NINE TO FIVE: CAROL STOKES
Sunday 12 December 1999
Carol Stokes, 39
Did you always want to be a cartoonist?
Not at all. My husband Neil is a mixed media artist. While he was painting something, I started doodling. That was about seven years ago. I did used to doodle at school but I never got on with school very well and didn't go unless I had to. Anyway, I progressed and after a while I put some of my cartoons in an envelope and sent them to a local paper, the Black Country Bugle. The first national paper to take my work was the Sun, a one-off gag about Roy Hattersley. Later I got a batch accepted by Punch but Steve Way, the cartoon editor, sent the second batch back so I phoned him up and asked why. He wasn't used to this, but told me what was wrong and it developed from there. I used to sign my work Caz when I first started, until somebody pointed out that everyone thought I was male, so now I write Carol Stokes at the bottom.
It must be hard trying to be funny to order
I work at my drawing board between seven and one. I stare at a blank piece of paper. I'll read the papers on the Internet and will look at what's happening in the family. We have two kids, Adrian who is 18 and Georgina, 16. They give me a lot of inspiration. You can get a lot of family jokes by watching them everyday. Recently I did a cartoon based on Tracey Emin's scruffy bedroom Turner Prize entry. It reminded me of my daughter's room.
So you like things to be tidy?
No. I work downstairs and the place looks like a bomb's hit it: reams of paper, pens, ink and paint everywhere. I still use dip pens. Except for my web-site I haven't got round to using a computer to produce cartoons. I just scan them into the machine and put them on the web-site. Everything else is done the old fashioned way.
Away from the drawing board, what do you get up to?
I read a hell of a lot - Stephen King, Robert Jordan and fantasy fiction - and I also adore Shakespeare. I'm a games addict on the PC and love zapping people. I like blood-curdling games like Systems Shock 2 and Quake. It's amazing how much tension you can get rid of when you go round shooting things. We have a dog, a German shepherd called Shandy who was rescued at six months, and we go out for walks in the afternoons.
Any other hobbies?
Neil and I cook together. We were vegans for two years but unfortunately had to start eating meat again as we were feeling so tired and run down. We like Thai food and Indian and good old fashioned meat and two veg.
Where do you live?
We have a rented end-of-terrace house. It's very small. Neil works in the bedroom upstairs, working on paintings that are sometimes 8ft by 6ft. When this happens we put the bed away and sleep on the futon. We got moved two doors down because our neighbours were so noisy and used to play music at 3am. I'd love to move to the countryside but have lived here all my life.
Any chance of your kids wanting to follow in their parents' footsteps?
Georgina is studying art and design and is especially interested in sculpture. Adrian has no inclination whatsoever and finds it totally boring.
And do you ever get to meet other cartoonists?
No, not because I've not been asked. The problem is that I'm shy so I tend to prefer to stop where I am. It's a very solitary life but a lot of cartoonists are like me - they enjoy a quiet life. Being in Birmingham doesn't help, people think you are up North and out of the way.
Do you enjoy your job?
It's very hard and tough. Every two weeks I think I'd like to go and be a road sweeper and do a job like brushing up leaves where you don't have to think. Sometimes you really do wonder where the next joke is going to come from and feel that there is nothing left to be said. But when you see yourself in print it's like a drug and you can't wait for the next fix.
The Cartoonists Club of Great Britain (tel: 01159 810984)
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