Theresa May’s cabinet: a cartoon portrait

Theresa May's Cabinet


Watching Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement, I realised that I haven’t yet drawn all of Theresa May’s cabinet. They are such a disparate looking bunch that I thought this would be an enjoyable project. In case they haven’t impressed you with the full force of their personalities, maybe I should introduce them.

From the left they are:

Theresa May (Prime Minister), Philip Hammond (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Chris Grayling (Transport Secretary), Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary and writer of naughty limericks), David Davis (Brexit Secretary), Liam Fox (International Trade), Jeremy Hunt (Health), Amber Rudd (Home Secretary), Justine Greening (Education), Sajid Javid (Communities and Local Government), Michael Fallon (Defence)

Politics move so fast, I might need to update these fairly soon. I think my next project will be Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. Watch this space!

Forging magic banknotes for Jamie Raven on Britain’s Got Talent

I was honoured to be asked by Jamie Raven to design a £50, and later a £250,000 note for him to use in his magic performances on Britain’s Got Talent.

BGT £250K noteHonoured, but a little nervous. Forgery ceased to be a capital offence in 1832, but even so defaming the national currency is not something to be taken lightly. But Jamie’s an old friend so I thought it was worth the legal consequences. Out went Messrs Boulton and Watt (sorry lads, I know you started the Industrial Revolution and all, but move over for some proper celebrities) and in their place I drew Amanda, Alesha, Simon and David. I thought it politic to make Mr Cowell taller than Mr Walliams, but in retrospect, looking at the picture, I think I might have overdone the ladies’ swan necks.Here you can see Alesha’s reaction to my clever use of cross-hatching. People often react in this way. It’s embarrassing but I’ve learned to get used to it.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 22.07.36

Seriously, the banknote was drawn with coloured pencils borrowed from my daughter’s art box! I tried using dip pen and different coloured inks to mimic the effect of the engraving on the original banknote, but it was so labour-intensive that I began to hallucinate…

I’ve known Jamie Raven for some years now. We’ve worked together at the Magic Circle and at various corporate gigs and weddings. I must also thank Jamie for introducing me to the Anstee Bridge Project, an organisation which supports Year 11 students who, for one day a week, require an alternative to school to ensure better engagement with education. It’s a project that’s dear to our hearts.

Congratulations to Jamie on his Britain’s Got Talent success. That’s the first time my art work has ever appeared on TV in a lemon!


Urban Creativity Workshop on 23rd May at The Proud Archivist

I’m delighted to announce the first Urban Creativity Workshop run by my wife Jacqui Lofthouse and her business partner Clare Barry. Together Jacqui and Clare are Paradise Road Project.

In the spirit of ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words’ here’s my take on what it’s all about.

Urban Creativity CartoonHowever, if you want to find out more about the workshop, which takes place at The Proud Archivist, an inspiring venue on London’s Regent’s Canal, do hop over to have a look.  Regrettably Jacqui is not offering special discounts for clients with hipster beards and tattoos. But, there is a substantial 20% off for readers of my blog, so don’t forget to use the code Spring2015 when booking or you can go direct to the booking page here.

The workshop is for anyone who really wants to get focused on a project, whether it relates to art, writing, a creative business or any other creative discipline. It’s a chance to switch off from digital distraction, to take an Urban Walk and be inspired by the city, to get good tips about productivity and to go away with an action plan to keep you focused. There’s a delicious breakfast and hot lunch from the chef at The Proud Archivist as part of the deal and cocktails with Jacqui and Clare at the end of the day!

Clare and Jacqui colour (narrow) (2 of 1)

If you go, hope you have a wonderful time! I can personally say that without Jacqui’s focus, drive, digital knowledge and business acumen, I would not have fulfilled as much of my creative potential as I have done. Short of marrying her, this is the best way of getting a shot of her coaching expertise and ferocious ambition – and I hear that Clare is every bit as inspirational! Do hope some of you get to enjoy the Urban Creativity Workshop and I’d love to hear how it goes.

The Last Supper: a caricaturist’s view

1024px-Última_Cena_-_Da_Vinci_5Recently I fulfilled a childhood ambition and saw The Last Supper in Milan. It didn’t disappoint.

Visiting it is an elaborate operation. You have to book a voucher a month in advance and are given an allocated time. You wait in a holding area with 29 other visitors before being summoned to a glass-walled ante-chamber. Once everyone is in the ante-chamber, the doors behind you close and the doors in front of you open. As you go into the climate-controlled refectory, turn right (don’t bother turning left: the mural on the opposite wall is rubbish), and there it is.

It’s one of the best known works of art ever created, but, a bit like meeting the Queen (sorry, did I drop a name?), seeing images of the thing is nothing like seeing the thing itself. For a start, it’s bigger than you’d expect (unlike the Queen): the figures are life size, and glow in the dim light of the room. Also, the perspective of the picture space is very clever, and works from wherever in the room you look at the picture. It’s impossible not to be drawn in. The other thing which no reproduction can prepare you for is how uncluttered the scene is. In a book, it looks crowded, but seen at life size each figure has space, and you feel involved in the drama of each saint. But don’t get too involved: you have 15 minutes before you’re ushered out and the next party comes in. That gives you one minute per disciple, one for Jesus, one to admire the still lives on the table and (if you insist) one for the ghastly crucifixion scene on the opposite wall.


One of my recent Last Supper compositions – the company logo was added to the banner at the front.

