We visited “The Cartoon Museum” in London's Bloomsbury, it’s a private museum on a far far smaller scale than the fabulous British Museum nearby. It concentrates on UK graphic art and comics and they have a good representative collection of British cartoon art from Hogarth onwards to Doctor Who and recent political cartoons.
It was interesting to see some of the stages of the production of graphic art and that some of the original pencil drawings are quite varied, some seem quite crude before they are inked in and then coloured and text added. Many of the commercial comics and graphic art books are the product of a number of artists, each one contributing a specialist skill.
The Cartoon Museum permanent exhibition features production artwork for British comics like “The Dandy” and “The Beano”, that were current when we were kids as well as art cartoonists like Gerald Scarfe and Ronald Searle.
At first thought and from the outside it seems strange that a “comic” has been produced by a number of artists but that’s how the professionals achieve the intensity and the volume of production, rather as a computer game or a website or indeed a movie or theatre show is the product of a number of crafts working towards a single creation.
Sequential graphic art is one of those things we do rather well in the UK but which we don’t value enough. A lot of creativity goes in to what are dismissed as comics. It’s a bit like ballet compared to opera or black and white rather than colour photography, a more specialist but more direct means of communication of ideas. And political cartoons are a vehicle to make very pointed comment with more direct impact than the equivalent acres of prose to say the same thing.
The Cartoon Museum is featuring a special exhibition on Doctor Who just now as well as workshops mentoring artists (mostly children). To my mind the graphics arts aspect of Doctor Who has always been a spin-off from the television programme or a creative outlet along with the full length novels during the nineties and naughties when the programme was not on air rather than a place where the stories were originally published or storyboarded in private, so to that extent the comic book aspect is secondary to the television programme.
A couple of gaps at least: I didn't see anything about use of computer graphics in cartoon production, for example to assist the colouring. And there are huge gaps in the collection: no representation of the very numerous comic representations of World War 2 adventures and I didn't see any cartoons of the Gerry Anderson characters, TV21 etc.
Worth a visit but they have a problem as they are not publicly funded and are in an expensive location in Bloomsbury.
The Cartoon Museum
35 Little Russell Street
London WC1A 2HH