Category: Illustration

‘Seymour-ish’ – Images from the scrapbook.

A few years ago I purchased a dilapidated sketchbook from Jermy and Westerman bookshop in Nottingham.

It formed the basis of a PhD application in May of this year to Central Saint Martins to be supervised by Professor Roger Sabin the comics expert.

At that point life got in the way and without divulging the exact reasons although the application was successful and was to be self financed I was unable to take up this October.

I deferred the offer until October 2018 and will see how things pan out this year.  I have been officially told twice that I am too old to receive AHRC funding for PhD at 59 yet ironically will still be eligible to take out a loan which says it all about our screwed up education system…..money talks.

Inside the remains of the scrapbook which I cautiously dated as circa 1823 were a range of print techniques and subjects.

Some of the most interesting are shown below and fall into the caricature definition and in three cases show remarkable similarity to some of Seymour’s work. The three images in particular I examining as possibly Seymour’s are below. The third is a definite Pickwickian contender…

To that end I sharing these images with Stephen Jarvis’s Death and Mr. Pickwick page on facebook to see if the author and his connections can give any authority to my suspicions although caricaturists did work in a variety of styles and it possible that this another artist copying Seymour’s sketches.

Finally there a unknown book image and a Hood image from the scrapbook.



Cowboys on The North Circular 1988


God bless Margaret Thatcher’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme. In 1988 I moved out of library work for a while and took Maggie’s Shilling ( or equivalent of the dole as was then) for the dubious title of ‘Self-Employed’ illustrator. Of course the whole thing was a farce. Indeed years later the Tax Office informed me that part of the scam was that my stamp not paid that year but they didn’t tell you at time. It was just an easy way of massaging dole figures downwards for a while.

I set about my task with as much enthusiasm as a dedicated fine artist, musician with time on hands could be and spent most of my time reading about obscure blues men ( see below) and trying to be the next Nick Cave…which came to nought.

I ambled around a few commercial places like Cosmopolitan offices ( power-dressing 1980s remember) where a load of high-heeled vixens fuelled my fantasy life but ignored my pleas for work. Indeed they thought I something from stone age in my dungarees…yes dungarees..paint-splattered fro added authenticity. I looked like fucked up refugee from the Fun Boy Three.

What I produced to keep the inspectors of the E.A. happy was a set of cartoons/illustrations which 30 years later I still proud of if only because they so bonkers…

Base on my Uncle Brian’s very minor country-singer career and my weird David Lynch like obsession with backwoods Oxfordshire (Berkshire really) I produced these dumb arse images….

Looking back I should have produced total mad Crumb like sexual fixation nonsense and probably would have been a young cult and be more famous than Alan Moore now but with less Lesbian partners:-)

So here you are the artist image above is an accurate reflection of my state of mind and body in 1988….

Then came the great storm and then the crash…

Here the full set. (minus one architect image which my friend Donald acquired at the time)

My Secret Comic Past


My reading of comics started in early 1960s. My country Grandfather was not schooled and therefore had problems reading. He used to get copies of Victor magazine from the farm he worked for and I used to read them too….so started a lifelong love of war stories and films and football (both covered in The Victor).

I then progressed to Commando Magazines which I consumed avidly.

Finally my mother in an attempt to ‘educate me’ started buying me ‘Tell Me Why’ weekly which I loved. In fact most of my art historical knowledge started in there…I remember learning about Vincent Van Gogh and Picasso there!





I now find out that some serious comic artists were involved in all this ‘kids stuff’..


Alf Tupper was drawn by Peter Sutherland:


His creation has his own website: http://www.toughofthetrack.net/index2.htm

And Tell Me Why employed the Italian artist


I quote:

Some of the content of Tell Me Why was presented in picture strip form, and illustrated by some artists that readers would be familiar with. One such talent was Italian artist Ruggero Giovannini, known for his work in the early 1960s on Olac the Gladiator for Tiger comic.

Fascinating to find this out nearly 50 years later!

Johnny Newcome Part 2.

The same sequence I had earlier discovered via Saville’s excellent caricature website has been discovered by Doug Wheeler at Superitch too. Here he concentrates on the racist message being conveyed but again it the sequential panelling I focussed on.

