Last Spring I had a lovely exhibition in Virton, Belgium, with my France-Cartoons buddies, who you can see below, lined up around a sign promoting the exhibition.
The exhibition included about 100 framed prints of my cartoons in a cool, medieval labyrinth with nifty vaulted ceilings.
The French and Belgian cartoonists know how to party. They have an annual festival in Virton and neighboring Rouvroy, charming places that were the home of some of the most savage fighting in World War One.
There was a nice municipal building with more exhibitions, in neighboring Rouvroy, where we sat at tables drawing for the public, as they do at the French cartoonists’ other big festival in St Just le Martel.
Drawing for the public is a strange concept for American editorial cartoonists. Most visitors ask for caricatures of themselves; American cartoonists might think this is more appropriate for a caricature artists’ convention or an amusement park, but editorial cartoons are much appreciated in Belgium and France and I enjoy doing the caricatures. It gives the public a way of interacting with the “press-cartoonists” at festivals throughout the day, and it is great fun. We don’t charge for the drawings, although some cartoonists ask for a beer in exchange for a caricature.
The French cartoonists argue among themselves about why they draw free caricatures at their festivals; they don’t draw caricatures as part of their regular press-cartooning business, these drawings are only a schtick for festivals. I’m told that the festivals often insist that cartoonists don’t charge for drawings and this annoys some cartoonists who want to be paid (I don’t know if Virton/Rouvroy had this policy and cartoonists regularly sell their books at the festivals). The “press cartoonist” festivals make an ongoing circuit for the Euro-cartoonists who enjoy getting together to party much more frequently than their American colleagues do.
I think the free caricatures make municipalities feel like they are providing something special for the public in return for their support for the festivals. Some cartoonists argue that, as their print clients crash and burn, and their business model collapses, they should be able to make income from drawing at the festivals. Others complain that there are sometimes not enough visitors at the festivals, and they end up drawing each other –this is true, but cartoonists drawing each other is fun. It is all fun for me.