Inside Story: They're masters of the art

As 'Independent' contributors shine at the Political Cartoonist of the Year awards, John Walsh celebrates the power of Fleet Street's finest caricaturists

MARTIN ROWSON

As seen in: The Independent on Sunday, The Times, The Guardian, Observer, New Statesman, Sunday People, Daily Mirror, New Humanist etc

Born 1959, read English at Cambridge, self-taught in draughtsmanship. First cartoons for New Statesman, 1982-3. Has worked for dozens of newspapers and magazines. Published strip-cartoon version of T S Eliot's The Waste Land. Appointed Cartoonist Laureate for London by Ken Livingstone in 2001. He's also been a council member of the Zoological Society of London since 1992. Soon to publish Stuff, first novel. His cartoons are hyper-elaborate, jaw-droppingly neo-Hogarthian pastiches of classical 18th-century satire, with viciously fanged speech bubbles. Flamboyantly (and bitchily) literary, exuberantly left-wing, unbothered by the screams of his victims or by accusations of uncomradely behaviour by political co-evals. Says of himself, "I'm a visual journalist. I use humour to make a journalistic point." Compares the political cartoon to voodoo, in "doing damage from a distance with a sharp instrument." Despite his vitriolic treatment, is often rung by victims begging to buy the cartoon in which they appeared.

DAVE BROWN

As seen in: The Independent

Born in 1959, he studied Fine Art at Leeds University. Formerly with The Sunday Times, he has been a regular on The Independent since 1996. His is a theatre of cruelty - John Major as a dodo, William Hague as a dim light bulb, George W Bush as a hoover-mouthed ape. Brown's cartoon on 27 January 2003, of a naked Ariel Sharon biting the head off a Palestinian child as helicopters flew over a bombed city blaring "Vote Sharon!", caused an outcry. Although, as Brown explained, it was a pastiche of Goya's Saturn Devouring his Children, it bore an unfortunate resemblance to a cartoon fromthe PLO magazine. Also unfortunately, it appeared on Holocaust Memorial Day and some commentators chose to relate it to the suggestion that Jewish people murdered Gentile children to drink their blood. There was a second outcry when the cartoon was given first prize by the Political Cartoon Society. For the cartoon shown above, Brown last week received the same honour for 2006.

PETER BROOKES

As seen in: The Times (also Time, Radio Times, New Society, New Statesman, TLS, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, The Week, Sunday Times).

Born 1943. Was in RAF before attending Central School of Art, London. Began working for New Society; became cover artist for Spectator in 1986. Joined The Times as full-time political cartoonist in 1992. Brookes is the most academic of cartoonists, his captions often more striking than his graphics. In February 1996, he began drawing "Nature Notes", in which political figures are depicted as rare and peculiar flora and fauna, exhibiting odd blooms or displaying bizarre behaviour patterns. Named Cartoonist of the Year last week by the Political Cartoon Society.

JOHN SPRINGS

As seen in: Sunday Telegraph (also Daily Telegraph, Independent, New Yorker, Tatler, Harper's, GQ, Esquire, Sunday Times magazine, Observer, Literary Review, Melbourne Age, New Republic, Arab Times etc)

Born in Leeds in 1962, the son of a Latvian garage-owner. Art college in Leeds before becoming a painter and caricaturist, with clients from Australia to the Middle East and from style magazines to business journals. Has illustrated the Financial Times' "Man in the News" for 17 years, and drew caricatures forNewsnight for five years. His work is influenced by Rowlandson, Max Beerbohm, David Levine, William Coldstream and Steve Ditko. Springs is the master of the understated lampoon, subtly revealing his subjects' key weaknesses. His work is recognisable for its cross-hatching. Asked about his modus operandi, he said: "I like a good black-and-white photograph of my subject, lit from above if possible so that it shows off every line and blemish on the face ..."

SCOTT CLISSOLD

As seen in: Sunday Express (also Daily Star, Daily Express, Wall Street Journal, TV Times, Sunday Business, The People)

Born 1978, in Wales. He supplied editorial cartoons for a local paper when only 12. By 15 he was offering cartoons to the Daily Star and the Sunday Express. He drew under the nom de plume "Click" before settling for "Scott" in 1998. In 2003, he became the Star's daily editorial cartoonist. Clissold is a political satirist working in the "red-top" arena, who apparently has left-of-centre views while working for a conspicuously right-wing tabloid. For four years he's been cover artist for the left-wing Tribune. He also makesSpitting Image-style caricatures.

