No Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning this year

By Tjeerd Royaards

While editorial cartoonists arguably have been producing excellent work in recent years, the environment in which we do our job is becoming ever more challenging. This article was sparked by the decision of the Pulitzer Prizes not to hand our an award for editorial cartooning this year.



Why would a European cartoonist have an opinion about an award for US cartoonists being awarded or not? Because this latest development seems to fit in a trend of several developments that reinforce each other and have one thing in common: they are all detrimental to political cartooning. Most of these developments have already written about, by us and by others, but I feel it's worth mentioning them again.

Many in the field were outraged by the decision of the Pulitzer Prizes not to award a cartoonist this year. The American Association of Editorial Cartoonists issued this statement. US cartoon platform Counterpoint also issued a statement. Michael Cavna of the Washington Post responded with this article. He makes it clear that the decision not to hand out a Pulitzer in a particular category isn't unprecedented, but after a year in which so many outstanding cartoons have been made, it feel unjustified and, even worse, adds to the loss of standing of political cartoons within the field of journalism.

Timid cartoons and no job security

The number of staff positions for cartoonists has been dwindling for years. As more and more of us are forced to go freelance (or have been freelancing our entire careers), the field becomes ever more competitive. Nowadays, many newspapers and magazines select cartoons from a large pool of freelance cartoonists sending in their work. Following the tenets of neoliberalism, this increased competition should lead to a better product. In the field of cartooning, it does exactly the opposite. Daryl Cagle, who runs a US syndicate of about 70 cartoonists, has written many times about timid editors shying away from hard-hitting political satire.  The cartoons that get picked most from his syndicate are the ones that do not express an opinion; harmless jokes about the news do well, and cartoons about celebrities. The incentive is clear: if you want to sell your work, you need to pander to these editors; don't be hard-hitting, don't make people angry, don't draw anything controversial.

Freelancing has not only lead to more watered-down cartoons, it has also significantly weakened the job security of cartoonists. In 2019, the international edition of The New York Times decided, on the basis of one controversial cartoon, to stop running cartoons altogether. As a result, two of their regular cartoonists, Heng and Patrick Chappatte, lost their jobs over a cartoon they did not even draw.

Over the last ten years, this kind of response seems to have become the norm; when a cartoon sparks outrage, fire the cartoonist. And with more and more cartoonists working freelance, this decision is easier than ever. If we've published one of your cartoons and it makes people angry, we'll just never publish your work again. There are several examples of this, both in the US and in the rest of the world. They seem to have become more numerous than examples of newspapers standing with their cartoonists. Here are some examples from the US, Australia and most recently, India, where well-known cartoonist Manjul was fired after making the government tried to take down his Twitter account because of his critical work.

There is irony in this. In most professions, when people make mistakes we would say that to err is human; but for a cartoonist, whose job is to provide sharp critique, one mistake is unforgivable.

Please note that in the case of the US and Australian controversy, I do not agree with the cartoons published (which I think were bad and insensitive), but I take issue with the knee jerk reaction of getting rid of the cartoonist. And it's also important to point out that, despite these trends, many cartoonists are continuing to produce amazing, scathing, sharp, hilarious and downright brilliant cartoons. It just keeps getting harder and harder to find placed to publish them. Even social media is getting increasingly sensitive when it comes to satire.

Within this context, it is more important then ever that a renowned institution recognizes the responsibility they have to recognize the work being done by cartoonists under ever more difficult circumstances. Instead, they decided they could not agree on a winner and not to hand out the prize at all. The decision of the Pulitzer Board is not only an insult to this year's finalists, it also contributes to the weakening position of political cartoons in general.

UNESCO cartoon competition on global education

Allmeansall-gem-report-unesco-cartoonIllustration by Anne Derenne

The Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) is an editorially independent, authoritative and evidence-based annual report published by UNESCO. Its mandate is to monitor progress towards the education targets in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework.

The GEM Report team has worked with cartoonists for several years to illustrate the various topics being analysed in its annual publications. Deemed by the team as a thought-provoking communications tool, the cartoons are commissioned as an original way to tease out the multiple themes in each annual report.

This year, for the first time ever, the GEM Report is launching a cartoon competition in partnership with the Cartoon Movement. The competition is focused on the theme of the forthcoming 2021/2 GEM Report covering the role, influence, benefits and concerns about non-state actors in education. The competition is to draw the best cartoon depiction of the issues around school choice and the impact of non-state actors in access, equity and quality in education. The winning submission will receive $500. Read the full brief and information on how to take part here.

To give you an idea of what they are looking for, here are some of the artists they have worked with in previous years:

Political cartoonist, Gado, from Tanzania, who is the editorial cartoonist for The Standard in Nairobi, created satirical cartoons about accountability in education for the 2017/8 GEM Report.


