Review: Huion Kamvas Pro 13 (2.5K)

By Tjeerd Royaards

Huion-kamvas-pro-13-2.5k-01

This review is in some ways a follow up of our review of the Kamvas 13 (which you can still win, by the way, if you send us an email before February 10). Like the Kamvas 13, the Kamvas Pro 13 (2.5K) is a portable, 13.3 inch drawing tablet that needs to be plugged to your computer with a 3-in1 cable or with just a USB-c to USB-c cable. That last option is a really great feature that not only reduces cable clutter, but also makes carrying the tablet around a lot easier. For this review, I used the tablet in combination with my MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022), but the tablet does also work with Android (so you can hook it up to some smart phones) and also has the option of being used as a regular pen tablet (with the screen off).

 

SetupMy set-up, with laptop and tablet connected by one cable.

The Kamvas 13 currently retails for € 235 in Europe, while the Kamvas Pro 13 (2.5K) will set you back € 449. The main question for this review, then, is if the Kamvas Pro 13 is worth the extra money? As with all our reviews, we received the pen display from Huion for free to review, but they do not exert any other type of control over this review.

Let's talk about the difference in specs first. The Kamvas 13 has a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 (16:9), while the Pro has 2560 x 1600 (16:10). The Pro screen also has 226 pixels per inch (PPI) instead of 166 PPI, which the regular has. Some other color and contrast specs are also increased on the Pro. The pen and pressure technology, however, is the same with both tablets.

Like its cheaper counterpart, the Pro also features some buttons on the side which you can personalize as hot keys for your most used editing functions. Many people must like them, because most tablets feature buttons, but I personally tend to use my computer keyboard and/or click the function I need in Photoshop with the pen, so I don't really need extra buttons, and I actually prefer my Wacom Cintiq, which hasn't got any.

Working on the Pro is very nice. It does have the same parallax issue as the Kamvas 13 (where the the distance between the cursor and the pen nib is fine on most of the screen surface, but tends to get worse towards the edges of the screen, noticeably so when you are trying to select an icon at the top/bottom of the screen or on the side), but it is overall a superior experience to the Kamvas 13.

This better experience is of course partly because of the better screen resolution and color display, but also (and this might be subjective) also because of the way the screen feels. The Kamvas 13 has a Anti-glare Matte Film screen finish while the Pro has a Anti-glare Etched Glass finish. I really like the feel of this as I worked.

 

ComparisonComparison between the Kamvas 13 (top) and the Pro: similar ize, different buttons and screen finish.

Ultimately, the question of whether or not the Pro is worth the extra money is something you'll have to decide for yourself, depending on the type of work you make and your budget. A bonus with the Pro is that it comes standard with a USB-c to USB-c cable; with the regular Kamvas13, this is something you'll have to order separately for € 20. So that's something you can deduct from the price difference.

To be honest, for the type of cartoons I make, I could make do with the regular Kamvas 13, but I can imagine if you make more detailed work it would be worth it to spend a little bit extra. Another factor in making a decision would be if you're looking for a portable display, or if a bigger fixed display is also an option. If I was on a budget, I would probably favor something like the Gaomon PD2200 (currently € 459) which might not give you the same resolution and color intensity, but gives you way more screen real estate instead.

In conclusion, I would say the Kamvas Pro 13 is a good quality product and worth the money you pay for it. That said, the Kamvas 13 isn't bad either, so the choice of what to go for should primarily be decided by your own needs as an artist.


Review: Gaomon PD2200

By Tjeerd Royaards

671ab6af-eaf5-4d05-8035-86eace8e08e8_1333x1000

 

For the past month, I've been testing the Gaomon PD2200, a 21,5 pen display to use for digital drawing. It is available for around 400 euro, making it less than half the cost of a similar size Wacom pen display (the market leader). I own and use a 21,5 inch Wacom, so this provided me with a good comparison.

As with all our reviews, we received the pen display from Gaomon for free to review, but they do not exert any other type of control over this review.

Let's start with the positives. I love the amount of screen real estate that you get. Given the size of the screen, I was actually pleasantly surprised about the overall size. Unpacking the tablet from the box, it was smaller and lighter than I had expected it to be, with a smaller border around the screen than my Wacom. Setting it up was straightforward. It comes with the usual connections, power, HDMI and USB: plug these into the wall and into your computer, download the latest driver from the Gaomon website, and you're good to go.

