A GLUM exchange of words between a toothbrush and a toilet roll has earned Newcastle schoolboy Jasper Ashton-Nelson the title British Young Cartoonist of the Year.
Jasper, who is 13 and lives in South Gosforth, entered the competition organised by the British Cartoonists’ Association after a neighbour spotted the entry form in a newspaper.
Only one cartoon was required but the judges weren’t to know that Jasper has been an avid cartoonist for several years.
On the desk in his bedroom are neatly stacked piles of his home-made comics, including the adventures of Monkey Man, one of his favourite invented characters, and Diary of a Very Unlucky Man, which his dad, Tony, claims is based on him.
Jasper said he drew his winning cartoon on holiday in France when he was at a bit of a loose end.
“I didn’t know what to draw. Then I saw some toilet roll on the floor of the tent and I saw mum’s toothbrush bag and I just drew it.”
He thought his one-off cartoon was a bit humble when set against his meticulously drawn comic book epics, but he sent it off anyway and forgot all about it until he got a phone call from Martin Rowson, distinguished freelance cartoonist and chairman of the British Cartoonists’ Association.
Mr Rowson said Jasper, for the cartoon he drew when he was 12, had won the under 18s category of the competition, which also has a category for would-be cartoonists under 30.
Jasper said he started drawing cartoons after being inspired by a primary school project and “because I started reading lots of Captain Underpants books”.
Soon afterwards he invented Monkey Man and never looked back.
“I think it’s fun making comics and I don’t find it hard to do. You just need imagination. I’ve got piles of them now.”
Jasper admitted he only entered the competition because his older brother Jake, a talented artist, planned to enter.
“I didn’t really think I would win but did think I had quite a funny joke,” said Jasper.
It certainly hit the spot with the judges, who comprised the cream of Britain’s cartoonists including Matt of the Daily Telegraph, Steve Bell of The Guardian, Mac of the Daily Mail and colleagues from The Times, Independent, Sun, Express, Private Eye and Mr Rowson, who works for papers including The Guardian.
Yesterday he explained: “It works like this. Eleven of the country’s top cartoonists meet in The Gay Hussar in Soho and look through about 1,500 cartoons.
“We get that down to 40 or 50 and then keep looking at them until we come up with the winners.
“What Jasper’s cartoon did was appeal to the fundamentally puerile streak in all cartoonists. Essentially, we all love toilet humour and this cartoon was funny and made us all laugh out loud.”
He confided: “Actually, the under 18 cartoons are usually funnier than the under 30 cartoons. I think they’re more spontaneous.”
Mr Rowson had some advice for Jasper: “Just carry on drawing, find a style you feel happy with and embrace those wonderful virtues of sloth and arrogance.
“You have to believe you are better than anyone else and therefore don’t need to get a proper job. I’ve been doing this for 29 years and my father always asked me when I was going to get a proper job.”
Who knows how that will go down with Jasper’s headteacher at Heaton Manor School, who sent him a letter of congratulations on his triumph?
But the school has form in this field. Ex-pupils include the Donald brothers who established Viz in the 1970s.
Next week Jasper will go to London with proud parents Tony and Alison to receive his prize at a special black tie ceremony at The Mall Galleries.