Friday, January 30, 2009

Book Review: Oddly Distracted

I've written a few cartoon book reviews over the years for CCGB's The Jester and one or two for PCO's Foghorn. I'll repost them occasionally on the blog, so here's one recent review of a book by my good friend and talented cartoonist Gerard Whyman...


by Gerard Whyman

In common with most cartoonists, Gerard Whyman has, by his own admission, a ‘rather odd view of the world.’ This view is delightfully explored in ‘Oddly Distracted’, a compilation of over 180 of Ger’s cartoons from the pages of Punch, Reader’s Digest, The Spectator, The Oldie and others, plus a smattering of Ger’s personal favourites that didn’t see print. As well as producing the actual cartoons, Ger’s done a terrific job designing and editing the book himself - the layout really adds to the enjoyment of the cartoons. And what a bunch of top-notch cartoons they are.
A wide range of subjects get the Ger treatment, from religion (Joseph reading the Michelin guide and complaining to Mary that the inn has only got one star), to the monarchy (Liz and Phil playing the Royal Wii). There are too many good ‘uns to choose from but amongst my favourites is the High Def Caveman (below).

I’m happy to report that Oddly Distracted keeps up the quality throughout, and is a good antidote to the winter blues.

Oddly Distracted can be ordered online at

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ukulele watch ... or is it ukelele?

So the strings are settled now. I've mastered a few chords and attempted to do what everyone with a new ukulele does - learn 'Tonight, you belong to me' from The Jerk. Not too shabby, though my brain is still seeing a D guitar chord when I'm playing a 'G' ukulele chord.

New piano arrived in the week too. Yamaha P85s for those who care (cue tumbleweed ....)

I don't normally buy a musical instrument each week, promise. I blame PayPal - it's like you're spending free money!

It's printed on high quality 300gsm Matt A4 paper and is available at my online shop -

It's available as a limited signed/numbered print for only £10 
or an unlimited/unsigned print for only £5

Perfect for framing and giving to the uke player in your life.
Plink, plink, plink...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Strange Looking Bloke Wednesday

Continuing with the 'Celebrity' Blokes, this was drawn with a brush pen and grey toner markers while I was watching The Wire. It's one of the characters on the show by the name of 'Bubbles'.

His mood seems to be: on the lookout for the next score ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wired for sound

Here's a piece I wrote for the PCO's magazine Foghorn a few months back about my dubious musical tastes. Throw off your mental chains! Whoo whoo whoo ......


Wired for sound

I hadn’t planned on Cartooning as a career. Not at first anyway. It didn’t seem a very rock 'n roll occupation, compared to ... well ... rock ‘n roll. Fidgeting nervously in front of the school careers counsellor, Mr Dreamcrusher, I merely mumbled ‘dunno - some kind of admin assistant or something’ when asked where I saw myself working, when I really wanted to stand up and proclaim “Actually, I’d love to be Howard Jones! He of the shiny suits, bleepy synthesisers and the kind of hairstyle that takes 10 years off the ozone layer! How I long to appear on Top of the Pops hidden behind a large bank of keyboards while my unfeasibly daft hair mimes along to my latest hit”

Of course I never said any of that, choosing instead the safe, sensibly coiffured path of Office Job in Local Council Dept. (Cartooning rescued me from that particular route, but that’s a different, equally rambling story) If truth be told, I loved music and I’d have been happy in any band, sitting at the back unnoticed while the flash gits at the front played widdly guitar and strutted around being all needlessly charismatic. I was hampered only by a few minor problems - lack of any real talent and a dubious taste in music. There weren’t many groups in my neck of the woods posting adverts requesting “Keyboardist needed - must have shiny suit and be into Kajagoogoo, Johnny Hates Jazz and similar ephemeral gubbins”

This addiction to questionable music started early on with me - the first record I ever bought was ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’. Actually, to be completely honest, I got my mother to buy it for me since I was five and not yet solvent. I am told by my older siblings that I wore out several gramophone needles, my fathers nerves, and a pair of brown corduroy trousers dancing along to this particular slice of 70’s cheese.

