FIRST PERSON: Argus cartoonist Tim Harries
7:30pm Wednesday 25th September 2013 in News
“I WAS born in Ynysybwl, in 1967, and my whole family and I moved to Pontypridd in 1969, when I was just two-years-old.
My father, Harry Harries, 79, worked for a gelatine company called Leiners which is also where my mother Barbara, 79, worked as a telephonist before she had children.
I went to Hawthorn Primary and Comprehensive schools, starting in 1972, aged five, and this was where my sister Kathryn Gatt, 53, and two out of my three brothers, Stephen Harries, 56, Jonathan Harries, 51, and David Harries, 35, went.
I was never athletic because due to my childhood asthma but I always gravitated towards the arts from a young age.
I remember my mother telling me a story of how I drew a picture of a neighbour’s cat and she thought it was amazing that a two-year-old could draw so well.
Quite a big thing in my life has been my sight.
I have had problems with my vision when I was a kid and had to have quite a few operations on my eyes.
I used to rub them a lot when I was younger, as I had a lot of allergies and that left me with bad scarring.
Then when I was 21 I had my first cornea graft and by 1992 I had both corneas replaced and had undergone laser eye surgery.
I still wear a contact lens in one eye now.
I am really grateful that this work was done and that it all worked out fine so that I can carry on doing my cartooning.
But there was a period in my life where I wondered whether I would be able to do the work I would do if my sight went.
I have always drawn so what I do no seems to have been a natural progression for me.
I didn’t hate school but I didn’t enjoy it, I just got through it.
The only thing that I excelled at was art.
I came out with five O-levels including an A in art, and an A in English, but I didn’t get any qualification in maths that was always one of my weak spots.
But my wife is amazing at maths but not so much at art and so I think she appreciates my art more because of that.
I take for granted that my art skills come naturally and don’t always realise that it doesn’t to other people.
But I don’t consider myself to be a great artist.
We balance each other out.
But I think my father was always a bit disappointed that I didn’t get more O levels.
I didn’t pursue anything arty when I left school.
Initially I went to Hawthorn Sixth Form for around six months and tried to do A-levels in art and English but it wasn’t for me so I dropped out and got and just went and got a job in an office to make money.
When I left my father was pushing me to go to art college but I didn’t want to do that.
I pushed art aside because I didn’t think that in could make a career out of it.
I spent a couple of years doing that, working in the rents and rates office in Talbot Green.
This was part of a government scheme called the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) when I was around 18, which meant that I got paid £25 a week which was a lot of money at the time and meant that I could pay my keep to my parents.
I think I must have had a few periods of unemployment, but I finally rekindled my arty side when I got a job at Llandough Hospital, Penarth, around 1989/1990 where I worked in the medical illustration department for a few years.
I was doing the photocopying and working on the computers but when they found out that I had an interest in art they got me to do some illustration for safety posters and things like that.
During this time I had met and married my wife Nikki, 49, in 1991, after being friends for a couple of years.
I got married on October 5, 1991, aged 24, in Treharris, and as we didn’t have any money we went camping in Tenby for two weeks for our honeymoon, before moving to a flat in Clyffard Crescent, Newport.
I then moved to Shirenewton, near Chepstow, around 1993 to live with my sister and her husband in a converted part of their house for six years.
We had such a great time there but the commute for Nikki who worked in Newport got too much and so we moved back to Newport late 1999.
During this time I finished my job at the hospital and my wife supported me I tried freelance cartooning, around 1988.
I was always doodling and I loved reading the Beano and the Dandy, but it was one of those situations where I never thought that I would make a career out of it.
My favourite cartoonists were Reg Smythe, who did the strip Andy Capp and Gren Jones, and I would copy some of the designs and I think this reignited my interest in art and illustration again.
I then began sending out speculative cartoons to newspapers and magazines like the Star and Readers Digest and I had a lot of rejections but I sold my first gag cartoon ‘Granddad’s teeth’ and that gave me some hope - even though I didn’t sell another one for the next five months.
Over that time I have become a part of an organisation called The Cartoonist’s Club of Great Britain (CCGB) and this enabled me to meet other cartoonists living all over the country and has left to me making some good friends in the area, such as Gerard Whyman.
I then started to get involved in travelling abroad for cartoonist conventions such the Langanu Cartoon Festival in Switzerland this year, where I used cartoons to illustrate the importance of children’s rights, as the festivals theme was the state of the world.
This is where my illustrations allowed me to convey meaning without words so it was internationally understandable.
Eventually I went full-time as a cartoonist in 1998, when a friend who worked at the Argus encouraged me to send in some of my work.
Current editor Kevin Ward, who was deputy editor at the time, called me in to the office and the then-editor Gerry Keighley liked my work, so he offered me a contract for one year, and that was the year I started the Never Say Dai strip for the Argus.
It was the first time that I had regular money coming in since I started the freelance work and I haven’t stopped drawing since.”
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