The Star’s award-nominated BlueLou is the only woman cartoonist for any daily national paper. Here she tells how she entered this male-dominated career
I come from a working-class Northern Irish background.
Growing up, my mother used to let me stay up and watch Question Time if there were significant guests and a good debate in the offing.
My father read Private Eye and got a bootleg cassette of the Life of Brian for us kids when it was still banned there.
There was a stack of 2000 ADs that I inherited from my older brothers and I continued to buy it right up till comics such as Watchmen and Spiral Path by Al Davison turned up on to the comic scene in the early ’90s.
I went on to get a fine art degree, but my cartooning was like some dirty secret I kept to myself during that time.
My fine art was apparently too cartoony, too political and used humour, all of which were not fashionable in art college at the time.
After graduating I started to get back into cartooning and managed to maintain my art practice even when I found myself a young single mother in St Pauls in Bristol in the late ’90s.
I built an art shelf in my sitting room, where I kept my equipment and practised drawing standing up with a toddler climbing up my leg.
I got together with some other single mum artists to do babysitting cover for each other so we could work.
This grew into funding for a nursery and supported drawing classes and allowed one of the others to return to college.
I was finding more and more that my fine art work was starting to hybridise with the cartooning and I continued to self-publish.
I had a short-lived job turning on the tape machine at a Crown Court, and learned about the court artists’ methods of drawing from memory.
It is illegal to draw in Crown Courts as well as the House of Commons. The artists sit and observe then run to a special room to draw.
I found it a useful method to attempt when stalking MPs and I’ve drawn in riot conditions, such as local BNP marches.
I’ve also worked with teenagers who had dropped out of school to do “stealth teaching” using cartooning with computer programmes such as Photoshop, and I’ve worked as a play worker — mostly during this time stealing all the best ideas from the kids.
I then entered a competition for a political cartoonist exchange to South Africa. Our mentors were Steve Bell and South African cartoonist Zapiro.
I was picked by the South African Mail and Guardian to be published and was asked back to open the exhibition in Johannesburg.
When my second child was still under a year old, I got a call to have a go on the Guardian Showcase covering for Steve Bell and Martin Rowson during the August holidays.
I lived on a boat at the time and when practising for the showcase I often had a baby strapped to my back, standing up drawing in a very small area.
My first cartoon for the Guardian was done with a bag of frozen peas down my bra as I was still breast-feeding.
I’ve been contributing to the Morning Star for about 18 months now and one of my Star cartoons recently came third in the public vote for Political Cartoon of the Year.
There are no matching socks in my house unless my mother comes to stay.