Monday, January 5, 2015

Cartoonist Robert leads a very colourful life

Piccadilly Circus by Robert Duncan, and below, Rob himself and an example of his world famous Not Particularly Orange range
Piccadilly Circus by Robert Duncan, and below, Rob himself and an example of his world famous Not Particularly Orange range
In a small garden studio in Long Crendon, a world-famous cartoonist spends his days sketching witty drawings for household names.
Robert Duncan has been drawing since he was old enough to hold a pen and had his first cartoon published in the school magazine at the age of eight.
Robert lives in the centre of the village with wife Cathy, in her 40s, their son Jamie, six, and his half-brother Sam.
The 71-year-old said: “I was absolutely hopeless at sport and sketching has been the only thing I was ever really any good at. It’s always been all about cartoons.”

Robert – who is father to TV cook and broadcaster Lotte Duncan – has produced more than 3,000 greeting card designs, but his most famous work has to be his instantly-recognisable Not Particularly Orange range – so named because the bright citrus hue was never used much in his sketches.
One look at his extensive CV tells you that many of his clients are household names – everyone from the BBC, Kodak and Benson & Hedges to American Express, Thomson Holidays and Abbey National.
He sketches his cartoons the old school way –on paper – with a £2 black pen before transferring them onto his state-of-the-art Wacom tablet, where he plays with colour to his heart’s content.
When asked where he gets the inspiration for his witty designs, Robert said: “They just come to me, It’s the way I think and that’s all there is to it.”
The beauty of Robert’s designs is their simplicity, but his most detailed work that he was ever commissioned to do is a sketch of London’s famous Piccadilly Circus – complete with gigantic advertising boards.
He said: “The owners of the advertising boards framed the prints and sent one each to the managing directors of Coca Cola, Samsung and TDK etc as a limited edition. It took me a day, a day and a half to create.”
Educated at the Harrow School of Art under the ‘Godfather’ of British pop art Sir Peter Blake during the late 50s, Robert started the swinging 60s with two years of solo study, writing and animation, which he says ‘drove his parents mad’.
In 1964, he formed a London-based deisgn group Studio Designs and became the capital’s trendiest display designer, rubbing shoulders with inventor of the mini skirt, Mary Quant.
In 1966, he set up advertising agency Byron Advertising and when he left to go solo 14 years later, it employed more than 70 people.
As well as straight up cartoons, Robert lends his talent to speed-drawing, where he writes a script for his client before he is filmed sketching along in time to the voiceover, which he says is ‘far more captivating than a mugshot of someone droning on!’
Perhaps the most notable example of this is the award-winning four minute speed sketch film of Edward Lear’s The Jumblies, which scooped the IAC Film and Video Institute Diamond and Best Animation Award 2013, as well as the Colorado Film Festival Best Animation award in the same year.

But Robert, who has lived in Long Crendon for more than 15 years, is not just famous for his animation skills. He can write, too!
His comedy play Cluedo – which he wrote in 1985 – holds the all-time box office record at the Theatre Royal Windsor and his book A Rum Do – a ‘bestseller in Barbados’ – tells the tale of married couple Bob and Cleo during their adventure on the tropical isle.

Given this, some may think this cartoon maestro would be happiest with a pen in his hand, but he said: “No, I am at my happiest when I’m with my gorgeous wife and my darling boy.”
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