On the occasion of our Nyetimber illustrated by Oliver Preston collection launch, we asked the celebrated cartoon artist a few questions. He shared his inspiration source, his favourite Nyetimber cuvee, and other delightful stories worth the read.
How did you start drawing?
I have always drawn cartoons, a hobby that I kept going throughout an earlier career in the City of London. I immersed myself in Asterix and Tintin as a child, and aspired to the drawings of H M Bateman and Thelwell. I studied graphic art at A level, but with my drawings I am completely self-taught. I have never been to art school. When you are lucky enough to be given a talent, you should use it. In my first year as a full time cartoonist in 1996 I set myself a target of drawing for Punch Magazine, The Times and The Spectator, and achieved all three. Many early clients were PR and advertising companies and I developed a whole page strip cartoon character, Marvin Marmite, published in The Beano and The Dandy. In my early years I drew cartoons for the Au Bar nightclub in New York, and Mark Birley bought originals from my Fine Art Society exhibition in 1999 which he hung in Annabels and George clubs in London.
What inspires you to draw?
I don’t purposefully lampoon my friends but I do have strong social observation. I take in what people say, what they are wearing, what they do. Often situations or the comments of the general public might lead me to put pen to paper! I love the genre of British cartooning – it is something, as a country, we are very good at – and I am pleased to say that the British sense of humour is alive and well. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than hearing customers laugh out aloud at one of my creations.
What is your creative process?
My cartoons are very much observational humour and it matters to me that the drawing is as important as the caption (I do both). You should be able to look at the drawing and then read the caption – and get the joke within a few seconds. I am always amazed at how one can start with a blank piece of paper, and ideas and drawings will appear out of nowhere. I draw on A3 Daler Rowney smooth heavyweight paper, and use pencils to outline a sketch, then Indian ink with a Gillotte nib pen to draw the picture, which I then finish with gouache and Winsor and Newton coloured inks. I am a very lucky man to have such a fun and enjoyable profession. No day is the same – I might be drawing a caricature for a bank in London, christmas cards in July, a regular strip cartoon for a magazine, or a new greeting card for our publishing business, Beverston Press. I have also published 20 books, so often I put myself into purdah to meet deadlines.
If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
I thrive on being busy! Since 2001 I have been chairman of the Cartoon Museum in London which I co-founded in 2006. It has received over 450,000 visitors, and held over 50 exhibitions of the best of British cartoons, comics, caricature and graphic novels. There are children and adults’ cartooning and animation classes, and we have recently started a drop in programme for autistic children. I am very involved in keeping the project going. At home in the Cotswolds we have a working farm, so I am regularly on a tractor in the fields, or working around a farmyard attending to maintenance, cropping programmes and I am on the parish council. My wife won’t let me use a chainsaw or hedge cutter, as I can be clumsy, and I have to protect my hands!! I love cooking and really enjoy using our own produce from our garden. I would take ANY opportunity to go skiing in Gstaad, or visit in summer which is sublime.
What’s your favourite Nyetimber wine?
I really enjoy the Classic Cuvee – it is a wonderfully refreshing pick me up at the end of a long day. Occasionally we push the boat out and have a bottle of the Rose Multi vintage on special occasions!
What are your perfect occasions for a glass of Nyetimber?
We have a traditional Cotswold farmhouse near Tetbury, and I love watching the sun set on the terrace surrounded by Bonica roses, Catmint, and Lily of the Valley. Lots of banter and laughter with my wife, Vivien, and children and friends. I am always uplifted when I go to a wedding or a function where they serve Nyetimber. I know I am in for a good time !
How long does it take you to create an illustration?
It depends on the size! I have just finished a caricature of 80 people for a Pro Am golf event in Ireland. Nearly a metre tall, by one and a half metres wide, and it has taken me several weeks. When I draw in pencil I work quickly, but the colouring and likenesses of people can take some time. Most of my drawings take a day or so.
What is your favourite drawing (if you had to pick)?
That is so tricky! Most of my drawings mean something special to me. I can always remember how the idea came about, and who owns the original. I do like this drawing of “No, I said POUR”. I had a new black Labrador puppy, Baloo, who kept on putting is paw up on me as I was at my drawing desk (and invariably knocking over the bottles of ink !). He is always lying close to my feet as I draw in my studio, now accompanied by another Labrador, Jazz. She is naughty, but keeps him company.
People who inspire you and why?
I love politics and follow the daily news updates in my studio. I collect cartoons by James Gillray, H M Bateman, Ronald Searle, Thelwell, Pont, and Rowlandson. Satire has been integral to publications and the British political scene since the middle 1700’s. From Hogarth, Gillray and Rowlandson, the political cartoons of Punch, Sir David Low, Vicky and Giles – we invented the art form of political caricature and it is thriving today. Cartoons so often say more than words can ever express and the artistry and deft political insight of our current cartoonists – Steve Bell, Matt, Peter Brookes, Martin Rowson and others is as strong as ever. The British press publishes images of our politicians that would never be printed in other countries – the USA, Russia, the Middle East – and our cartoonists are admired around the world for their skills and artistry. As a people we like holding our Politicians to account and we seem to do it rather well!