Is Norfolk cartoonist Tony Hall typical of the breed?
PUBLISHED: 15:18 15 April 2013 | UPDATED: 15:18 15 April 2013
Archant Norfolk 2013
I'd never met a cartoonist before, but Tony Hall fitted most of my preconceived ideas of what one would be like. He's been the cartoonist at our sister paper, the Eastern Daily Press, for 35 years, and when we met at about 2pm, he was not wearing any socks or shoes.
He never gets up before midday and his home was so cluttered with books, papers, and God knows what else, that I could not find a seat.
When he works he smokes a pipe constantly, and has several strong cups of tea and a drop of whisky to keep him going.
As he never learned to drive a car, he delivers his cartoons to our offices in Rouen Road on his motorbike. His Bohemian lifestyle reminded me of that of a perennial student.
To say he’s an eccentric would be an understatement.
That’s a cartoonist, par excellence, I thought.
Maybe it is or it isn’t, but I don’t want to imply that a cartoonist has a cushy job.
Mr Hall said his job was pretty much like any other, and he works about 10 hours a day. His study is where he does his thinking and he has a hut in the garden where he creates the cartoons.
The only difference between his job and others is that he does not start until gone midday and he does not have to leave the confines of his home, although working from home is becoming increasingly common.
Mr Hall creates three cartoons each week for the EDP.
He uses an old-fashioned dip pen and Indian ink.
“There’s nothing high-tech about it. I’m computer illiterate,” he said.
“I’m allergic to mornings and could never hold down a job requiring me to work in the mornings. I’m a night owl.
“I describe myself as a poor man’s Giles. I have a more old-fashioned style. Things are recognisable with me, rather than blasting people with abstract images. People don’t like arty-farty. I occasionally do colour cartoons.
“The nearest cartoonist to what I do is probably Mac in the Daily Mail. His is more of a realistic cartoon, as opposed to someone like Gerald Scarfe.
“I smoke a pipe all the time when I’m working. I drink pints of strong tea and a whisky while I’m working. I play the squeeze box a bit.
“My day starts with a list, choosing a subject for the cartoon. I concentrate on Norfolk news, if possible, and prioritise stories from Norfolk and Norwich.
“But you can do national or international news, as that is covered in the EDP.”
Of the thousands of cartoons he has created, one he did at the time of Princess Diana’s death in 1997 stands out.
“She had always campaigned against landmines, so I did a landscape with thousands of cameras’ telescopic lenses instead of landmines – It was along the lines of ‘Beware of the paparazzi’.”
One of his great passions in life is his folk band, the Von Krapp family, which plays every Tuesday from 8.30pm at the Duke of Wellington pub in Waterloo Road, Norwich. He plays the melodeon in the band.
He was born in Palestine, where his Norwich father, who was in the colonial police, met his Polish mother. He grew up in Beccles, attending the Sir John Leman school. He attended art school in Lowestoft then the Central School of Art in London, but never completed his course.
“I managed one year out of the three-year course. I then spent a year working at the Odeon cinema in Piccadilly Circus. I had a lot of poor jobs and half-trained to be a teacher.
“It was while I was working as a night watchman for a paper mill in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire that I got into cartoon work. An old school friend from Beccles met me and said he remembered my doodles from school.
He had a connection with a lady working for a publishing firm, so I started doing cartoons for a cookery firm, and picked up odd jobs.
“I did a couple of double-paged spreads for Punch Magazine, which was a big thing at the time –one was on prison overcrowding in 1980.”
He also did hand animation for a firm called Richard Williams Ltd in London. “They did a lot of adverts for Ford and Esso and others. And I worked on an animated film, A Christmas Carol, which is shown on TV a lot. After I left, the firm was involved in the Hollywood blockbuster, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”