Original article here: http://superitch.com/?p=43407

I have changed contrast on images in an attempt to clarify the text. I also have larger jpeg versions now so can work out the narrative.

The narrative is sequential in that Johnny takes part in a logical progression of activities culminating in his marriage to the plantation owner’s beautiful daughter after a variety of idle and lascivious ‘adventures’. There are no linking actions in a filmic sense but then as this 1812 the whole idea of photography and cinema did not exist the nearest would have been sequences in magic lanterns which tended to be (like Hogarth) separate entities.

What significant here is the panels being displayed as a sequence in one frame. This something I will look at in more detail  in the paper. If one compares to popular broadside imagery and text then it is a step forward. It is also close to Hone and Cruikshank’s ‘The Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder’ toy of 1819 for a full pamphlet of 1820 (Source: p.70 James, L. (1976) English Popular Literature 1819-1851. (see below) for more detail see The Print Shop Window Archive including original photos of Hone’s ‘toy’.
here : http://printshopwindow.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/george-cruikshank-william-hone-queens.html


JohnnyNewcome1812WilliamElmesPlate1small JohnnyNewcome1812WilliamElmesPlate2small



1830: the Swing Riots..turbulent times and Seymour.



Source: http://superitch.com/images/2012/10/LookingGlass18301201pg1.jpg



Accessed: 04.02.2014.

I am indebted to Superitch which has proved to be an excellent stateside resource which challenges most of the prevailing Stateside views of comic history.

These sequential panels by Seymour are especially interesting in relation to the pre Dickens/Victoria mid 1830s. In it Seymour depicts the unrest which affected London and the wider country,  including here in  Nottingham in 1831 post Reform Bill.

Again the question of a ‘continuing character’ seems not to apply and the titling does not seem to cohere into a complete sequential narrative but it damn close …As for Seymour’s radical politics they seem proven here and it interesting that just six years later the ‘radical’ Seymour was dead and the ‘Liberal’ Dickens was set to thrive as the conscience of a rising literate bourgeoisie fuelled by cheap labour, imports and new technology…..sound familiar?

Daumier would have understood completely…

This is an undercurrent I shall return to.



Panel 2 captions are fascinating in light of what about to occur in terms of expansion of the railway….the means whereby Dickens and Pickwick papers began its technological dissemination and promoted his ‘fame.

Large central figure, speaking to his dog: “What the Devil is the matter with us? Can you tell Trusty?”

Dog: “No my good Master John. You like myself Seem to be getting worse and worse. I have a chance of a chance should the Steam Carriage come into vogue, But I see nothing for you except you can descend to live as I do.”


Searching for the sequential…..

One of the things that fascinating me at this point is where and when the notion of a ‘comic strip’. i.e. a discernible sequential narrative arose. Reading classic comic histories there are a lot of different opinions but none seem to go back beyond Punch and as in Roger Sabin,  Scott McCloud and the more recent book by Jared Gardner there different views depending on position i.e. USA,  Europe etc.

There also the arguments over when the ‘central CONTINUING character’ present’ a quote from Roger Sabin.

He cites Ally Sloper 1884 however I have already found some work by both Seymour (The Heiress 1830) and William Elmes (published 1812) that seem to challenge these dates and notions.

The Elmes pictured below has a identifiable protagonist even if the material is highly racist in ‘The Adventures of Johnny Newcome’. There are also several freestanding ‘panels’ attributed to him that may or may not have been cut from a larger canvas or may have been intended like Rakes Progress to be ‘one-offs’ in sequence. I am still looking for the answers to that.


LARGEELMES Source: http://www.art.co.uk/products/p22111912598-sa-i7618904/william-elmes-the-adventures-of-johnny-newcome-published-1812.htm?

McCloud states on page 17 of ‘Understanding Comics’ (1993) an otherwise excellent drawn examination of the field that Topffer ..

‘featured the first interdependent combination of words and pictures seen in Europe’.

I would say that wrong in light of image above although exactly what he means by interdependent could be argued if the commentary is verbalised speech as opposed to ‘titling’. Again an area to be further explored.

Our ever valid and controversial wikipedia commentator states…in line with most commentaries that Topffer should be considered the originator but as in the illustration below I see no difference between this and Elmes….

