Ian Rankin wondered why we made him look so grumpy but then conceded that he never smiles in photographs.

Article by Paul Greenwood | 16 Apr 2006

For the past three years a team of artists at the Glasgow based Scottish Cartoon Art Studio have been working on a project called Fizzers, a collection of caricatures featuring famous Scots from the world of entertainment, sport and politics. From April until July over 250 pieces will go on show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. This marks the first time the gallery has displayed contemporary caricature and the first time the art form has been showcased at such a high level in Scotland.

There will also be an accompanying smaller exhibition entitled Stranger Than Life, a display of selected vintage caricatures from the Gallery's own archives, as well as the first in what is hoped will become a series of Fizzers books. The first volume includes over a hundred pieces from the collection, and features a foreword by actor Brian Cox. Other famous faces will include Billy Boyd, Robert Carlyle, Robbie Coltrane, Sean Connery, John Hannah, Denis Law, Ewan McGregor and Peter Mullan.

We spoke to the Studio Manager, Terry Anderson:

Did you need the permission of everyone you're featuring and were any less than flattered with their likenesses?
Everyone we've drawn is or was in public life so this kind of thing comes with the territory. As our caricatures contain no overt gags, the humour is derived purely from observation and exaggeration of the subject's face. We haven't contacted everyone we've drawn, but those we have worked with have been very positive and responded warmly to what we've done. Nobody has turned us down, and the closest we've come to a complaint was Ian Rankin wondering why we made him look so grumpy but then conceding that he never smiles in photographs. Interestingly, we've heard that two individuals we drew (both actors) were discussing Fizzers at last year's Edinburgh Festival. A third Scottish thesp - still unnamed - was apparently privy to the conversation and expressed offence at NOT being included!

How were you able to secure a venue as prestigious as The National Portrait Gallery?
About eighteen months ago we read a press interview with James Holloway, the Gallery's Director, who at that time was bemoaning the galley's dearth of contemporary faces. We decided to brass-neck it and contact him, seriously assuming we'd be shot down in flames as soon as he found out we were caricaturists. However, it turns out James is a fan of the art form and after viewing no more than about a dozen of our pieces he was reaching for his diary.

Are there any expectations in terms of visitor numbers?
I honestly don't know if the Gallery has a target figure. I do know they have high hopes that the exhibition will, demographically speaking, attract visitors that don't normally come near them: young adults, family groups and - perhaps not surprisingly - Glaswegians. I also know that the press department have been delighted that newspapers have picked up on the story, and that the marketing and promotional campaign for the exhibition will be one of the largest they've ever organised, perhaps even the largest.

If the exhibition is a success, would you be keen to extend the idea to non-Scottish celebrities?
Back when we decided to cast our net wider than merely Scottish comedians, we went away to compile lists of who we thought might make for good entries and whittled a "shortlist" of 400 names down to just over 250, but we'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't admit that we've only scratched the surface of Scottish celebs. Yes, we'd love to turn our attention to the rest of the UK and then the world, and I sincerely hope we'll get the chance, but I really don't see how we can do that successfully unless we return to the more highly specified approach we started with.

The Fizzers Exhibition is at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh from April 7th until July 2nd.