Renowned cartoonist drawn to Second City New exhibition reveals work of talented artist
ANEW city centre art gallery has opened beneath the listed canopy of Birmingham’s famous Grand Hotel.
The Barwick Suite is now part of Primitivo Bar & Eatery in a room which can be closed off for private events.
Gerv Havill and Dave Travis have moved their Havill & Travis gallery from its temporary home in Harborne to the suite.
And their first major exhibition features the works of renowned Birmingham cartoonist Hunt Emerson which runs until early February.
Though born in Newcastle in 1952, Hunt has lived in Handsworth since he arrived in Birmingham as a 21-year-old fine art student.
“I came to paint, but dropped out after I found out I wasn’t a painter,” says Hunt who has been working for the Fortean Times since 1974.
His internationally recognised work has graced numerous publication, not least the children’s comic The Beano.
Hunt shares a ‘rambling old house’ with his ‘dear partner’ Jane. He runs a T’ai Chi class, plays guitar and sings in a rock and blues band called The Hound Dogs but it’s thanks to the legendary early 1970s Birmingham Arts Lab that he became established and found himself wedded to the city.
“I don’t like moving a lot and love the city and its multiculturalism,” he says.
Like friend and renowned photographer Vanley Burke, Hunt says he is well known in his local area, where the magic of being able to draw also cuts through all language barriers.
Hunt says: “I go into schools and you find in class there will be a couple of children who can really draw and a couple who just haven’t a clue and I feel sorry for them.
“If a child is going to draw professionally, nothing will stop him.
“If he doesn’t want to, he will stop by himself usually between the ages of nine and 11.
“If I go into schools I draw Denis the Menace even though I don’t draw him for the Beano because everybody knows him.
“There are always a couple of kids who are really good at copying him. But being original is another matter.
“If you then ask a child to draw something they will either draw robots or aliens, so I say to them anything but robots and aliens.
“I prefer writing my own stories – when I do that I know what the pictures will look like.”
Hunt says the hard bit is drawing the outlines, which is why he prefers black and white.
“Colouring could actually be done by someone else,” he says.
“Drawing is the creative process. I like the purity of black and white, but it takes a long time to do.
“I always think any art benefits from having something missing, so I love silent films – you have to imagine something more.
“With black and white, the colour is missing.
“With a comic strip, the dialogue helps the characters to move and people can take that at their own pace, they can go back to something and that’s really important with the way I work.”
Were Hunt a teenager today he admits he would be more into computers and games.
“I presume even with a CGI movie, it still needs an artist’s hand behind it and someone with an ability to organise a page, even if it’s on a computer screen.
“But they take so long to do I couldn’t be bothered with animation.
“When I saw underground comics, that’s when I realised what I could do.
“Prior to that I never thought I could make a living from drawing.
“I came to Birmingham to do a painting course, but should have done graphic art instead. “I was not a painter! “I always wanted to do funny stuff and I liked writing stories.”
Would today’s younger generation learn more from a collaborative group like the Arts Lab than they could in the ever-expanding and increasingly expensive world of university education?
Hunt says: “University today is more about politics than it is to do with art and it’s not about the future of the kids.
“So many graduates end up as baristas.
“Their education doesn’t really do much for their future at all these days.”
The one area of cartoon art that Hunt is not interested in is the superhero genre, which has spawned a score of Marvel movies.
In that sense, no tears were shed for the passing of the late Stan Lee, who died on November 12 aged 95.
“Stan took a lot of credit from the work of Jack Kirby and was a great self-publicist,” says Hunt.
I always think any art benefits from having something missing, so I love silent films Hunt Emerson
> Hunt Emerson has drawn cartoons in Birmingham since 1974