Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Dealers - or how I got a cartoon strip into a celebrity gossip magazine

For a brief while in the 1990s I had a cartoon strip running in The Tatler, a society gossip magazine which wasn't so much full of pictures of celebrities as Sloane Rangers. So many in fact, that the joke was that the magazine was largely read by the people photographed inside its pages.

At the time, neither I nor my old art school friend John Martin had much in the way of employment. John had worked briefly as a theatrical set designer before deciding that selling art was a much better idea than making it, and he had just founded what would later become a very successful art gallery in London's Albemarle St.
Ronnie Smiles, "a comet across the art world"
So we indulged our idleness by creating a cartoon strip about art dealers, titled (imaginatively) The Dealers. The main character was called Ronnie Smiles and was a thinly veiled caricature of a flamboyant art dealer who at the time dominated the London art market and described himself (rather immodestly) as a “comet across the art world”.

Ronnie’s long-suffering assistant Oliver had to put up with Ronnie’s vanity and at the same time try to scrape a living making sales to unsuspecting tourists. Meanwhile both of them had to massage the ego of Sergio, The World’s Greatest Living Artist.
Sergio, the World's Greatest Living Artist
The Tatler wanted to call the strip Art Attack – which actually would have been a much funnier title. I told them I didn’t like it – but I think I was just annoyed that I hadn’t thought it up myself.
The strip was published once a month and, oddly, I found it harder to come up with weekly material than I did with my weekly law cartoon Queen’s Counsel in The Times. With a weekly cartoon strip the ideas are almost always bubbling away on the back burner, whereas a monthly strip somehow disappears from view until the deadline looms.

In the end the strip got cancelled, but it was huge fun - while it lasted.


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