I must have spent the next decade recovering from brown corduroy friction burns since the next record I can remember buying and playing nonstop was ‘Einstein-A Go Go’ by Landscape. You’d be forgiven for not remembering this particular song or indeed the band: it hasn’t aged well ( I suspect neither have the band), sounding very thin and dated. It’s the kind of music that I should have left behind long ago and yet, I could barely contain my glee when their album was re-released on CD. My wife, in her infinite taste and wisdom, refuses to be in the same room when I play it. Although that could have been the ill-fitting shiny suit I was attempting to put on.

Of course, everyone thinks they’ve got immaculate musical taste. We’ve probably all done it - thrust a cassette tape / CD / USB stick (delete as applicable, based on age and computer know how) full of our favourite songs into a friends hand whilst shouting ‘You HAVE to listen to this! It’s absolutely brilliant!” Unfortunately, one man’s ‘brilliant’ is another’s aural equivalent of a pencil through the cochlea. Try as I might, I can’t persuade anyone that A-ha’s fourth album is a misunderstood masterpiece. I realise it’s perhaps me at fault - there are probably many superior bands and genres of music I’ve never even heard and would probably love, but I think I know why...

Simply put, there’s not enough time in the day to listen to all the new music available. Not that I do myself any favours, mind - I’ve never made the time to listen to a whole Bob Dylan album. Nor Neil Young, Prince, Public Enemy, Al Green, ... I could go on .... yet I own and have listened to 80’s one hit wonders Living in A Box’s album many many times. I appear to be stuck in some masochistic 80’s rut. (The Ruts were 70’s surely - ed)

I don’t even have enough time to listen to the music I’ve already got. (How does an 80 gig iPod get full so quickly?) My solution is to listen to only certain sections of songs. (Perhaps I’m alone in this particular musical form of OCD, though I suspect not.) They may last a mere minute or an even merer 5 seconds, but they are the moments that make owning a pair of ears worth it. It could be that bass part in ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, or the middle eight in ‘Senses Working Overtime’, Perhaps it’s the last dying seconds of ‘that classical piece I can never remember the name of’ by Chopin. Even if it’s a 2 minute drive to the shops, (I man the cd player while my wife takes the wheel) I’ll fast forward to these magical musical moments, occasionally augmenting them with some flailing air drums or blistering organ solo on the car dashboard, while Nikki simply shouts ‘Can’t we listen to a whole song for once?’, a not altogether unreasonable request.

It’s a fair swap - I drive my wife to the edge of insanity, she drives me to Tescos.
Altogether now - “Einstein A Go-Go, la la la la ...”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

From the sketchbook

My scanner's decided to give up it's previous occupation of scanning and instead become a useless collection of plastic, glass and electronics, so instead I've taken some of yer actual photo's of pages from my sketchbook.

Here's one random pic:

I don't know what the 31st National Mummy Ice Skating Trials are, but I'd probably go and watch them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Strange Looking Bloke Wednesday

Drawing from a few years ago. Done with some brush pens while sitting in front of the telly watching Bill's stand up show.

His mood seems to be: Deep concentration whilst playing Kraftwerk inspired song about a trouser press.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From the sketchbook ...

What's all this about then? A random scribble in a sketchbook that I can't remember drawing. I think it's funny but don't really know why.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Away ...

Away for a short break, so have now entered the sad world of people who blog while on holiday.

Didn't bring my camera, so here's a pic I took from a holiday last year in Sorrento.

If the picture looks a bit strange, it's because via the Drawn site I've discovered Tilt Shift fakery (about 3 years after it was fashionable of course) Read more about the technique here. Mine looks amateur compared to most pics, but it's not too bad for a first attempt I thought!

Ok, got to go ... another cocktail, barman!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ukulele watch

It's arrived and is looking good. Hard to say if it sounds good since it won't stay in tune for more that 0.5 seconds. Will let the strings settle a bit before I give it a bash.

Ukulele Idol here we come .....

You lookin' at my bird?

Putting birds on your blog is where it's at these days!
Have a shufty at Stephen Collins, Steve Hearn and Dave Shelton's blogs. Can't move for feathery artwork!