More positives can be found in the drawing experience; although I know it's very subjective, I really like the screen feel of the Gaomon. Many artists complain about the slick, slippery feel of drawing screens, but the Gaomon offers nice resistance to the nib of your (battery-free) pen. I was also impressed by the almost complete lack of parallax; the nib is so close to the line you are drawing, it might even be better than the Wacom.

 

IMG_20231215_130905Almost no parallax

The Gaomon comes with two rows of buttons on either side. In theory, this is a great feature, giving you the option of zooming in and out, using the eraser and some other options, with the quick touch of a button. However, the designer of the display apparently didn't account for the 10% of the world population that is left-handed (including yours truly).

The moment I started drawing, it became clear the buttons on the left were completely unpractical for me. Lefties have their hand pressed to the screen/paper while drawing, which in this case meant inadvertently pressing the different buttons as I drew. It didn't make for a very good experience. Luckily, the display settings give you the option of turning off the buttons. If the tablet is ever redesigned, I would suggest placing these buttons at the top, so they are out of the way.

Another redesign I would suggest the tablet stand. This seems a little bit too small for the tablet; for most of the time, it's fine, but when you start drawing in the upper corners of the screen you can feel a small amount of wobble. The Wacom doesn't have this issue.

The resolution (1920 X 1080) and the pressure levels (8192Levels) of the Goamon are exactly the same as the Wacom. Here below are photos of the wo screens for compaison. Having the same specs, the drawing experience is quite similar on both. One thing I did experience was some glitches in Photoshop with the Gaomon, but this was solved by removing and reinstalling the multiple tablet drivers I have on my computer. After that, everything seemed to be working fine.

 

IMG_20231212_111223Close-up view of the screen of the Wacom 22HD

IMG_20231215_130510Close-up view of the screen of the Gaomon PD2200

I must admit, I really like this tablet. It definitely doesn't feel like a budget Wacom and I would be happy to use the Gaomon on a daily basis. The biggest negative is the somewhat wobbly stand, but given the price difference with the Wacom I would still recommend it.


Review of the Huion Note

By Tjeerd Royaards

Huion Note

 

I have to admit I might not be the most suitable person to review the Huion Note. I have been working digitally since purchasing my first Wacom Cintiq in 2014 and I have never looked back since. The Huion Note, instead, is a notebook that allows you to write or draw on paper while what you do is digitally recorded with an app on your phone. My forays into drawing on paper have been mostly limited to drawing with my kids. So please consider the sketches I did as examples of what the Note can do, nothing more.

That said, I was excited when Huion contacted us after the review of the Kamvas 13 to ask if we were interested in testing another one of their products, especially one that felt novel and seemed to have potential for paper-loving artists. For the sake of full transparency: Huion sent us the Note at no charge, but we are not influenced in any way as to our review of the product.

While the Note is also designed for taking notes, I was more interested in how it would work for drawing and sketching out ideas. Many artists claim they miss the feel of paper when they switch to digital drawing, so the Note might be suitable for them, offering the benefits of drawing on paper with none of the hassle of having to scan and enhance the image to get a suitable digital version. As the notebook is modestly sized, the focus of my review is not so much see how the Note would work for making fully finished cartoons (depending on your style, that would be problematic, as we’ll see later on), but how and if it would work for sketching on the go, and for live drawing outside or at events.

 

Huion drawing 1

 

The review

Let’s start with the upsides. First of all, it’s a sophisticated looking notebook with a nice look and feel. The pen also looks and feels solid. After installation and connecting the notebook to your phone book things are pretty easy. If you open notebook and the app on your phone they will link automatically.

I was impressed with the sensitivity of the notebook. Although not perfect, even slight pressures do get picked up and translated to the digital version, allowing for fine cross-hatching and subtle lines. The app on your phone allows for some rudimentary clean-up, and you can easily export the file as a JPG or PDF. The paper in the Note is replaceable by any standard notebook; so once you run out, you're not forced to buy new paper from Huion. Instead, you can buy a notebook from your local store and it will fit. New nibs will have to be ordered in the Huion shop. I am not sure how long the ink nibs last, buying new ones will cost you 17 euros for five new nibs.

