The Charlie Hebdo affair started me thinking about cartoons, and how powerful they can be.

Back when I was 15 years old, after getting hold of American D.C. comics in Rio de Janeiro (they were unavailable in the UK), my first ambition in life was to go to New York and become a cartoonist. DC comics used to devote their back page to a drawing challenge, which could lead to an apprenticeship at one of the publishing houses. I remember making about 400 attempts to draw the face of Superman girlfriend Lois Lane, and eventually getting it almost right. Ever since then, I’ve found it easy to draw women, harder to draw men. Because I didn’t make 400 attempts to draw Superman.

Somewhere down the track the ambition lapsed, but I’ve always been drawing stuff, and cartoon characters along the Superman/Batman/Silver Surfer lines remain my ideal art form.

But while I find it very easy to write (mostly because I’ve written a journal all my life), and I can knock out a blog post in half an hour, it takes me ages to draw cartoons. And that’s only if I actually get an idea for a cartoon in the first place, which I very seldom do.

cafeteriaSo today I took one of several existing ideas for cartoons that I’ve had for a while, and went and did it. It took about 4 hours in total. I got the drawing down on paper in pencil, and then inked up, in about an hour. I then scanned it into a computer and used Microsoft Paint to add colour and text. Somehow or other that took 3 hours. The result is on the right (click on the image for full size version).

It’s quite a nice, humorous idea. But it took far too long. In part that’s because it’s a quite complex perspective drawing. So I suppose one of the lessons to learn is to keep things simple. But most likely it’s also, as everything in life, that practice makes perfect.

But somehow it’s having the initial idea that seems the hardest thing. I’m a bit surprised that I have so few ideas for cartoons. On Sunday, the idea of the “French shouting their love of liberty and tolerance” while excluding smokers from French bistros and restaurants was enough to conjure up the outline idea for a cartoon, but it took two attempts (including almost giving up) before I finally knocked one into shape.

And yet smoking is a very visual thing. And smoke is wonderful stuff that can be made to do anything (as I’m demonstrating in the cartoon above). And excluded smokers huddled outside pubs, in wind and rain, is also highly visual. There ought to be any number of arresting images that can be created, featuring the plight of smokers, the mendacity of Tobacco Control, etc, etc. It’s something that ought to be illustrated. Because illustrations bring home ideas in a very direct way.

Anyway, here’s the Far Side’s Gary Larson. Beautiful idea, and he probably completed it in half an hour:


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43 Responses to Illustration

  1. Carry over Frank from the other page

    WHO answers up on the 2/3rds cancer due to bad luck

    Most types of cancer not due to “bad luck” IARC responds to scientific article claiming that environmental and lifestyle factors account for less than one third of cancers

    Most types of cancer not due to “bad luck” IARC responds to scientific article claiming that environmental and lifestyle factors account for less than one third of cancers Lyon, France, 13 January 2015 – The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization’s specialized cancer agency, strongly disagrees with the conclusion of a scientific report1 on the causes of human cancer published in the journal Science on 2 January 2015 by Dr Cristian Tomasetti and Dr Bert Vogelstein.
    The study, which has received widespread media coverage, compares the number of lifetime stem cell divisions across a wide range of tissues with lifetime cancer risk and suggests that random mutations (or “bad luck”) are “the major contributors to cancer overall, often more important than either hereditary or external environmental factors.”
    For many cancers, the authors argue for a greater focus on the early detection of the disease rather than on prevention of its occurrence. If misinterpreted, this position could have serious negative consequences from both cancer research and public health perspectives.
    IARC experts point to a serious contradiction with the extensive body of epidemiological evidence as well as a number of methodological limitations and biases in the analysis presented in the report.
    “We already knew that for an individual to develop a certain cancer there is an element of chance, yet this has little to say about the level of cancer risk in a population,” explains IARC Director Dr Christopher Wild. “Concluding that ‘bad luck’ is the major cause of cancer would be misleading and may detract from efforts to identify the causes of the disease and effectively prevent it.”
    The past five decades of international epidemiological research have shown that most cancers that are frequent in one population are relatively rare in another and that these patterns vary over time2. For example, oesophageal cancer is common among men in East Africa but rare in West Africa. Colorectal cancer, once rare in Japan, increased 4-fold in incidence in just two decades. These observations are characteristic of many common cancers and are consistent with a major contribution of environmental and lifestyle exposures, as opposed to genetic variation or chance (“bad luck”).
    Furthermore, IARC experts identify several limitations in the report itself. These include the emphasis on very rare cancers (e.g. osteosarcoma, medulloblastoma) that together make only a small contribution to the total cancer burden. The report also excludes, because of the lack of data, common cancers for which incidence differs substantially between populations and over time. The latter category includes some of the most frequent cancers worldwide, for example those of the stomach, cervix, and breast, each known to be associated with infections or lifestyle and environmental factors. Moreover, the study focuses exclusively on the United States population as a measure of lifetime risk. The comparison of different populations would have yielded different results.
    Although it has long been clear that the number of cell divisions increases the risk of mutation and, therefore, of cancer, a majority of the most common cancers occurring worldwide are strongly related to environmental and lifestyle exposures. In principle, therefore, these cancers are preventable; based on current knowledge, nearly half of all cancer cases worldwide can be prevented. This is supported in 1 Tomasetti C, Vogelstein B (2015). Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions. Science. 347(6217):78–81. 2 Stewart BW, Wild CP, editors (2014). World Cancer Report 2014. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research