Here's my contribution.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Strange Looking Bloke Wednesday

This cheeky chappy was scribbled on an envelope, courtesy of a PaperMate felt tip pen and a splash of Tippex.
His mood seems to be: a bit leery. Hint of a smile, although that could just be wind.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ukulele Frenzy

Just ordered myself a Ukulele. An Ashbury Koa Concert Ukulele to be specific.
Will report back when it arrives ...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Shrewsbury Big boards

The Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival will be taking place again this April.
This yearly event is a highlight of my cartooning calendar and always great fun to be a part of. I've been running comic strip workshops there for the past few years and was lucky enough to have a go at one of the big boards in the town square last year.

Here's my cartoon in various stages of completion. It was a real treat to get messy with paint and brushes since the majority of my cartooning is via computer and graphic tablet.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Strange Looking Bloke Wednesday


Having put it off for far too long I've cleaned up my room and found several million discarded and forgotten doodles and sketches.

The main thing I've learned from my latest cleanup is - I seem to have a compulsion to draw strange looking faces whenever I doodle. Usually men, and usually looking angry, confused or slightly sleepy. Probably my subconscious telling me something ....

Here's one done with a brush pen. I'd say his mood is: Slightly sleepy, but with a hint of intrigue, due to raised eyebrow.

Keep a lookout every week for Strange Looking Bloke Wednesday. :)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Gren Remembered

Hard to believe it's been 2 years since the death of one of my favourite cartoonists. Here's the tribute to Gren Jones I wrote for the PCO's magazine Foghorn at the time.


“All I ever wanted was to draw. I have an almost childish love of cartoons. I always look forward to doing them. If it wasn’t my work, I’d be doing them as a hobby.”

Those words from Grenfell Jones sum up just why he will be greatly missed by the people of Wales and cartoon lovers the world over. His death on January 4th was a sad day for many of us; friends, fans and fellow cartoonists, and yet we can take consolation from the thought that after over 40 years of cartooning, Gren was doing what he loved right up to the end, his last cartoon appearing in the South Wales Echo the day of his death, as was his wish.

Gren spent his early years as a freelance cartoonist and illustrator before joining the South Wales Echo in 1968, providing a daily topical cartoon.

His success was due in no small part to his enthusiasm for cartooning, and he never took his success for granted - “I’m just as thrilled if I see a cartoon of mine in print today as I was 30 years ago”

His fellow cartoonists were equally eager to acknowledge Gren’s skills, awarding him the Provincial Cartoonist of the Year award four times, while in 1989’s New Year’s Honours list he received an MBE.

In typical Gren style he revealed ‘I’m absolutely delighted and I’m looking forward to going up to London, unless the Queen wants to come to Aberflyarff and present it.’

Gren’s fictional valley town of Aberflyarff was home to some of his most popular and enduring creations; Ponty, Pop, Bromide Lil, Neville and Nigel the Sheep - characters that were well loved by his many readers.

'It's even hotter at Barry Island... Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!'

Gren was most appreciative of his public too. Gren’s son Darryl told the South Wales Echo: “For the second year running, we had opened up a stall selling Dad’s brilliant cartoons in The Hayes (popular shopping area in Cardiff) and we had more than 18,000 people visit us over Christmas.”

“Dad loved seeing the visitors, and would sit quietly at the nearby Hayes Island snack bar watching them. He was chuffed to beans when, within a few seconds, they would start giggling at his cartoons. He would just sit and quietly smile to himself.”

Many cartoonists speak of his superb draughtsmanship, his wicked sense of humour, others speak of a modest and friendly guy, and a tremendous ambassador for Wales, while his son told the Echo of a loving family man: “He was a fantastic father, but he was more than that to Wales – he was the epitome of Welsh humour. He was the property of Wales, and part of Wales. As a family, we can never forget him and I don’t think Wales will either.”

Tim Harries

To see more of Gren's cartoons, go here

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Leisure Society

Stupidly managed to delete most of this post. Aaaaaaagh!

Basically, here's my favourite single of the year ('last of the melting snow')

And here's a picture of a purple suited man with a triangle. Why? Why not ...