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Cartooning for conferences

Robert Duncan’s cartoons have earned him a living, albeit he says “with varying degrees of success”, for about 40 years. He has illustrated books, had comic strips in magazines, and drawn over 3,000 greeting cards.

His skills transfer to the meetings sector came 10 years ago, when Coutt’s asked him to attend one of their conferences and draw cartoons about the topics of the day.


“I jumped at the chance,” he says. “I was given a small desk at the back of the proceedings and basically told to get on with it.

“Thankfully, that was a great success, and I went on to produce cartoons for Coutt’s for many years.”

Other great gigs followed, for luminaries such as the World Wildlife Fund, Peugeot, Sky, Betfair, Tesco, Pfizer, Hewlett Packard, Shell and EDF Energy, among others.


“I concluded from all this that people see cartoons every day, but to actually see them in the process of being drawn (either over my shoulder, or in many cases recently, with a camera over the same shoulder) is a different thing entirely. ‘Wish I could draw like that’ is a familiar cry,” he says.

Duncan adds that clients hire him to turn up, listen to the meetings, and draw up to 25 cartoons inspired by the topics of the day. 

Clients can then keep them, use them on websites, in emails, or as part of their publicity. “Throughout the day I scan my efforts and transfer them to the AV desk for projection during breaks in the programme,” he says.


During one Volkswagen conference, Duncan says organisers used a camera over his shoulder to cut to what he was doing any time they wanted. They later sent A6 booklets of his cartoons to all the delegates as a reminder of the day.

He has also taken his art abroad, attending events in Holland, Germany, Norway and Italy. 

He does, he says, shy away from caricatures. “I find that the more accurate I am, the more insulted people become!”

Zoe Lacey of Divcom organised an accountancy conference and says the delegates “absolutely loved Robert, along with his wit. The speakers and exhibitors all wanted a humorous comic representation of their exhibition stand or speaker session and have already booked Robert for our next show.”


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