Famous 'Punch' cartoonist dies, 80

Norman Thelwell, the artist and cartoonist famous for his drawings of little girls on fat ponies, died aged 80 in a nursing home on Saturday after a period of prolonged illness. He had also been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Thelwell, whose first cartoon for Punch was published in 1952, continued to work for the magazine for 25 years, producing more than 1,500 cartoons, including 60 front covers.

His first pony cartoon appeared in 1953 and, by accident, led to a lifetime association with the image of little girls astride barrel-shaped ponies.

Born on 3 May 1923 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, Thelwell's earliest surviving drawing is a pencil self-portrait done at age 10, on which his teacher has written in red ink: "V. good indeed."

He remembered always wanting to draw as a child and recalls finding drawing and painting much easier than other subjects. He said: "With drawing, the answer was always there in front of you - you only had to look."

He joined the Army in 1941 and, in Britain and in India, he always travelled with his sketchbooks. After evening classes at Nottingham Art School and a degree course at Liverpool College of Art, he started teaching design and illustration at Wolverhampton College of Art in 1950. But, six years later, he left teaching to take up illustration full-time

He leaves his wife, Rhona, and two children, who are also artists.