Zoom Rockman, drawings of Winston Churchill for Simpsons In The Strand
- Credit: Archant
Crouch End teenage cartoonist completes a residency at iconic restaurant where the wartime leader was a regular
It was a box of old Beanos at a car boot sale that inspired Zoom Rockman to become a cartoonist.
After devouring the comics, the then eight year old Rokesly Primary pupil drew and produced his own: The Zoom, selling it for 99p in his local Crouch End newsagent.
“We brought the box home and for the next few weeks I was reading them in bed all night,” he says.
“Once I finished them I drew Dennis the Mennis and Roger the Dodger. My comic was based on the Beano. I had been drawing since I could remember, coming up with stories and writing them down. It was only when I saw the Beano that I realised I could put the two things together.”
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Rockman even sold and drew his own adverts: “I wanted to show it to my friends at school but also to make some money out of it. There was an advert for George’s fish and chip shop which promised readers ‘free salt with your meal’.”
Later the chip shop liked the comic so much they really did give away a free bag of chips to readers.
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At the time, Rockman lived above a kebab shop with his brother Ace and furniture designer parentsKate and Mark.
His mum recalls a strip called Kebab Shop of Horrors and being “nervous that the shop would find out”.
Rokesly gave him a stall at Christmas fairs, by 12 he was working for the Beano, drawing a strip called Skanky Pigeon, his secondary school allowed him to drop French to focus on art and by 16 he became the youngest ever Private Eye cartoonist.
“I developed my own drawing and style more than my writing. I found reading very difficult - I’d always start imagining what it looked like instead. Cartooning is a very good medium for kids who get easily distracted, but my friends said ‘you are never going to get a job from comics.’”
Now 18 and studying at Central St Martin’s he’s proved them wrong after completing a year long residency at Simpson’s in the Strand.
His brief at the iconic restaurant - part of The Savoy Hotel - was to research the connection to one of its most famous patrons Sir Winston Churchill.
He has now produced seven works depicting Churchill at different ages and stages of his life.
In one he attends an imaginary dinner with ex Prime Ministers Gladstone and Disraeli. In another – based on a real event - he hands a bag of leftover meat to a young serving boy during wartime rationing.
A third shows him playing chess – Simpson’s was originally opened in 1828 as a ‘Grand Cigar Divan’ chess club and coffee house and the practice of wheeling meat on trolleys and slicing it at the table was to enable the gentlemen to play on.
Rockman says it depicts the “younger, tactical Churchill”.
“He was a legendary figure who died before I was born but World War II is really about good versus evil and he is the hero of the story,” says Rockman, who visited the Cabinet War Rooms, Churchills former home at Chartwell and the Savoy archives for research.
“That’s a good character to have in our culture. Plus I am Jewish and my mum’s side of the family woudn’t exist if he wasn’t around so that’s a big thing for me.
“The first time I ate here I stared over at his table and imagined him sitting there.”
It is said that Churchill lit his cigars in the fire, invented the OMG (orange martni gin) cocktail, and always sat at a corner table which allowed him to see and be seen by the entire dining room.
One of Zoom’s drawings shows Churchill at Simpsons’ ornate and iconic door in The Strand: “I am a bit of a perfectionist and love drawing details. When it’s a building I get to draw every single brick. Since I started doing Private Eye I have got used to condensing a full page or a story into one picture.”
Rockman also spent time studying Churchill’s face from different angles from old photos.
“I found a photo from 1962 on one of his last ever visits, I love that he came here through his life and that I can show him at different ages.”
Rockman was made a member of the British cartoonist association on his 18th birthday and is a young ambassador for the Big Draw, an arts education charity which raises the profile of drawing and visual literacy.
He also visits local schools to champion “the importance of creativity in education” and perhaps to tell the next easily distracted 8-year-old that they might just make a living out of comics.