In 2020, Anne Derenne, a cartoonist and illustrator with Cartooning for Peace from France worked with the GEM Report to create cartoons illustrating the many different faces of inclusion in education.


The competition will culminate at the end of July 2021. Cartoons submitted will be voted on by the public via the GEM Report’s Facebook page.  The winner will see his/her cartoon feature in the 2021/2 GEM Report on non-state actors in education, in all public facing events for the Report held around the world.

Tips for (aspiring) cartoonists

By Tjeerd Royaards

After three episodes of Cartoonist 2 Cartoonist, where Emanuele Del Rosso and I analyze submitted cartoons and give (hopefully) constructive feedback, I think we can identify some general points that seem to apply to most, if not all, cartoons. If you are looking to improve your work, we do recommend you take a look at one or more of the episodes, but in this article we list some general tips and tricks that will help you make your cartoons better. To illustrate, we are using some of the cartoons we discussed in the episodes.

1) Make a good scan

This tip only applies if you are working on paper and scanning in your work as a digital image file, either as a finished cartoon, or to apply color digitally. The first thing to do, is to make a professional scan, so that you do not immediately see it's a scan of a drawing, like in the example below.

Jasmin Lin - China 1 copyCartoon by Jasmin Lin

As you can see in the image, the bottom right corner is darker than the top left corner; what you should be aiming for a a solid flat white background. You can achieve this by playing around with the contrast with just basic image editing software. And also be sure to crop the image to remove any black edges that mark the end of the scanned paper. Here you can see them at the top and at the left of the cartoon.

This is the same cartoon with a better contrast. It's not perfect yet (which has to do with the original scanning), but you can see the improvement:

Jasmin Lin - China 1 improved

If you do not have access to a good scanner, there are some decent free apps available that will turn your phone into a scanner. And if you don't want to blow your budget on a Photoshop subscription, there are also free programs to edit images.

Remember, the presentation of your work matters. If it looks sloppy, it will go into an editor's trash folder without a second glance. This also goes for digital cartoons, so make sure your cartoons look professional.

2) Think about your lettering

If you use text in your cartoon, there are a number of things to consider. One of the most important questions: do you go for lettering by hand, do you choose a digital font? Both are valid options, but the style of lettering you choose should fit with your style of cartoons. If you draw and color by hand on paper, your best option will probably to letter by hand as well. This cartoon, discussed in our most recent C2C episode, uses a digital font, but both me and Emanuele felt the style of the cartoon would benefit from hand-lettering:

Barry Wade - USACartoon by Barry Wade

Take a look at the shop names on the awnings for instance; if these would be done by hand, they would look more like a part of the image, instead of a layer that has been added on top.

Other cartoons might actually work better with a digital font. The cartoon below has a style that would work well with a (well-chosen font), that would improve the readability of the text in the speech bubble.

Mohd Alammeri - Oman 1Cartoon by Mohd Alammeri

If you choose to use a digital font, choose wisely. There are thousands upon thousands of fonts available, so it's worth taking your time to find something that really works with your style. And please, stay away from Comics Sans or Papyrus... Also make sure you use a font that free to use (in the public domain) or that you purchase the appropriate license.

It's also worth thinking about the amount of text you need and where you place it in the image. In general, you should only use text when it is absolutely necessary for understanding the cartoon, or for providing the punchline. And think about where you position the text; do you want people to read the text first and then look at the image, or do you want people to look at the image first? This also relates to the next tip, where we discuss the way people navigate your image.

3) Is your message clear?

This is probably the most important condition for any cartoon to be successful. Some things to consider:

-Think about the composition, not only aesthetically, but also as the means you have to guide viewer through your cartoon. A cartoons tells a story; think about how you want people to navigate your story. People in the West tend to navigate from left to right, same as reading. People from the Middle East do the exact opposite, so it might be worth considering your target audience when designing the cartoon narrative.

-Think about the elements you have in your image. Do you need them all? If not, scrap the ones that are not necessary, it will make your message clearer. The rule of thumb is that every element you draw needs to contribute to the story that you are telling.

-All the elements that are necessary need to be understandable as well. If your unsure, check with your friends, family or colleagues. Things might make perfect sense in your own head, but that is not a guarantee that the cartoons will be easily understood by everyone.

-Think about how people will journey through your cartoon. Where should they start looking? Where should they end? Make sure your composition and arrangement and size of elements encourages people to navigate the cartoon in this way.

We discussed the cartoon below by Vincente Corpus from Mexico based on these points:

3. Vincente Corpus - Mexico

In essence, this is a great cartoon. It shows how the pharmaceutical industry cashes in on the pandemic. But was it immediately clear to you? Ema and I think the scared Uncle Sam is actually the same person as the man behind the till in the bottom panel, but we're not sure.  Providing more visual clues (such as still having him ware the red-striped hat) would have been helpful. A different composition could have worked here, with a similar position of Uncle Sam in the top and bottom panel. Also, you have to make an effort to read the text on the costume of the salesman.

