Illustrations for McSpotlight (1996)

McSpotlight cartoon: Ronald McDonald caught in a spotlight against a brick wall McSpotlight cartoon: Ronald McDonald in a spotlight in a 'Mastermind'-style chair
White-on-black cartoon of Ronald McDonald caught ina spotlight before a brick wall, with projected onto him

In 1996 I did these illustrations for Franny Armstrong (we didn't meet — I think this may have been via a request thrown out on IRC) for use on the McSpotlight website, which had been created in response to the McLibel case. McSpotlight is the prime exemplar of early use of the open web as a campaigning and information tool. Within months of launch, it had attained unimaginably more reach than the handfuls of photocopied leaflets that had triggered McDonalds to make their libel claim.

I remember some technical things about these cartoons. The original artwork was black ink on card, coloured with watercolours, and then scanned. The lighting “effects” included adding a dark semi-translucent layer, with blurred edges cutting away the “hole”. I used Aldus Photostyler to do this, which was software that came bundled with the scanner I’d bought for The Concuspidor... the year before. Years later, such processing would pass without comment as the sort of thing anyone would do “with digital” (and Photoshop would become a verb)... but in 1996 this still felt a little like having a special power.

Dial-up internet was still slow (14,400 baud was a common modem speed) so the images that ended up online were very low resolution by today’s standards. I haven’t found the original images but if I do I’ll update this page with better versions.

I also scanned the black-and-white line art for the against-the-wall image before it had been coloured, and inverted it (white line on black) to fix it up before inverting it again. This was used as a positive mask for silk-screen printing white-ink-on-black for McSpotlight T-shirts.

See more vintage Beholder nostalgia.