Spot the difference

Had to make a small change with the MTV mural illustrations. See if you can spot the difference.


The Power of Cartoons

Being an illustrator with a fondness for politics (and taking the piss out of politicians) the recent, tragic shootings in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo really struck a personal chord. And judging by the amount of images/responses posted on social media, I'm not the only one.
However, in the case of Political Cartooning, my depiction of Ed Miliband (below) is far from the level of controversy that Charlie Hebdo reached.

The amount of subtlety that the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo possessed was none. The cartoons were intended to offend but at least they did not single out any one group. You could say they were the most democratic of offenders. Their images were tasteless hyperbole and aesthetically void. Brushed aside by most, fit only for publication within their own pages.   

But cartoons can be powerful, acting as a universal language with no linguistic barriers between cultures and their impact is immediate. Cartoonists being threatened and attacked is not new. Not least Charlie Hebdo which encountered threats daily, but other examples including Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

Listening to radio phone ins, reading the papers etc... post-attack, a question that has surfaced is if this incident should now subject illustrations, satirists and commentators to a level of censorship? Of course, everyone wants free speech, but to some extent this censorship already happened: no national newspaper published the Charlie Hebdo images the following day, with the Editor of The Independent confessing to self-censorship. 

Satirical imagery relies on humour. But different cultures find different things funny and within an ever widening integration of various cultures through immigration, France having the largest Muslim population within Europe, should opinions and the illustrations they are expressed in, be subjected to an ethical and moral code? Or should they be banal? 

The mission statement of the Cartoonists Right Network International (CRNI) reads, 

"We do not take a position on any cartoonists political opinions. We simply stand for the rights of an individual to have and to express opinions,...
We offer help to any endangered cartoonist as long as he or she does not advocate hate or violence."

So, it's a you can say anything but don't shout FIRE in a crowded room from the CRNI. 
No doubt free speech is a treasured right. And one thing that Charlie Hebdo did was certainly fight for it. Everyday the cartoonists walked into the office, they were fighting for everyones right to express opinions and ask questions of those they drew. 
But can we say the same for other cartoons? Where does the line get drawn? (pun intended)

In Japan, only last June was a law brought in that banned citizens from the ownership of Child Pornography. The law applied to real imagery of child abuse, but it did NOT apply to Manga and Anime. Popular genre's including Lolicon (short for Lolita Complex) thrive in Japan. Images of very obviously underage girls and boys playing out the most explicit of sexual scenario's. So does Japan have a problem protecting children or are those who chose not to outlaw drawings of child abuse standing up for freedom of thought and freedom of expression, the same as Charlie Hebdo did? 

However, returning to Satire, it's role within our culture and society can not be understated. This universal medium bridges gaps in Society between those who are lead and the leaders, exposing weaknesses and challenging ideologies through mockery and humour. The problem that we have is that Radical Islam has no humour and cannot even see the irony in it's actions. Fascism does not want to be challenged as they hold no answers when questioned.  

If there was an agreement, between artists, to proceed with a code of conduct, how would it be set up? Who would police it? There are SO many questions that it's impossible and it isn't even worth thinking about. So should, on the other hand, we proceed in making imagery of a political, religious, sexual or any other nature completely banal and commonplace? 
However, if nothing is shocking or a bit risqué, then who gives a shit about it? If everything were to be mundane, (as a commercial illustrator I could argue A LOT of illustration already is) it would all just merge into a vast visual desert. As self acclaimed cartoon commentator Bill Mauldin once said, 

"Too many of todays cartoonists regard editorial cartooning as a trade instead of a profession. They try not to be too offensive. The hell with that. We need more stirrer-uppers."  

But Bill Mauldin worked under the brief that he could draw what he wanted "as long as I got it in on time." 
On jobs that i've worked on over the past year, censorship has never been so stringent. I do try and comment on society, politics, religion, but I am always met with a scepticism and element of fear. And I really think that having an opinion on current affairs has turned people away. 

Since the turn of 2015, i've read a lot of articles on the various and ever popular "creativity promoting websites" proclaiming that illustration has run itself into a rut and needs to change; that it's full of bright, pointless shapes dotted about on a page and is just "whimsical". Well I think a lot of that has to do with the illustrators, who every year are churned out of art schools on mass and being told to be "safe," draw a fucking owl and that's that, as it's more commercially viable and it'll be published. But that means there is also a responsibility with those who commission and promote said proverbial whimsical owl. 

Here's a before and after of a recent mural commission I did for a well known Music TV company. The gun was deemed too much and so had to be replaced. 

The works of illustrators, cartoonists and others must, in theory, be shocking or substantial enough to make people sit up and take notice. Works must challenge allusions and hypocrisy of hierarchy, whether elected or self-proclaimed. Work must be humble enough to act as light entertainment yet cut through the underbelly of issues wrong with society and push boundaries on taste and decency. 
Within the age of the internet, imagery has far more reach now than ever before and more shocking images than Charlie Hebdo cartoons, are available to every single one of us at an instant. However, imagery and opinion that is published within a mainstream printed press holds a level of responsibility, in regards to taste, as it reflects on the printed media as a whole. Online publishing can be seen to have a diminished responsibility due to the anonymity and escapism it possesses. 
Cartoonists have a responsibility too. Their work must be intellectual and cunning and challenge those it targets without crossing a line of taste, unlike Charlie Hebdo which frequently stepped over. 

Regardless, one thing that cannot be ever forgotten, is that everyday the offices and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo were under threat. And everyday, without fail, they went in and did what was right; not allowing those who threatened them with force to silence them in questioning ideologies through satire. 
A cartoon can be as important as it is insignificant.  Those who fear them are the ones who try to dictate them: totalitarian regimes, editors and others in power such as politicians. And as we have witnessed, the consequences to those who create them and to others after publication can be devastating as well as unifying. 



MTV Europe Music Awards 2014 Glasgow Map

Proud to have illustrated the map for the booklet accompanying the 2014 MTV Europe Music awards, with typography to boot. Big thanks to Jeannine Mellonby for working with me.


Illustration Shop

You can now go to my SHOP and buy directly from the site.
New work, including "Jesus Loves Frisbee"is available as
a limited edition print.
Happy shopping.


Box Studio Shoreditch Exhibition

On Hallowe'en, I took part in an exhibition in association with The Skull Appreciation Society. Here's a snap of my piece from the night (with mandatory Insta filter)
The exhibition of Skull inspired works is in Box Studio in Shoreditch, London is still open until November 6th.

My piece, Life, Death and Prizes is a 50 x 70cm giclée print (290gms Hahnemuhle textured) available at £150 (framed)

Go down to see it and a bunch of other really nice skull themed work.

Exhibition page HERE


Halloween Exhibition

I'll be taking part in an exhibition hosted by The Skull Appreciation Society in Box Studio, Shoreditch on Friday. 
Link to the exhibition page is HERE

Here's my A2 Giclée print done for the event pre-framing. 

"Life, Death and Prizes."


What Do You Think About Scottish Independence?

Started a tumblr of the illustrations for my ongoing project. Have a look HERE and i'll be adding more over the next month as soon as I do them, so check back.


Fifa World Cup 2014 Sepp Blatter Illustration

A recent commission looking at the "Toxic" brand of FIFA due to the bribery allegations regarding Qatar 2022 and Blatter's decision to run... again... for FIFA Presidency.


Creative Review Write-up

I am writing on my blog to tell you I wrote on Creative Reviews blog about the Glasgow School of Art Degree Show.