We hope some of these tips will help you in your own cartoons. And remember, if you would like the chance to have your work discussed in Cartoon 2 Cartoonist, send it to

Evergreen satire, episode 2


Evergreen satire is a partnership with the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision to give new relevance to historical cartoons. Join us on Instagram on June 8 at 6pm CEST for episode 2 as to talk with experts about the history of satire. The topic for this episode is war: how have cartoonists visualized violence and conflict through the years?

Guests in this episode will be Paule Jorge Fernandes, Assistant Professor at NOVA University of Lisbon, specializing in 19th Century History, Political History, Humor, Satire and Editorial Cartoons, and Jop Euwijk, conservator at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

The difficulty with drawing about Israel and Palestine


With the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine, the number of cartoons about this conflict has, not surprisingly, increased dramatically as well. As a cartoonist, I find this topic to be one of the hardest things to draw about. As an editor, I also find it challenging which cartoons to pick for publication on our homepage or to highlight on social media. Let me explain why.

Cartoons are basically opinions on paper. When I draw, I try to present my perspective on an issue. At the same time, I consider myself to be more of a journalist than an activist, so I try to keep my perspective based on facts and to take all sides into consideration. The same goes for my job as editor. I consider Cartoon Movement to be a journalist platform and as such the content we publish should be journalism, not activism. And this isn't easy when it comes to Israel and Palestine.

In general in the world of editorial cartoons, there are three camps in this Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

1: the pro-Palestine camp
2: the pro-Israel camp
3. The 'neutral' camp
(basically cartoonists saying that both sides are to blame)

And no matter which camp a cartoon comes from, they all misrepresent reality to some degree, because the reality of the situation is so complex.


1: the pro-Palestine camp

Within this (perhaps largest) camp we can distinguish more moderate and more extreme cartoons. This is a mostly geographic distinction; the legacy of the Second World War and the Holocaust still ways heavily on Europe, and therefore most European cartoons will use more moderate visual language when drawing about Israel, like these cartoons by Marian Kamensky and Maarten Wolterink.


Img224 tt Cartoon by Marian Kamensky


Online873Cartoon by Maarten Wolterink


In Latin America, the specter of the Holocaust is felt less, and analogies between Nazi Germany and Israel are more commonplace, such as this cartoon by Peruvian cartoonist Karry. The use of Nazi imagery is not something I support, mainly because I don't think its helpful to what you are trying to achieve as a cartoonist. If your goal is to make people think (and perhaps even change their minds), you are estranging a lot of people (e.g. moderate Israelis) by using extreme symbols.


GAZA-KARRY-PERÚCartoon by Karry


In the Arab World, the conflict is far more present and immediate. The majority of cartoonists in the region are firmly in the pro-Palestinian camp, and their anger shows in their work. Like cartoonists in Latin America, they do not shy away from WW II imagery; their cartoons also tend to have more shock value (blood, war victims etc.) than cartoons from other parts of the world:


Netan nazis Mv Cartoon by Sanouni Imad



50865677-0617-4244-A7E7-3B53194D5B61Cartoon by Rafat Alkhateeb (Read the cartoon from right to left.)


2: the pro-Israel camp

The pro-Israel, or anti-Hamas camp, is smaller on Cartoon Movement. The argument in these cartoons is that Hamas is a terrorist organization that would eradicate Israel if it had the chance. In the cartoon below, Hamas is the snake in the grass:


Palestinesnake_pete_kreiner_0 Cartoon by Pete Kreiner


This cartoon (again by Marian Kamensky, which goes to show a cartoonist can be in two camps simultaneously) shows the tactics of Hamas:

Img229 ff FFTTCartoon by Marian Kamensky


They're not wrong in their depictions. Hamas is widely regarded as a terrorist organization that doesn't shy away from putting Palestinian people in harms way if it suits their tactics. And like all oppressors, they do not handle criticism well: our only cartoonist in Gaza, Majda Shaheen, was similarly critical of Hamas in her work, receiving death threats because of her work. In 2018, she disappeared, and no one has heard from her since.


Hamass_army__majda_shaheen Cartoon by Majda Shaheen (read from right to left)


3. The 'neutral' camp

In Europe and the US, most cartoons that appear in the newspapers are from the neutral camp. They condemn the violence, and call on both parties to stop the bloodshed and sue for peace. Here are some examples by Marco De Angelis and Iman Rezaee.


