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A Brief Intro to… Cartooning

If you’ve visited the newest resident at Leake Street Arches, the brilliant Banh Bao Brothers, you might have noticed the fun and unique illustrations used both within the space and throughout their marketing collateral.

These animated cartoons merge creativity with delicious offerings such as Purple Pork Broth, Sticky Wings and Chicken Croquettes on the food front, and a too-good-to-choose choice of drinks, with a Chocolate Confucius cocktail, T-Total Jackfruit Fizz and Vietnamese Coffee.

So before you sample the lip-smacking fare, here’s some impressive dinner chat about how cartoons came to the fore….

Cartoons began their life in the eighteenth century as caricatura, from the Italian caricare, meaning ‘to exaggerate.’ Caricatures are playful illustrations, exaggerating and accentuating certain features, and they are still a popular form of cartoons today.

William Hogarth, an artist and social critic, thought that these exaggerations were unnecessary, creating his own form of storytelling: comic history-painting, what we now know as a primitive form of the cartoon or comic strip. In 1843, ‘cartoon’ was used to describe illustrations in the pages of the renowned Punch magazine. Thus the description was adopted and the phrase – as well as the practice – was picked up by numerous publications.

By the late eighteenth century, this form of illustration was the perfect way to mock, satirise and comment on political figures and events, especially surrounding the French Revolution.

This popularity continued to grow, until in 1830 The Illustrated Magazine was published. Following this, Vanity Fair’s inaugural edition was to be found in shops in 1868, popularising colour images of celebrities.

Cartoons and illustrations continued to be a form of information and entertainment, and in 1915 a celebrated children’s illustrator, Charles Folkard, was asked to create a comic for the Daily Mail’s children’s corner. This was met with such positive reactions that other newspapers followed their lead. Approaching the First World War, with rationing and an uncertain future, it was clear that this art form was also going to be a way of documenting history. Fast forward to the Second World War, and the medium was even more prominent, with cartoonists fleeing Nazi Germany, they arrived here, contributing knowledge, talent, and a dark sense of humour.

From here on out, Britain adopted cartooning as a common means of entertainment. The 1930’s witnessed a rise in children’s cartoons focusing on brave soldiers heroically winning wars, and later in the decade The Dandy was on shelves, entertaining through the new form of coloured pages. The 1950’s saw The Beano arrive with Dennis the Menace taking centre stage with his comedic and devious acts, and in the swinging sixties, Private Eye was founded. This politically-charged satirical magazine contained caricatures and comic strips, steering clear of the uptight and correct British attitude that other publications had held up until then, particularly Punch. Private Eye published work that no other paper would touch, giving a real and honest account of events, albeit at times daring.

Cartoons have continued to grow with the times and their audience, capturing historical and emotional moments, and now they’ve ventured into other industries too.

We caught up with the talent behind the Banh Bao Brothers illustrations, Lizz Lunney, to hear a bit more about the art form, how she came up with this illustration, and what she thinks the future holds for cartooning.

1) What is Cartooning?

Cartooning is a broad term that could be used to describe everything that I do. I’m involved in comics, animation, story-telling and character design.

2) How did you become a Cartoonist?

I studied animation, so I suppose that was the start of my professional career, but I feel like I’ve been a cartoonist since I could hold a pen! As a kid I spent hours filling notebooks with comics and cartoons. Being a cartoonist as an adult didn’t really feel like a choice I made – I just wanted to draw more than anything else and so I did.

3) Where do your ideas come from?

They come from my dreams, my nightmares, memories, things I’ve seen and things I imagine. Sometime I find a weird object in a flea market and it gives me an idea for a character or a story. This is a difficult question to answer because often I don’t even know where an idea originates in my brain, things just come to me and find their way out through the pen onto the paper.

4) How do you develop your characters?

I did a comedy writing course where the best piece of advice was “to write characters you should study psychology”. I think there is a lot of truth to this. I read a lot of psychological textbooks and biographies. I often loosely base my characters on real people but sometimes the characters develop in their own way like I’ve birthed them and then they become separate entities from me that grow on their own. If it’s a character without a voice then a lot of the personality needs to come from the way they look or move – like the Banh Bao Brothers characters. A simple face can express a lot and I find it interesting that people can put in their own interpretation and relate to the character on a personal level.

5) What is the process for creating cartoons? e.g Do you sketch by hand or using a computer?

Both! I usually draw by hand with a black ink Muji 0.5 fineliner which I scan and edit digitally. But sometimes I just draw with Bamboo tablet direct into Photoshop using the pen tool. I’m never without my sketchbook so this is always the starting point for all of my drawings in rough.

6) Are there any other types of artist you feel a particular kinship towards? Lately I’ve become a big fan of ancient art where the people/creatures are weirdly drawn, religious paintings and Egyptian art. I love Hieronymus Bosch. I also like Outsider Art because it feels free – people who haven’t been ruined by the constraints of society in the same way as other artists. It’s just pure expression of feelings. Norimitsu Kokubo is a favourite. And if comedy counts as an art form that’s something too, I like to write jokes.

7) How do you feel about Graffiti as an art form?

I’ve tried it a couple of times with a group of female graffiti artists here in Berlin. I enjoy drawing on a big scale but I don’t know much about the graffiti scene. I find spray paint a difficult material to work with so it’s impressive to see work by those who have mastered the tool.

8) What cartoons/cartoonists inspired you most?

Underground comics like Raw magazine, The Beano, John Lennon’s cartoons, Spike Milligan, Yellow Submarine, Roger Rabbit. Also my Mother and Grandfather were both prolific artists who filled my childhood with various kinds of art.

9) When you work with a client how does the process of character design usually happen?

Usually we would discuss the client’s initial ideas, I would do a bit of research then come back and pitch some options to them. From that they would decide which image suits the concept they had in mind the best and then we take it from there. I’ve done a few character specific branding projects and it’s always the most exciting part of my job to come up with something that goes out into the world and becomes its own thing. I really see them like my children going off to find themselves! Bye children, don’t come back.

10) What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m working on a book which will be out next year and I’m developing an animation idea featuring my mountain characters. I run a Fun Club where people can support my work and have access to members only comics and secret content. I also upload comics on Twitter and Instagram as @lizzlizz and on my Facebook page – in August I will be doing a comic a day so please do follow me!


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