking animated film from 2011. Seen it three times so far…

So they built a lovely museum to honour the lovely man. And I don’t blame them. We had a great time, even though I saw most of it without the benefit of sharp focus, and ended up in the shop, buying fluffy Snowy models for Jamie, nothing for Sam because it wasn’t cool enough, and a gorgeous Tintin figurine for me – which now stands proudly next to Rupert.

Funny place Belgium. I think it was shut. But that morning was something else. “Great snakes Tintin my boy…”