An update on my work

A Stations of the Cross image. Also: my cartooning, Church Times, and plans for the future

This is a drawing I’ve done for a Stations of the Cross, which will be displayed, along with work by other artists, in shop windows in Leigh-on-Sea over the Easter weekend. Come along on Good Friday morning as we walk around them, if you’re local and that’s your kind of thing. It was drawn on a very smooth canvas with marker pens. I considered painting it (I have a D in A-level art and have attended several evening classes, remember), but went with the ‘safe’ option of using a pen.

The image depicts Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry his cross, as described in the Gospels. I based the figure of Christ on one I found in an outdoor sculpture in Retz, Austria, by Jakob Seer. The figure of Simon I made up, and the background involves a lot of scribbling.

The message from this Station is often ‘We should help others with their burdens’, which is a good sentiment, though given that the account we have tells us that Simon was compelled to carry the cross, rather than it being an act of generosity, I’m not sure that quite works as the intention of the writers of the Gospel. I’ll leave that side of things for theologians to debate, but in any case it was an interesting local project to be part of.

My process for this drawing was, in summary: two weeks of anxiety, worrying about what to do, how to do it, whether it would end up being rubbish, followed by two hours of frenetic scrawling. And (honest appraisal) I’m fairly happy with the result – the light and dark at least, if not every aspect of the detail of the figures.

On the subject of drawing, I wanted to say something about the direction of my current work. Some of you will be aware that I’ve drawn a weekly cartoon for the Church Times newspaper since 2005. I’m so fortunate to have been able to have done this, have eight books of these cartoons published, and much more besides.

I’m very aware that my life isn’t difficult, but the process of producing a weekly cartoon isn’t one I’m particularly good at, and in recent months, without going into details, it hasn’t been doing me a lot of good. So, for the sake of my general well-being, I’m not going to be drawing a Church Times cartoon for a while. At the moment I can’t define how long ‘a while’ will be, I’m afraid. I’d like to emphasise that this is my choice, and that the Church Times have always been excellent in all my dealings with them.

What will I be doing instead? Well, the good news is that you should start to see a lot more of my work appearing online. I’m now focussing on drawing diagrams on sustainable transport themes, particularly on cycling and active travel, but hopefully more than that too. These are topics that interest me, but are also increasingly important as we face a climate crisis, and must make changes to the way we move from A to B. I’m hoping that I can communicate about that in a useful way, but also with humour. Well, it’s worth a try.

In preparation for this change I’ve been taking a break, had a bit of a creative reset, but have also been rethinking my website and online presence. You may or may not notice that this website has changed slightly, with different things highlighted. As always, it’s a work in progress, and improvements can be made. I’ve also been doing things like trying TikTok, which has been fun, and potentially a good way to reach new audiences.

In order to do this new work I’m going to need your support. It is my intention that my diagrams themselves will always remain free for everyone to view online. Therefore, my plan is to offer a ‘membership’ or ‘subscription’ (precise name still to be established) so that supporters of my work who can afford to do so can pay a small amount each month, and in return receive various benefits. These might include a behind-the-scenes view into my processes, useful and fun things to print, the possibility of reusing my work, the chance to guide the topics I cover, actual physical art through the post, and other things as I think of them.

A lot of artists use a platform called ‘Patreon’ for this, but I’m doing it myself, as it will allow me to do more, particularly when it comes to having a library of images for subscribers to use, and I’ve learned a lot about doing so through my CartoonChurch site (which will still continue, by the way). But essentially, I’d love some of you to become ‘patrons’, and I hope it will be fun and worthwhile. I entirely understand that not everyone will be able to, and that is absolutely fine.

More progress will hopefully be made on this new phase, and on new art, in the next few weeks. But in the meantime: thank you for your support, and I hope you have a happy Easter.

[If you have any thoughts about any of this, you’re always welcome to send me an email.]

34 Comments

  1. A break from the relentlessness of submitting the CT cartoons sounds like a good plan for you and that will definitely give you headspace time and energy for other creative endeavors. Happy to support these and have a good easter!

