Charles Griffin was born in Ruislip, Middlesex, on 20 May 1946, the son of Alec Griffin, a furniture manufacturer's agent. Educated at Berkhamsted School, Hertfordshire, he spent two years at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, where he had some of his first caricatures and cartoons published in the RMA journal, Wishstream, between 1965 and 1968. Griffin failed to graduate, claiming later that he was kicked out after caricaturing the commanding officer.
In 1971, after working as a hotel barman, furniture salesman and personnel manager, Griffin enrolled at Harrow School of Art, and subsequently studied at Corsham School of Art and at Bath Academy of Art from 1971 to 1973, specialising in graphics. He then worked as a designer and paste-up artist on The Villager from 1973 to 1974, and afterwards worked in advertising. In 1976 his first published caricatures appeared in the Chelsea F.C. programme.
In November 1976 Griffin sold his first drawing - a pocket cartoon - to the Daily Mail, and subsequently began freelancing for various publications, including Punch, Daily Mirror, Sunday People, Tennis World (from 1977 to 1981), New Civil Engineer (from 1979 to 1985), Observer (from 1981 to 1983), and The Times (from 1982 to 1983). He also taught art part-time at Camberwell School of Art.
In 1983 Griffin joined the Sunday People full time as Political Cartoonist, and in 1985 took over from Keith Waite at the Daily Mirror, which Robert Maxwell had bought the previous year. As a contemporary noted, Griffin now worked "from Sunday through until Thursday each week in a tiny narrow office opposite the Daily Mirror building in Fetter Lane." He began by roughing out the cartoon in pencil, then, after receiving the editor's approval, consulted his photo files before working up the final version in ink. His drawings were large to accommodate the high level of detail. In November 1989 the words "Fuck Maxwell" appeared in the background of a Griffin cartoon, as graffiti on the Berlin Wall, but he resolutely maintained that someone at the Daily Mirror had doctored his finished artwork.
In 1994 Griffin explained that he produced two or three roughs a day, which he showed to the editor of the Daily Mirror before lunch. The editor would then pick one - not always Griffin's favourite. There were occasions when all the roughs were rejected, but this was usually because the editor was running a heavy news story across pages six and seven of the next day's paper, and either wanted a cartoon on that subject or a less light-hearted cartoon. Griffin knew how to avoid rejection on political grounds - "I wouldn't do anything anti-Labour." In 1994 Griffin won the UK Press Gazette/British Press Awards 'Image of the Year' prize for his work on the Daily Mirror.
In December 1995 Griffin was headhunted by the Daily Express, to take over from Rick Brookes as political cartoonist. He began work in January 1996, and concentrated as much on Royalty as on politics, introducing a style that his predecessor Cummings - still working for the Sunday Express - did not like. "His opinion of social comment cartoonists was that we just drew the worst of society," Griffin recalled: "he once affectionately called me a slob cartoonist." In 1998, when Rosie Boycott became editor of the Daily Express, Griffin left to draw the Saturday cartoon for the Sun, replacing Franklin. In 2000 the Cartoon Art Trust voted him "Caricaturist Of The Year".
Influenced by Carl Giles, Mort Drucker and David Levine, Griffin used to draw on cartridge paper but found that a dip pen scratched the surface, so now uses a smooth coated paper (Excelda). He claims that he thrives "on pompous people coming a cropper."
- Peter Maddocks Caricature and the Cartoonist (Elm Tree Books, London, 1989), "Griffin."
- CSCC Archive, John Harvey "Stiletto in the Ink: British Political Cartoons", c.1994, p.14.
- James Kirkup "Michael Cummings", The Scotsman, 11 October 1997, p.20.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), pp.97-8.
- John Kay “Sun Cartoonists Win The LAFTA Awards”, The Sun, 30 November 2000.
4 uncatalogued originals [CG0001 - 0004]