Great British Cartoonists - Tabloid cartoonist Allin Kempthorne
Although nowdays better known as an actor and magician, in the late 1980's Allin Kempthorne was a cartoonist for some of the UK's best selling newspapers.
Here he tells us how that came about. And why it ended.

"You see these two little goldfish? I drew them back in the 1980's when I was aged 17.

A pet fish with false fangs. It seemed to me a pleasantly daft idea. Whether anyone else would find it funny or not I didn't know. But I hoped they would.

I was sitting in a pub just off Fleet Street in London, which back then was still the beating heart of the UK's newspaper industry. My drawing pad was balanced on my lap as I tried desperately to keep it away from the sticky pub table where I'd been nursing half a pint of cider (all I could afford) for the last two hours.

The pub was called The Cartoonist and was naturally where all the main newspaper cartoonists used to hang out. The walls of the pub were covered in the original artwork of cartoons that had been published in the newspapers who's offices surrounded the place. I'd been visiting that pub a lot as I studied the linework and drawing styles of the cartoons on the walls, mesmerised by the pencil lines and hand written notes that you never got to see in the cartoons printed forms.

I packaged up half a dozen of my own nervous drawings and popped them into the offices of The Sun newspaper, hopefull they might publish one or two of them in their Sun Fun column, their daily collection of single panel "gag" cartoons from a select group of regularly contributing cartoonists.

A week later I received a letter back from the Sun's cartoon editor. And a cheque! they had decided to print my cartoons.

I was thrilled. Being a newpaper cartoonist had always been my childhood dream. And now I was having my work published in The Sun, the biggest selling newspaper in the country.

And so started my career as a tabloid cartoonist. At the age of 18 I became one of The Sun's regular contributing cartoonists. But more than that, being a contributer rather than a staff cartoonist left me free to also draw cartoons for other newspapers and magazines too. For the next five years barely a day went by without a cartoon or two of mine appearing in either The Sun, The Star, The News of the World, The Mirror, The Sunday People, The Sport, or a few magazines that took similar gag cartoons: Chat, Bella and TV Quick magazine.

I also started drawing for children's comics, taking commissions for book and magazine illustrations, having cartoon features in various magazines and developed new cartoon strips I hoped would get syndication. All seemed great. However, my life was beginning to become very insular and nocturnal. I was sitting at the drawing board in my tiny studio into the small hours every night pounding out cartoon after cartoon. My every waking hour was spent trying to come up with funny situations that I could turn into little pictures. I was exhausting myself. My cartoons had a great life. But I didn't.

So I made a decision.
I ran away to join the circus instead.

But that's a whole other story and a completely different chapter in my life.

Here's a few more of the cartoons I was producing at such a frenetic rate for the tabloid newpapers throughout the last half of the 1980's. Times have changed and most of the newspapers don't do these gag cartoon columns anymore. And I'm not surprised as looking at these now they do seem very dated. I mean: a man stranded on a desert island, and a gag about a couple of nudists? But I assure you, 30 years ago back in the 1980's this kind of stuff was considered pretty funny and I'm very proud of what I managed to do at such a young age."

"And here's two of the last cartoons I did, by which time I was fully involved in my classes at circus school, as I think is evident by my choice of subject matter."

"I'm often asked if I'd like to take up cartooning again. And yes, I would. I still have a large portfolio of unpublished work that I developed in those frenzied years and it would be nice to get some of them out there sometime.

However my current lifestyle being on the road all the time as a travelling entertainer is hardly compatable with the demands of being a cartoonist. I'm in showbizz now, and who would ever want to give that up?"

Allin Kempthorne is a magician and actor.
To find out more about him visit his website at

Great British Cartoonists - Tabloid cartoonist Allin Kempthorne

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