We’re So Lucky

Cartoonist, News

You’ve got to admit, despite whatever petty problems we may have in our world at the moment, you know, things like petrol prices, the dishwasher being full of clean things when you want to load it up, governments being a bit annoying – that kind of thing. At the end of the day, it could be so much worse. For instance, take Iran, they do a variety of things that give one pause. For example, only the other day Mahmoud Shokraye drew conservative MP Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani as a caricature playing football. It didn’t look any different from something you might get street side in a holiday destination.

Apparently though, Mr Ashtiani took offense at being depicted as a chubby football player and he complained, as a result Mr Shokraye was given 25 lashes.

25 LASHES! They flogged a man for drawing a cartoon?! Good grief, we’ve got political cartoons in the newspapers all the time, we had Spitting Image for goodness sakes and they scourged a man for drawing this:
Iran cartoonistIranian MP Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani by cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraye

What kind of a world do we live in where countries are allowed to flog political satirists? That must be so terrifying, living in a place like that, being utterly terrified of expressing yourself creatively for fear of reprisal.

It certainly makes me appreciate the liberty in which we live right now, for all of our problems, at least we can draw pictures of whomever we like and take the mickey out of people if we want to without breaking the law. I’m grateful for that.


15 Advert Listings That You Should Avoid

Advice and Tips

Well, I know it’s been a couple of days since my last posting, but there you go. Sometimes people get busy, even a starving artist like me. Although, speaking of starving, I have actually been making a concerted effort to eat something every single day, I’m a bit compulsive when it comes to sticking with proven successes though and since I discovered about a week ago that I could cook baked potatoes, that is what I have been having each and every night. Sometimes with beans, sometimes with canned spaghetti, sometimes with bacon, sometimes with cheese. Heck, I’m practically Heston Blumenthal over here with all of my culinary wizardry.

In between these feats of kitchen prowess, I have been both working on illustrations for a children’s book and, as per normal, hunting for more work. Always important to try and plan ahead for when the job comes to an end.

After spending as long as I do looking at “illustrator wanted” type adverts, you begin to see patterns emerging. The same turns of phrase here and there. If you’re new to the hunting game, you may just take everything you read at face value, so in the spirit of generosity and bon ami, I’m going to save you some time by translating 15 of the most commonly used idioms I have encountered in my travels.

1)      Quite simple job” means “I’m not planning on paying much money for this”

2)      It shouldn’t take long” means “I’m not planning on paying much money for this”

3)      looking for a budding artist” means “I’m not planning on paying much money for this”

4)      will create great exposure for you” means “I’m not planning on paying much money for this”

5)      perfect for an art student” means “I’m not planning on paying much money for this”

6)      looking for someone who has talent and is looking to break out” means “I’m not planning on paying much money for this”

7)      OPPORTUNITY!” means “You’re going to LOVE not getting paid for this!”

8)      this is a labour of love” means “I’m working for free, so you will be too!”

9)      Looking for inspiring artists” means “I probably don’t know the difference between inspiring and aspiring AND I’m not planning on paying much money for this.”

10)   Let’s make a name for ourselves” means “I want to be a famous writer, anyone want to help me for free?”

11)   Helloooooo” means “I’m whimsically insane! Hahahahahahahahaaaaaa!!”

12)   xoxoxox” means “Lock up your bunnies….”

13)   we have LOTS of long term potential and growth” means “but right now, we can’t afford to pay you.”

14)   We could make something really magical and change our lives.” See number 10.

15)   Make some extra $$$” or “GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE EXTRA CASH!!!” means “Some way, somehow, we are going to rip you off.”

I may do more on another occasion, should the need arise. But right now, I must journey ever onwards through the tangled forests of potential employment, hunting out life giving fruit in amongst the thorns and poison berries…wow…now I’m a cross between Heston Blumenthal and Bear Grylls!

If either of them were also illustrators.

The Best Superpowers You Could Get Away With In Real Life


Where do you get the term “sick as a dog” from? Are canines typically more susceptible to germs than humans, are they poorly more often? Maybe one dog cold is the equivalent of seven human colds? *ponders*

I was beginning to think I might be Bruce Willis from “Unbreakable”. It had been so long since I last succumbed to a common cold – or any other malady for that matter – I thought I had at last developed some kind of super power. But alas, it was not to be. Starting on Tuesday and slowly kicking me into touch over the course of the last couple of days, a cold has set in. What began as aches and pains and a general feeling of “some thing’s not right here” evolved into dizziness and nausea before finally coming to rest as cough, sore throat and blocked nose.

I’m not a happy bunny.

