Born in Brighton, Paul grew up in Lewes and has lived in the town for the past 46 years.
His sense of humour and quirky take on life have always been an essential part of him and in fact the roots of his career as a highly-successful freelance cartoonist date back to his schooldays.
“I’ve been drawing cartoons for as long as I can remember,” he recalls. “Most of the masters at the school I went to were ex-soldiers who had served in the Second World War so the school was a bit like a boot camp.
“I suppose my cartoons all began as a way of maintaining some kind of control of my life in an environment where we didn’t have much control at all. I started drawing caricatures of some of the teachers but when I was discovered, it got me into a lot of trouble.”
Undeterred, Paul continued to put pen to paper, drawing out the humour in everyday situations as a hobby after he started work in 1973 with the Art Advisory Service. There he encountered the famous cartoonist Peter Probyn, an eccentric and charismatic character, who proved a great inspiration and from the 1970s onwards, Paul had his work published in several daily newspapers and a number of magazines, including Punch and The Oldie. He also drew a comic strip in a professional magazine.
“I think I developed a kind of gallows humour which was just what the Guardian and other newspapers liked at the time,” he says.
A highlight of his career came in 2011 when his cartoons began to appear regularly in the satirical magazine Private Eye, the ultimate ‘showcase’ for cartoonists in Britain. He continues to be regularly published in Private Eye and his work has also appeared in the magazine’s end-of-year annuals.
It was not until recent years, however, that Paul was able to focus entirely on his cartooning. After 20 years with the Art Advisory Service, he qualified as a social worker and trained as a counsellor, primarily involved in child protection and regularly representing children in family courts.
His cartoons continued to be largely a hobby, in many ways a relief from what was often a stressful and challenging workload, but in 2017 he decided to take a giant leap of faith and make it his full-time career.
“Having always worked in social care, which involves a lot of pressure, I had reached the stage in my life where I wasn’t enjoying it any more,” he explains. “In fact I was starting to dislike it.
“Drawing cartoons is the one thing I enjoy more than anything else but until then I’d lacked the courage to go full-time. It was a big step to take as the market for cartoons has shrunk since the 1970s and ‘80s when they really were in demand. I took a big chance, but quality of life is more important.
“In fact, I wish I had done it earlier. But I couldn’t have done it without the support of my partner, Rosie and it has gone so well that it has actually exceeded my expectations.
“So by no means is the market now what it used to be, but I still felt that the time was right for me to do it full-time. I now appear regularly in Private Eye, The Oldie and The Spectator.
“I’m glad my cartoons work very well in Private Eye, because satire has always been a big part of that magazine. There couldn’t be a better place for a cartoonist’s work to appear. I think Ian Hislop, like his predecessor, really enjoys cartoon art. When I first met him, I had to really pluck up my courage to speak to him but he was very encouraging.
“But for a freelance cartoonist to survive commercially, you have to develop other elements. I’ve just signed a contract with a card company to produce cartoon cards, and I also get commissions.
“Once published, a cartoon is redundant. It’s returned to me and I can sell it as long it isn’t republished anywhere. People who read Private Eye will email me saying they want to buy an original so there is a market for me in that. Cartoons are a disposable art, but some people do collect them.
“If a cartoon has been very popular then I can do redraws of it, nicely done in ink on cartridge paper.”
With his background in social care, it isn’t surprising that Paul has a strong social conscience that he often combines with humour in his drawings.
“I don’t do political – that is a specialism in its own right, though of course recently I have done one or two Brexit gags. But I stay away from the political arena and like to focus on people going about their day-to-day lives.
“Inspiration can come in all kinds of different ways, often sparked off by something I hear from people in the street, in a cafe or a pub. There’s a lot of material out there, just waiting to be drawn.
“Basically, I’m a gagsmith and my cartoons come from ideas that make me laugh – in some ways it’s like being a stand-up comedian without having the courage to stand up in front of an audience.
“Ideas can crop up anywhere, in the bath, when out driving, so I always have a pencil and notebook with me to jot them down. I often pull into a layby to make a note of something as otherwise that idea could vanish.
“Occasionally, once I start drawing an idea, I realise I don’t think it’s funny any more. It has to be very immediate and the reaction from someone could be a laugh or a frown. I often leave a drawing lying around so that Rosie will see it and then I watch to see if she laughs – that’s a very good barometer.
“A cartoon can be a way of highlighting things that are going on in the world. I like picking on pomposity or the ridiculous. I’ve done some on cosmetic surgery, funny of course, but also reflecting on the pressure on people to look a certain way.
“Cartoons have been around for centuries, frequently used to satrise leading political or religious figures. It’s a very simple art form but can be a very powerful image and I hope that in a small way I can contribute to that. Cartooning can get rid of angst when the world around you is going slightly mad – it’s a cathartic way of getting views across.
“It’s great to make people laugh, but also to make them think – that’s the best you can hope for. Some of mine can be totally surreal, but you have to develop a thick skin if they aren’t getting the reaction you hope for. You can never rest on your laurels.”
Although Paul is not a Luddite, he shuns technology when it comes to his cartoons as he doesn’t want to spend his time sitting at a computer and prefers the hand-drawn quality of his drawings. Everything is done on cartridge paper using pen and ink, with grey washes.
“There’s a directness about doing it that way and I like the feel of ink on paper,” he says.
“I think the big thing for me is that there’s nothing better than getting up in the morning and drawing cartoons for a living.
“And I do like to rattle sensibilities. Of course some of the inspiration comes from people I see around Lewes and I do wonder if some of them recognise themselves in one of my cartoons.”