The Political Cartoons of Patrick Blower

Introduction

Patrick Blower has held paintbrush to paper to express his political views surrounding some of the biggest events in human history since 1986, but he describes some of the past few years as “unusually turbulent, dominated by just two stories: COVID-19 and Brexit.”

Through the medium of a canvas and a brush, in this edition, Blower explores the interlinking of these two narratives, exposing harsh truths through colourful satire. This comic-newspaper-style-parody is an important piece of political commentary – if it doesn’t get you thinking, we aren’t sure what will.

Here’s a little bit of background to Blower’s collection of cartoons in this edition. Brexit has shifted the geo-political and economic landscape and the COVID-19 pandemic has just made things harder, not just for Britain but for the entire world. Besides these two dominant narratives, we are now in a state of code red as the climate emergency worsens with every passing day. In this book, Patrick Blower paints a satirical, riotous, newspaper-style parody of the Daily Telegraph’s biggest headlines. Amongst these pages you will find him comparing the EU to a golf club, portraying Theresa May as Winnie the Pooh, and exposing social divides that the pandemic has created through colourful, witty, powerful, and potent artwork.

Blower – Who Is He?

Blower was born i1959 in Brussels and received a BA (Hons) in English Literature from University College London. He then went on to gain an MA in Art and Space from Kingston University. Since 1986, he has worked as a cartoonist and illustrator at big newspapers, including The Guardian, The Times, and the Evening Standard. Since 2011, he has worked as a political cartoonist for the Daily Telegraph. He has many collections in famous museums such as the V&A, The Science Museum, and Saatchi.

Patrick draws a lot of what he sees when he’s out and about. Something that seems to have gained particular prominence is his portrayal of commuters in London. He captures the classic early morning panic of dozens of commuters trying to fit through tube doors that we somehow think will expand wide enough to fit us all, and compares this with cars tied tyre-to-tyre on the motorway as they emit toxic fumes. His work is completely relatable, truthful, and effective.

The Artistic Process

‘Every day starts with the horror of a blank piece of paper’, Blower says. 

Blower tells BBC News about his artistic process. Even when he has an idea put together,  everything must be on schedule with the papers. When it came to the Brexit vote, he had to come up with two alternative drawings for both possible outcomes of the vote so that the paper would be ready to go.

Most artists use five techniques when it comes to creating a political cartoon: Symbolism, Exaggeration, Labeling, Analogy and Irony. We can see all of these in Blower’s collection. For example, Donald Trump’s face is exaggeratedly orange, and Winnie The Pooh is the symbol of Theresa May.

Traditional VS Digital

In the BBC interview, we can see that Blower is both working by hand and digitally in order to design his cartoons. When the digital boom first began, some papers began to drop their cartoonists. The Daily Mirror and the Daily Express have stopped doing cartoons altogether. But Patrick Blower believes that “as more and more readers view my output on backlit digital screens, why not produce the images in the medium in which they’re being consumed?” Blower rails against the “ancient regime snobbery against digital drawing.”

The History of Political Cartoons

Developed in England in the latter part of the 18th Century, the political cartoon was pioneered by James Gillray. Founded in 1841, the British periodical weekly magazine Punch appropriated the term cartoon to refer to its political cartoons. This has since been a way to comment on political world events.

Without Getting Too Political…

What is particularly striking is that whilst the government has made no attempt at restoring, preserving, or funding the arts sector during this global pandemic, it is this very medium that Blower uses to comment on such failings. So, we sure do think that art makes a difference! Do you? 

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