A nice feature is the ability to work in different colors. While the five supplied nibs come only in black (+ 2 without ink, that you can use to draw digital only), you can draw in different colors on the digital version. Also quite useful when doing graphic reporting, the app allows you to integrate photos into the digital version.

The battery life is another plus; Huion claims is has 18 hours of battery time and although I didn't fully test this, the battery does seem to last a long time.

 

 

Moving on to some downsides. Setting things up could be easier (at least, for an almost boomer like me). The process is simple: just download the app on your smartphone, make a Bluetooth connection to the Note and you're all set. That said, it would be nice to have a big connect button in the app, as it took me a while (and a YouTube tutorial) to get the connection to work. Also, it wasn't immediately clear to me that while the Note can be connected to your computer, it will only work as a simple pen tablet in that case. Most his could be solved by making the Quick Start Guide just a bit more comprehensive.

Putin

Exporting the files as a JPG they come out rather small. Output size is 1080 X 1432 pixels at 72 dpi. Suitable for online use, but not for printing. This can be circumvented by exporting as a PDF, but to be really useful as a drawing tool, it would be nice to get a broader range of output sizes in JPG and other formats. Even better would be the option of exporting it is a .PNG or .PSD with a transparent background.

Here the limitations of the Note do show. While it's a wonderful invention for loose sketching, it's not really designed to take these sketches any further. It would be great if you could directly link up the note to other graphic software like Photoshop or Procreate, allowing you to start on paper and move on seamlessly to the digital version. I think the technology will progress to make this possible in the future; Huion or another manufacturer might even come up with a true sketchbook version (A4 or similar sized, landscape oriented). Another drawback is that the available brushes are quite limited in the app. I would be great to get a pencil brush.

Conclusion

For now, I can totally imagine this is great for artists with an affinity for paper that like to make sketches when traveling and/or do live drawing events if they want to post these works online quickly and easily. I can also imagine the use for comics journalism, taking the Note to locations (e.g. a refugee camp or protest) to record the scene or to use while interviewing people to simultaneously take down quotes and faces. The Note might even be a bit more sturdy in dusty and wet environment than, say, an iPad Pro. It's definitely cheaper.

The Huion Note is available for €95 (on sale until September 15, normal price €125)


Review of the Huion Kamvas 13

By Tjeerd Royaards

Kamvas-13-pen-display-01

China-based drawing tablet brand Huion contacted us in May to ask if we would be interested in reviewing one of their products. They sent us their smallest (and most portable) tablet, the Huion Kamvas 13. I’ve been testing it for the past month, and in this review I'll share my thoughts. For the sake of full transparency: Huion sent us this tablet at no charge, but we are not influenced in any way as to our review of the product. So you’ll get my honest thoughts here.

The Kamvas 13 retails (in the Huion online shop) for € 207.00. The main competitor would be the Wacom Cintiq. You can still pick up a Wacom 13 for around 200 euro at stores that have it in stock, but it seems it’s no longer produced by Wacom. Their most modestly priced screen tablet, the Wacom One, starts at €370.

There were two reasons I was really interested in doing this review. Firstly, the first drawing tablet I ever bought, back in 2014, was a Wacom Cintiq 13HD. I was interested to see how this 2023 tablet would compare to one almost a decade older (the Wacom still works and I use it when I travel) and how Huion would compare to Wacom in general. Second, the Huion tablet promises to do away with all the clutter of cables. Anyone owning a Cintiq (or any other drawing tablet that hooks up to your computer) will know the hassle of the 3-in-one cable (power connection, HDMI and USB all need to be connected for the tablet to work). The Huion instead, although it also has the tradition 3-in-1 cable, can be connected with a simple USB-C to USB-C cable. The tablet will run your computer’s power supply. This is a major improvement, making it way easier to take the tablet with you and draw anywhere.

