Tom Gauld's Deceptively Simple Comics Hold A Mirror To Human Hypocrisies

Politics, classic literature — nothing is safe.

For all those people out there seeking an artist who’s able to poke fun at classic literature, narrative structure and human foibles in six panels or fewer, meet Tom Gauld.

You might be familiar with him already, as his work regularly appears in The Guardian. His distinctive, simplified drawing style is both specific and accessible enough to be quickly digested and shared; by stripping a feeling or observation down to its barest elements, Gauld is able to speak volumes about modern politics, book culture and more. His comics are quippy, slightly sardonic takes that go down easy because they’re so darn cute — but will make you think long after you’ve left them.

Literature nerds will identify with his newest collection, Baking with Kafka. In it are comics that lament the many ways readers lose their books (dropped in the bath, mauled by a baby, etc.) and offer ideas for murder weapons for modern mystery writers (“organic, locally-sourced cyanide”). He suggests keyboard shortcuts for novelists and over-specific bookstore categories (“thrillers by bearded writers under 5′6″”). It’s not just books he tackles — Gauld also turns a wry eye onto politicians, angry mobs, capitalism and conspiracy theorists, to name a few.

Gauld shared his inspiration behind five comics from the collection with HuffPost. Of the above, Gauld writes that many guess that its about Donald Trump, but the cartoonist says that isn’t the case.

“Trump is certainly a thin-skinned orange nitwit, but I can’t imagine him voluntarily going to an art gallery,” Gauld said.

Read below to learn a bit about the inspiration behind his deceptively simple strips.

This cartoon is about a particularly British love of petitions and dislike of “getting carried away.” Sometimes it can be tricky squeezing a story like this into such a small space, but in this case, I like that the people had to be so small, which I think makes them more sympathetic. I feel sorry for the revolutionary man, but in real life I’d probably be one of the other people.

I drew this around the time of the Scottish independence referendum, when there was a lot of discussion about nations and borders.

I tried to make the cartoon about the idea of nationalism and the silly myths that grow around it, rather than getting into specific political details. But that didn’t stop angry people on the internet telling me that I was saying that ISIS and the United States were exactly the same.

I can’t remember which of the recent spate of U.K. elections and referendums inspired this cartoon, but in all of them it felt as if many politicians were using words in very misleading ways. This one is probably the most like a traditional, satirical political cartoon, and I think that’s because I was genuinely annoyed.

I wrote a longer dialogue between the two characters in my notebook, but in the end decided to trim it down to a single exchange.

When I’m trying to come up with ideas for cartoons, I often make lists of words and ideas in my notebooks. I mix up sensible things with absurd things and, in a cartoon like this, edit them down so they play off each other in an interesting way. Then I can use the drawings to heighten the absurdity or expand on the idea.

I drew this in January 2015 and was thinking about the way in which some people are all for free speech until somebody makes fun of the them or their beliefs. I had fun coming up with a set of mildly rude insults. The cartoon re-emerged online recently and a lot of people assumed it was written about Donald Trump. Trump is certainly a thin-skinned orange nitwit, but I can’t imagine him voluntarily going to an art gallery.

Baking with Kafka is available now.



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