Thursday, 30 April 2015


Okay. I've had a cup of coffee and my mind has settled. I don't feel quite as dog drawn out bad as I felt yesterday.

It's been a strange business, dealing with my now no-longer missing Guardian Witness cartoon. Years ago, when I was first writing my first Spine blog, I'd post daily Photoshops. This was before Photoshopping images became known as 'mash ups' or became so prevalent that everybody and their whiskery-soaked aunt began doing them. My blog was nominated as one of Yahoo UK's 'Finds of the Year'. I had a few other minor whoopee moments. My work appeared occasionally on the big political blogs and in a few newspapers.

About that time, I became friendly with a journalist who worked for The Guardian. He asked his editor if they'd accept any of my Photoshops. The message that came back was that they'd love to but they were deeply concerned about image rights. Since my Photoshops were made up of other images, they couldn't publish my work for fear of breaking some third party's copyright. Around this time, one of my photos appeared on 'Have I Got News For You' and I spent a crazy afternoon sourcing the images for the people at Hattrick Productions. The people whose photos I'd used were paid well for their photos. I didn't receive a bloody thing.

It was that which made up my mind. I made a vow that I'd never again be at the mercy of third parties. I would diligently uphold the copyright laws and I wouldn't borrow a single thing to do my work.

It's meant losing out on a lot of the exposure you get when Photoshopping. I saw other people getting huge followings on Twitter with pretty poor quality Photoshops but I gritted my teeth. I wanted to do something better. I wanted to do something more worthwhile. And, thus far, I've been fairly loyal to my principals. Most of what I did from that point on was my own work, with perhaps the main exception being a photo of Richard Madeley which I used for my Stan Madeley project. Yet even that was probably sourced and paid for.

All of which makes it so bloody ironic that the Guardian withheld my cartoon because they thought I'd nicked it!

It's more ironic when you consider that the majority of photos on those Witness pages obviously use borrowed images. There's one there that largely contains a screen grab from the John Carpenter film 'They Live'. I don't know if Universal Pictures really care about lightweight 'borrowing' from their movies but this is the problem with the copyright laws as they stand. just how transformative does something have to be before it becomes transformative?

The other side of the problem is that the Photoshop culture is slowly killing the market for real cartoons. Photoshops have a veracity that you never get with ink. To appreciate a cartoon, you have to be a fan of cartoons and that requires imagination, an aesthetic sense, and perhaps even a certain refinement. To appreciate a Photoshop, you merely have to eyes to see. Photoshops are an easy laugh. Even bad Photoshops still have the power to impress because they hint towards a twisted version of reality.

The final problem is, of course, money. I shouldn't have sent my cartoon. I know that. It's to demean the art of cartooning. If somebody like me is willing to give his work away for nothing, I'm contributing to a culture where people are expected to work for nothing. Yet I want the exposure. I want my cartoons seen by people.

Sigh... I really do have a book I want to finish writing. I want to finish it before the year ends. I should go and write some proper words. And maybe later today, I might draw another cartoon.

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