Marginal Workings Out

Doodle on a paper bag, made when I was roughing out the lettering and cartoons for a Halloween menu board.
My sister reading the ‘Fink’s Donuts’ edition of Mad magazine, Dourdogne, 1965.

CONSIDERING THAT as a teenager I only ever bought two or three copies of Mad magazine, I feel that it made a big impression on me.

The American artwork was sharper than the gentler English cartoons of Punch. Besides, Mad was aimed at my age group so instead of the witty verbiage that filled the spaces between the cartoons – which for me were the main event in Punch – there were comic strip satires of television and movies; spoof advertisements, magazine articles and books and regular strips such as Spy v. Spy.

The sheer exuberance of the graphic design made me eager to try out some of the formats for myself. That sense that publications can be fun, that they don’t have to be subtle and worthy, has stayed with me despite the training that I had in graphic design, which probably accounts for the wayward nature of my publications to this day.

Looking out the photograph of my sister in my Summer Holiday 1965 journal I can see an example where I’ve squeezed a cartoon into the margin; what Mad magazine called a Marginal Working Out. An example I remember, drawn across the top of a page on an entirely unrelated article in Mad, was a guitarist looking out at a row of crows sitting on telephone wires and playing along as if he was reading them as notes on a stave. Clever.

My mini cartoon of the car encountering continental calamities isn’t so original; it’s my version of a cartoon that I’d seen in Punch, I imagine that it was a Thelwell, but other cartoonists drew this kind of subject.

Trying to come up with a suitable character for a sign I was hand-lettering. Cow number one was my favourite.

I’m having a rainy day in the studio, clearing my desk, so, before I threw out some scrap paper and a couple of paper bags I thought I’d scan these marginal workings out, drawn when I was working out ideas for various jobs that I’ve been doing.

I don’t think ‘Reg’ in the doodle on the left related to anything at all. He really is just a doodle.

Life is Sweets

Yesterday I watched Life is Sweets, Nigel Slater’s evocation of childhood as remembered through the sweets and chocolate bars he ate at the time. It really was a big thing for him. I remember sweets of course but the memories that make the biggest impression on me, that can bring back a whole little episode in my life are particular books, comics or magazines.

Nigel Slater remembers tastes and textures, I remember things like the feel and smell of the paper in Mad magazine and the crispness of the line work and the half tone printing, the accuracy of the caricatures and so on. I guess that’s why Nigel became a food writer and I became an illustrator.

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    1. One obsession a week would be a bit too quick for me but I am trying one a month. October turned out to be fungi, quite by chance, but in November I’m making a special effort to learn a bit more about woodlands. December . . . birds?

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