Cartooning the Tory Leadership Contest

Contest background

Yesterday, Theresa May’s resignation as Conservative Party leader officially took effect. She’ll now remain in office as Prime Minister only until her successor is chosen. This will happen via party leadership elections from now until July.

on Monday at 5pm, those candidates who have been nominated and have enough official backers will go through to take part in rounds of voting where the contenders with the lowest percentages of votes are knocked out until only two remain. They will then go head to head and a new leader crowned in July.

Cartooning background

Until recently, my cartoon experience was limited to a few issues of the Beano and attempts to copy the celebrity caricatures from the radio times as a kid, followed by a fleeting obsession with The Far Side as a teenager. I never really ‘got’ political cartoons. It seemed like I either didn’t have a clue what they were about, or there were so many labels on everything that the drawing felt redundant. As I got older and developed some small interest in politics and what was going on in the world I realised two things:

* they are very specific to time and place

* they are not generally supposed to be “laugh out loud” funny

One good thing to come out of the craziness of Brexit and Trump is that I now have a huge appreciation for political cartooning. Done well they are little shining nuggets of perfect clarity and satire. They make me feel sane – someone else also sees the absurdity of everything!

I’m still not a fan of all the labelling you see in some though. I think that if you’re familiar with the topic then small visual cues should be enough to clue you in on what is happening to who and if you’re not familiar with the topic then labels don’t really help. This becomes very obvious if you look at some cartoons from other countries’ newspapers. No amount of labels will help me understand because I don’t know who those people are or why they might be slapping each other with dead fish. Or whatever. You get the idea.

One person I’ve recently started following is Stephen Collins. I love his ideas and his artwork.

Where are you going with all this?

Ok, so this is a long winded way to tell you about a book I recently bought and show you some little doodles. I recently saw someone recommending Cartooning the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm. It seemed interesting so I found a cheap second hand copy and gave it a go. It is a wonderful book! It reminds me of those museums created from private collections – floor to ceiling stuffed full of artefacts. I’m talking about the museums that have not one, not two, but 364 swords / hat pins / shrunken heads, all different sizes, shapes and styles, piled up together in a single glass cabinet. This book is like that, but for cartoons and individual cartoon features, postures and emotions.

5 stars. Highly recommended.

So, I’m browsing that and contemplating the thousands of different cartoon eye / nose / mouth combos you can make from a few lines and dots and at the same time I’m seeing an upsurge of people sketching politicians because of the crazy all encompassing nature of politics at the moment. I decided to join in. I would love to try some full blown caricatures at some point and there is a whole section of the book on that topic but I decided as a first step I would just see how much of a likeness I could achieve with simple shapes and lines.

The contenders

At this point (June 8th 2019 – Saturday afternoon), there are six candidates with the necessary number of backers to take part in the leadership contest. That seemed like a good number of sketches to start with and has an added advantage that if I display them together then they become more recognisable as part of the group than they would be individually. Here they are, in order of current popularity. I talk about each in turn below, but see if you can recognise them first:

It was so interesting drawing these guys! Some were super easy to get a likeness and others took a while and lots of redrawing with tiny changes. My eye was often not good enough to see exactly what was wrong but just that something looked a bit off, so there was a lot of trial and error. I realised that face shape was vital in all cases but after that it depended on the individual as to which feature was critical to bring the whole thing together.

Boris is out in front with 40 MPs supporting him. This sketch was super easy – round face, wide fat lips, mop of hair and no neck. The defining feature was his droopy eyes and they’re very different from any of the others. The nose is fairly generic.

Michael Gove is in second place with 27 MPs supporting him. This sketch is a bit of a cheat because he’s the only one with glasses so instantly recognisable in the group but perhaps less obvious on his own.

Jeremy Hunt is just behind Gove with 25 backers. He was really hard to draw! He has a fairly normal face so it was difficult to get a likeness. This was one where the face shape was very important. He has very defined cheekbones but trying to draw that from the front kept making him look chubby. I just kept trying slight variations until something worked. The other key was the mouth. The difference between what you see here and a version with the bottom lip as a closed shape is far greater than you’d expect.

My other half thought this was David Cameron when I showed him the finished collection 🙄 I didn’t think this was anything like Cameron, so of course I had to have a little go at him too…

Not perfect, but I think you can see he’s very different from Jeremy. Anyway, on with the contestants!

Dominic Raab has 21 backers, putting him in fourth place. Face shape, together with a thick neck seemed important in this one. The large slab forehead of course and the wide set eyes. I’m not sure though, how much the wide eyes were influenced by other drawings I’ve seen of Raab rather than my own analysis of his face. I drew Raab first, for no particular reason, but it was the version below. I redrew him as above after I’d completed a few of the others and decided they should all be full face views.

More than Dominic Raab this version reminds me of someone else, perhaps an actual cartoon character, but I can’t quite put my mind on who.

Sajid Javid is in fifth place with 16 backers. Head shape, nose and lips were the keys to this one I think. I drew his ears several times as I kept making them too big and pointy so he looked like either a leprechaun or Spock.

Finally, we have Matt Hancock with 11 supporters. This was extremely difficult because I’ve no idea who he is. Even though I used a photo as a reference I don’t really know if this is a good likeness. I realised that with all the others I’ve seen them speak on TV, I know their mannerisms, posture and tone of voice. Somehow this was a huge help when trying to get a likeness; I could sort of picture the sketch becoming animated and saying something typical of the person and if it didn’t feel right then I knew I needed to tweak some feature until it did. With Matt Hancock It’s like I’m groping in the dark for something. If he makes it through a few rounds then maybe I’ll see more of him and have another go.

11th June update

Yesterday, four more hopefuls got enough backers to join the contest so I drew the new ones and added them to the group – here they all are. 10 in total.

The four new hopefuls are Rory Stewart, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey, and Mark Harper. Having not drawn any women in the first set I thought it might be different, or difficult. It was actually lots of fun and I enjoyed the long hair and not always drawing the same tie and suit!

12th June: first vote

The first round of voting by MPs took place on Wednesday morning. Three contenders; Leadsom, Harper, and McVey failed to achieve 5% of the vote and were eliminated.

Here’s the current situation – they are reordered by the number of votes they received. A green vote tally means they got through and red means they’re out.

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