A conversation with Terry Anderson: A caricaturist, who produces quickfire drawings as live entertainment
The New Normal Magazine spoke to Terry Anderson to gain an insight into his experience as a cartoonist and caricaturist in Scotland. His latest project, “10 years of Fizzers”, held at Glasgow’s People’s Palace, is a collaborative effort with five other artists of the Scottish Cartoon Art studio.
Caricatures are everywhere. Displayed ostentatiously in the most stylish of exhibitions, or hidden within the depths of the bulkiest of newspapers, they are humorous, artistic depictions that serve a significant cultural purpose.
The caricature is a popular form of art and entertainment, distorting and ludicrously exaggerating the peculiarities and defects of people or things. We can find caricaturists in public spaces, at events and gatherings, as well as seeing their lovingly crafted works, featured in mainstream print and online media.
Terry Anderson is a professional cartoonist and caricaturist, who lives in Glasgow. He has a wealth of experience through his art, including the production of cartoons and caricatures, performing live entertainment at events, and developing eye-catching visuals for business and organisations.
For many years, Terry has caricatured famous faces from the world of music, film, TV, sport, and, more recently, politicians have become a more prominent source of inspiration.
He has always believed that humour in caricatures is purely based on the observation and the exaggeration of human figures.
Born in Paisley, Anderson, who studied at The Kubert School for cartoonists in New Jersey, began his career by creating illustrations for The Glasgow Herald, while he was still at school.
Then, as a founding member of the Scottish Cartoon Art Studio, he collaborated with his team (Chris Sommerville, Brian Flynn, Derek Gray, Tommy Sommerville) on more complex and innovative projects and exhibitions, such as The Auld Acquaintance, a referendum-themed exhibition, and Fizzers, his latest exhibition at the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens.
This features artistic makeovers of numerous celebrities, while providing curious visitors with an insight to the artists, the artistic process, and the defining criteria of the subject of a caricature.
Anderson has been extremely passionate about drawings since he was a child, and he’s open in sharing his thoughts and feelings about the underlying message of his art.
While he enjoys caricatures and cartoons as a hobby, he also approaches them as a job. His passion and his work are inextricably linked together.
Anderson started our chat by reflecting on what ignited his passion.
When I was a child, around the age of eight, I started to say that I wished to become a cartoonist. I’ve always loved caricatures and cartoons, and I believe they have an enduring capability of crossing language and literary barriers.
When did you begin to realise that you could have an artistic vocation?
Everything started from my childhood, and it was so instinctive. When you are around seven or eight years old, perhaps your drawings are pinned on in the refrigerator door by your parents, but that didn’t happen for me. So, I continued to draw, and, amongst other children, I was known as “Terry, the one who’s good at drawing cartoons”.
I started to earn money by selling drawings of Ninja Turtles to other children. From that moment of my life, I started to be stubborn about my talent. Sometimes I was discouraged by teachers, who thought that being a cartoonist was not worthwhile. But my family’s support was fundamental, especially when I went abroad to study at a school for cartoonists in New Jersey. Nearly twenty years later, I met the people who I’m still working with, my colleagues at the Scottish Art Studio.
What are the most rewarding things about your business?
Being in charge of yourself – being your own boss is one of the chief attractions for what we do. Doing something you’re passionate about is a privilege and a terrific opportunity. Personally, I wouldn’t have met my wife if I wasn’t a cartoonist, so I owe a lot in my life to it. I’ve also been lucky to have a great support network from people around me.
Which challenges, if any, have you faced?
One of the ongoing challenges is getting the general public to think about cartooning in a different way, than their first instinct. Cartoons often tend to be dismissed, or seen as something that’s not worthy of any serious consideration.
Getting started is the biggest challenge, as that takes time. Working as a part of a team is generally better and more rewarding, but it also means taking time to come to a compromise.
For instance, an exhibition like Fizzers in a gallery setting at the People’s Palace, tends to elevate caricatures and cartoons a bit, because Scottish people in particular, who have encountered caricaturing before, could think of it as something that’s foreign, or coming from Italy, which goes back to its renaissance origins.
Moreover, like any self-employed person, there are some difficulties. This business is not the most stable or predictable way of making a living, so you don’t necessarily know how much money you’re going to have from one month to the next. You face some issues as a self-employed person, for instance, forward-planning, or booking holidays, etc.