There’s a growing number of cartoonists that have moved on from drawing tablets, in favor of purchasing an iPad Pro. The reviews I hear are glowing and, although I don't have that much experience working with it myself, it seems to work really well. The only obstacle is the price tag. An iPad Pro starts at €1000, not including pen or stand. Since political cartoonists aren’t in the top tier of well-compensated artists (most struggle to make a decent living with their drawing), the existence of a 200 euro table that connects to your laptop or your phone with one simple cable could provide a decent alternative. For me, it makes sense. For my work as editor of Cartoon Movement, I am never without my laptop when I travel anyway.

The review

I’m using a MacBook Pro from 2022 to hook up to (unfortunately, my Fairphone isn’t compatible with the tablet, so I could not review it connecting to a smartphone works). I’m using the latest version of Adobe Photoshop for the actual drawing.

Right out of the box, I compared it to my 2014 Wacom 13HD. The Kamvas 13 is lighter and smaller (less plastic frame around the screen), but not by much. Setting it up was quite straightforward, just download the driver from the Huion website and plug it in.

1The Wacom 13HD (left) from 2014 compared to the  Huion Kamvas 13 from 2023 (right). Both come with 3-in-1 cables.

The Kamvas 13 comes with a 3-in-one cable, although the power connection ends in a USB, so you’ll need to hook it up to a power plug with a USB port. Most of us have plenty of these lying around from old smartphones and other devices, so that’s not too much of a problem. It also comes with a pen stand (with spare nibs), a drawing glove to prevent smudging the screen and a separate stand (which is actually quite sturdy, although I tend not to use a stand with a small tablet).

The one thing it notably does not come with, rather unfortunately, is a USB-C to USB-C cable. This needs to be purchased separately at the Huion shop for 30 euro, making it a rather expensive little cable. However, I did try another cable lying around my house but that did not work, so it’s a cable you’ll need if you want the simple set-up.

2The Huion allows you to connect with your laptop with a single cable.

My recommendation to Huion would be to include this cable as standard. As a potential buyer I would be fine with a bump in the price for this to be included, as for me (and I suspect many other digital artists) this cable is the unique selling point of Huion. Another welcome addition would be a pen case. I understand the need to buy a sleeve separately (I always use an old laptop sleeve anyway), but a protective case for the pen would be very helpful, especially given the focus of the tablet to be used while on the go. Better yet, wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the tablet manufacturers made the pens all the same size and shape, so we could have a universal pen case?

The user experience of the Huion is ok. The experience is much the same as drawing on the 2014 tablet, showing that the technology hasn’t much changed in the last decade, which is actually fine to me. It certainly isn’t a bad tablet, but there are a couple of issues that show you why Wacom is market leader. The first issue is parallax (offset between the tip of the pen & the mouse cursor); although the distance between the cursor and the pen nib is fine on most of the screen surface. It tends to get worse towards the edges of the screen, noticeably so when you are trying to select an icon at the bottom of the screen or on the side. I tried calibrating pen and screen multiple times, but to no avail.

3Parallax tends to occur on the edges of the tablet screen.

Other issues are more difficult to pinpoint. The pressure sensitivity is absolutely fine, but at times I did feel like there was just a bit more lag and it was a tiny bit less responsive than its Wacom counterpart.

4Testing pressure sensitivity.

 Conclusions

How does the Kamvas 13 compare to similar products by Wacom? How does it compare to an iPad Pro? For me, it comes down to two things. First, the price tag. As an artist who’s stuck in his ways (using Photoshop) and who lugs around a laptop at all times anyway, it makes sense to save hundreds of euros to buy this instead of an iPad, especially since I have a large but stationary drawing tablet in my studio. Since it seems the equally priced 13-inch Wacom models are going out of production, I’d lean in favor of this one. In all honesty, that's also because I do not need any bells and whistles (like touch function) on my drawing tablet.

The second reason (and clincher for me) is the option to simply connect via one USB-C cable. This makes it far less of a hassle to draw on location; still more than with an iPad, but minimally less so. I don’t draw that much on location, but I’d gotten used to the pitying looks from fellow cartoonists as I untangled my rat's nest of cables and went on the hunt for at least one power outlet. No more. The only real drawback I can see is that you still need a table to set down your laptop, so drawing standing up or on the move isn’t an option. However, even that might be solved by connecting to your phone instead, if it’s compatible.

