Photographs by Peter Dean Rickards
The cartoonist of the Jamaica Observer newspaper, Clovis Brown’s daily musings have been distressing politicians since the 1980’s. Other times they are happily ordering their likenesses from him. Originally inspired by Conan the Barbarian – yes, the cartoon that was made into the Arnie movie – Clovis is really a nice guy who attracts the ladies due to his attentive ways. But still someone unafraid to draw a badman cop like Renato Adams posing in his briefs.
What led you to start drawing cartoons and how did you become a professional?
At schooI I used to do a lot of drawing in my exercise book and the kids used to carry their books to me and say, “Clovis, fill these up with drawing for me nah!”
I used to draw a large crowd at school.
After I finished school I used to draw cartoons to illustrate advertisements and once I did a cartoon of the political campaign and it went into the Gleaner and Oliver Clarke saw me and invited me over in like 1989. And then the Observer came along and I got a better offer from them, in their second year which was…1994.
What weren’t you good at?
I wanted to do graphics, I love graphics, I love design but back then people wanted illustrations: A man come and say “The type’s here and I want the drawing here,” so I say, “Alright, I just drop in the cartoon.”
That’s it basically. I wanted to be a graphic designer.
You don’t like politicians, do you?
Uhm…when they know they are wrong and they are trying to cover it up that’s when I get them! I tell you man you cant trust them man. That’s why I hate them, yes man! [LAUGHS]
You think our politicians lack a sense of humour?
Yeah there is lack of humour when you are touching them. When it’s not them in trouble and they are in the picture or it says something good about them, then they will ask to buy it. Oh boy…it’s happened often.
What other use do politicians have apart from being used for cartoons?
In my world they can be good but you see I like a leadership that is…uplifting! If you are a leader you should try to be a figurehead of where we are going and of discipline and order.
How much of your life do you live through your cartoons?
My whole life is drawing. I’ve been drawing from five scribbling them time doing a lot of comics and stuff.
Did anyone inspire you?
Yes there was this guy who drew Conan, I love his art and I used to redraw his drawings, this fellow by the name of John Buscema. Those days, comics were the ting, like video games are the ting now.
How old are you?
Uh, born ‘61. What 40 years old or something like that?
What is the real Clovis like?
Fun loving. Love girls. Fun and love to joke but also quiet.
Women tolerate you?
No. Boy. Yes! They like me cos I’m a caring person, always caring about how they sleep, how they eat, asking about how they go through life – that’s what they love about me.
People ever pressure you about your cartoons?
Yeah man but I love that because I learned that at Gleaner: You don’t answer them you just move. You don’t answer that! Yeah man I used to get threats a lot, since lately not much threats, but you cant trust nobody but people cuss me about drawing the People’s National Party (PNP). It’s one of them tings (He says JLP supporters used to harangue him equally) where you just have to clear your mind.
How do you respond?
I don’t respond.
Is it fair having Omar Davies in a dunce hat…some say Audley Shaw’s not so smart?
But Audley can’t be duncer when he’s just got into power! It’s not even six solid months and this man has been there three terms, so who would you call duncer?
Why are you so fussy about A/C?
I love to be cool when I am working. When I’m cool that’s when I think and if I start to feel sweat and I feel miserable and if I get up I lose that illustration. As an illustrator you can’t just get up, you have to complete what you are doing first. It’s the hardest thing to come back to.
What is your favourite cartoon and why?
With Edward Seaga and Ryan Peralto with the gold chains around their necks. Those were the times when I was as at Gleaner and I continued it here when I came to the Observer. Because Seaga mentioned that he was the Don and as Peralto was his sidekick, I drew both of them with a gold chain.
You know Las May? You ever meet up socially?
Yeah man. He was at the Star when I was at the Gleaner (both newspapers have the same owner).
Are cartoonists weird?
Uhm no. Not like lawyers.
What would you do if you weren’t a cartoonist?
I don’t know. I love to be alone when I’m working because I don’t know what else I would have chosen. I love to watch how things work so maybe I could have been an engineer.
What do you like best about your job?
I like it when people advise me and suggest ideas to draw.
It carries a lot of legal things and I hate that. I have a case now…about two cases defamation of character and all those rubbish.
You have fans?
Yes. They write me and give me some ideas, “Clovis wha’ happen!”