IF there is one person who never fails to find something to laugh about in Edinburgh, it’s Frank Boyle. The Evening News cartoonist, who is about to launch his third book, admits he is spoiled for choice when it comes to lampooning the Capital’s great and good – with the city’s councillors his favourite subject matter.
The 59-year-old, who has been drawing for the paper for more than 11 years with his candid mix of comment and humour – which has twice seen him named Scottish cartoonist of the year at the national press awards – says that the unlikely political bedfellows of Jenny Dawe and Steve Cardownie give him plenty of inspiration, as do the troubles at the city’s two footballing teams and the goings-on at Holyrood.
Which is why Boyling Point 2, his third volume of observational artistic humour, is packed with familiar faces – even if Steve Cardownie is dressed as Colonel Gaddafi or Alex Salmond has been blessed with papal robes and squashed into a popemobile.
“It’s been five years since the last book, so there’s been plenty of material for another one and the cartoons in the book range from 2007 up to the present,” he says.
“I am interested in politics, so political people are great to use, especially as there’s always a new cast of characters every few years and it means I’m never short of ideas.
“With the Tories coming to power in Westminster and the SNP at Holyrood, there’s been a huge turnover in personnel and you can get tired of drawing the same people all the time. Thank God I’m not drawing Tony Blair and Gordon Brown anymore,” he says.
“Of course, there are some who are difficult to draw . . . like Nick Clegg. He’s fairly bland looking, there’s nothing easy to cartoon about his looks. To be honest, when there is an election I’m always looking at people and thinking I hope he or she wins because they’d be great to draw.”
While MSPs are a regular target – he was particularly sharp in his cartooning of former transport minister Stewart Stevenson during the winter weather roads debacle last year – they will still be invited to the launch of his book next Wednesday at The Scotsman headquarters, a stone’s throw from the Parliament.
“Though I hope none will be throwing stones,” he jokes. “The majority have a great sense of humour and quite like being in the cartoons. In fact, some even buy them.”
However, not all are pleased with how Frank represents them... the First Minister for one. “I met Alex Salmond for the first time recently,” recalls Frank. “And he told me I was drawing him too fat, though I’m not sure that’s the case. But I’ll be surprised if he comes to the book launch.”
As far as city politics are concerned he calls Dawe and Cardownie a “real double act”. One of his favourite cartoons of the pair is where the city leader is waving an AK47 from the balcony of the City Chambers, while her deputy is dressed as Gadaffi beside her. Protesters below carry placards reading: “Carddafi out!”.
Frank chuckles: “I still laugh at that one. I think the white umbrella being clutched by Steve Cardownie just sets the whole thing off. I think Gaddafi had been holding one that week when he was being defiant about the uprising.
“I like to think that the councillors take it well, they have to expect some level of fun being poked at them when they’re in the positions they are – especially when there are such long-running sagas going on like the trams.
“Someone once said that the trams were like ‘hell on wheels’, so in my cartoon I had Jenny Dawe pointing to a map of the tramline, which only went as far as purgatory, while the rest of the route to hell had been suspended due to lack of funds. The devil’s in the background saying it’s the last time he’ll vote Lib Dem.
“It really makes me laugh. But that’s the only way I can judge my work. I think if it makes me laugh then someone else might find it funny.”
Born and raised in Stirling, Frank studied illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee – where one lecturer warned him he’d fail his degree if he didn’t forget about penning humorous cartoons.
Concentrating instead on “proper” drawing, he got a job drawing romantic images of Loch Ness for Beano publisher DC Thomson.
But, inspired by the work of Giles, the hugely successful Daily Express cartoonist, he returned to his first love.
“Growing up I’d say I was probably most influenced by Giles although other influences would be Oor Wullie and the Broons. They are less political, but influenced my drawing style quite a lot.”
His first cartoon for the Edinburgh Evening News appeared in March 1999 and in the years since, few of the city and nation’s leading players have been spared the sharpness of his pen.
From former Lord Provost Eric Milligan to the Queen Mother, no name has been too big not to be pricked by his wickedly funny and witty caricatures.
His daily drawings commenting on Edinburgh news – such as the charging of £1 to drop someone off at Edinburgh Airport or international affairs – have been resolutely popular, while those based on the Scottish Parliament promoted his first book Hooray for Holyrood, which was published in 2002.
His next book, Boyling Point, even inspired an exhibition of his work at the City Art Centre.
He adds: “It’s amazing what this job leads to. Last year, I got invited to launch an exhibition in Craigmillar of local artists’ work. That was fantastic.
“Cartoons can really speak to people across the social and age spectrums. They’re not elitist. I like to think that they can make everyone laugh.”
* Boyling Point 2 is published by Argyll Publishing and is available for £8.99 with free postage and packing by ordering online at www.shop.scotsman.com/bp2 or calling 0131-620 8400