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Flu Fighters, Billie Ill-ish, Hand-gel Olsen and Christine and the Quarantines are four of the acts that headlined this year’s Glastonbury festival, according to cartoonist James FitzGerald – known as Fitz in cartooning circles.
The London-based artist has been deciphering lockdown with his cartoons, which parody the often contradictory messages from the government, as well as find joy hidden in the horrors and hilarities of lockdown living.
In the months since he started drawing, he’s received dozens of messages from people on Instagram who find the images help them cope.
“I’d love people to feel they can relate to an image, even if it’s just a dumb drawing about a man who says he has a ‘sense of impending Zoom,’” he tells HuffPost UK.
“I’m not out to make light of the global crisis or people’s suffering. Instead, I want to express solidarity with my friends and family who I’ve been largely separated from for months.”
Fitz’s cartoons include an imagined Covid-19-themed edition of the Glastonbury line-up, where every artist is named after the virus, as well as a hairdresser who reverts the stereotype about hairdressers asking clients whether they’ve been on “any nice holidays” this year.
“It imagined a stylist casually asking his customer whether she’s cancelled – not booked, but cancelled – any nice holidays this year,” jokes Fitz. “I’ve been interested in the banal ways the pandemic is now a part of our lives in the UK, which seems past its initial peak.
“It’s curious to see people trying to adapt to this weird new reality.”
Observing the behaviour of “lockdowners” is how Fitz has found inspiration.
“As the pandemic has evolved, so too have the sayings and slogans,” he says, “and these are perfect for lampooning. At first, society was working out how to ‘flatten the curve’. Now we’re negotiating the ‘mask debate’ (which sounds rude when said out loud in an American accent).”
Fitz insists that when it comes to cartoons, simplest is always best. “If I don’t execute an idea quickly, I’ll lose interest or overthink the words that go into it.”
A cartoon takes about an hour, he says, including a touch of digital airbrushing. He relies on pen, ink, and graphite powder to work. “When I can’t get drawing paper, I’ve used the backs of bills or envelopes,” he explains.
Fitz’s approach has taken him beyond social media admirers, too – Private Eye magazine recently published a cartoon of his which parodies an old Chinese print. “I’ve been inundating the mag with drawing after drawing. Finally they caved and published my cartoon about second waves. It’s been a dream to be in Private Eye (provided that’s not me being accused of wrongdoing, of course!)”
Fitz sees the global vaccine race as the next key phase of his cartoon Covid-19 story. “There’s certainly potential for humour there, what with the claims of international spying,” he says.
“But I’ll be extremely relieved when I can lay my pen down having drawn my last ever Covid-19 cartoon.”