web analytics
  • Morten December 6, 2007, 1:41 pm

    Matt, good to see you last night – if only briefly.
    I hope things were jolly at the Tribune do.

    Seeing your face when Ken Clarke made his speech, I thought you’d probably respond in blog form today!
    I half expected you to challenge him there and then, but I reckon this is probably a more appropriate way of doing it.

    You’re right of course. He’s a great speaker, who knows his audience and the middle-aged, middle class mood. And there’s always, as you say, an easy laugh to be had from the “I’ve got a computer, but I don’t know how to turn in on” – line.

    Still, let me join our fellow unnamed colleague that you mention, and provoke you a little bit more.

    I must admit I didn’t get hugely worked up about his comment about cartoons on the internet, primarily because his views really don’t matter much.
    I also have a feeling his argument had more to do with the ever-present discussion about the future of newspapers, than the idea that cartooning won’t survive online.

    I like your crossness though. It’s important.
    It’s good to say bollocks to those who work against your own idea of progress.
    As you say, that is the only way to ensure that the profession survives.

    Last night however, I thought Ken Clarke came across less as an threatening enemy of progress than an old man who is more unable than unwilling to keep up with the change happening. He is still very much a champion of the art, and for that he surely deserves some credit, does he not?

  • Matt Buck December 6, 2007, 3:28 pm

    Hi Morten, no provocation needed, I’m plenty provoked already. ;-) Apologies for the quotation back at yourself….

    > I didn’t get hugely worked up about his comment about cartoons on the internet, because his views really don’t matter much.

    I disagree, they matter because…

    > He is still very much a champion of the art,

    And that was one of our big (collective) events of the year where the art of drawing and journalism is applauded and we all get our egos stroked.

    It’s not Ken, or his comments that are the problem, it’s the complacent attitude that assumes print will always survive in the form it is now – and that the advertising which sustains it will always be there too.

    Now you and I know that is changing fast – as you rightly note…

    > his argument had more to do with the ever-present discussion about the future of newspapers, than the idea that cartooning won’t survive online.

    Well, isn’t it time, collectively some cartoonists thought about that?

  • Morten December 6, 2007, 4:57 pm

    Most cartoonists trying to make a living solely of drawing know how the trends are less than favourable in very many respects. I tend to think that the complacency that you talk about to a large extent already has been replaced by frustration and concern among most people in the business.

    Newspapers are moving increasingly online. That’s a fact. Reduced revenue means shrinking newsrooms and increased use of syndicated material. Cartoonists suffers as a result. Journalist, illustrators, photographers etc all suffer too.

    Where I struggle to follow your argument is on the extent to which you think any of us individually or collectively as a group can change that trend.

    I don’t mean to sound defeatist, but I tend to think that there is a certain inevitability about the current development. Yes, it becomes more difficult for many to survive, but I don’t think it means an end to the profession. Indeed for many it will open up new opportunities that weren’t there before.

    It’s the old story about TV meaning the death of radio. There are many examples like that, where early signs of doom have proved unfounded. The business changes, the way we work changes, the materials we use change and our whole attitude to the traditional cartooning trade might have to change too.
    Indeed you could argue that complacency in this context, is believing that we can somehow stagger the trends.

    Hit me! :)

  • Matt Buck December 6, 2007, 8:30 pm

    Morten, a point by point…

    > You say:
    Where I struggle to follow your argument is on the extent to which you think any of us individually or collectively as a group can change that trend.

    I agree with you on this. There is nothing we can do individually or collectively about the economic changes in the print business. They are happening.

    > You say:
    Yes, it becomes more difficult for many to survive, but I don’t think it means an end to the profession.

    No, and neither do I, but I do think to survive in as good-a-state as we have now, the trade is going to have to ask itself a few hard questions about what technological change means for us all. To put it into a question for you;

    Why hasn’t UK cartooning had an active organisation with a digital home for the best British cartoonists until this year? By this I mean an organisation of working UK professionals, not a museum or academic site.

    > You say:
    Indeed for many it (technological change) will open up new opportunities that weren’t there before.

    It will. It is already.

    > You say:
    It’s the old story about TV meaning the death of radio.

    Um, yes and no.

    > You say:
    There are many examples like that, where early signs of doom have proved unfounded.

