I recently interviewed top cartoonist, Steve Bright, for our sister site BritishExpat.com.
Steve Bright (pen name: ‘Brighty’) has been a full-time professional freelance cartoonist since 1983, working for numerous publications and clients over the years. Prior to that, he joined D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd straight from school, with the intention of pursuing a career in journalism, only to find himself on the editorial staff of The Beano, writing weekly scripts for characters such as Billy Whizz and Biffo the Bear. After a meteoric rise, he was moved to assist in the creation of Nutty comic where, aged 19, he was responsible for creating and writing ‘Bananaman’, which subsequently went on to become an animated television series, and is set to become a big screen live action movie later this year. After six years, he took the plunge into the freelance world, using his first love of drawing, along with the experience of those years. He has been there ever since, producing cartoon work for a myriad of publications from The Beano and The Dandy, to The Sunday Times, plus others too numerous to mention, and as diverse as you could imagine. Currently, he is the editorial cartoonist for the UK’s best-selling newspaper, The Sun.
Glasgow-born, Steve spent most of his life in and around Perth in Scotland, before moving south of the border in 2002. He is a member of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation.
I asked Steve about earning a living online, about cartooning, and some general questions. Although this interview was done initially for British Expat, I knew that it would interest a lot of you who read this blog, so here’s a quick taster.
On living the laptop lifestyle
British Expat: How did you get into the enviable position of being able to work from where you choose? Did changing technology gradually enable this or was it a sudden leap after you decided that this was what you wanted to do?
Steve Bright: Initially, technology had no bearing on it whatsoever. I left an office job to pursue a freelance career as a cartoonist. My only real option was to work from home, so I bought a draughtsman’s drawing board and began drawing with nib pens and ink, pretty much the same tools that had been used by cartoonists for at least a century. The most ‘high tech‘ instrument I worked with was an automatic pencil which saved time on sharpening. Other than that, I drew on paper or Bristol Board and delivered my work as original artwork to the editors, either in person or by post. That was how it was done for at least the first ten years, before technology began creeping into my working practices, initially with a fax machine, before computers took over, and eventually I arrived at my current modus operandi, with no paper involved, all artwork produced digitally from start to finish, and electronic delivery via email; the stuff of science fiction when I first started out. These days, using a portable Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet and a laptop PC, I can literally carry my entire office in a backpack, and work from anywhere in the world with a decent Internet access and a couple of electric power sockets.
How do you see your role as a cartoonist? Are you an entertainer, a message carrier, or an illustrator? All of them and more?
Oh, boy! I hate to burst the bubble of the question, but in truth, after doing this for over 30 years, the answer would be ‘breadwinner‘. It’s a job. Yes, it’s a great job that I enjoy enormously at times (though not all times), and I can think of few that I’d rather have, but it’s what I do to provide for my family and keep a roof over our heads. And although it’s very gratifying to know that others can be entertained by what I do, or even be moved by it, there has never been any higher vocational aspect to it as a career choice other than to make money from something I enjoy doing. I’ve never aspired to anything more, although it’s certainly pleasing when more comes from it. So the answer would be yes, all of them and more may play a part, but my essential role and focus is provider, like most people who do any kind of work. That is the importance of cartooning to me, and beyond that, I see it as relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
It’s been said (probably by you) that many cartoonists, whilst funny on paper, are miserable gits in real life. Are you a miserable git? What makes you smile or laugh when you’re not working?
There are cartoonists who certainly believe that being a miserable git is almost a prerequisite for the job, and that the more cynical and jaundiced your views on life, the better the ideas you’ll come up with. I think there’s an element of truth in that, although I have to say that my own experience of most cartoonists I’ve met in person (many!) contradicts those assertions. We enjoy getting together when we can, at cartoon festivals and organised events, and generally a very agreeable time is had by all. Although perhaps if you were to analyse it, much of the time might be spent being miserable gits in harmony with each other, I dunno. From my own perspective, I became a cartoonist aged 23, newly married, and with our first child on the way shortly afterwards. Life was as good as it ever had been, and I don’t recall having any time for being miserable. That said, as I’ve stated already, mine was not the most conventional route into the business. Cartoonists do laugh though – and a lot. And at everything. All part of the job, innit…
You can see more of Brighty’s cartoons at his brighty-art.co.uk website. And if, like Steve, you’re a fan of Marvel or D.C. Comics, and you’re not averse to a clever bit of mindless zombie violence and swearing, then you’ll love Hairy Steve.
And why not read the whole interview with Steve Bright on BritishExpat.com?
Buy Steve’s book!
Just Us Then?
Steve Bright & John Holt
Paperback, 90 pages