Category Archives: Cartoonist


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.


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…


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…