Edward Monkton

Where Are We Going? by Edward Monkton
Love by Edward Monkton
The Shoe Of Salvation by Edward Monkton
Life by Edward Monkton
The Penguin Of Death by Edward Monkton
The Butterfly Of Freedom by Edward Monkton
It might surprise many to learn that ‘Purple Ronnie’ – the doyen and indeed, consumer darling of the greetings card industry, which has manifest an ever-explosive series of equally retail-savvy offshoots over the years – started out life in an Oxford student revue back in 1987. But it did, and we know this for a fact thanks to confirmation from its creator – and that of fellow greetings card favourite, Edward Monkton – a one Mr Giles Andreae. According to the man himself; “He was a street poet, alongside comedians, jugglers, musicians, what have you”, Andreae clarified in a 2009 interview in The Guardian newspaper, before adding; “The show's compere came up with the name, and the poems were much more bizarre and left-field than they are now”. Which probably had to be toned down we would have though for a more family-orientated audience which has fallen hook, line and sinker for Purple Ronnie and (related) friends over the years.

This germ of a future idea was spawned whilst Andreae was studying at Oxford University, and regularly communicating with his mother back home, more often than not in a collection of odes, which he seemed rather adept at. Enlisting the graphical help of a friend, Andreae conjured up an impromptu collection of poems, whilst his colleague illustratively rendered what was to be ‘Purple Ronnie’ in a very rudimentary graphic fashion. Which hasn’t really evolved that much with the passing of time. Printing some 200 or so cards, Andreae and co then biked them around Oxford’s stationers hoping that someone might take the bait so to speak.

Around this late 1980s juncture greetings cards on the whole were pretty uninspiring and somewhat reserved, whilst Purple Ronnie offered a more off-the-wall and engaging visual and literary tone and diction. Andreae describes them as being the greetings card answer to alternative comedy, and he sold them at 10p each from the outset. And they sold, much to Andreae’s shock and delight, although not like the proverbial hot cakes, in enough volume for him to realise that he might actually be onto something. Buoyed by the initial successes, Andreae approached a greetings card publisher, who it materialises was, again in his own words, ‘a housemate's girlfriend's parents' next-door neighbour-but-one’ person. Just for the record that housemate was a certain David Cameron. As in David Cameron the future Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party as it happened, both of whom have remained firm friends over the years since meeting at Eton College even earlier in life.

What we’ve also neglected to mention was while Andreae was working his tripe off to get this romantic notion/seeming flight of fancy greetings cards designs off the ground, he was battling cancer and undergoing intensive courses of both chemo and radiotherapy, leading up to and around sitting his final exams at Worcester College, Oxford. Obtaining his degree, Andreae then promptly entered the world of advertising in the city of London, to ensure that he had a secure career behind him in case his ‘creative ideal’ didn’t bear fruition. But of course, as the history of popular culture decrees, ‘Purple Ronnie’ did make the big time; and with it brought Andreae great success, as well as untold riches.

This unassuming, cheeky, yet instantly loveable little stick man design character benefiting from a way with sentimental, yet comi-tragic words proved to be a revelation in the greetings card and associated merchandise industry unto which it was duly born in the early 1990s; thereafter basking it its heyday for the following two decades and still showing no signs of ageing or being usurped by a younger model. Having said that, Andreae did generate an alternative illustrated figure, complete with a far more whimsical and philosophical outlook and accompanying literary edge to him; the polar opposite of Ronnie truth be told, going by the name of Edward Monkton. What’s more, much more in fact, several additional cartoon creations and best-selling book titles involving other characters have followed in Ronnie and Monkton’s graphic brushstrokes, not least ‘The Pig of Happiness, Penguin of Death’ and ‘Zen Dog’. Furthermore in 2006, Andreae collaborated with the Blunderbus Theatre Company’s adaptation of his own book, entitled ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance’ so as to bring it to the stage, which itself spawned a UK-wide tour.

View All Art Works By Edward Monkton