4.4 World affairs

The purpose of this exercise was to create a satirical illustration based on a current news event.

Key words from the brief:

  • Working with a contemporary news event, create an illustration that comments on it from a satirical perspective.
  • How do you connect your image to your chosen event?
  • Think about how you use symbolism and metaphor in the image
  • Use caricature
  • Test out your illustrations on somebody else

The news event

I had to wait for a couple of weeks before a news event happened that inspired me.

At the time of writing Boris Johnson is a couple of months into is premiership after winning a huge majority in the 2019 General Election. One of the key people behind his success is special advisor Dominic Cummings, who many commentators believe is pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

Last week was the first ‘minor’ cabinet reshuffle. The big surprise was that Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, resigned after he was given the a fete accompli – you can stay on but you need to sack all of your special advisors and accept people appointed by Number 10.

Hi refused and resigned.

The subtext to this seems to be the desire by Dominic Cummings to get closer control and alignment between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor. Cynics may say it is so that Boris Johnson’s spending plans meet less resistance.

The satirical illustration

The idea

I had in mind the idea to represent Boris Johnson as a puppet of some kind with Cummings in the background pulling the strings. The thing that really sealed it was thinking of the caption ‘Cummings and goings’ which adds humour, double meaning and context to the image.

I thumbnailed the idea and thought it would work.


Visual style

Unlike the clean and polished visual style that I used in 4.3 Caricature & character, I wanted to give the illustration more energy so chose to do the line art using a bamboo dip pen, which forced me to work in a much looser more expressive fashion.

Additionally I wanted to create a dynamic and atmospheric background in keeping with the characters.


I created the line art of the characters and background in black and white and then composited the image together in Photoshop.

First draft of the image

I tested the initial image on a number of people.

  • Most people got there in the end, but didn’t get the meaning immediately.
  • They all understood the Boris Johnson caricature, but had to guess at Dominic Cummings.
  • The severed Sajid Javid head reference was not obvious. Someone thought it was a mask but laughed when they ‘got it’ and said it was a bit brutal.
  • I had to explain that Boris is a puppet – this is key to the reading of the image.
  • The ZZZZZZs were misinterpreted as sleep ZZZZs and not a chainsaw sound effect.

Based on this feedback, I reworked the image to make it clearer that Boris is a puppet and Cummings is the puppet-master.

I also removed the ZZZZZZ sound effect.

Version 2 of the image with amendments following testing


What went well

  • I think the caption works well; the word play is satirical in it’s own right.
  • I’m glad I tested in on a couple of people. I think the changes that were made as a consequence were important in improving the reading of the image.
  • I quite like the lose visual style and energy in the image.

What I’d do differently/better

  • I would spend more time on developing the caricatures.





%d bloggers like this: