As a child growing up in Crieff Peter ‘Pedro’ Brock loved poring over the cartoons in the Weekly News.
“I would study them all, and on a Sunday, I’d grab the Sunday Post fun section for Oor Wullie and The Broons. It was the Dudley D Watkins illustrations that would inspire me to draw,” Peter, who was nicknamed Pedro at school, recalls.
“At first I would draw my family, then the neighbours and always the school teachers. I loved all the comics of the time – The Sparky, The Dandy, The Beezer, The Topper, as well as the wee Commando magazines.”
Throughout school, his heart was set on working for the comics as a cartoonist and illustrator.
“I went along to the Dudley D Watkins exhibition in Dundee to study the artwork he created, and applied to work with DC Thomson.
“I remember going along for an interview with the art editor Bill Stirton who showed me around the comic studios and I was delighted to see the Billy Whizz, Lord Snooty and Biffo the Bear artists all at work,” he smiles.
“Mr Stirton liked my work but told me to get some college training on analytical drawing and character development. He also gave me a book to help study layout, and lettering.”
This was in 1978, and as Peter had just left school he didn’t want to go to college, so had a short time in the army, before working in various jobs including delivering around Perthshire for a soft drinks firm; then with a local building firm as a labourer driving a tractor; working on an ice cream van; at the local cinema and bingo shining folks to their seats, all before deciding to go to college in the mid 80s.
“At college I studied typography, book illustration and poster design, and one of the projects I chose to do was the history of Dudley D Watkins and how all the characters were based on real people,” Peter explains.
“At nights I would go around the pubs in Dundee drawing caricatures for beer or a fish supper – a great student life.”
After graduating, he had various jobs and then took time out to travel to Canada.
“When I got back I started doing a weekly cartoon for the local newspaper going round the Highland games circuit setting up a stall drawing caricatures, and also at gala days and events.
“I was always getting work for caricatures, illustrations and painting murals in pubs, and during the 80s I was commissioned to paint murals for pubs in Perth and Edinburgh, with Allied and Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. And at one time had a painting in every pub in Crieff,” he says proudly.
“I then got to know great Scottish artist and cartoonist Malky McCormick, who pointed me in the right direction and invited me to join various organisations and clubs.”
Working with entertainment agencies, Peter soon found himself being booked for corporate events, weddings, and private functions and at weekends he would set up at Crieff Hydro drawing guests in the ballroom.
“It was never enough work to go self-employed,” he says. “I had just started work as a postman in 1992, and kept my artwork as a hobby with extra income.”
Musician Jim Macleod, for whom Peter was doing some animation work, suggested he work on the cruise ships teaching watercolour painting, drawing cartoons and caricatures of passengers.
“That was my big break,” says Peter.
“I was invited down to Regent Street in London and had to draw the panel who were interviewing me. I was a bit nervous but three months later I was on on my first cruise to North Africa and the Canaries, and Madeira. Since then I’ve travelled to Beirut, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Norway, Finland, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and many more places, clocking up more than 50 cruises.”
In 1996 Peter started his own business drawing football players and stars of stage and screen including Jimmy Logan, Susan Boyle, the Emmerdale cast, Katherine Jenkins, James Cosmo, singer-songwriter Gerry Marsden and many more over the years.
Celebrating 50 years of drawing and painting, he observes: “I must have drawn more than 100,000 faces, whether that be in cartoons or live drawing at events.”
On a commercial basis Peter creates illustrations for greeting cards and calendars, and safety posters for Tayside Contracts.
“Being self employed has had its ups and downs, none more than the past year,” he admits.
“Lockdown has affected me in a big way. Like everyone else it has been a tragic year, we all have families and loved ones and we all know someone who works with the NHS or emergency services.
“I think when it came last year it was shock – it was coming up for the Easter holidays, a busy time for me at Crieff Hydro. It all just came to a halt, and then was booked to go on a cruise from Dundee around, Britain, Ireland, Channel islands, and France, It was cancelled as were the cruises and all the weddings and summer events were gone.
“In late summer I got some caricature work at Crieff Macrosty Park Pavilion, which was nice and peaceful and relaxing.
“I was starting to build up business but then the next big hit was Christmas – I usually work at all the Christmas party nights at Crieff Hydro and the festive season is always my busiest but lost all that as well.
But nothing daunted, Peter started to paint 1970 themed illustrations at the turn of the year.
“I was sitting one night in january, thinking of happier times when life used to be so simple, wishing I had photographs from that era,” he explains.
“Then I thought why not paint what it was like from my own memories.”
His new paintings include the ice cream van; the Sporting Post vendor; the allotments; the old railway bus to Comrie; life in Crieff’s Alligan Road; and a bus from Perth through Methven, arriving at the old bus stop in Crieff.
Currently working on more illustrations on this project – inspired by everyday life, mobile vans, shopping, entertainment, and nostalgia in general – he’s painting an illustration every day.
“I’ve been called a social historian,” he smiles.
Peter is also working for Heart 200 on a project that started last year. “I’ve been commissioned to do a large cartoon map,” he says. “It was curtailed during lockdown but will be finished this month.”
While Peter hopes that life will return to some kind of normal this summer, he adds: “I don’t think it will be the same as a few years ago – this pandemic has changed people and the way we will be and interact.
“I think we have all had a wake up call and have taken the chance to analyse what is important and to show more respect to all who work to make things better.”
For paintings, prints, commissions, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit Facebook (Crieff artist Pedro Brock) or pedroart.co.uk