Political satire in the age of social media

CR speaks to a cartoonist, illustrator and collage-based satirist to find out how depictions of political figures can change, specifically Boris Johnson, and the impact of social media on political satire

I remember the first image I drew of him,” says London-based illustrator Ellie Foreman-Peck on when she first depicted Boris Johnson. “In 2013 I got a phone call from The Independent newspaper asking if I could draw Boris in a few hours. This was one of the first commissions I received with a very tight deadline.” The illustrator created an image for a piece titled “The Flawed Mayor of London”, which explored the tales of his “murky reputation” and the rumours surrounding his “often questionable” behaviour. “I set about quickly trying to make him look sheepish and a little guilty in the eyes,” Foreman-Peck remembers.  

Since then the illustrator, whose style is a mix of line work and collage, has depicted Boris Johnson umpteen times, especially since becoming Prime Minister and normally puts the emphasis on key features like his hair. “When he had his hair trimmed, I must admit, I was a little disappointed as one of his key recognisable features had been somewhat diluted. But I think it’s growing back quite nicely now from what I see,” she says. 

Brexit Negotiations by Ellie Foreman-Peck

For Ben Jennings who’s work differs from Foreman-Peck’s in that he creates standalone cartoons as opposed to ones to illustrate a written piece, he says he’s simplified his depictions of Johnson over time. “This tends to happen when you start drawing someone more frequently and you study their mannerisms more closely and gradually work out what works and what doesn’t,” says Jennings. “This continued rendering helps the caricature develop in depicting the persona of who you’re drawing, as capturing the ‘likeness’ of a public figure in a satirical fashion isn’t just about their facial features but about their character, politics and the image they project to the world.”