I’ve just revisited PCO to see how things are progressing, and there’s certainly positive movement! Strangely you might say for a site promoting visual communication, the most intersting thing on the page is the very non-visual ‘blog’ written by the talented and very funny Andy Davey.
Most blogs have got a reply section and such. Amusingly this one hasn’t. It’s Andy Davey discussing with himself the big issues facing cartoonists, and it’s brilliantly appropriate. Cynical, frustrated, spiteful with just about a hint of hope that mercifully stops the struggling freelancer from either topping himself or in more dramatic fashion seeking regular employment. MORE MORE I hear myself yowl excitedly. Don’t bother with comments! It’d be like putting room for replies under a cartoon.
Now the rest of the place need to follow suit. Make it a decadent, funny, ranting, beautiful hub of creative, cynical observation for goodness sake!
Yes portfolios are great. Member’s forum also. Even advice as to how and when to commission a cartoon is I’m sure helpful.
However, the stated aim of the organisation is the following:
British cartoon art has a great, ignoble history and currently boasts a huge pool of talent. It deserves a higher media presence than it currently enjoys. Our aim is to make sure it gets it.
We want to promote cartoon art domestically and internationally by encouraging high standards of artwork and service, looking after the interests of cartoonists and promoting their work in all kinds of media.
It’s such a great idea, but in saying that cartoon art deserve a higher media presence, people need to know why – aside from the fact that there are a few handfulls of talented people who need the work. Andy has touched upon it in his blogging already. The mediums where cartoons used to be published has changed. As has the way people look for and use cartoons. Cartoonists have to change too, and aside from Andy’s entertaining observations, there is so far little sign of this from PCO.
Being aware of your market is one thing. Being confident in what you do is equally important.
Like Andy says:
So, time to grow some serious art-house egos, develop some social maladjustments (aside from the usual cartoonists’ infelicities like an unhealthy love of jazz or sweaters) and proudly call ourselves artistes, I reckon.
Confidence in your abilities and trade surely must be a good thing
(It might be helpful to keep the worst of the Art-House-Ego latent for a few years. The social maladjustments are undoubtedly there already if you’re making your living from drawing… ).
And that’s just the start of it.
With confidence comes a belief that the work is worth something.
And to put it crudely – rudely even – if you can’t sell your work, you either change your work to fit the market or change your target-market!
…or win obscene sums of money and buy a market.
Yes there are a lot of arguments for an organisation like the PCO to promote cartooning per se.
Yes. Fabulous. Great.
But it’s not doing the cartooinists any favours by implying that it’s everyone else’s fault that work is scarce!
It is no-one’s God-given right to make their living out of drawing!
Just like we can’t all be doctors, cabbies or premiership fullbacks.
That’s a cruel reality that make me sound distinctively Tory.
It’s got a little bit to do with how good you are, a hell of a lot to do with luck, and mostly to do with purposeful hard work and market awareness.
The problem the organisation faces is that promoting ‘cartooning’ is a bit like promoting ‘writing’.
“You should use more words in your magazine…”
“Because words can be funny.”
At the end of the day, any day, it comes down to the individual cartoonist coming up with something that a client wants. Writers coincidentally, are facing similar problems. Journalists are being laid off left, right and centre. Budding authors are not getting published because publishers prefer to spend all their money on ghost-written celebrity autobiographies. It’s not right, but it’s the reality.
Yes, we should all gather in pubs, as we do, and bemoan the state of things. I’m sure the PCO membes’ forum can serve a useful purpose there too. It’s what we do. It’s what members of all professions do – and have done for hundreds of years. Particularly creative ones.
However, what strikes me again and again, whenever cartoonists gather to lament the changing times over pints of real ale, is not the dire state of our profession, but the amount of new ideas that come to light. New concepts. New ideas for cartoons. Strips. Comics. New ways of working. Possible new outlets.
Surely, as self-confessed creatives, we should be better placed than most to adjust our work to fit the changing nature of our publishers, shouldn’t we!?
PCO is a good idea. But if it’s to succeed it must become an arena for the diverse and changing nature of cartooning – the cutting edge of the profession as well as the established stuff. Or else it risks becoming yet another cartoonists’ dinner club – with an online shop window to cartooning of yesteryear.
Cue ferocious debate!