Do you feel your freedom of expression is limited, particularly in light of events such as Charlie Hebdo attack?
Not in any serious way. There’s censorship that’s imposed upon you from outside, then there’s self-censorship, but not a fear of judgement. For example, after Charlie Hebdo, there was the issue of portraying the prophet Mohammed in cartoons. I’m part of an organisation that produced a book in the year after the attack; I wanted to talk about self-censorship and the issues that the incident brought to the fore. Early on, the editors said that they would not welcome cartoons or portrayals of the prophet Mohammed. I think that was the right call, simply because it’s a cliché, and a way of causing controversy for its own sake, rather than making a point.
A good example of that was the competition held in Texas, where there was a “Let’s all draw the prophet Mohammed” contest. This was publicly advertised and, for the most part, it was amateur participants rather than professional cartoonists. Come the day of the event, two young men arrived at the scene with assault weapons, and were almost immediately shot dead by the police.
The organisers of that event got what they wanted. They could say that the narrative of expression was being threatened by extremists, whereas in actuality, they had caused the whole incident and virtually planned it to the letter. It goes back to the adage: “Don’t shout fire in a crowded theatre.”
What is the relationship between politicians and cartoons in Britain?
We’re lucky in Britain. When politicians don’t star in cartoons, there’s probably something that they’re doing wrong. They’re not making a particular impression amongst a wider audience. When they’re not in cartoons, it means that their career isn’t going very well. A cartoonist wouldn’t waste their time on cartooning a politician, that the reader wouldn’t be able to recognise. In a roundabout way, it’s a compliment for a British politician to be caricatured.
How do you select a person of interest and convert them into a cartoon or caricature?
We try to pick people who are in the public eye, who are already in television, or in newspapers. We can’t do people, who don’t have good reference and we tend to avoid people whose names or achievements are not well known. There are not many scientists, poets, or even radio broadcasters cartooned, because even if those people might have well-known names, their faces may not be. If you walked past them in the street, you wouldn’t recognise them.
Our represented characters should have a face, that we think people could have some fun with. The people we try to avoid are called “potatoes”. Potatoes are people who have indistinct and unremarkable faces and they tend to be little, bald men, who look like potatoes. People tend to assume that a caricature represents somebody who is ugly, but that’s not the case, since beautiful people are quite easy to caricature.
After that, it’s about getting photographs or a good reference of a person. Sometimes videos are even better, because you can see the face in motion, coupled with their emotional expression.
Then it’s a case of exaggeration, and that will depend upon the artist, their style, and their technique within their own group.
On one extreme, you’ve got Chris Sommerville, whose cartoons are very graphic and simple. His technique is almost like a distillation, by getting rid of the parts that are not essential and retaining the most important bits. On the other hand, you have an artist like Derek Gray, who comes from a fine art background. He studied at a famous art school in Aberdeen, so his techniques are more painterly and more illustrative.
Which is the main objective in spotting famous people faces?
What I would hope is that, if you look at a caricature that I’ve drawn, you wouldn’t necessarily know what I think of that person. You might find it funny, or laugh at it, but if you like this person, you might think that I’ve been cruel.
However, if the audience doesn’t like who I’ve caricatured, then they may say that I haven’t been hard enough on them. There is a sort of interpretation, that I leave to the audience.
Even after 18 years of our collaboration, there are some people, especially men, who perceive caricature as an insult. Caricature isn’t a criticism, it’s humorous and light-hearted. We pick peopl,e who we think are in the frame of mind to be caricatured. The closest we’ve come to a complaint was from Ian Rankin, the crime writer, who created the Rebus crime novels. “You’re always miserable in photographs. Show me a photograph of you smiling, and I will be happy to draw you that way”.
Do you believe images can be more communicative than words?
I do. Images are capable of crossing literary and language barriers, and people can talk through cartoons about nationhood and democracy, about the act of voting and participating in democracy. I also believe drawing a caricature is an effective way in getting to know and understand other people. It can provoke conversation, and the artist is usually welcomed into the personal space of the sitter. Thinking about caricatures enables different interpretations on the part of the people, who come to see the works.
What is the meaning of Fizzers, the title of your last exhibition?
