In Florida last fall at the International Society of Caricature Artists (ISCA) convention our president and CCGB member, Steve Hearn, invited me to an event in Malta hosted by the Cartoon Club of Great Britian. “Definitely, perhaps, Malta in February, hmm?”
Fast forward to a visit to my travel agent, “Malta? I don’t see any flights that go there.” We finally worked it all out and got a good price. Now, time to read up on my destination and see the Maltese Falcon movie one more time.
Easy flight and a chance to finally see Terminal #5 at Heathrow, then over the Alps and down to Malta – pencils all sharpened. Arrangements with the Pergola Hotel in Mellieha were wonderfully smooth and prices very reasonable.
I soon found Rich and Gill Skipworth and Ian Ellery (who reminded me that I still owed him 6 Euros from a time we were at another mini-con 6 years ago near Málaga, Spain.) The next eight days of the mini-con were absolutely wonderful. Knowing I couldn’t come back to the US with only a SD of cartoon photos and quirky anecdotes about British food and where Wales is really located – after the mini-con I moved down the road to the fortress city of Valletta for a few extra days. Ian came down for a visit, a wander, another feast of Maltese cuisine and a couple of pints of Cisk.
Mulling over my Malta trip, I concluded it was the folks I met there that were most important. Malta’s history, geography and culture are exotic, medieval, not quite European, not quite modern, certainly scenic, hospitable (read safe) and rugged. I’m so very glad I had a chance to visit this very ancient island. Malta is fascinating but still relatively unknown in my world where folks don’t often travel overseas or know much world history.
I knew three CCGB members: Steve Hearn, Noel Ford and Ian Ellery. I was familiar
with Noel’s work and was anxious to finally meet him. He is even better than I expected and another Painter user! The green light is on, Noel.
I was the only yank in attendance along with two talented caricaturists from Spain, Lorca Acrol and Rafa Leafar, and another from Vienna, Xi Ding that I had all met last year in Girona, Spain at an ISCA mini-con. Throughout the day we would draw, eat together, “wander” about town, and participate in some trivial social drinking. Idiosyncratic vocabulary differences aside, I felt quite welcome.
Each day was different including a half-day excursion to nearby Gozo Island. We began by meeting in a function room to discover the “theme” for our cartoons
that day. Later, we shared some helpful presentations on mostly digital topics and one, on a geometric approach to caricature, by prodigy Xi. Around 6pm we would reconvene and vote for the best work of the day and award prizes. In the evenings there was time for other group activities while hotel patrons and staff watched. We laughed a lot and got to know each other better. The format of the event and organizational details were outstanding. Rich, with wife Gill, and Ian deserve a big standing ovation.
I spent most of my time with the Brits, impressed by their graphic skills and fascinated by their humor, and take on our world. We spent a lot of time tuning our vocabularies and appreciating mutual technologies. There were some delightful discoveries that somehow had not washed up on shores of my world. Two examples: Simon Tofield’s,
So, boiling it all down diplomatically, here’s my take on British cartoonists. Risking generalizations, which never bothers me, I’d say they’re:
- Fast and convincing graphic artists,
- Working increasingly digital: Photoshop, Illustrator and Painter,
- Widening their markets,
- Love language-based humor,
- Produce visual humor rapidly and effectively at the drop of a word or phrase,
- More courteous and considerate than their Yankee counterparts, and
- They eat a lot of butter.
You’ve been spared the long tourist narrative about beautiful Malta that I’m saving for all my slide shows. Below are a few picture of my new pals and some of their work. I’m really grateful to have been able to attend and so impressed by your organization. I begged to join but was told the vetting process would take years.