Partly because I now have to continue with the mundaneness of household existence whilst suffering the eleventh plague of Egypt (yeah, true story – the colds and flu plague, they didn’t put it into the final draft), but mainly because I have to do this suffering with the knowledge that I don’t have any superpowers.

Boy, I’d love to have some kind of supernatural ability.  There are just so many to choose from, when people ask me, what kind of superpower would you have (and with the circle of friends I’ve got, this question comes up more often than you’d think)? I’m often over whelmed by the dilemma of having so many options, so many potential choices each with their own merits. I couldn’t just stick with one, surely? Most superheroes can do more than one thing, if you’re stuck doing one thing you end up with a very two dimensional ultimately boring character.

Sorry Ben, but, you’re kind’ve lame…please don’t hit me.

What superpowers would I have then? Mental check-list superpower breakdown!

Super strength, ok that’s a nifty little item. Popularised by the boy scout of course, I’m not Superman’s biggest fan. He’s my father’s superhero, not that that’s the reason I think he’s lame of course. He’s lame for a veritable host of reasons, but it’s not my dad’s fault, he got into comics when he was a kid and comics were pants, he didn’t have a lot of options, but he were grateful!!

With the super strength, on the plus side you’d feel very self assured in every wretched hive of scum and villainy you wandered into, and you might even find yourself secretly hoping someone will start a fight with you just so you can show off and paste them through a brick wall. Of course that will inevitably end up with a whole pile of dead civilians and you’ll have no recourse but to turn yourself over to the police and….no… sorry, I meant, pretend it never happened and high tail it to Oa.

I will kill again…

Ok, so super strength is out. What about super speed. As a man with a powerful love of The Flash, this is definitely one of my favourite abilities, but the real world practical applications of being the fastest man alive? Um…might be a little tricky. What with sonic booms at street level, hurricane slip streams, not paying attention and accidentally carving a path clean through the middle of a fat man…super speed would be fraught with issues. And even if I somehow managed to use my power to travel through time, would I really want to meddle with history? What kind of temporal universe are we living in? To put it simply, am I Kyle Reese or Marty McFly, that’s the real question here.

Doc…are you absolutely certain I have to be naked to time travel?

So with the comic book glamour of strength and speed cast at the way side of practical reality, what else is there, well…lots. More than can comfortably fit into anything approaching an easy to ready blog post. Once the flood gates of graphic novels and superhero literature have been opened it can sometimes be quite a task to close them again. However, there are some powers that have, in my careful consideration, definitely merited real world, practical approval.

The power of invisibility!

You’re invisible, what’s the first thing you’d do?

Whatever your answer to that question is, says a lot about who you are as a person. You think about that.

Being invisible at will would be awesome, wouldn’t it? Being able to vanish in a crowd, hide from people you don’t feel like talking to, get into movies for free. There’s plenty of things you could get away with if no one could see you, it’s not the most glamorous of powers I’ll give you that, it doesn’t woosh or bang or boom or do anything spectacular. That’s why they tend to give it to characters that don’t really merit much importance but don’t want to be left out.

You may fancy her, but her power’s still a bit rubbish.

In order for a superpower to be realistically applicable in every day life, it’s going to need to be visually unassuming. Otherwise mysterious government types and the press will be all over you like a rash. Super speedsters will be shackled into enormous hamster wheels, forced to provide the nation’s power until they die! Probably.

The ability to stop and start time, now that would be a great one. Unassuming again so it fits the bill nicely in terms of discretion, the whole universe will be put on pause except for you, all the benefits of super speed without any of the showiness. You could be amazing in a fight, you could have fantastic reflexes, you could nip to the toilet mid-way through a movie and not miss anything and of course, you could sleep in every single morning and never be late for work. Gosh, the practical applications of being able to stop time are phenomenally vast, and if you’re careful about things you could get away with it indefinitely.

I’ve often mulled over the idea of telepathy and telekinesis. They’re both very cool powers, telepathy is much more unassuming than telekinesis though, so for real world applications that renders the ability to move stuff with your mind out of the running.

Telepathy, well it would definitely have to be fully under your control, you don’t want to go around hearing everyone’s thoughts 24/7, you’d go insane! But, now and again when you really want to get to the truth of a matter, it would be marvellous to be able to find out what someone’s really thinking. However, this does pose the awful dilemma of what do you do if you hear something you really shouldn’t have heard, it’s the same moral problem of reading someone’s diary and finding out some juicy gossip, you can’t reveal you know it without also revealing how you found out about it and then it’s hello mysterious government types again. (Yeah, MI5 really hate their diaries being read.)

Even on a small scale, prying into the thoughts of close friends and family could be a terrible thing to do, we’ve all had our off days when we’ve silently wanted our nearest and dearest to just be quiet and go away – how awful would everyone feel if those thoughts were public? Hum…scrap telepathy then, ignorance is bliss.

How about the power to communicate with machines, a la Mika in Heroes? If you had the power to put your hand onto the screen of an ATM and command it to give you money, you’d never have to work again! Plus there’s no moral dilemma because that was already addressed in the series when the kid explains that he didn’t steal the money because it was…I dunno, floating around somewhere. I can’t remember what the exact excuse was but in my mind it was something along the lines of the Superman 3 wage scam that Richard Pryor’s character Gus pulls. We can fine tune the ethics once we get hold of the power. Wouldn’t it be funny to be able to vanish money from badly behaved rich people’s bank accounts! You could be some kind of futuristic Robin Hood!

So, in brief, other powers we don’t want  include:

  • Laser vision (Practical applications?)
  • X-ray vision (possible long term health implications – see Drawn Together)
  • Freezing breath (discreet uses would be limited to beverage chilling, and no one wants to be the fridge!)
  • Banshee shriek (very limited potential and not in the least bit subtle)
  • Turning into rock (stupid.)
  • Flight (too many radars, other air users, satellites, too cold, not enough air.)
  • Communicating with marine life (too depressing.)
  • Stretching like a rubber band (Yeah, ’cause THAT’S cool…)
  • Becoming encased in flames (very, very dangerous and far too obvious unless you work in a crematorium, and even then, they have their limits.)

Basically anything showy, blatant or designed only to deal damage, they’re all off limits! Alright!?

What we do want are nice subtle powers that will make our lives really awesome but won’t cause us to get locked up in Area 51.

So that’s a yes to invisibility, temporal control and communicating with machines.

I’m sure if I gave it some thought I could think of dozens and dozens of other ideas, but right now all I really want is just the power to fight the common cold. Is that too much to ask?

The Satisfaction Of A Job Well Done.

Recent Commissions

Ah, bliss. I’ve ticked off another job from my noticeboard, I’m dividing my time now between making relevant amendments to the job I’ve got in progress (as and when the client requires it) and also the same-old, same-old work hunting type of thing I normally do.

The job I’ve just completed was for HeatCool, which is a Chicago based air conditioning company. You don’t really get that over here, air conditioning. I mean, obviously it must exist, I’m sure I’ve been in some shops and felt blasts of cold air that weren’t coming from the front entrance. It’s just not as prevalent over in this country as it is in the states.

It’s almost like a strange reverse world, or at least it was when I was over there. I was in a hot southern state and everywhere was fitted with a/c units, you’d walk past the open doorway of a shop and be suddenly struck by an Arctic blast, it was bliss, temporarily providing respite in the blazing heat of the American day. It’s exactly the same in England, but in reverse! In this country you walk past an open shop doorway and they blast heat out at you, compelling you to stand still and attempt to thaw out your bones for long enough to perhaps be tempted inside. In America you actually catch yourself saying, “shut the door quickly, you’ll let the heat in!”

Well, I’m glad that HeatCool like their new advertising postcard, I certainly enjoyed putting it together. Although it was a long and interesting road, I’ve saved all the variations of it so I can watch it evolve. I shan’t bore you with the minutia of each variation in between the first draft and the final draft but suffice to say, it changed a lot from beginning to end.

First Draft
Final Draft

The brief initially was “pop-art” themed, hence why the first draft is very much in the pop art style. As I worked with the client and made amendments based on their requests the overall image changed somewhat until it ended with the final draft you see above. I think they’re both equally pleasing in their own way and now I know more about air conditioning units, pop art, Roy Liechtenstein and the city of Chicago.

Something to Remember If You’re Feeling Blue


Very tired.

Before I retire for the evening I thought I ought to perhaps blog a little something short and sweet. A picture’s worth a thousand words of course, but I want it to have something to do with art or artistic principles. I’ll make a meme, I decided, that contains the word “perspective” whilst simultaneously conveying an important message. Job done.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – How Not To Hire An Illustrator


 Continuing with the old hunter gatherer analogy, I have been out harvesting the fruits of the interwebs searching for succulent morsels. Whilst in this occupation, I have found a few really dodgy looking vegetables…

 Exhibit A – The Good Grief

“I have a model diagram and I need someone to design a diagram which looks like the model which Ill give to you.”

          So…are we all clear on that then?

