Airguard. A character designed to introduce what is now the benchmark for mobile device security.
Giving ethereal concepts a personality and breathing life into inanimate products is probably what I'm best known for outside the world of caricature.
A corrugated sheet iron roof over a crudely-built lean-to, built on the end of a worker's terraced cottage. A typical sight in the Welsh valleys.
Born to draw
I was born in the Welsh Valleys. The environment was black with coal dust. The hills, so much admired these days by TV travel shows, were black. Black with slag tips and busy with the residue of coal mines. Even the river ran black, when it wasn't bubbling with its usual brown. The green areas were few and far between. The houses in the large hillside-hugging council estates were as grimy with the dust as were the miners who lived in them.
At the age of about nine, we were taken on a school trip to the local pit. Something of a treat, apparently. A tall, broad man in a white shirt escorted us below ground in a creaking lift. Some of the boys cried. We were introduced to the shafts and levels, and to colliers, teeth grinning white from coal-blacked faces, as they worked the drams that carried the coal from the face to the surface or swung huge picks into the hard, shiny black wall of compressed carbon that would eventually be used to heat our homes, pull our trains, or supply our electricity.
The broad man turned to us and said: "You will all be working down here one day. Those cleverer ones, you will be the engineers maybe, or the electricians. Those of you who are more, well, manually orientated, will be down here at the face, hewing at the coal, shoulders like tallboys!"
He turned to us and asked us what we wanted to do when we had grown up. When it came to my turn, I looked around this filthy, damp environment, and at the sweating, coughing colliers, and replied: "I'm going to draw pictures for a living."
This drew not a picture but a broad laugh from the man. He put his hand on my small shoulder and said: "You'll be down here with us. Art's all right for Paris, but in Wales it's the pits that make the money."
Well, that patronising oaf was wrong.
I'm still drawing, and making a reasonable living from it. The pit, on the other hand, closed down forty years ago.
Despite opposition from everyone from my teachers to my mother, I pursued a career in art. No-one had any conviction that I could possibly earn enough to keep going, let alone keep up a mortgage on a house, keep a car running, feed a family. At first, I was encouraged to follow other creative outlets, such as journalism, for example. Writing has always attracted me, but writing what is essentially gossip and tittle-tattle held no appeal. I did, however, like comics, and I sent off for a 'how-to' pamphlet from DC Thompson, who were looking for part-time comic script writers. I sold my first script at the age of twelve; a rolling adventure yarn which was later adapted into episodes of 'The Steel Claw', for which I was paid the princely sum of twenty-one pounds.
I've always loved comics. I never quite made it to the comics big-time. although I have ghosted a few early episodes of Judge Dredd. Basically, I was too nervous and insecure to approach the great wizards of comics publishing with my work. Also, the illustration course I followed at Newport College of Art didn't cater for comics, as they weren't to the lecturers' taste.
But Newport did teach one thing. How to draw from life.
Day one of art school and we were thrust into the street clutching paper and charcoal and told to find something to draw.
What? In Newport? The place is about as picturesque as dog poo. Rambling streets of grimy red-brick terraces, run-down cinemas turned into bingo halls, their gaudy signage a sad contrast to their grubby exteriors. Rumbling lorries and buses spewed diesel fumes into a grey atmosphere. There were no great architectural highlights. Inigo Jones, despite his Welsh name, had never been near the place, let alone built there. Wren, too, was a stranger to Newport. It's no accident that JMW Turner deleted the town from his itinerary. Constable and Stubbs would have found no joy here.
And yet we, as art students, had to go and draw this shabby, down-at-heel urban smudge of a city.
The object of the lesson was twofold: firstly, we had to discover for ourselves that it wasn't so much what you would draw as how you drew it; secondly, it was an introduction to having people watch you as you worked.
It's no accident that, years later, I recieved a prestigious assignment purely on the fact that I had studied at Newport. Apparently, it was recognised in some high art circles as turning out the best live drawing artists in the country.
Fast forward to the eighties. I was still under the impression that a chap had to have a 'job' in order to survive. With this in mind, and after two disasterous attempts at graphic design and paste-up work, I headed to that London. I found work firstly at a printers, then at a West End studio where I had my skills honed by bullish studio manager Bill Marsh. It's one thing to be able to draw, but to be able to work at commercial speeds for dull and uninspiring clients and still be able to pull an exciting and breezy image out of thin air while the courier waits to bike the piece to an increasingly agitated ad salesman whose deadline was passed hours ago, now, that's the real job.
So, no arty-fairy hand to the brow going out sketching and painting for this artist any more. Working in the West End and later in Covent Garden (the really whizzbang hub of creativity in London during the eighties, oh my droogs and brothers) really put an edge on my creative abilities. I could handle anything from a corporate identity scheme to packaging to ads to exhibition design and planning. Bring it on. And, moreover, the gentle caricatures that I had produced as leaving cards for staff at Ogilvy and Mather were held in high regard.
