Ged Melling

Cartoonist, illustrator and painter
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The Independent Online

Gerard Jerome Melling, cartoonist and painter: born Stirling 6 January 1934; married (three sons); died London 29 October 2007.

Though probably best known as a cartoonist and illustrator for The Times, Economist, Private Eye and The Oldie – a profession he took up full time in his fifties – Ged Melling was also an accomplished painter.

He was born Gerard Melling in 1934 in Stirling, the youngest child of William Melling, a coalminer, and Elizabeth MacElhaney. Known as "Ged" (pronounced Jed), he had two older brothers and an older sister. The family moved to Kilsyth, near Glasgow, when he was a child and he attended the local school before leaving at 15 to become an apprentice house painter.

After National Service in the Army in Berlin he returned to Scotland but moved to London in 1959, studying at St Martin's School of Art (1961-64) where he specialised in painting. He then taught art at various secondary schools in the London area while also drawing cartoons in his spare time. His first published cartoon appeared in Time Out in 1967. There then followed periods in Dublin (where he drew for Dublin Opinion and The Irish Times) and York (drawing for the Yorkshire Evening Press) before he returned to London.

Melling became a full-time professional cartoonist in 1984, working primarily for The Times and The Economist (from 1989) but he also contributed to Today, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Spectator, The Observer, The Oldie, Sporting Life and Private Eye. However, in later life he drew less and concentrated on painting, mostly in acrylic and emulsion on canvas.

For his cartoons, he never sketched in pencil first, preferring to draw in ink with a Rotring Art Pen straight onto A4 paper. He had a distinctive loose style and signed his work simply "GED" (though he usually signed his paintings with his full name). In his Foreword to The Best of GED (2004), Richard Ingrams described Melling as "a natural artist" who used a few deceptively simple lines to make the joke, and described his cartoons as "miniature comic masterpieces". Melling himself was typically modest about his work. Interviewed for the Saatchi Gallery he said: "I've never given much thought or planning to my work. I just stand behind the pen or brush and watch it happen."

A member of the British Cartoonists' Association and the London Press Club, he exhibited his work in London, Dublin and Canada and contributed to group cartoon shows at the German embassy in London, in Osnabruck, Germany and Zemun in Serbia. For the Chelsea Festival in 1996 he designed a cartoon-themed window in a department store in Sloane Square and he also performed his own live cartoon-and-comedy show at the Battersea Arts Centre in London and at the Ayr International Cartoon Festival in Scotland.

In recent years he devoted much of his time to publicising the work of the mental health charity Mind. More than most he understood the struggles of living with mental illness, having suffered from bipolar disorder (manic depression) since his twenties. His art was an important form of therapy and a number of his paintings and cartoons were included in the "Art Works in Mental Health" exhibition at the County Hall Gallery, London, in 2002, which later moved to the Royal College of Art and toured Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Cardiff.

Examples of his work have been included in many anthologies and he published two collections of cartoons, Guttae (1974) and The Best of GED (2004). He also illustrated a number of books including Audrey James' Memoirs of a Fen Tiger (1986), Cyril Holbrook's Fishing From My Angle (1988) and Philip Howard's A Word in Time (1990). In 2005 he produced a CD, Oh My GED!, on which he performed his own songs and read out his own poems, jokes and stories with musical accompaniment by Bob Edwards and Iain King.

Short in stature, bespectacled and with a grey goatee beard he spoke with a strong Scottish accent and later in life often wore a broad-brimmed fedora hat. He was a kind and generous man with an impish sense of humour. The youngest of his three sons follows in his footsteps, as a cartoonist, illustrator and painter.

Mark Bryant