Renowned car­toon­ist drawn to Sec­ond City New ex­hi­bi­tion re­veals work of tal­ented artist

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Gra­ham Young Fea­tures Staff

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

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