Then, fate took a hand. The accounts teams at O&M were really taking the piss. The great man himself, David Ogilvy, deigned to visit us from New York, on a tour of the outer colonies of his advertising empire. He told everyone that 'an all-night session is good for a team's morale!'
Great for the teams, Dave, they get the rest of the week off as a reward for their (hem) hard work, which to be fair, they would have done over the following days anyway. However, not so good for my unit, which serviced every single account team in the whole agency. So for every night those teams put in, we put one in too. Which meant nine consecutive full days of graft by we, the great unwashed of the agency, while the sugar-light accounts teams held self-congratulatory breakfast meetings in the local wine bar before retiring for a three-day spa break. And this, for us humble workers, on top of two months of working weekends. I hardly saw my wife or baby son. I was back in the colliery, but breathing a different type of stale air. It was time to leave.
Two opportunites presented themselves. A colleague was approached by the Scots Dragoon Guards to provide a large caricature illustration. He considered himself too long in the tooth to fiddle with such flummery, and so the job was passed to me. It would involve spending a week in Germany with the Regiment to gather material, then at least another week or two in the studio to work up the final painting.
Meanwhile, a friend had been hired as managing director of a jewellery manufacturer, and he was looking for someone to produce his advertising. Now, this was Thatcher's Britain, and the time of the entrepreneur.
I quit O&M, much to my boss's dismay, and set up a studio in my home town of Sandy, Bedfordshire. I discovered that was I was particularly good at creating ads to promote my clients. I was particulalry good at promoting myself, too. My client list included the Royal Mail, Gordon Fraser cards, EA Games, and Virgin Atlantic. The business idea was that my design work as Jed Pascoe Advertising would supplement my Illustration work until the pure drawing could look after itself. Everything went brilliantly. I got up an hour later than when I was commuting, was in work by 8 a.m. and finished on the dot of 6p.m., getting home at 6:10. I was working less hours for more pay and getting far more time with my lovely wife and son. Moreover, my weekends were free.
Disaster. My original client went bust after a scandal: apparently the holding company was illegally using pension money to finance its businesses. Another big client was involved in shipping the Iraqi Super Gun. Another client used his suppliers, including me, to finance his business by getting them to buy services and goods on his behalf then holding up payment with spurious excuses. The Royal Mail didn't want to be tainted by any of this, and I lost my biggest, fattest, most prestigious client because of a load of business shenanigans that had absolutely nothing do do with me.
Jed Pascoe Advertising went down in a hail of publicity crossfire as Thatcher's ideal of a people's capitalism was destroyed by the advantage-seeking crooks it unwittingly spawned.
I even had a few cartoon books published by this time. Unfortunately, a deal between the publisher and the Chinese robbed me of any further royalties as the new owners of the titles, with no regard for copyright, published my books worldwide in twenty or more languages. You can still buy my books in Croatia and Argentina, and I don't get a penny.
Not that I'm bitter, you understand.
A vicious legal fight over the lease for my studio premises in nearby Biggleswade resulted in my sub-letting the place to a pretty young lady who wanted to set up a beauty therapy establishment. And so, for a short while at least, I was the unwitting landlord of a brothel. It turns out she was a hooker, but business was slow in Biggleswade (you can draw your own conclusions) and we finally won our battle to dump the property. This time, adverse publicity through the local media worked in my favour. The tide was finally turning.
As I've said, the original concept was that the ad business would keep me going until the illustration business could stand for itself. Well, that day had come.
I had a splendid portfolio of artwork created over the past few years. One or two pieces had even won awards. Lucky me. And I could always fall back on pure drawing.
The Cartoonists' Club introduced me to live caricaturing. There were only a handful of pracitioners back then, and I was coerced into helping out on a few gigs. It was easy money working for agencies that supplied entertainers who attended dinners at the larger London hotels. The Dorchester, the Savoy, the Park Lane Hotel: all became well-known to me as I passed from party to party, drawing ill-mannered post-Thatcherite financial thugs and boozy Hooray Henrys. All black tie presumption on the outside with the attitude of a football hooligan on the inside.
I also honed my skills working at local craft fairs in the Cambridgeshire area, run by the ever-energetic Bob Foster. I never work as a street artist these days, but if push comes to shove, I can always set up a stall to keep myself going! Not that there's much chance of that at the moment. Even as I write this, a call comes in with an urgent booking for this very afternoon! Busy busy!
And so, from the ashes of Thatcherism, I rose as an inky-fingered Phoenix to become what I am today: an independent pen for hire, arguably the fastest caricaturist in Britain, and a specialist in corporate illustration.
My clients are companies like CocaCola, Nissan, Honda, and Lindt, Tesco, the BBC, Virgin Atlantic and Unilever. But my roots in in drawing everyday people- because I believe that we are all as important as each other regardless of age, rank, creed or colour. Nearly every week I draw caricatures at weddings or parties for, well, people like yourself. Comic art for everyone, that's the Jed way.
I'll never join the ranks of Turner, Koons, Dali or Degas. But can you make a living from drawing? Sorry, Mr. Mine Foreman. I think I've won that argument.
copyright 2015 Jed Pascoe