Cartooning: A simple but the most challenging form of Communication
Updated: Dec 09, 2020 8:35 AM
The on-going pandemic is almost like a mirror, showing us different aspects of humanity and human nature
Communication acquired many hues. Many wrote about it, many painted and many others used audio-visual to narrate a story and communicate
By Rajiv Banerjee
Growing up, the first newspaper that entered our household was ‘Daily’. My interest in the newspaper was the pocket cartoon column by the late Mario Miranda. I used to look at the cartoons, read the punch line and wonder; a simple drawing communicates such a powerful message, so wonderfully put across. Later on, the household moved from ‘Daily’ to ‘Times of India’, my first port of call in the paper every morning was the work by the late R K Laxman. Vacations were spent sketching, drawing and doodling. In fact, the habit of doodling on any available blank paper has stayed with me, from school to college and well into my professional life.
Today, I am a self-taught amateur cartoonist, influenced by the pantheons of cartooning in India; Mario Miranda, R K Laxman and Ajit Ninan. I unabashedly say I copy all of them for their body of work continues to be my inspiration.
I believe, cartooning is the simplest yet the most challenging form of communication. A blank sheet of paper that comes to life to tell a story. A story that comprises a few lines of drawing and ever fewer words to narrate the action. That’s what every communicator worth his/her salt aspires to do, the ability to succinctly put forth their thought.
The pandemic, the lockdown and subsequent work from home provided me with the opportunity to fine-tune my cartooning and doodling during weekends. As reams and reams began to be written, it gave me the necessary fodder to visualize different scenarios that emerged during the lockdown and sketch them. There was certainly no dearth of topics. Some humorous, some downright heart-wrenching. Life during the lockdown was not just black and white, but grey as well. We learnt to stand in a queue, although I doubt if this social etiquette of forming a line will ever get ingrained in us. There were fights in front of liquor shops, as the thirsty piled onto each to acquire their favourite tipple. Never mind Covid19.
There were extremes, people becoming foodies and piling on kilos, while some became diet conscious and health freaks, others have a beer belly to boast about. Cartooning also gives you the license to be imaginative. For example, during the lockdown, with haircutting saloons shut, I visualized the ‘hairy’ state of affairs for many of us and created a cartoon. And there was an unfortunate untimely demise and there were birthdays and anniversaries of personalities to celebrate, which allowed me to venture into doing caricatures of personalities, though I must admit, I still have a long way to go. The work from home scenario and the peak months of the lockdown, particularly provided excellent topics to communicate in the form of cartoons.
Drawing the first line on a blank paper is the most challenging. Sometimes, for days, an idea buzzes inside your head, but you are not able to visualize it. How do you portray the situation? What is that one line or a few words that explain what you want to communicate? I can imagine the effort invested by the cartooning greats to put out a fresh piece of work day after day without fail. Not an easy task, by any stretch of the imagination. However, once the drawing and the words acquire a shape and form in the mind, then it becomes easy to put the black paper on paper and sketch.
In my early days of cartooning, the work was random. But as one went through the rigour, I realized drawing keeping in mind relatability is very important. Laxman’s ‘Common Man’ struck a chord because we could see and relate to the pocket cartoon. That’s an important lesson for anyone, be it an individual or a brand, looking to communicate with his/her target audience.
The on-going pandemic is almost like a mirror, showing us different aspects of humanity and human nature. Some good, some bad. Weekend after weekend, I observed the situation as we all coped with the pandemic, the series of lockdowns and the subsequent unlocking. Communication acquired many hues. Many wrote about it, many painted and many others used audio-visual to narrate a story and communicate. I continue to draw a few lines, using a black pen on a white paper and sprinkle some words on it.
I call my style as imperfect; just like life. Trying to communicate through my cartoons comes from the passion to draw from heart. And the belief is that any communication coming from the heart will always strike a chord.
Rajiv Banerjee is a senior communication professional with a leading financial brand in India. He is a former journalist and also an amateur cartoonist. Views expressed here are personal.