From the Cartoon Notebook: Editing…

Michael Gove

It’s always sad to see the conferences come to an end.
No really.
As mentioned in previous posts, it’s a great chance for cartoonists to study the politicians more closely and develop their caricatures.

The sketch above is of Michael Gove, who I’ve always found quite difficult to draw despite his wonderfully peculiar looks. It’s a bit like with Ken Clarke. There’s too much to pick up on! In Gove’s case it doesn’t help that his voice is even funnier than his appearance, which somehow leaves you trying to draw sound.
And if that wasn’t enough, he’s deviously followed Jack Straw’s lead and ditched his trademark glasses, revealing eyes that are only half the size of those he used to present.

Fortunately though he’s got lips that can pout for England, and when Gove becomes just a tad more famous, those alone should be able to carry a caricature.

Michael Gove simplified

The best caricaturists have always been those who can capture that one line or feature that tell the whole story, so to speak. I wouldn’t count myself among them, as I tend to elaborate and then elaborate some more. It’s a confidence issue more than anything else, and I hope I’m getting better at it. This applies to cartooning in general as well. How you compose your image – and how you edit it.

The multi-award winning cartoonist Mike Tombs, originally from Coventry in England, has been one of Norway’s most successful, controversial and misunderstood cartoonists for three decades. Outside Norway his work has appeared in Punch, New Statesman and the Observer among others…
(Frustratingly, because I have a feeling he’s now retired and his signature is ‘Mike’ it’s an absolute nightmare trying to find examples of his work to show, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

He is a well art-educated craftsman yet readers would often, after screaming “outrage” at his controversial and usually vicious dig at anyone and anything, follow up with an attack on his drawing skills. Failing to understand of course, that had the drawing not been done in such a naive, limited and superbly direct style, their reaction to its message would probably not have been so strong.

I interviewed him once and got a first hand look at how he did it. On his desk were maybe five, six different versions of the same cartoon.
The initial idea was full of detail, the others progressively sparse – ending up with a finished cartoon taking you straight to the point in the most effective and penetrating way.
I try to keep his example in mind when I do my own work, but it’s much harder than it looks.

The introduction of colour to newspaper cartoons adds to that editing challenge. Using a palette which is as concidered as the ‘one line cariacture’, is key, but again it takes confidence to say “he’s suit was grey, but I might paint it red” (to use a poor example) when you’re up against a deadline.

I’m not saying that a cartoon can’t be successful if it’s detailed. There are plenty of examples of cartoonists who can carry it off. Martin Rowson is one example.
There are different styles of storytelling. You might want to lead your readers into the cartoon gradually, with several ‘plots’ and ‘sub plots’, or you might want to hit people between the eyes before they have a chance to defend themselves.

The point is editing.
Editing out the unnecessary information. The objects, colours and text that does nothing but detract from what you’re trying to convey.

I have a long way to go, but I’m working on it…


3 Responses to “From the Cartoon Notebook: Editing…”

  1. Stephen Collins Says:

    That’s brilliant, I love it. Got him in one. I once saw him getting stationary out of a cupboard and was struck by the length of his arse. It was huge. I mean, he did have his trousers pulled up quite high I think, and he was stretching a bit as the cupboard was quite high, so it may have been an optical illusion. But theimage has stayed with me.

    Weird situation though considering he’s a Times writer – I do hope he’s fair game??

    Anyway, hope my contribution helps.

  2. poldraw Says:

    Hehe, that’s a very unfortunate mental image to be burdened with Stephen.

    Anyone’s fair game as far as caricatures are concerned.
    His Times past doesn’t make him look any less peculiar.
    His current position as MP however, is not an advantage!

  3. Donna Morinec Says:

    We are trying to reconnect with Mike Tombs after spending time with him in Alesund back in 1970. We lost track in the early eighties. Can anyone give us assistance?

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