    I’m not saying doom is inevitable I’m saying there are things we might all be able to contribute towards making sure we all (as a trade) remain visible in the new forms of the media (which I argue we aren’t really presently), and which we haven’t been doing because we’ve been a bit complacent about the way we earned our livings, on a collective level.

    > You say:
    The business changes, the way we work changes, the materials we use change and our whole attitude to the traditional cartooning trade might have to change too.

    Yes, you have it.

    > You say:
    Indeed you could argue that complacency in this context, is believing that we can somehow stagger the trends.

    Maybe. We agree we cannot beat the trends, so what can we do? Make sure that while our traditional patrons go through their very large business and advertising revenue changes, we are visible (with an active professional digital home for the greatest number of the best UK cartoonists) to the greatest number of people (readers) in the most appropriate way to talk to them

    >
    Hit me! :)

    Your turn!
    :)

  • morten December 6, 2007, 9:00 pm

    Good answers Matt.

    I’ll challenge you again soon I’m sure, but for now I’m happily concur.

  • Gary December 8, 2007, 12:16 pm

    Hi Matt and Morten,

    The only home my work has found at present is the Net (Barker Gallery, BBC Politics Show), so I was possibly even more perplexed than you at Ken Clarke’s comments.

    I was at the awards with my partner and she spoke to Clarke about this very matter and he was apparently very interested. He was however completely oblivious to the fact that the Politics Show even has a website. Which was quite worrying for me as he also said he watches the show every week. Which brings us to my first point:

    A major problem that net based publications linked to newspapers and particularly tv programmes is the apparent reticence of the traditional medium to overtly publicise its online counterpart. We have been discussing ways round this as the Politics Show and I have been assured that they will be ‘going for it’ in the New Year. To date the only time my name and work have been used/mentioned on the tv show was when I won the original competition in March. Since then I have been mentioned a couple of times at the end of the show, just to say my cartoons could be seen on the site and three of my cartoons were used over the end credits to mark the end of Brown’s first hundred days.

    My partner did say that Clarke was very interested when he found out that the show had a site and that my work was there and he said he would have a look. Which to me shows we have a willing market, but the problem primarily lies with raising awareness.

    As I see it another problem we face is that the world is no longer run by experts in their associated fields, but rather by accountants who have been parachuted in to rationalise everything down to the minutiae creating a world that is penny wise and pound foolish where political cartoons cannot possibly be judged as an economic prerogative. So as far as I’m concerned until their is a return to the sane practise of putting people in charge who know what they’re actually talking about the future doesn’t look too bright.

    Sorry for being so negative but that’s what years of political disenfranchisement has done to me.

    I’d just like to add my thanks to you both for inspiring me to create my own blog. I’ve only just started it, but there is a slideshow and a few comments from me, if you’d like a look…

    http://cloudedyellow.wordpress.com/about/

    Best Wishes
    Gary Barker

Cartoon awards season-results

The cartoon awards season results can be found at my colleague Morten’s blog – and congratulations are due him, Dave Brown, Steve Bell and Martin Rowson. The event speech was given by former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Ken (Kenneth) Clarke. He made a good speech, as you might expect from a professional speech maker, but he also said at least one incredibly silly thing. I paraphrase him here, but the gist of it was, who’d want to look at cartoons on the internet?

Sketchbook caricature of Ken (Kenneth) Clarke – Conservative MP – and guest at the Political Cartoon Awards

I understand why he did this, to connect precisely with what he judged to be his audience, largely middle class, middle-aged, or, elderly and largely suspicious of technology. It worked for him, he got a laugh.

But this, to me, is a classic piece of ostrich-ism and is pointlessly damaging to those of us who have to go out and make a living as professional commercial artists, today, in the ugly here and now. One of my colleagues told me not to get cross about it, to which I can only say bollocks, if we can’t be bothered about how we are going to make a living through our skill at drawing then we won’t survive as a form of either art or journalism.

Clarke’s joke smacks of ‘if I don’t look I won’t have to see what is changing around me.’ This is probably because he (and many others) do not understand the digital world and have no interest in learning about it. I thought this was a sad and silly attitude to perpetuate among other people who love cartoons and drawing as a useful form of human communication.

The digital world may not be easy to understand but it offers opportunity to commercial artists in a way that the old print world, and its surviving fans, would be daft to ignore.


Matt Buck’s animated drawings

Leave a Comment

{ 6 comments }