The Big Draw, Raphael and me

And so, last Sunday, down to the madding crowd that is Exhibition Road and the V&A.
The Big Draw ( is the “world’s biggest celebration of drawing…a month-long festival throughout October all over the UK”, it says here. My little part of it was to be part of a team of cartoonists – with the exemplary Clive Goddard and Tim Harries – to represent The Sun in the “Battle of the Cartoonists”. The battle involves teams of cartoonists from major newspapers and cartoonists’ organizations competing with each other by drawing large 4m x 1m canvas banners in cartoon form. There is a loose brief or theme every year. It takes place at the opening flagship event of the month, which takes place at a prestigious venue in London.

This year, the V&A’s impressive baroque Raphael room took its turn. So this year’s rather challenging brief was to re-interpret one of Raphael’s “cartoons” for a modern, less reverential and biblically-minded public. Of course, it’s not just society; the word “cartoon” itself has undergone a bit of a re-jig over the centuries. You learned readers will all know that it used to refer to a studio rough or preparatory drawing in high renaissance times. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore said all that needs to be said on this in 1965 – here (7 min 5 secs in).

Teams taking part were Private Eye, The Sun, Reader’s Digest, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Big Girls’ Drawers (an all female team) and (the website of the Profgessional Cartoonists’ Organisation). Each team was given one of Rapahel’s biblical stories to use as a theme.

We had given little thought to our masterpiece, especially as we wouldn’t know which painting we had to interpret until 30 minutes before the start. We had some notion of winging it on the day. That is until Tim Harries, unsung Welsh cartoon genius that he is, came up with the idea for the whole thing. The “cartoons” are all owned by Her Maj, so he used a Royal theme based on the Antiques Roadshow. I’m embarrassed to admit that Tim thought of most of the gags too. The whole thing hung together very well; using mostly black line without colour wash, saving a lot of time (we had a one-person deficit in our team). What’s more, it would have neatly served any of the selected Raphaels.

You can see the result above (click to expand). The image is not the best, but it was difficult to photograph a 4mx1m banner in a dark room with any success.

On the day, we were beaten to the vote by the Private Eye team, but The Big Draw has decided to put the vote to a wider readership. You can vote for any of the entries by visiting their website.

The whole event runs at various venues nationwide over the month of October. Check out an event near you. Have a doodle.

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