A small thing maybe, but I've been sent into the weekend in quite a paranoid state of mind having received a Friday afternoon email from a school I visited recently. It's a school I've visited a number of times over the years, doing my Comic Art Masterclasses, as part of which every child has their caricature drawn. The caricatures, which take a minute each, are probably the most popular and sought-after part of the class, with many teachers also clamouring to be drawn, and my work being exhibited and displayed on walls and school reports in my wake.
So my heart sank when I read, from a school which I won't name, the following.
We wanted to share and highlight some recent feedback from a parent in relation to the Caricatures drawn. As you are aware they tend to highlight and draw out certain features of a person and we have been made aware this has created insecurities this time around for some of the children recently drawn.
We are very much looking forward to your return next year at (the school) but feel it would be best if we do not do the Caricatures in class next time to avoid this happening again, I hope you understand our reasons for requesting this.
Not do the caricatures? Because of something said, by the sound of it, by one parent of one pupil who, by next year, won't even be at the school? They're seriously asking that, after nearly ten years of making an annual two day visit to the same school, over which time I've drawn about 900 childrens' caricatures, they should deny next year's Year 6s (the current Year 5s) the chance to take away this treasured item, that their brothers and sisters already have, all because of a parent of a kid who isn't even there any more?
You won't be surprised that my blood's boiling at the moment. And my mood hasn't been helped been the words of consolation from the Head who, when I protested, let me know that:
I was simply responding to a concerned parent who shared a social media thread with me. On it there were a number of posts from parents, past and present, who had commented on your visit. Although they thought what you did was fantastic, a number of them claimed that their children were made to feel self-conscious of features that had been exaggerated for the purpose of the caricatures.
"Social media thread"???? There are parents, more than one, talking about me and my caricatures behind my back? Where? What are they saying? This is horrifying.
I am looking forward to a paranoid weekend, scouring Twitter and Facebook trying to find who's bad-mouthing me, and the dreadful things they're saying about me. I am really worried that people could be saying untruths about my caricatures and that this could affect me work at other schools.
For over a decade I've been spending about 100 days a year teaching about 60 kids a day, and drawing all their faces. That's 60,000 faces drawn without a single complaint. Now some parents from one school have got me paranoid that there's something wrong with my work, and a school is threatening to not let me do that part of my class. I guess I just won't be returning to that school again. But, god, I seriously hope this isn't something that's going to spread.
Look at the pictures above. Those are the kids I drew at that school when I visited. Who could have a complaint about those pictures?
Yours, a paranoid artist.
Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for de