The moment Leonardo chooses to depict in his masterpiece is basically a reaction shot. Jesus has just announced that one of the disciples will betray him, and what we are looking at is the immediate aftershock of this bombshell. Each disciple reacts differently. St. Bartholomew  jumps to his feet, St. Andrew raises his hands in horror, St. Peter is aggressive, St. John swoons, St. Philip  puts his hands on his heart and pleads with Jesus to believe that it’s not him. The only figure who recoils from Jesus is Judas, who pulls back, his fist clenched and face cast in shadows. As a study in group psychology, it’s incredibly powerful and if I took away only one thing from my visit, it was a respect for Leonardo as a great narrative artist.

I say ‘only one thing’, but in truth I’ve been stealing from The Last Supper for years. It’s hard not to. As a caricaturist, I’m often asked to draw or paint a group picture, often to be presented at a dinner to the guest of honour. The deadline is usually too short to come up with a composition of my own, so a bit of honest theft is the only answer. What other world famous group painting could I steal from? Las Meninas? I’d need to add a court dwarf, which seems a bit insensitive. Déjeuner sur l’herbe? Too many nudes. Guernica? Too many bombs. Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters? Frankly, anyone serving their guests boiled spuds probably can’t afford a caricaturist.

photo-4Which leaves me The Last Supper. It’s a simple composition to copy, though that coffered ceiling involves a bit of concentration. And the perspective is so emphatic, with the vanishing point directly behind the head of Jesus, that however busy the rest of the action, the spectator’s eye goes first to the guest of honour. The composition can even hold up with extra figures. In the version above, the client asked specifically for a Last Supper pastiche, but had 30 people for me to include. I changed the tapestries on the wall to group portraits, and the job was done.

There is a problem however, which is this: who occupies the place of Judas? My approach so far has been not to think about it and hope the client doesn’t either. Which makes me consider who my ideal client might be: probably someone who knows Leonardo’s masterpiece well enough to get the reference, but not so well that they are vexed by a colleague being associated with Christianity’s greatest villain.

Your Country Needs YOU: visualising World War One

It’s often difficult to demonstrate what I do. Often the material I work on is sensitive or confidential information, or it might simply be so specific to the meeting where it was recorded that it makes very little sense to an outsider. However, I was recently asked to draw a sequence of cartoons to illustrate the outbreak of the First World War for ‘Trench Stories’, an ambitious, original play, put on by the students of the Anstee Bridge Project, with the help of Bounce Theatre.

Explaining the causes of the First World War has spawned entire industries and is notoriously complex. However, visualising makes it simple. Here it is in five pictures:


The heir to the Austrian throne is assassinated by a Serbian nationalist.

Serbia resists Austria

Austria demands reparations from Serbia; Serbia refuses.

Russia backs Serbia

Russia intervenes on behalf of Serbia.

Germany backs Austria

Germany intervenes on behalf of Austria.

France, Britain and Belgium involved

Germany pushes Belgium aside to attack France, who is allied with Russia. Britain, who has a treaty with Belgium threatens to counter-attack Germany.

So there you have it!

If you want to read a rather fuller version, Christopher Clark’s recent book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is excellent, but long!

I would like to think that I would be able to convey any message, however difficult, through a handful of simple pictures. However, there are some subjects that are so abstruse, so controversial and so fiendish that they defy even me. I refer of course, to the off-side rule.

From my cartoon strip ‘Coach Kevin’, originally published by Greenstar Media.

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100+ Management Models: with Trompenaars Hampden-Turner

One of the most enjoyable business relationships I’ve had over the years has been with the Trompenaars Hampden-Turner group. They are a formidably intelligent bunch of people and I’ve had a lot of mental gymnastics illustrating their concepts. In the video below, the themes of their latest book are introduced.

100+ Management Models gives an overview of the most important theories of management and is richly illustrated by yours truly. I’ve used the book myself as a handy reference for occasions when I’ve been illustrating group meetings and the facilitator name-checks De Bono’s Theory of Hats or Belbin’s Theory of the Plant! It’s a book that every business person should take with them when travelling, provided they’ve got a sturdy case on wheels…

Crime and Punishment exhibition for Anstee Bridge

The Anstee Bridge Project is a cause that’s very dear to my heart and an organisation with whom I’ve worked for many years now. It aims to provide Kingston teenagers who are not achieving their full potential at school with a supportive and creative environment that encourages their aspirations and builds their confidence. Each year Anstee Bridge raises the bar with the ambition of their schemes, and this was their biggest yet.

Crime and punishment 3

A Thousand Years of Crime and Punishment was an exhibition at Kingston Museum, designed by me and constructed by James Rowlands. It aimed to capture the goriness of bygone Kingston, complete with stocks, ducking stool, gibbet and numerous rats!

The students all got on board, painting, making dismembered heads, writing poetry and recording video stories about real historic crimes. The most intricate exhibit for me was a reconstruction of Kingston’s original prison, which bizarrely was housed in a pub on what is now the site of the Bentall Centre. I worked closely on this project with my very talented niece, the model-maker Shameem Allen. Click on the images to see the detail.

It’s always extremely satisfying to see young people become enthused with a creative project and to see them stretch themselves and discover skills they never realised they had. The moment when one of the students came into the Grand Unveiling and saw the poem that she’d written painted on the wall of the museum was one I won’t forget in a hurry.

You can read more about the exhibition in the Surrey Comet here.