Thursday, 24 July 2014

Bucks lecturer Alex Williams introduces "Queen's Counsel", and a new book of cartoons

The Queen's Counsel Lawyer's Omnibus - 20 years in The Times
Bucks animation lecturer Alex Williams initially trained as a barrister, and since 1993 he has published a weekly cartoon strip Queen's Counsel in the law pages of The Times. Recently he published a new book, The Queen's Counsel Lawyer's Omnibus, a compilation of his favourite cartoons printed in the newspaper over the past 20 years. We asked him to talk a little about the book, and also about how a lawyer became a cartoonist and an animator.
Alex Williams

Bucks: You were a barrister before you became an animator? How did that happen?

Alex: Well, I had done a fair bit of animation before I became a barrister, but yes, in 1992 I went to law school and trained for the Bar. I became a junior barrister in 1994, and it was a year before that (in 1993) that I and a friend approached The Times and The Spectator with the idea for a comic strip about lawyers. It was the era of lawyer jokes and the OJ Simpson trial, so we got lucky with the zeitgeist. The Times said yes, as did The Spectator.

Bucks: Why this new book now?

Alex: The new book is a celebration of twenty years at The Times. The strip has been published in the newspaper every week since 1993, making it the longest job I have ever held down, by far. It's a compilation of the best jokes over the years. Or, at least, the ones I think are the best.

Bucks: What are the cartoons about?

Alex: The cartoon strip is a satire on law and lawyers. I started the strip as a way of poking fun at the legal system, my fellow law students (and lecturers) and - later - my colleagues at the Bar. In the early years the strip was really about my own life as a junior barrister. I would go to court, something bizarre would happen, and I would think: "how do I turn that into a four panel gag?".

Bucks: You're not a lawyer anymore - where does your material come from?

Alex: Even after 20 years I continue to love writing and drawing Queen's Counsel. Actually I feel as though I am just getting into my stride. If it takes 10,000 hours to get good at something, I guess I'm  probably just about starting to have done my time after two decades.

Also, my wife Sarah is a solicitor, so she keeps me up to date. She'll come home after a gruelling day of corporate litigation, and she'll be telling me about her day - and I grab a pencil and start writing it down. So she really writes my jokes these days - or at least the funny ones.

Bucks: Which are your favourite gags?

Alex: It is hard to pick out my favourite comic strips but some of the early jokes which were most autobiographical are probably still my favourites. It reminds me of what I was going through at the time, almost like a personal diary in cartoon form.

Bucks: What has all this got to do with animation and visual effects at Bucks?

Alex: Well, you'd be surprised. Cartoons and animation are close cousins; it's all about characters, and it's about telling a story. The audience have to like the characters, even if they're not very nice (most of mine are not). It's the same with animation and film-making; it's all about telling a great story. The Animation and Visual Effects degree is heavily focused on practical skills to equip our students for a freelance career. We want our students to be great story-tellers and great technicians.

Bucks: What about your students - will they do cartoon strips and books?

Alex: I certainly hope so. I hope that many of our students will go on to publish books of their own - perhaps collections of their own work, perhaps books on animation, or even books on ground-breaking new visual effects technologies. Being able to put a pitch together and approach a publisher - or even self-publish - is part of the essential toolkit of an independent freelance artist. Our students will go on to enjoy careers in many different parts of creative and digital media and we want our course to be a superb preparation for their journey.

Bucks: Where can we buy the book?

Alex: It's at amazon, naturally, and you can also buy it direct from Law Brief Publishing at Bring a copy in to Uni and I'll sign it for you!

To see the impressive work done by our students and recent graduates here at Bucks, check out SuperFergy in 3D by Anton Alfy, see the work of Jens KopkeBen Gray's Moonbeam, and the architectural visualisations of Sabah Masood and Anton Alfimenko. Also take a look at the work of Andy Thomas here, see our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, our short film done for a global aid agency, and take a look at the excellent work of designer Monika Dzikowicz, architectural visualisation specialist Krsytof Michalski, Alex Whitfield and the 3D artwork of Mike Swan. And don't forget to see the simulation work of our students done in RealFlow. To see our student demo reel, click here.

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