Destinies- Marco De AngelisCartoon by Marco De Angelis


3AAC5E4D-3A8B-4A7F-9403-832B6BD51915Cartoon by Iman Rezaee


The problem with these camps is than not one of them truly represents the reality of the situation. The overwhelming majority of cartoons from the pro-Palestinian camps ignore the thousands of missiles that Hamas shoots at Israel, and the fact that Hamas is recognized the world over as a terrorist organization. In turn the pro-Israel cartoons ignore the atrocious way the Israeli government controls Gaza and treats Palestinians in general (a recent Human Rights Watch report called Israel an apartheid state). And the neutral cartoons mainly fail to take into account the skewed power relation between the extremely well-funded hi tech Israeli Defense Force and the Palestinian home-made missiles. Just take a look at the death toll on both sides: one Israeli victim for every ten or twenty Palestinian dead.

In part, this misrepresentation of reality is part of what cartoons are. They simplify reality, and as such, they often omit part of the story. But in a conflict that is so polarized as this one, these omissions become more obvious, not least because they tend to be pointed out immediately by people adhering to a different camp. And I find the omissions become more difficult to defend, precisely because they are so obvious. So both as an editor and as a cartoonist, I tend to favor the more moderate depictions. These can still be just as hard-hitting - the first cartoon by Marian Kamensky shown above was one of our most popular cartoons on social media this month - and may even make someone in a different camp stop and think.

If you want to take a look at the cartoons I recently made about this subject, you can see them here.

Tjeerd Royaards

Afghanistan school attack - in cartoons

On Saturday, May 8th, there was an attack on a school in Afghanistan, killing more than 50 people. Cartoons dealing with this got kind of lost in our newsroom, as headlines (and thus cartoons) focused on the escalating crisis in Israel.

However, given the recent plans to withdraw US and NATO troops (see our cartoon collection on that here), the attack might be a harbinger for the future of Afghanistan, with girls again being prevented from to go to school. Here, we wanted to highlight these cartoons: some of them paint a grim picture, but some also offer a message of hope.


By Shahid Atiqullah.


By Mansoure Dehghani.


By DARA Jam.



By Hossien Rezaye.



By Mahnaz Yazdani.


The European Cartoon Award 2021 is open for submissions


From May 6 to June 18, 2021, cartoonists that publish in all 47 countries of the Council of Europe can submit their work for the second edition of the European Cartoon Award. Founded in 2021, by the European Press Prize and Studio Europa Maastricht to encourage cartoonists in their essential work for freedom of expression, the European Cartoon Award has one of the highest monetary prizes for cartoonists, granting its winner a prize of 10,000 euros.

About the European Cartoon Award

The European Cartoon Award was founded in 2019 by European Press Prize and Studio Europa Maastricht to encourage cartoonists in their essential work for freedom of expression. "Cartoonists are an 'endangered species': they have to deal with increasing resistance, censorship, and even threats and violence. Their space is shrinking, both in available publications and in the themes they can tackle. That is not only happening far away, but also right here in Europe,” says director of the European Press Prize Thomas van Neerbos.

Essential for democracy

Cartoons are an indispensable part of the public debate. In the universal language of the image, they transcend borders and put their finger on the sore spot. Averse to convention, challenging, creative and playful, cartoons are the hallmark of open European society. Gonny Willems, director of Studio Europa Maastricht: “In these unprecedented times of polarization, there is a lack of understanding for the perspective of the other. Cartoons can offer an opening to the truth of the other with irony, humor and sharpness.”


Cartoonists can submit their work from May 6, the deadline is June 18, 2021. Submitted cartoons must have been realized between 1 January and 31 December 2020 and published in European media, online or offline. The award ceremony for this second edition will take place in September 2021.

10-member jury

The jury for the 2021 edition consists, among others, of the winner of the European Cartoon Award 2020: Anne Derenne. The jury chair of 2020, Janet Anderson, will also participate again, together with eight other professionals - cartoonists, activists and journalists - whose names will be released in the upcoming weeks.

About the European Press Prize
The European Press Prize mission is to encourage and guarantee quality journalism in Europe, especially in times when quality and freedom of the press are under pressure. The European Press Prize was founded by seven independent European foundations with strong media connections, all of which count excellence and public service as part of their collective challenge. 

About Studio Europa Maastricht
Studio Europe Maastricht is an expertise center for Europe-related debate and research, started in 2018 at the initiative of Maastricht University, the Province of Limburg and the Municipality of Maastricht. With our broad expertise and rich activity we stimulate public debate and seek the best answers to the challenges Europe is facing today and will face tomorrow.


Cartoons for the Council of Europe


We're proud to be partnering with the with the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe this year. Throughout 2021, we will support the various publications of the Commissioner with cartoons about human rights issues. You can see the first cartoon here.

The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent and impartial non-judicial institution established in 1999 by Council of Europe to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the 47 Council of Europe member states.

Check out our first cartoon, about the right of journalists to be protected at public assemblies, here: