Alex Salmond Does Braveheart: Musings on the Art of Cartooning

12/01/2012 15:03 GMT | Updated 13/03/2012 09:12 GMT


Hailing as I do from the still heavily divided 'British territory' of Northern Ireland or the 'occupied six counties' of Ireland, whichever way you so wish to put it, it stands that this week's big news on Scottish Independence has been of real interest to us over here across the Irish Sea.

Certainly the concept of independence from 'British rule' has been the source of fighting for hundreds of years over here on the island of Ireland, was the root cause of over 3000 deaths during the troubles, and more recently has prompted Irish nationalists to abandon the bomb and move into the great halls of politics to continue an 800 year quest to rid themselves of 'British rule'. However that is a discussion for another day and in any case I have more important things to consider!

Indeed on this most glorious occasion, being as it is my first blog post on the fantastic HuffPost UK, I thought it fitting to focus a little less on the annals of Anglo-Irish or Anglo- Scottish relations, referendums, national pride or the issue of meddling southerners and rather celebrate or perhaps in my case as I often find it, bemoan the chemistry that goes into the construction of an eye pleasing cartoon.

As I look at the cartoon at hand, in which Alex Salmond does Braveheart, I am reasonably happy - the likeness of the Scottish premier on the left is quite pleasing, although the Alex 'you may never set our referendum' Salmond on the right could have done with a little more work.

However I want to go a little deeper and here I want to consider the processes that are involved in the creation of a quality piece of cartooning, a daily challenge that I really find rather testing.

Indeed the cartoonist must enter a labyrinth of tunnels and what seems to be a perpetual state of mental anguish just to come up with an idea. Then you have to put that idea onto paper!

With the idea at hand you eagerly pull out a sharpened pencil and frantically start sketching, but the worry here is on whether or not you have caught the victim's likeness. Sometimes you completely miss it, other times you nearly hit it and other times you just capture the likeness spot on, and what a feeling! It continues to perplex me how cartoonists with just a few squiggly lines can capture the instant recognisability of any given person, something that Martin Rowson, after he drew me, suggested was rather like voodoo.

So having come up with the idea, drawn the person and caught the likeness (which can take a lot of scribbling and rubbing out) and then drawn whatever goes in the background, you feel like you could call it a day! But then the less mentally skilful but equally tedious part of the process begins. I'd say some like it and others don't, but certainly I find it very challenging, and that's the inking in the pencil lines part.

It always seems to take me forever and then once that's done you have to pull out the paints and colour it in. This is the final piece of the cartooning jigsaw and something that can make or break all those tedious hours of thinking and inking! For me it's a time consuming process between mixing the colours, carefully applying them and adding tone, shade and depth. However this is the part of the cartooning which I am improving at the most and am increasing my speed, knowledge and skills.

And there you have it; once you add the last few drops of tone to your chosen victim you can proudly hold upon high what is in the eyes of the cartoonist a masterpiece. You then scan it, send it away and cross your fingers that the editor of whomever it may be approves of it, otherwise the process starts all over again. In any case, even if your masterpiece is approved the budding cartoonist has got to enter the labyrinth again in order to come up with the next day's cartoon!