Mr Bingo is the master of Hate Mail and endless sarcastic humour delivered in intricately rendered illustration, so naturally he was an obvious choice to invite to contribute to our School Drawings feature in our Back to School Month. He did not disappoint. Back when he was a kid, his drawings consisted mainly of slow sadistic punishments delivered to long-suffering characters, complete with a running narrative in speech bubble form – “I’ve been in this cube for 13 years now, I’m a little cramped” for example – and they’re absolutely bloody brilliant. Here’s Bingo on the characters he used to draw, his favourites and the themes you can spot here that still resonate in his work today.
Your sketches of people in cubes and test tubes are hilarious, and oddly reminiscent of your work nowadays. Has your sense of humour changed at all over the years, or do you still find the same things funny that you did as a kid?
I was obsessed with torture and putting people in the most bizarre and sadistic situations, always looking for a new and inventive way to kill or maim someone. As far as I know, my work doesn’t contain these themes nowadays. The similarity is that the drawings are about entertaining people. So when I was 11 years old, I was making pictures to entertain 11-year-old boys, who (as far as I know) enjoyed seeing torture and violence. I still try to make drawings that entertain people, but the audience is a bit more grown-up, so the material has changed a bit (oh apart from the dick stuff, which doesn’t seem too far removed from what I was drawing in textbooks in 1991).
How were your grades in art lessons when you were a kid? Did any teachers in particular predict your future success?
I was actually a bit of a high achiever in art (I feel I’m slightly more justified to say this as I definitely wasn’t in any other subjects). Once a week we had to do a drawing for our art homework and I would almost always receive A or A+ grades. It always involved pencils and I considered myself “shit hot” at shading.
I remember drawing a distorted Mars Bar behind a glass of water which I was particularly pleased with (A+ if you’re asking).
There are some brilliantly gory captions to accompany your drawings, including “patient pukes up into other prisoner’s mouth” and “eyelids cut off. Salt tipped in.” Did your parents ever worry about the violence in your doodles, or were they quite supportive?
They didn’t actually. My parents are pretty laid-back, I think they even found it amusing. At 11 my school teachers confiscated some of my drawings, photocopied them and phoned my mum to express their concern. Fortunately for me, my mum just laughed and said "Oh he always draws stuff like that, I don’t really worry about it.” The poor teacher had built a case against me and she flippantly dismissed it and I escaped unpunished.
"At 11 years old, my school teachers confiscated some of my drawings, photocopied them and phoned my mum to express their concern. Fortunately for me, my mum just laughed and said 'oh he always draws stuff like that, I don't really worry about it.' The poor teacher had built a case against me and she flippantly dismissed it and I escaped unpunished."Mr Bingo
Do you remember drawing any of these pictures? If so, which?
All of them! (I think?) I especially remember drawing the one of the toddler with the weird growth on the right side of the face. It’s my little sister and I used a photograph as reference.
I also remember the people being tortured who are saying things in speech bubbles had really specific voices. I used to draw these with a couple of other boys (James Whiteaker and James Metcalf) and we’d always do the voices out loud. It was always a posh voice.
Did you find yourself drawing all the time as a kid? How did you resist having the creativity squashed out of you?
Yes, I really did. I basically started drawing at about two (or whenever babies start drawing?) and I haven’t stopped. I think from a really early age I was really focused on drawing and creativity and all through school I was really sure that was what I wanted to do (and I really neglected all the other subjects as a result). I really put all my eggs in one basket from an early age so it had to work out as a career really, as I had nothing to fall back on!
I definitely have my parents to thank too as they never pushed me to do anything and very much let me find my own path. I went to a pretty academic school where subjects like art and design weren’t really taken very seriously, so you had to be really keen and driven to go in that direction as there wasn’t a lot of support for the arts.
Gruesome as they are, your drawings display some impressive reference material (that human sandwich, for example). Do you remember using references? If so, what?
Thank you. Well there was no internet then, so I think most of the reference came from real life. The hands holding the human sandwich would’ve been drawn by holding out my own hand as reference.
What were your main influences when you were a kid? What kind of stuff were you into at the age you were drawing these?
For the torture and violent stuff, I’m not sure to be honest. For the goblins, monsters and mythical creatures, I’d say that would’ve been influenced by films (Star Wars, Gremlins etc) and Fighting Fantasy role-play books which I was really into. I remember I used to be really into the art of HR Giger (the Alien fella) as well.
Which is your favourite of these drawings, and why?
The one where a helicopter is slowly lowering a blade saw onto some high tension cables which are holding back a giant iron spiked fist which is highly sprung (and being pulled back by a lorry) and ready to be catapulted at high speed into a man tied to a wall. I like how elaborate it is as a way to kill someone.
As a solution, it’s so over-engineered and environmentally/economically inefficient. I like the tension involved in this captured moment where something terrible and violent is just about to happen. I like the thought gone into specific bits, (like the lorry having a little ramp to slow it down) and I like the ridiculous indoor stadium style viewing platforms so the public can witness (and presumably enjoy) the execution.