In conclusion, the Kamvas 13 is a decent product for a decent price. I only wish they’d include the USB-C cable, so there would be no need to buy it separately. That said, you should only consider this if you are, like me, looking for a second tablet to use while traveling, or if you're just taking your first steps into the world of digital drawing and don't have a massive budget. It's good value for money, but if you're a more serious cartoonist who is looking for a tablet as his main drawing tool, I'd recommend spending a little more or saving up for an iPad Pro.


Review: Power Born of Dreams

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Power Born of Dreams – My Story is Palestine
Street Noise Books
118 pages
$15,95

Some of you may remember that Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh was arrested by Israel authorities in 2013. He spent five months in jail for 'contact with a hostile organization'. Many suspect his sentence was because of his work as a critical cartoonist.

At the time, we ran a cartoon campaign to spread the word about his wrongful imprisonment. This year, Mohammad has released a graphic novel about his experiences in jail. Or, perhaps more accurately, he uses his time in jail as a red thread to tell stories about Palestinian people and the lives they lead.

The story starts with Mohammad in jail, recounting the interrogations, the boredom and the isolation. The first sentence of the book is a quote by a fellow prisoner: 'When you're in prison, your whole world is made of steel'. How do you get through the day when your world is no larger than a prison cell? Mohammad manages to smuggle a pen and some paper into his cell, to draw about his experiences and drive the boredom away.

 

4Click to enlarge.

 

During his time in prison, Mohammad befriends a talking bird. At least, in the book; I suspect talking animals were not a part of his real prison experience. But this invented element allows him to introduce dialogue into the story. Birds are also the universal symbol for freedom, and using a bird as his conversation partner is a clever way to juxtapose his imprisonment with his dreams of freedom. Moreover, the bird plays a crucial element in the structure of the narrative.

Mohammad and the bird strike a deal; the bird will fly out, using freedom to visit the Palestian people and hear their stories. He will tell Mohammad these stories, and Mohammad will use his drawing skills to record them. In this way, we hear stories from a pregnant couple in Jerusalem trying to reach the hospital to give birth, children living in Gaza, and a teacher in the West Bank whose student was shot by Israeli troops. They are all stories of oppression and imprisonment of one form or another.

 

3Click to enlarge.

 

These stories deserve to be told, but it is that way Sabaaneh tells them that takes them to a new level. He did not draw his graphic novel, but instead carved every single line, using linocut printing. This results in images that are presented in a stark black and white, giving the work a dramitic quality that works really well with Sabaaneh's angular style that is at times reminiscent of social realism. This style also fits with the activist story that Sabaaneh is trying to tell, protesting against the presence and policies of Israel. Here below is a video where you can the Sabaaneh at work creating some of the pages:

 

 

This is a book that deserves a broad international audience. Sabaaneh condemns how Israel treats Palestinians by telling the stories of ordinary Palestinians and by telling his own story. And these stories prove to be a very effective form of resistance. You can order Power Born of Dreams on Amazon (of course), but you can also support your local book store and try to order your copy through them.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


Review: Front Lines

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Front Lines: Political Cartooning and the Battle for Free Speech
The Editorial Cartoon Initiative and the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists
102 pages
2019
$15.00

 

After doing a review of Red Lines this summer, Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker contacted us to see if we would be interested in doing another book review. Wuerker is the editor of Front Lines, a book about (American) editorial cartoons and freedom of speech. It was published in 2019 by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) and contains several essays by cartoon experts and by American cartoonists, including Matt Wuerker himself, Joel Pett, Rob Rogers and Ann Telnaes. Of course, the whole publication is liberally illustrated with many cartoons not only from AAEC members, but also historical cartoons from the 18th, 19th and early 20th century.

All the essays make the argument that cartoons are a vital part of democracy. In the first essay, Joel Pett laments the decision of the international New York Times to stop running political cartoons. In the wake of Charlie Hebdo, the profession of cartoonist seemed to be elevated, Pett argues, with thousands rallying to defend cartoonist and the right to free speech. But the NYT seems to feel differently (even though they shouted 'Je Suis Charlie' just as hard back in 2015), which is inexcusable in world that needs more cartoons, not less.