Fizzers is our word for caricatures. We came up with Fizzers as a nod to our friends in France, as we were inspired for the French word for faces, “visage”. “Visage” in old English becomes fizzog, which becomes fizzer, so it’s a Glaswegian slang word for face.
At that exhibition, visitors of all ages can delight in the drawings of well-known Fizzers from across the world.
Could you tell us something about the exhibition, particularly for those who haven’t visited?
The exhibition was a retrospective of the last decade of our Fizzers collection. It is our trademark collection of caricatures of well-known people from all different walks of life, including movie stars and musicians, sporting heroes and TV personalities.
It’s the work of five artists from the Scottish Cartoon Art studio, so myself, Chris Sommervile, Brian Flynn, Derek Gray, and Tommy Sommerville.
It’s our second exhibition in the People’s Palace and there are over 120 international icons and Scottish celebrities captured in caricature. We tie in our exhibition with whatever is happening in the news. For example, when the European Championships were on last year, we showcased the players who featured in the competition. To coincide with Euro 2016 Championship, a squad of famous football fizzers, fit to rival any fantasy dream team, were on display alongside caricatures of world-class Scottish sportspeople, including Andy Murray, Liz McColgan and David Wilkie.
The main section includes Glaswegian faces and people from local history, film, TV, entertainment, musicians, and sport. There is a small politics section, smaller than I wanted it to be, and we call them “VIPs” rather than “politicians”.
In addition, there are also games, like a “Guess Who?”-style game, with the caricature images drawn and some interactive digital labels.
Amongst my favourite caricatures are Donald Trump and Daniel Craig. The Donald Trump caricature acquired some meaning that it didn’t formerly have when it was part of the gallery. He was initially going to be included in the entertainment section, but two years later, he assumes a very different position in the world. Chris’s drawing of Daniel Craig, James Bond, is the one that often gets misinterpreted.When I look at it, it couldn’t be anyone else but Daniel Craig.
What are your plans for the future?
There’s not much I can say about any future plans at the moment. We are currently working on a small book project, but I’m not at liberty to say what it’s about, apart from the fact it’s caricature-based, obviously.
This year will be our 18th year anniversary, and I would like to think that there will be another exhibition in our 20th anniversary year. We are always trying to have more of a European approach to caricature, as the traditional approach comes to us directly from the renaissance. I can’t go into details, because nothing is confirmed yet, but keep your eyes peeled!
Do you have any advice for people who want to develop a creative business?
I think the most common mistake I see is when younger people rely too much on the existing intellectual property in popular culture.
That might seem odd from a caricaturist, since I draw people in popular culture, but caricatures are dependent on my interpretation of those people.
It’s very easy on social media to get a lot of ‘likes’ or retweets, for example, doing a silly little Star Wars cartoon once the films are out. However, everyone is doing that, and it’s denying you the opportunity to come up with your own idea or exposing a vulnerability, which could ultimately give you the courage to be exposed.
It means more when you develop innovative ideas and make them your own ‘contribution’, rather than constantly recycling the same old ideas.
I would encourage people to be brave, experimental and not afraid to put forward their ideas and insights. Their creation matters, and to embrace social media is a way of promoting themselves and reaching out to people.
Finally, are you happy to be a caricaturist based in Scotland?
I’m happy to be Scottish and I love Scotland, but I have to say that when we travel abroad, particularly France, there is a level of respect that is afforded to cartoonists and caricaturists, that you don’t necessarily get over here.
I agree with the words of my colleague Tommy Sommerville, when he said: “I don’t mind saying that I feel like I was born in the wrong country”. Caricature tends to be misunderstood in Scotland. I was amazed at the difference in France, with the quality of the work we saw there and the respect and affection shown to cartoonists, most of all because a caricature is not seen as an insult.
And I always remember I would get sort of sad, towards the end of a trip to France. I’d tell my colleagues that my source of sadness was realising that I was born in the wrong country. I should have been French!
By definition, caricatures are bold and humorous work, so visitors should not expect a straight-laced gallery show.
Studio Co- coordinator, Terry Anderson, 10 years of Fizzers at the People’s Palace.
To find out more about Terry Anderson, visit http://terrytoon.com/
To learn more about the exhibition Fizzers caricatures, check out http://scottishcartoons.com/portfolio/fizzers-caricatures
Report and editing: Valentina Silvano
Video: Mohammed Hussein