This month’s cartoonist is BernieBernie’s cartoon (above) appears on page 22 of the September issue. A selection of his cartoons for Prospect will be published on First Drafts over the next month. First, give me your autobiography in 100 words or so I’m a Lancashire lad, born and bred, although for the last seven years I’ve been living in Anglesey. In my younger days I had a variety of jobs–the most interesting of which was putting jelly into pork pies. I went freelance in 1996. I had my first cartoon published in the Chorley Guardian that year. I did it for free. How do you work—alone, hunched over a drawing board? On computer? Nine to five? I’m the artist in the garret—literally, as we have a loft conversion with a draw-down ladder. I work up there, lately on an artist’s drawing board as my back’s giving me gyp, with great views of Snowdon to distract me. The majority of my work is topical so I glean stuff from television and radio news, the web, teletext is very useful. I always read letters pages so I don’t just know the news, but also what Joe public makes of it. Often the funniest stuff comes to me in the last half hour before deadline. My wife is wonderful. She edits everything, is my harshest critic, does all my paperwork, and often pitches in with an idea or a tweak (she’s typing this for me now). I work when I have to for deadlines–Boxing Day, for example–but I’ve recently rearranged my schedule to give us two days off: Sunday and Monday. But even then, I’m always thinking… How do you cope with the rejections that accompany cartooning? I cope well now, but in the early days it would happen much too often and it was hell. Rejected stuff often sells elsewhere if it’s not too topical, so I take comfort from that. Do you ever laugh at your own cartoons? I do, all the time! Is that bad? I say “I’ve never heard that one before.” What other cartoonists have influenced you, or do you most admire? When I was just starting out, I was so determined yet so naïve that I wrote to all the cartoonists who regularly appeared in Private Eye, enclosing examples of my work and asking them if I could have “their spec.” Some people took the trouble to reply to me: Richard Jolley, Kevin Smith and Alan de la Nougerede. Alan sent a 12-page handwritten letter. Since then, he has been my mentor. I would not have had any success without him. Oh yes, and can he draw! Before I ever dreamt of being a cartoonist, I saw a Robert Thompson cartoon in Private Eye of someone returning a book to a library assistant. The assistant is hugging the book, tears flowing; the book was “The Prodigal Son.” I loved that, and everything he has done since. Out of all the cartoons you’ve ever drawn, do you have a favourite? I was very pleased with this cartoon which appeared in Private Eye some Christmases ago. Mrs Rutter asked to buy the original for Mr Rutter as a present. So I guess it might be my favourite. What cartoon do you wish you had drawn? Anything by Giles because, as well as being very funny, he was such a fabulous artist. What advice would you give a cartoonist starting out today? Be persistent; it took me years to get anywhere. I used to have a sign near my desk which said “If no one sees it, no one buys it—just send it!” Choose yourself a very patient spouse. Put in the work, study your craft, take note of which type of gags an editor is printing and tailor your stuff accordingly. Continuity is everything. Cartoonists take very few holidays. You will need luck but, as the saying goes, the harder you work the luckier you get. Just one other thing – invest in an artist’s drawing board before you get a bad back. The main occupational hazards in journalism are alcoholism and RSI. What are the risks for cartoonists? My wife says I live in a “a wibbly wobbly world of my own.” You can lose touch with reality, become forgetful—clumsy even—because you’re always thinking of gags. That, and the bad back. What do people tend to say when you tell them you’re a cartoonist? I try not to tell people. Sometimes they don’t understand what a cartoonist is and ask me to do a caricature, at which I’m hopeless. If they do understand, they suggest ideas for cartoons like “Caution, large plant crossing.” I find it’s best to keep quiet. What do cartoonists talk about when they meet up? I can’t answer this. I’m very insular, living out here in Anglesey. I think that when cartoonists do meet they try to be funnier than each other… which is basically the job anyway. What’s the best thing about being a cartoonist? It’s a simple business. You never have to creep to anyone. If an editor likes your work he’ll print it. No sales push, no team building, no training days, no grumpy customers. I make a living by doing silly drawings. Can you think of anything better than that?