I used to get a Giles cartoon book for Christmas every year, and they always had a marvelous picture on the front which didn’t quite make sense, because Grandma Giles and the rest of them seemed to be looking out of the left side of the picture. And of course, if you then turned over to the back cover, you saw what they were looking at: the punchline, as it were.
Well, I always wanted to do that, and I got my chance with the New Statesman New Year Issue 1984. It’s George Orwell, in case you didn’t guess.
Having read the book loads of times over two decades, I was keen to be one of the first to draw a 1984 picture in the year itself.
The cast here includes Rupert Murdoch (Ministry of Truth) and Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine (Ministry of Peace) and the heavyweight BBC interviewer Robin Day.
New Statesman always produced a double issue over the Christmas/New Year break, and illustrating the cover was a particularly enjoyable job. The following Christmas, they decided to take the leap into full colour.
I can’t deny this was a scary prospect for an entrenched black-and-whiter. Should I use inks? Watercolours? Coloured pencils? Plenty of scope for anxious dithering, but the great thing about deadline pressure is you decide quickly. So it was coloured pencils. There was some sort of panic about the NS masthead which I resolved by lettering it into the picture.
I was New Statesman’s political caricaturist for ten years from 1978, which was both my apprenticeship and shop window. Most weeks I illustrated articles, sometimes I drew the cover, and twice I launched into a run of weekly strip cartoons called Take me to your Leader.