Category Archives: Conference Cartoons

MY LAST FEW DAYS…

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…

FLORENCE…AGAIN

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…

MY LATEST CONFERENCE CALL

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…

CONFERENCE CARTOONING?

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…