GERALD SCARFE

As seen in: Sunday Times, Time, New Yorker, Vogue

Born 1936. Studied art at East Ham Technical College (with Ralph Steadman) and the Royal College of Art. Has worked for Sunday Times since 1967, when he visited war zones: Vietnam, Ulster, the Middle East. Collaborated with Pink Floyd on The Wall album and film. Voted Cartoonist of the Year at this year's British Press Awards. Married to actress Jane Asher, with three children. Scarfe works in long, slashing lines, grotesque faces and fearless delineations of human/animal physical grossness, though he's also capable of warmth and a light touch. He is not impressed by British attitudes to his profession: "Cartoonists are mavericks of the art world. They fit in uncomfortably, if at all. They are not regarded as real artists: one only has to go to a Chelsea house to see how the real art is hung in the drawing room and the cartoons are hung in the lavatory."

NICHOLAS GARLAND

As seen in: Daily Telegraph (also, inter alia, Sunday Telegraph, New Statesman, Spectator, Private Eye, Independent, The Observer)

Born, 1935. Studied at Slade School of Fine Art. Worked at Royal Court Theatre, London, as director and stage manager. Worked for Queen and Private Eye before, in 1966, becoming Telegraph's first political cartoonist. Stayed until 1986, then joined fledgling Independent. In 1990, brought back to Telegraph by Max Hastings. He's still there. Awarded OBE in 1998. Son Alex Garland is the best-selling author of The Beach, and script-writer of 28 Days Later. Garland is the most old-fashioned of working cartoonists; his style owes a lot to Victor "Vicky" Weisz, the leading light of the 1950s. He often employs visual metaphors based on scenes from Shakespeare, Alice in Wonderland or Palgrave's Golden Treasury of Poetry. No love lost between him and the more savage end of the market. "It is a topsy-turvy world in which the freer the society, the more grotesquely its politicians are caricatured," he says. He's good at pathos. Hastings once said that no editorial criticism of John Major "had anything like the devastating impact of the line that Nick Garland draws ... of the weak, frightened little rabbit of a man who's Prime Minister."

STEVE BELL

As seen in: The Guardian (also New Statesman, Time Out, New Musical Express, City Limits, Social Work Today, Whoopee, Cheeky, Jackpot children's magazines)

Born 1951. Grew up in Slough. Family moved to North Yorkshire in 1968. Studied fine art at Teesside College of Art, did degree at Leeds University in 1970. On graduating, worked in bookshop, made videos, took teaching certificate at Exeter University, moved to Birmingham and taught, which he loathed. Gave up teaching and took up freelance cartooning. He has drawn "If...", a daily strip cartoon for The Guardian, since November 1981, and since the mid-1990s he has drawn large political cartoons for the leader page. Has published 16 books of his work. Married with four children, he lives in Brighton. Unfeasibly tall, Bluto-bearded, savagely rude lampoonist who really hit his stride satirising the Falklands War in 1981. Also memorably imagined John Major with his shirt tucked into his grey Y-fronts, thereby turning him into a meek, underpowered superhero. Highlighted by emphatic, bold-type captions, his strips feature bum-faced policemen, squawking birdlife and the occasional interventions of Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. Very adept at parodying famous paintings. Bell's own definition of a cartoon is "a work of art with an ulterior motive".

PETER SCHRANK

As seen in: The Independent on Sunday (also New Statesman, TLS, TES, Sunday Business Post, Basler Zeitung)

Born in Switzerland in 1952, Schrank learnt his trade at Basel Art School, coming to London in 1981 and drawing his first cartoon for Time Out. Since 1995 has been political cartoonist for The Independent on Sunday. In 2000, he won the UN's top cartoon prize. Schrank displays a Euro-Gothic approach to drawing, full of drama, spikiness and darkness. He cites his influences as Saul Steinberg and Tomi Ungerer. He is superb at conveying secrecy, guilt, and Kafka-esque atmospheres of threat. Just before the 1997 General Election, he drew a cartoon prophesying a Labour victory, showing a weary John Major opening the door of No 10, to be confronted by a gigantic set of gleaming teeth - Tony Blair's victory grin. Runner-up last week for Cartoon of the Year.

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