  2. Thank you Dave. As a cycling Canon of Southwark, I appreciate all your work and your passion for sustainability.

  3. Every blessing Dave. Always following you quietly in the background. Your illustration on this page of Simon of Cyrene and Jesus is phenomenal, it certainly is hitting new depths. Much love as you work out ways forward.

  4. I love the Simon of Cyrene picture – speaks so much to me. Having been such an advocate for mental health, I laud your decisions to look after you. Enjoy the new doors opening.

  5. You’re awesome and your work is awesome. Will miss the CT cartoons but I’m sure you do need a break after so long. I’m sure it’s as hard work as writing a sermon every week. Vicars get a sabbatical and holidays! Will pray for you as you reflect etc

    1. Thank you Amanda – much appreciated. I’ve never been able to fathom out how clergy come up with something to say using actual words every week.

  6. From one Walker to another, I so appreciate your cartoons and as a bit of a creator myself I know how important it is to have time to do things in the way and at a rhythm that suits you. Pedal on gently, have the occasional spurt of speed, but above all, enjoy the journey. Easter blessings.

  7. Every blessing for this next stage of work. I totally get the pain of regular creative deadlines. The relief of having a break from it, even for a week or two at a time, is immense, however much the creativity itself is part of your calling.
    Do shout about your supporter scheme in every available place. Your work is worth financial support

    1. Thank you Liz – that’s much appreciated. It’s not so much the deadlines themselves – I think more the trying to do it in isolation when I don’t go to a C of E church has been part of it.

  8. Glad that you are able to take a break and find a new direction – sounds a bit sebaticalish…(if that’s a word). Love the station of the cross, really powerful. Pray that this new thing becomes a fruitful new seam of creativity for you to mine.
    God bless you
    Anne
    ps Keep us informed of what happens next!

  9. After two years of filming and editing for weekly church during Covid times I now have a little insight into the tyranny of that treadmill of production. I am glad you are choosing to be freer. I love your work! I will happily join as a subscriber. Meanwhile I wish you many Easter blessings

  10. The best cartoonist to cross the Severn! May you continue to use your gift to inspire and encourage others. Shalom Tim

  11. Gosh Dave, you’ve always set yourself a very high quality benchmark with all your work (cycling work and the CT) so I’m not surprised it’s time for a break. The Simon of Cyrene picture is both beautiful and tender. May the coming months bring much rest and joy.

  12. Dave, you remain, and may you continue to remain, an inspiration.
    Your diagrams often raise a wry smile; wry, because of the prophetic edge, the challenge they often contain.
    The relentlessness of the weekly deadlines is indeed wearing, as many of the clergy reaching for your weekly ‘toons as they prepare their weekly sermons will also agree; a change of emphasis sounds timely.
    Do make sure that your travel and ecology diagrams still reach and challenge the Christian community, as as well as your other regular church-reminders.
    Deep peace of the Prince of Peace to you, whilst resetting the work-orientation.

  13. I love your cartoons and am impressed at the number you do – I once had to do a monthly newsletter and it was awful remembering to do it. It soon became a quarterly newsletter. I haven’t seen the Simon of Cyrene picture because I don’t get Church Times, and am most definitely NOT Anglican.

    And I have just scrolled up to the top of the page to see if there a link to it, and there is the image. Which is amazing and word “scribble” doesn’t describe it at all. It describes the difficult task involved in carrying the cross.

    How do we actually set up to become subscribers?

    Liz from the sewing room – where I will be off to in a few minutes

  14. Hi Dave,
    I love the Station of the Cross image. I have loved your work for years and always appreciate your CT contributions. I also know you’ve spoken before about how tough it’s been sometimes. I look forward to your new era. I’ll still be rejoicing in your classics. I used the “Ministry of Chairs” with final year ordinands last Wednesday!
    I’m more than happy to support you. All the best with the new venture.
    God bless!

  15. I have always been a huge fan of you and your cartoons, they bring out the humour of church life which often goes unnoticed. Your line drawing of Simon of Simon of Cyrene is very poignant. What ever you decide to do I wish you all the best for the future.

  16. All the best for your new venture, Dave. Perhaps Easter is a good time for a fresh start – the day of Resurrection! Have a blessed day tomorrow too. Let us know how we can support you when you have planned further.

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