    Most types of cancer not due to “bad luck” IARC responds to scientific article claiming that environmental and lifestyle factors account for less than one third of cancers
    IARC, 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69372 Lyon CEDEX 08, France – Tel: +33 (0)4 72 73 84 85 – Fax: +33 (0)4 72 73 85 75 © IARC 2015 – All Rights Reserved.
    practice by rigorous scientific evidence showing decreases in cancer incidence after preventive interventions. Notable examples include drops in rates of lung cancer and other tobacco-related cancers after reductions in smoking and declines in hepatocellular carcinoma rates among people vaccinated against hepatitis B virus.
    “The remaining knowledge gaps on cancer etiology should not be simply ascribed to ‘bad luck’,” says Dr Wild. “The search for causes must continue while also investing in prevention measures for those cancers where risk factors are known. This is particularly important in the most deprived areas of the world, which face a growing burden of cancer with limited health service resources.”
    For more information, please contact Véronique Terrasse, Communications Group, at +33 (0)4 72 73 83 66 or or Dr Nicolas Gaudin, IARC Communications, at
    The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization. Its mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control. The Agency is involved in both epidemiological and laboratory research and disseminates scientific information through publications, meetings, courses, and fellowships. If you wish your name to be removed from our press release emailing list.

    It would appear their lifestyles cause and effect is taking a bitter downhill turn for the worse. Today the Oxygen carcinogen at altitudes broke in the news causing LC in humans. The other day Carols HPV,CMV study showing 94% of LC to be caused by viral infection…………… Whats the poor Nazis to do except say if you want off of our IARC mailing list simply click here!

    The purpose of the ban on smoking in public places, however, was to protect non-smokers. It was thus based on nothing?

    Absolutely nothing! The psychosis began with the publication of a report by the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, which depends on the WHO (Editor’s note: World Health Organization). The report released in 2002 says it is now proven that passive smoking carries serious health risks, but without showing the evidence. Where are the data? What was the methodology? It’s everything but a scientific approach. It was creating fear that is not based on anything.

    Prof Evin

  2. Reinhold says:

    So I suppose one of the lessons to learn is to keep things simple.

    It’s mainly the sector of what’s to be shown. One always should keep the sector small. That saves effort.

    And, after all, use another method to digitize your drawings. First of all, choose the JPG file format instead of PNG.

    • Frank Davis says:

      JPG? I’ve always believed that JPG was suitable for things like colour photos. And if you had line drawings, it was better to use GIF. I’m not sure what PNG does, but it seems to be what Paint automatically generates (although I’ve got an old version of Paintshop Pro which does all the formats).

      My main problem has been in getting a good black and white image. If I do a black-and-white scan my hand-drawn lines tend to vanish. So at the moment I’m scanning using an Enhanced Text mode which actually makes the lines slightly thicker.. But at the same time it produces a lot of gray pixels around the lines which are hard to get rid of, and mess up the colour block fill.