Was it possible that continental practitioners were influenced by post Hogarth sequences is part of my investigation. I have also found some curious confluences between French and British images…..

The Swiss teacher, author and caricature artist Rodolphe Töpffer (Geneva, 1799–1846) is considered the father of the modern comic strips. His illustrated stories such as Histoire de M. Vieux Bois (1827), first published in the USA in 1842 as The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck or Histoire de Monsieur Jabot (1831), inspired subsequent generations of German and American comic artists. In 1865, the Germanpainter, author and caricaturist Wilhelm Busch created the strip Max and Moritz, about two trouble-making boys, which had a direct influence on the American comic strip. Max and Moritz was a series of severely moralistic tales in the vein of German children’s stories such as Struwwelpeter (“Shockheaded Peter”); in one, the boys, after perpetrating some mischief, are tossed into a sack of grain, run through a mill and consumed by a flock of geese. Max and Moritz provided an inspiration for German immigrant Rudolph Dirks, who created the Katzenjammer Kids in 1897. Familiar comic-strip iconography such as stars for pain, sawing logs for snoring, speech balloons, and thought balloons originated in Dirks’ strip.[5]

Source: Wikipedia Accessed 25.02.2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comic_strip



Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Toepffer_Cryptogame_13.png

Paris Conference


This is the official website for the conference which handily is blocked from within Nottingham Trent University 🙂


Literature search



here it is ..at least so far…all the material I have been collecting over the last six months in analogue format 🙂


Collected Dickens


This is the prompt for the whole Robert Seymour paper. Purchased in my hometown of Didcot many years ago from a second-hand shop it is a complete Caxton edition of Dickens novels,.

It is from this that I took the idea of looking more closely at the Dickens illustrators in relation to sequential narrative.




Illustration and Narrative Construction Conference: Paris 2014



Illustration and Narrative Construction
Illustration by James Abbott Pasquier for the September 1872 issue of Thomas Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes in Tinsley’s Magazine.
(Image scanned by Philip V. Allingham)


International conference
Université Paris-Diderot, 28 et 29 March 2014
Call for Papers
            At a time of growing academic interest for the adaptation of fictional narratives across a range of different contemporary media (film, TV series, comic books, graphic novels), we would like to engage with illustration as the earliest form of visual adaptation of novelistic works.
            The general aim of this conference is to explore illustration in its specifically narrative dimension. The notion of narrative construction provides an interesting paradigm to analyse the relationship between text and image within illustrated works of fiction. Though each illustration may be said to have a narrative potential of its own which is revealed by the eye perusing it, it is the sequential dimension of narrative which will be our particular focus here.
The object of the conference is to examine how a series of images accompanying a narrative does not simply illustrate separate moments singled out from the text but forms a visual narrative through its dynamic relationship with the text. We shall thus study the different processes at stake and the ways in which images, in their three-fold articulation to the work as a whole—namely to the passage which they illustrate, to what precedes and follows in the narrative, and to the sequence of interlinked images—suggest a reading of a text and open up one of its narrative possibilities.
            The conference will focus on European novels from the early modern period to the present.
            Possible topics include:
–        The different illustrated editions of a text, targeting various readerships (bibliophiles, young people, etc.) and the type of visual narrative constructed to address each reading public
–        Diachronic analyses of the illustrated versions of a single text and of the transformations of narrative over time
–        Illustration as counterpoint to the text, constructing a parallel narrative, sometimes even contradicting the text
–        Serialized novels and the specific narrative dynamic put into play by serialization
–     The special cases of graphic novels and comic books adapted from works of fiction and the redefinition of the narrative dynamic brought about by these media

‘The Dying Clown’ paper accepted for Paris March 2014

Robert Seymour and the strange case of the Pickwick Papers as a precursor of the ‘Narrative sequential image’ in the Victorian Illustrated Press and beyond.

Proposal for Paris conference on narrative and image. march 2014. Accepted.

The Dying Clown: by Shaun Belcher

Alexander Mann’s Gnats – Proposal

All my abstracts and papers in the ART RESEARCH: Film, illustration and transmedia category can be found here on ScribD.



Beyond Film Proposal by Shaun Belcher

© 2018 WORD & IMAGE

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