I found the second essay, by Lucy Shelton Caswell, to be very interesting, because it goes into the historical relationship between political satire and the First Amendment (which guarantees US citizens the right to free speech). The essay is illustrated by many historical samples, including the work of Thomas Nast (the godfather of American political cartooning) and Bill Mauldin (a soldier who drew cartoons from the front lines of World War II).
It also contains probably the most captivating quote from the book, from 1954:

'Only a generation or so ago almost every self-respecting daily newspaper had its own political cartoonist. Usually he was the highest paid member of the editorial staff, and his work was invariably displayed in the most prominent section of the front page. Today, few of these papers such cartoons at all and if they do the panels are likely to be hidden away in the back pages. Even when such offerings appear with any regularity, they are of the "canned" or syndicated variety.'

 

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Bors_ThomasNast_Getty-800Cartoon by Thomas Nast from 1900.

It seems that concerns about the future of political cartoons have been around for a long time. The good news: we're not dead yet. The bad: things have not improved since 1954.

Another really interesting essay is written by Roslyn A. Mazer, about a landmark court case, Hustler V. Falwell, that saved political cartooning in the US. In 1984, Jerry Falwell, an ultra-conservative religious leader, sues Hustler magazine over a satirical piece. The piece was a spoof ad for Campari, containing a fake interview about Falwell's first time (which in the piece includes an outhouse, his mother and a goat).

 

CampariLThe parody ad published in Hustler.

 

Falwell was awarded $200,000 in damages for emotional distress by a lower court. The AAEC took the case to the Supreme Court, in the hope of getting it overturned. If this verdict was allowed to stand, it would mean all targets of satire could now sue cartoonists for causing emotional distress. The AAEC was set to fight an uphill battle, as the majority of judges serving on the Supreme Court were conservative at the time.

Surprisingly, they won the day. In his verdict, Chief Justice Rehnquist stated that 'The art of the cartoonist is often not reasoned or even-handed, but slashing and one-sided. [...] our political discourse would have been considerably poorer [with political cartoonists.]

Rob Rogers' contribution to the book is about drawing Trump. And although the orange menace is no longer in office, there is a good chance we haven't seen the last of him, so the topic is still very relevant. And it's an interesting read (with, again, a lot of cartoons), especially since it was written by the guy who was fired because of his Trump cartoons.

 

1

 

In the penultimate chapter, Wuerker muses about the future of the art form, now that staff jobs at newspapers seem further away than ever for most cartoonists. Will (professional) political cartoons survive beyond newsprint. Only time will tell. Wuerker does a good job in arguing why they should.

Ann Telnaes summarizes all the arguments in the book in the last chapter, which is a tribute to the cartoon in the form of a graphic narrative.

So, what's the verdict? Should you read this book? You should, if you are at all interested in US political cartoons. Although many of the points raised were familiar to me, I did enjoy the brush up on history of political satire in America.

The only thing I did not enjoy (most likely because I'm European) was the continuous emphasis on American exceptionalism when it comes to free speech. Yes, the First Amendment is great, but free speech is not a uniquely American invention or accomplishment. The last time I checked, there are numerous countries listed higher in the Press Freedom Index (the US is currently at number 44). And the First Amendment doesn't preclude the existence of red lines in US society. Try publishing a cartoon with any form of nudity in a US newspaper, or on (US owned) Facebook for that matter.

With that minor side note out of the way, I do recommend you check out the book. The US has one of the best traditions when it comes to political cartooning, and I am still frequently in awe of the skill and wit of US cartoonists. The book should still be available at the AAEC (you can email them at [email protected]) and with the $15 you will be supporting their work, making sure political satire stays alive and well in the USA.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


Review: Red Lines

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Red Lines - Political Cartoons and the Struggle against Censorship
Cherian George & Sonny Liew
The MIT Press
448 pages
$34.95

The number of (international or English) books that deal with political cartoons are few and far between. We did our last in-depth book review in 2016, on a book about comics journalism. Either we have missed some titles - unlikely, as we keep a sharp eye on anything and everything related to editorial cartoons - or there's just not that much being written about cartoons. All the more reason to give some attention to the upcoming publication Red Lines by Cherian George and Sonny Liew. This 448-page behemoth not only gives a broad and comprehensive overview of all forms of censorship, it does so in style, as the authors opted to present their book as a graphic narrative.