      I noticed that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were using big felt tip pens to draw. I use 0.3 or 0.5 mm drawing pens. So their cartoons are two or three times bigger than mine. And they must have two or three times bigger scanners. I’ve just got an A4 scanner.

      • Reinhold says:

        GIF and PNG file formats were unbeatable in times of slow modems (<56K). They compress very strong, are limited to 256 colors, and enable minimum file sizes. There are still various purposes for which they are best suited (eg buttons), but in free-hand drawing now JPG is standard. Apart from vector formats, but that's a completely different chapter.

        PNG works in principle as GIF (it was developed not at least to circumvent the royalties to Compuserve), but supports levels of transparency, which GIF can not. For GIF, there is only EITHER OR transparency. But also PNG is radical in its compression, and that's not always compatible with free-hand strokes.

        A 100K image, for example, was a disaster for many modem users in the 90's. It was loading and loading and loading endlessly – today, in DSL times, it's a trifle. In a second it's there. For most purposes, the rigid compression of GIF is no longer necessary.
        But also JPG is a form of compression, as you surely know. You can choose the degree of compression, the quality level. 100% represents the picture in original quality, 10% is still sufficient for text pages. For cartoons for screen and internet you may choose about 70%, which looks almost as good as 100% but the file size will be much, much smaller than at 100% Q. This way a really complex drawing (cartoon eg) can be reduced to approximately 40K of size or less, in full colour.
        For printing on paper of course 100% Q is recommended – still many times smaller (file size) than BMP.

        All this is not a theoretical-technical treatise, Frank. It comes directly from experience.
        Just try around a bit with JPG. You'll see, it's finally the right format for your purposes too, I'm pretty sure.

        As for the scan: I'd recommend to scan the hand drawing without a filter and would perform all operations with the image editing program. Here you then can … wait, I don't know what MS Paint is able to. Paint Shop Pro I used myself once, and I can say from then that you can do very much with it. I use Photoshop, but it's expensive (and now only available "in the clouds" – I wouldn't buy – or "rent" – Photoshop any more today). But if you can change brightness and contrast of the drawing with your programme, you already can do a lot. And if you also can set the "aggressiveness" of the colour fill, you're able to do most of what's important for cartoons.

        An A4 scanner suffices perfectly. I don't have a bigger one either.
        What still would be useful for frequent editing of drawings on the screen, is a graphics tablet. The thing with the magnetic pen, you know. They're available for about 60 Euros (don't know how many Pounds that is) but are not very good in this price range. But for a start it may do.

        H/T Mrs. Google

  3. Frank the CAT killer cartoon reminds of the RICO TRIAL and Judge Kessler where the Jury like all those cats was stacked when we see this…….

    The Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund (a 501c4 affiliate of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids) is one of six public health groups that Judge Kessler allowed to intervene in the case, along with the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and National African American Tobacco Prevention Network.

    SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

    It says Intervene but intervene means like involved as in persecuting the accused by its accusers!

    So the prosecuter also got to be the Judge and Jury altogether nice and tidy!

  4. Frame 1 kids being assimulated by by DARE instuctors on SHS to children about disease and death

    The next frame is the children in the school lunch room and they all see a smoker lite up and they all layover dead

    The next frame all the kids are getting deprogramming from shrinks over shs that it wont kill them.

  5. Lepercolonist says:

    Frank, you would have to be a great cartoonist to surpass your brilliant writing. Gary Larson is a genius. Sorry to see him retire early.

  6. waltc says:

    On the topic: it’s a question of innate v. secondary, practiced talent. If you drew more often, you’d learn how to make the process more intuitive, learn with your head– and your hands would learn on their own,–how to make it happen and happen faster. One’s secondary talent can improve greatly with devoted practice (and you’re quite good at drawing) but the glitch, I think, is that the secondary talent never quite gets to be truly first rate while the innate one has it down from the start and with even more practice, the sky, however you define it, is the limit. At least that’s my experience.

    Meanwhile, I give you the simple cartoon that’s long been in my head and that I couldn’t draw if my life depended on it. A very very very small desert island with two ragged, bearded survivors . There’s a single palm tree on each side and a line drawn in the sand right down the middle and scrawled in the sand on one side it says No Smoking Section and the two guys, the other one smoking, glare at each other across the line. I could make it more complex with wider implications about their survival, divided as they are, but the simple statement would seem to be enough.

