We’re ‘off the leash’ with cartoonist Rupert Fawcett

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes


One of my favorite comics is “Off the Leash” by London-based cartoonist Rupert Fawcett. I first saw the comic on Facebook, where Rupert has almost 1 million followers. The comic can also be seen on Instagram and on its own website. But Rupert is also known for other comics work including Fred, a single panel comic which, like Off the Leash, has has been published all over from newspapers, to books and greeting cards.

TOM: Regarding “Off the Leash,” You seem to get into the dogs’ heads, do you study them? Tell me about your own pets.

RUPERT: I’ve never consciously studied dogs but I am a watcher by nature, a people watcher and I suppose, a dog watcher too. I’m someone who is never phased by delays at airports or anywhere else as I know I will be happily entertained watching the people around me, although I have to be careful not to get caught staring too intensely at anyone. We currently have a two year old whippet and two Burmese cats.

TOM: How often do you publish Off the Leash? Do you draw up a bunch at one time or post them as they are completed?

RUPERT: I had a very productive three years of producing Off the Leash cartoons at the beginning but as I have other commitments I now only draw new ones sporadically. As soon as I have finished one I post it which is the great thing about social media for a cartoonist, it is so instant, from the drawing board to the worldwide audience in seconds!

TOM: I totally agree with that, I almost feel social media was made for art and cartooning. I noticed you work in black and white, why that and not color?

RUPERT: Black and white line gives enough visual information for a cartoon. Coloring would be time consuming and add nothing to the joke.

TOM: I like the clean look of your black and white work, too. Who are your cartooning influences?

RUPERT: don’t have any specific ones but I’m probably influenced by everything I see.

TOM: What medium do you use? Digital? Pen and ink?

RUPERT: I use old fashioned ink pens – I’m a bit of a technophobe.

TOM: What was the first thing you would seriously draw? I mean, I would draw Fred Flintstone, I always remember as a young child doing that. Did you draw a character or have a favorite subject at a young age?

RUPERT: As a boy growing up in the sixties I used to draw footballers quite a lot and soldiers. The comics I read as a child featured regular strips based on the war which was still very recent history. I also used to create my own strange characters. I used to get very absorbed and doodle for hours.

TOM: How did you begin your career as a cartoonist? When did you start cartooning? Tell me about Fred

RUPERT: Speaking of strange characters! I created Fred in 1989 and received over 80 rejection letters from publishers and newspapers. But when I had the greeting card range published by Paperlink it suddenly took off and became a big thing. Fred kept me fully occupied for about twelve years.

Fred was a combination of surrealism and suburban Englishness

TOM: Tell us about your studio or workspace.

RUPERT: I work in a fairly small room at home in South West London, it’s my ‘garden shed’ and i have to be prised out of it by my family sometimes. I’m happiest when I’m drawing and in my private dreamworld, just as I was at six years old.

TOM: What famous artist, dead or alive, would you want to paint your portrait?

RUPERT: Lucien Freud (with my clothes on)

TOM: What comics/cartoons do you read/follow today?

RUPERT: I probably don’t look at cartoons any more than anyone else but I always appreciate a good one. Gary Larson is brilliant.

TOM: Thanks, Rupert!

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Why did the peacocks cross the road?

peacocks

I’ve been giving more interviews these days one one single subject, now that I ended the Coconut Grove Grapevine, than all these past years. I ended a publication I did daily in our town – the Grapevine was our daily news for 15 years. It was time.

Anyway, these interviews aren’t about me or the Grapevine – they are about the roaming peacocks we have in our neighborhood. Recently the City Commission declared that the offending peacocks will be removed humanely and that has put everyone in an uproar.

The peafowl roam the streets, you literally have to stop as you are driving to allow them to cross the street. It’s cute and picturesque, but I guess not if they are a nuisance to your property.

I was interviewed by NPR, WLS in Chicago, just now by some publication in Washington, DC and I think some paper in Chicago, also I see I am quoted in the New York Post and now The New York Daily News contacted me too.

I personally like them, but of course they haven’t been pecking at my car or jumping on my roof. I probably would feel differently if that were the case.

All these interviewers have me as “Tom Falco, editor of the Coconut Grove Grapevine,” and I’d like to now be, “Cartoonist, Tom Falco,” but I guess that doesn’t have as much authority and they think a title like “editor” makes me smarter and gives me more authority. A couple of them emailed me here, to this Tomversation account. When I see a newspaper contacted me, I hope it’s them asking about publishing my comics, but no, it’s those damn peacocks.

Jojo was limping all day; we were worried

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Jojo checking out the neighborhood.

So I went to my parents house yesterday for our usual family pizza night, I usually get there early to avoid traffic; I arrived about three hours before most of the others.

As I entered the house, I noticed their dog Jojo was acting weird, he was sort of walking on three legs. One of his front legs was extended out, as if he was avoiding walking on it.

I asked my father, “What happened to him? Did he run into a car again?” A few months ago, Jojo darted out of the house and ran right into a speeding car, luckily he wasn’t hit by the car, but he hit the car. My brother and nephew rushed him to the vet, but he was ok, he just had a hard time getting around for a bit, you know, like he couldn’t jump up on the couch and bed and things like that, but in a few weeks, he was as good as new.

So when I saw his leg extended, I assumed the same had happened. My father told me that he hadn’t run out of the house, he thought he might have hurt himself when jumping off the bed. And that was the explanation. For the rest of the day, he walked sort of limping, on three legs. It started in the morning and extended into the evening.

He had a hard time getting up on the couch, but he did jump up and down and when I held his leg in my hands, he didn’t flinch. I tried to look for a thorn or something in his paw but I didn’t see anything. So this limping went on and he really wasn’t himself, he was very lethargic the whole time. He almost had a pleading look in his eyes, as if to say, “Please help me!” He didn’t seem like he was in pain and I wondered if we should take him to the vet or hospital or something.

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Looking at me like I’m an idiot. This is an old picture, so he must always think I’m an idiot.

When people came to the door, he just remained on the couch, he didn’t run or bark and jump up and down at the door as usual. A bit later I took him for a walk and he seemed better outside. I didn’t force him, I asked him if he wanted to go out and he did. But he never whimpered in pain, he just had a hard time walking.

Anyway, a few hours later the rest of the family started showing up. My sister-in-law Laura took one look at him and called us all “idiots” or something to that effect. She solved Jojo’s leg problem in a second.

He had put his foot/leg through his collar. Picture it – his leg was through his collar around his neck – that is why his leg was extended. I am laughing out loud as I type this. I can’t stop laughing.

When she took his leg out of the collar, he was back to his old self – his old annoying self. All of a sudden he was jumping, running non-stop barking – just going crazy as his usual self.

For the rest of the night we all laughed and felt like morons. Poor Jojo. And stupid me – I literally put the leash on him to walk him and I took the leash off, and I didn’t notice the foot/leg through the collar.

I can still see him in my head hopping around on three feet with his one leg/arm/foot extended in the air. Even when he was lying on the couch next to me, he had his one leg extended, maybe trying to tell me something and I just thought he was babying the injured leg, which ended up not being injured at all. I can still see him looking at me, which I thought was in pain, but he had his leg extended and that look was saying, “Can you please release my leg?”

I’m still wondering how he managed to get his leg through the collar.