And it couldn't have come at a better time. The number of functioning democracies around the world is dwindling, and press freedom is caught in the wake of this trend towards authoritarianism. At the time of writing, the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan and I know of at least two cartoonists that are desperately trying to flee the new (and likely) oppressive regime. The author of the book, Cherian George, is a Professor of Media Studies at Hong Kong University; based in Hong Kong, he himself is witnessing the potential collapse of democracy first-hand.

The book gives a thorough account of cases where cartoonists have been harassed, threatened and murdered for the drawings they made, most frequently at the hand of oppressive regimes or extremist (religious) groups. But the book has a scope beyond the censorship of violent dictatorships. It promises a 'grand tour of censorship', looking at cases of censorship all over the world. The book was over three years in the making, during which time Cherian George traveled across the globe to interview over 60 cartoonists about their experiences with different forms of censorship.

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The scope is, I think, the biggest achievement of the book. George effective shows that violent censorship is actually a small percentage of all cases of censorship. In our interconnected world, total censorship isn't practical anymore for oppressive regimes, so most have opted for new strategies of soft censorship (George calls this 'Post-Orwellian strategies'). These strategies include discrediting the cartoonist or threatening to punish (by either removing funding or access to government) the publication in which the cartoon appeared. He then moves on to market censorship, showing how capitalist forces have both decreased the possibility for cartoonists to publish their work and get payment for it and pressure cartoonists to draw or not draw about certain topics. In addition, the book also deals specifically with censorship on the internet, gender-based censorship and censorship in wartime (taking a look at the political climate for cartoons in the aftermath of 9-11).

One of the most scary things for cartoonists is that you often cannot predict what cartoon will get you in trouble. Most cartoonists are familiar with the red lines of the country and society they live and work in, and adhere to these when drawing cartoons, but that does not prevent from sparking controversy by accident. An Iranian cartoonist drew a cockroach for the children's supplement of a government newspaper, and ends up being accused of targeting an ethnic minority. A Venezuelan cartoonist draws a gag cartoon of a rat funeral two weeks before a politician is assassinated, but the cartoon is published after this murder (the magazine was already at the printer at the time of the murder): controversy and accusations ensue, forcing the cartoonist to leave the country.

A lot of attention is of course devoted to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Over six years after the attack, the book not only provides historical context for the attack, with a thorough account of Charlie Hebdo's track record of controversial cartoons and various lawsuits before January 2015, but it also opens a frank discussion on where and how the cartoons that Charlie Hebdo publishes fit in with press freedom. Immediately following the 2015 attack, it was almost impossible to condemn the attack while also being critical of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. George does not shy away from this question, giving equal attention to defenders of Charlie Hebdo cartoons and to people that argue that the anti-Islam cartoons targeted an already stigmatized and discriminated group, French muslims.

This, perhaps much-needed, discussion of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons is preceded by a chapter in which cartoonists talk about how they 'censor' themselves to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes and offending people for the wrong reason. Because political satire isn't about offending just because you can; it's about using satire, which definitely includes the right to offend, to hold those in power accountable and expose their wrongs. But, to use a cliche, cartoonists should always punch up, not down. And there is nothing wrong with a degree of self-scrutiny to make sure the imagery and symbols you use as a cartoonist mock those that should be mocked without collateral damage.

3

I cannot review this book without saying something about the form. The graphic narrative is designed by Sonny Liew, an Eisner Award-winning cartoonist and illustrator. Presenting the narrative as kind of a graphic novel not only sets the tone and atmosphere of the different chapters, it makes the narrative engaging and accessible.. For those who find reading a book of close to 450-pages challenging, I can promise the graphic novel approach makes all the difference.

So, all positives. If I would have to mention something negative, it would be that I was familiar with the majority of the cases being dealt with by the author. This is to be expected, as I deal with cartoonists from around the world on a daily basis, and keep a keen eye on cartoonists getting in trouble. If you are either an internationally oriented cartoonist or a well-informed cartoon aficionado, this book might not hold much secrets for you. That said, I did discover some new cases, and, perhaps more importantly, I did gain new insights along the way. In conclusion, I would recommend this title to anyone with an interest in political satire.

The book is on sale August 31st. More info here.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


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 [email protected]