• Philippe Baumann on the challenges of cartooning

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     Philippe Baumann  PHOTO BY MELYN ACOSTA

    Philippe Baumann PHOTO BY MELYN ACOSTA

    In Europe, people do not just read satirical newspapers and magazines. Europeans support these publications. This is the reason why magazines such as Charlie Hebdo flourish.

    In Switzerland, there is a satirical newspaper called Vigousse founded by Thierry Barrigue, a renowned editorial cartoonist.

    Today, the newspaper employs 12 cartoonists, including Philippe Baumann, the featured visiting cartoonist of The Manila Times. The 30-year old Swiss cartoonist is in the country as a “Cartooning for Peace” participant.

    Born in 1984, Baumann loves to draw as a young boy. When he grew up, he knew he wanted to take drawing seriously as a profession. That’s why he took up a cartooning course at the Belgian Comics and Art School.

    After drawing for some time for a “fanzine,” a non-professional publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon, Baumann tried to approach Vigousse.
    “I’ve been drawing for newspapers for four years. I started with the satirical newspaper Vigousse, which is also quite new. It is the only satirical newspaper in Switzerland, and we have 12 cartoonists working for it,” he said in an interview with The Manila Times on Wednesday when he visited the Times’ Intramuros office.

    “It is the initiative of an established cartoonist in Switzerland named Thierry Barrigue, who wanted to give more space for cartoonists [who want to showcase their drawings],” he added.

    Asked what topics fascinate him as a cartoonist, Baumann replied: “I don’t have a specific topic that I am required to draw because [in Vigousse]we are all free [to draw what we want].” Still, he said that he usually focuses on political and social issues in Switzerland and around the globe.

    He showed us one of his recently published cartoons, a picture of the Islamic State reacting to the Nepal earthquake.

    His message, like the wrath of Mother Earth, is that the IS could also kill thousands of innocent people and destroy important historical establishments in just a few minutes. His drawings, however, convey a serious message with a tint of humor.

    What inspires him to draw? The Swiss cartoonist replied: “I listen to the news.” He added that it usually takes about an hour and half for him to finish a cartoon. He spends more time trying to get the idea for the cartoon.

    As a communicator who uses images to convey a message, Baumann said his cartoons are sometimes misunderstood. “In Switzerland, when people are not happy with my cartoon, I can explain it to them. But because I also share my cartoon in
    Facebook, it reaches other places outside my country,” he said.

    And because people outside Switzerland do not understand the background or perspective of his drawing, they sometimes fail to get the message.

    “But it is the game,” he noted, adding that he does get criticisms from people who disagree with what he draws. “People react and that’s the game.”

    Baumann condemned the attack on France’s Charlie Hebdo, where the magazine’s editor  in chief, Stéphane Charbonnier, was killed, along with veteran cartoonists Jean Cabut, Philippe Honoré, Bernard Verlhac, and Georges Wolinski.

    “They [the people in Charlie Hebdo]are in a process of defending something: liberty of speech. But I don’t know them personally so I cannot speak for them,” he said.

    He also clarified that his works are different from that of Charlie Hebdo’s. He said, “I am not the one who will draw the Prophet Mohammed just to draw him. It’s my personal opinion and he is not my kind of cartoon.”

    Baumann noted that Vigousse takes a more traditional style of satire. Besides the cartoons, the newspaper also publishes serious and informative stories submitted by contributors.

    Asked what advice he could give to young and aspiring cartoonists, he replied: “It’s complicated to do cartoons so they have to have perseverance. It’s hard to be a cartoonist because there are very few places for employment. Still, they must be interested, and more importantly, they have to be ‘reactive’ [to what is happening around them],” Baumann said.

    Besides Vigousse, Baumann also draws comic strips of Swiss political figures in SEPT.info.

    With a report from Cath Talavera

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