The brown stuff: a winning way of seeing life

The Independent’s Dave Brown has been named Cartoonist of the Year. His rival, Martin Rowson, pays tribute

Dave Brown beat me to an award at the end of last year.

He reproduced a Manet, in which he had inserted Rupert Murdoch and David Cameron just after Lord Leveson reported. That was very nicely done. It was probably my favourite recent work of his.

Forgetting the absolute savagery he deploys in his political expression, there is the fact that he is just so good at what he does. I particularly like his Saturday work, his pastiches of great works of art, because they are very clever. He is a very slick graphic artist, which is really annoying for the rest of us who work in the industry.

The fact that your subject matter is defined by the constantly changing news agenda is what makes the cartoonist’s job so interesting. You have to capture something before the cavalcade of news moves on, as it inevitably does. You have to catch it and, if you do, it is a bit of instant history.

The worst thing is when nothing really happens. Usually, there is enough of a story going on to allow you to develop an idea, but when the day’s main story is just something which is relatively insignificant, isolated and not obviously linked to a broader theme, you have to look for the story underneath.

The nature of the medium is that, if you have perhaps not done your best work ever on a day, people will look at it for 13 seconds and then move on. If, on the other hand, you have done something particularly engaging, it might remain with people for the rest of their lives.

There are some cartoons which have crossed over from being simply illustrations to being known as something larger, and there are some artists who have grown in a similar way. Dave Brown is not there yet, but he is on his way.