    • Frank Davis says:

      That’s a nice simple idea. I could draw that. But getting them to glare at each other might be a bit tricky.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Here you are…

      That took 1.3 hours. But I still don’t know how to get a simple B&W line image. All my lines come out furry.

      And ooops, I forgot the “SECTION”.


      Further improvement:

      • garyk30 says:

        Since pictures post nicely, could you not take a picture of a cartoon and then post the picture?

        This works on FaceBook

        • Frank Davis says:

          Yes, I could do that. But taking photos of artwork isn’t simple. Firstly it has to be well lit. And then the camera has to be positioned carefully to ensure that a rectangular sheet of paper remains rectangular.

          But also, it’s very helpful to use block fill utilities to fill areas with a single colour, rather than get out the paints.

        • Barry Homan says:

          There should only be one palm tree on the island, and the anti-smoker has claimed it.

        • carol2000 says:

          And the smoker is forced to stand in shark-infested water to have a smoke.

      • Reinhold says:

        Yes, the SECTION. :)
        There’s no need to see the left and the right end of the island and the end of the branches of the palm trees, there’s no need to see the sea at the bottom. The viewers can imagine it.

        • Reinhold says:

          But apart from that, it’s a wonderful drawing again.

        • Frank Davis says:

          A bit like this?

          I think that if you take away too much sea, the viewer might not realise that it’s a very, very small island.

          On the other hand, the more that is stripped away from the sides, the more detail can be added to the two central figures (like getting them to glare at each other properly).

  7. NOLA Fucking seriously?

    Mitch Landrieu’s Unarmed ‘NOLA Patrol’ Will Fine Smokers, Not Fight Crime | The Hayride

    An initiative by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to create a 50-member, unarmed group of officers, …

    • Smoking Ban Inspector Stripped Naked in Belgium

      In the Belgian village of Sivry Rance an inspector of the Department of Health was attacked by the customers of the Café de la poste and stripped naked. The man was controlling the ban on smoking in bars.

      Albert D. (53) was, along with thirty other colleagues, responsible for the control of the entire Belgian territory. His inspection was unannounced and happened as always on a random list of catering businesses.

      Cafe de la Poste in the center of the village serves a daily special at noon but in the evening is frequented by a slightly rougher clientele: mostly members of the local Hell’s Angels. According to eyewitnesses, the inspector was stripped to his pants. Personal belongings were tossed way back in the barroom supported by some intense cheering.

      Afterwards the man was dropped in the forest and found shelter in an old gamekeeper’s house. dressed in an old horse blanket, he managed to reach the local police station . The public prosecutor of Charleroi condemned this aggression and intimidation of a public official. The prosecution asks anyone who witnessed the incident to contact the police.

  8. smokingscot says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your cartoons as well as the one shown by Harley.

    Nit-picking (because it’s likely to eventually end up in Google Images), but the text at the foot of the first one seemed odd. Google spells it thus: cafeteria.

  9. carol2000 says:

    “Take smoking for example: you can’t enjoy a cigarette if you as an adult so choose to, despite the numerous health warnings we’ve had for decades.”

    Unfortunately, it shows that he’s clueless about the real situation – that the anti-smokers have been lying to us for decades, and that’s why they’ve gotten away with everything. This isn’t mere “nannyism,” this is the government depriving people of their liberty based on lies. It’s like being thrown in prison by a kangaroo court, on the basis of perjured testimony and fabricated “evidence.” This is the government systematically lying to the people, warping public policy in order to persecute one particular group of people. The remedy is to purge the charlatans out of the health establishment, and ban their fraudulent methodology!

    • carol2000 says:

      This somehow posted in the wrong place, I was replying to Rose, and hit “Reply” and everything..

    • Rose says:

      This isn’t mere “nannyism,” this is the government depriving people of their liberty based on lies

      Couldn’t agree more, Carol.
      But I don’t think he’s as clueless as you might think, those were some very carefully chosen words.

  10. hephziba quartey says:

    that was a very great

  11. Pingback: Lambs To The Slaughter | Frank Davis

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