Jonathan Pugh was born in Worcester on 17 February 1962, the son of John Mervyn Cullwick Pugh, a Bromsgrove solicitor. Educated at Whitford Hall in Bromsgrove, the Dragon School in Oxford, and Downside near Bath, Pugh wanted to be a cartoonist from the age of five, recalling that "I was always doodling as a boy. Drawing was a lovely escape -- something I could do that neither my friends or parents could do." His first published cartoon appeared in the Bromsgrove Messenger in 1976, just before his fourteenth birthday, illustrating an article by his father.
Pugh studied law at Oxford Polytechnic, but later confessed that he "spent most of my time gazing out of the window and doodling." Self-taught as an artist, he spent two years after graduation teaching art and games at a prep school, while trying to get his cartoons published. He finally got his first cartooning job on Bus Business, a coach industry magazine that paid him £18 a week.
As Pugh later recalled, "I got into newspapers by sending samples of my work to various art editors": "One called back and said he would like to use my work at some stage, and several months later he did." In 1995 Pugh began drawing The Times' Diary cartoon, and in the following year he became the paper's front-page Pocket Cartoonist. In 1997 he also became The Times Business Cartoonist. He feels at home with the small format of the pocket cartoon, and admits that "anything much bigger and I'm drowning at sea."
As Pugh explained in 2001, of his work for The Times, "it's invariably a front page story which defines what I'm going to work on that afternoon": "It's generally The Times deputy editor who decides on the cartoon, but I do give them a choice of seven or eight ideas. I'll do rough drawings (which will be barely legible, but he's used to my rough scribblings) with a caption underneath, which will give him an idea of what the cartoon might look like...I have a deadline of about four hours and it can take between 10 minutes and four hours. The time-consuming bit is generally getting the caption right. The drawing I can get done quite quickly - in about half an hour generally, unless I keep making mistakes and have to do it again and again."
Pugh immerses himself in news when thinking up his cartoons - the BBC's Today Programme, television news, newspapers, and online updates. But like Carl Giles, whose work he has always admired, Pugh draws the impact of events on ordinary people, not the events themselves. "My cartoons have always been about everyday life," he observes: "I was once asked to produce a daily cartoon on Iraq, but death and bombs aren't funny, so I focused on life's irritations - all that sand, machines not working and equipment shortages." He admits that his characters "tend to come out looking a bit lumpy and slumped and jowly and battered by life's events, but that's how most of us are."
In January 2010 Pugh became pocket cartoonist for the Daily Mail, and his work has also appeared in Punch, Spectator, Private Eye and the Tablet. His advertising clients include Visa and Barclaycard. At The Times Pugh was four times voted Cartoon Art Trust Pocket Cartoonist of the Year - in 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2007 - and he won the award again in 2010. In 2001 he was Cartoonist of the Year at the British Press Awards. Influenced by Sempe, Quentin Blake and Carl Giles, he works mostly in pen and ink on paper.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), p.178.
- Times Online, 3 December 2001 - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,989-146012,00.html
- Pete Lammas “Meet a master of morning mirth”, Bromsgrove Advertiser, 18 December 2007.
- Jane Fryer “The Man Who'll Make You Laugh Every Day”, Daily Mail, 8 January 2010, p.15.
- Jonathan Pugh's website at www.pughcartoons.co.uk
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