Exhibit B – The Bad Grammar


“A illustrator and drawist needed”

This person apparently wants a ‘drawist’ to bring to life the ideas that are in his head. Apparently it “shouldn’t take long.” I suspect otherwise.

Exhibit C – The Ugly Job Offer

“I have twenty illustrations that I need done for a fantas adventure novel.

There will also be a small amount of involved, as the final output will be for an iPad e-book.

Full color.

8.5″ x 11″.

Thank you kindly.”

Ok, definitely a weird grasp of the English language which implies possible communication difficulties ahead so that’s ringing a few alarm bells. There’s going to be “a small amount of involved” which really, could be anything. Assuming the poor verbal skills doesn’t have you running for the hills, you may ask what’s your budget for these twenty full colour 8 by 11 fantasy illustrations?

“Budget: $30-$250”

Say what?! That’s a maximum of about £158 for the whole thing, less the percentage fee for using this website, that’ll leave about £140-ish which works out as £7 per illustration. SEVEN POUNDS for a whole illustration, assuming each fantasy illustration takes, what, five hours to do (sketching, inking and colouring…plus redrafts because you just know this guy is going to want redrafts)? That means he wants someone to work for £1.40 an hour, and that’s ONLY if they pay the maximum budgeted amount. And they say slavery has been abolished!

But you know what’s really, really bloody awful. Worse than the fact this guy is asking people to work for an abysmally small amount. The worst thing is, not only have 26 people actually applied for this god-awful job and agreed to work for this pittance but one of them has bid $30 and said they can complete it in 3 days. THIRTY dollars, that’s how much they’ve valued their time at.

Maybe they’re really fast, maybe they can do all twenty illustrations in, I dunno, less than 3 and a half hours per image (because that’s what it’s going to take to do 20 in 3 days). So say if it takes them 2 hours per image, that’s 40 hours of their life they’re spending on this project in total. $30, minus website fee, leaves about $27 which translates to around £15, which works out as 75p an image or if it takes them 40 hours, about 37p an hour.THIRTY SEVEN pence an hour!! Now THAT is just plain wrong. What in the heck can you buy these days for 37p? What are they trying to do to illustrators everywhere by offering to work for 37p an hour?!

*rage choke*

Union!! UNION!!

Back Away Slowly


Alright, so I’m out hunter gathering as per usual. In between being hopelessly distracted by electric guitar versions of the Skyrim theme tune. Oh so good…

But rocketing back to the job hunt thing, you ever look at an advert and think, hum, working for someone like you might be as fun as being basted in honey and dipped in a barrel of fire ants, but that’s purely conjecture. Take this advert for example:

What blind publisher did you use?

Just looking at this ad’ raises a few question marks about what working for this person might or might not be like. Whether or not these suspicions are valid, one may not know. You’d have to actually work for them to find out and by then, it could be too late.

Behold, the fact that this person is a published writer (apparently) and yet doesn’t seem to realise that the letter at the beginning of a sentence really ought to begin with a capital. And they haven’t just done it once, but every single time. Leading me to hypothesise that either they genuinely don’t understand basic grammar, or their publisher has a very patient proof reader, or perhaps their shift key has fallen off their keyboard.

Coupled of course with the fact they said there instead of their.

I’m not saying that I’m the poster child for perfect spelling and grammar, I too suffer from occasional mis-strokes, type-o’s, genuine ignorance and simple grammar issues (such as starting a sentence with an ‘and’) but I’m not claiming to be a published writer.


It may be petty and pedantic I know, but if they clearly think so little about their adverts and will happily slap dash out a mindless request for an artist without taking the time to even so much as use more than one hand (possible explanation for lack of capital letters) then we’re either dealing with an amputee, an unbelievably lazy ”writer” or a serial master-debater.

One can only imagine that working for them would be something along the lines of

Oh I don’t really know what I want you to do, just sort’ve draw…a thing..with, I dunno, a hat.

So, you do and then you’ll get.

Uh huh yeah…I like it but, I dunno, can you kind’ve change, like, everything?

And this will repeat, ad nausium, until you’re not even anywhere near the original description you were given and before you know it you’re getting requests to add trampolines and sail boats and exploding planets into the background of two ponies kissing as a pictorial representation for an elephant in a hat going on a picnic – or something.

I’m just saying. That’s the impression I get from reading this advert. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but if experience has taught me anything it’s that sometimes you’ve got to go on your gut instinct with these things before you end up sobbing over your drawing board as you redraft your sketch for the tenth time wondering why you didn’t decide to become a milk man.

Oh yeah, and plus the very last thing at the bottom of the advert…