Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Office

I remember, on a few rare occasions when I was very young, going in to "the office", that mysterious place in the old East London municipality where my father worked, for a while, as a draughtsman. Anyway, for the past 17 years or so, my "office" has been the subs room on the Eastern Province Herald (it became simply The Herald about 10 years ago) in Port Elizabeth. These are some of the characters I sketched there.

Having a quick something to munch is Mike Oettle, who I don't think has cut his beard since I've known him. Actually, I can't be sure he had a beard back in 1975 when he was a reporter on the Daily Dispatch under Donald Woods, and I worked for five months there as a cub reporter straight out of school.

When I started as a sub-editor on the Herald in 1994 this man, Bobby Cheetham, was the chief-sub. He later followed his passion for cars by editing a motoring supplement.

As I was the Herald art critic for over 15 years, I received numerous invitations, such as this one from the main art gallery in Port Elizabeth. Mike Oettle was just lucky to have been in my line of sight, yet again, so I could capture him and his beard.

For a while in the early 2000s, veteran journalist Geoff Bird spent some time with us on the subs desk. He, too, must have been sitting in easy drawing view. However, you will notice with several drawings of both him and Mr Oettle, that the images are somewhat elongated. This I ascribe to the paper lying flat on the desk, which means one is not directly over the picture.

Lest we forget. On the back of the above drawing was a proof I made of the partly completed leader page of the Herald from that day in 2003. It contains an article my Michael Hartnack, whose weekly missives from Zimbabwe were a constant reminder of just how crazy the dictator Mugabe had become. Yet, incredibly, the ANC under Thabo Mbeki sat on its hands and opted for "quiet diplomacy", which in effect meant giving Mugabe their tacit support. Indeed, on the odd occasion Mugabe visited these shores during the worst of his reign of terror, he was often applauded at various ANC bashes. I wrote several articles on the subject which were published in the Herald, miraculously, that I will be posting a little later. Hartnack died a few years back, having opted to weather the madness in his beloved country.

This guy I remember as Edward, one of the messengers who worked on our floor at Newspaper House.

Ladies' man. Trevor Neethling was a sub on both the Herald and Weekend Post in the early to mid-2000s, and seemed to have that X factor which brought the young ladies swarming. He later moved to one of the Johannesburg publications.

The guy at the top is Mike Holmes, a veteran photographer who I have known for probably 25 years, albeit only as a colleague. He had many close shaves in the turbulent 1980s when the townships were in turmoil. Today he takes some incredible wildlife pictures, most notably of birds. The guy below is almost certainly another Herald photographer, Eugene Coetzee, with sunglasses on his head, as seen from my desk in the staff kitchen.

Some people don't lend themselves to be drawn, and this is one of them. I managed to capture our editor, Ric Wilson, in a few lines here, but normally doing a drawing was the last thing on your mind when he was around. He spent about a decade at the helm of the Herald.

Mike Oettle, with his beard, glasses and bald head, is an obvious subject. Here I tried a quicky after the more detailed larger sketch.

It's that man Geoff Bird again, tapping away on the keyboard.

I did this portrait of Geoff using red china marker. This was a sort of crayon we used to draw crop lines on photographs while laying out pages on the old Atex editing system. Once we moved to Tera-Goodnews and normal PCs, of course, all cropping could be done on the page.

It's Geoff again, and the few lines on the right seem to suggest Mike's face and beard.

I even signed this drawing of Geoff, and dated it 2003.

Bizarrely, the last drawing was done on the back of this, a print-out off the Associated Press picture server of a pivotal moment in the US war on Iraq. Here Colin Powell attempts to convince the world there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They were never found.

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