Sitting at the back of the class is a shy little boy who always seems to be writing, writes IAN LAMMING.

But little do his classmates at Ambleside Primary School realise that a young Jim Tyson is actually drawing cartoons of them and their teacher.

His passion for cartoons was inspired by the Beano and other comics of the day. “It was the first thing I ever wanted to do,” recalls the 47-year-old father to Barnaby, seven and Joss, eight. “At school I was quite introverted and comics were my little world. Beano cartoonist Leo Baxendale was also my inspiration and even today my cartoons retain some of that Beano style.”

ARTIST: Jim Tyson with his 2021 calendar

ARTIST: Jim Tyson with his 2021 calendar

His love of cartoons continued through his time at The Lakes School, Troutbeck Bridge, but when he went to Carlisle College to do media studies his focus switched to music.

“I liked Carlisle, though I remember never having any money,” he recalls. “I specialised in print media at Cumbria College of Art and Design. It was good but I didn’t pursue it. I ended up working in various music shops in Kendal before opening a record shop with my wife Karen, specialising in collectible vinyl and the local music scene.

“I also played bass and sang backing vocals in an indie/alternative rock band – Seven Seals – and we even got a record deal releasing a single. We performed our own stuff and later on, covers. But you reach the point with two young kids where coming home at 2am is a bit much.”

Twelve years ago, Jim rediscovered another childhood passion, fell running, and the sport inspired him to pick up his pen once more as his artistic eye and satirical wit combined to good effect.

SKILFUL: Jim Tyson has created a calendar combining his love of cartoons and fell running

SKILFUL: Jim Tyson has created a calendar combining his love of cartoons and fell running

“I started drawing fell running cartoons which became a series of calendars,” he says. “It’s a nice niche with a loyal following, in fact I’ve sold out for 2021, mainly to local fell runners but also to Europe and as far away as America, though I’m not sure they will get all the in-jokes.

“A lot of people think I’ve drawn them or someone they know, usually their husband. But the images are composites, people types from what I observe, such as a bald middle-aged man, like myself, caricatures, the short shorts and running vest wearers versus the compression tight-wearing people with poles.

“There’s a lot of chat at the moment among runners about the use of GPS and other technology and how it is changing the face of fell running. Characters in my cartoons often take the appearance of dyed in the wool runners only equipped with a bum-bag and a couple of Jelly Babies, showing the collision of the two worlds and the disapproval. In any humour there is generally a stereotype or a victim so there is the potential for people to take offence but it’s not like stand-up humour and just concentrates on fell running in-jokes.

Jim Tyson cartoon

Jim Tyson cartoon

“There are no events on at the moment but prior to lockdown I ran regularly with my local club, Ambleside AC, so there’s lots of opportunity to get new material. I’ve also received some personal commissions from people wanting images for family birthday cards and organisations, such as an e-greetings card I did for Cumbria outdoor footwear company inov-8. I also draw for the Fell Runners Association magazine.”

COVID-19 provided further inspiration. “After the first lockdown people got out and a lot of records were broken and fastest known times set. Even though there’s nothing going on in the racing calendar these things still happen and you can put them out there as jokes.

“The calendar cover is a coronavirus cartoon with the bug chasing two fell runners up a hill, past some wild campers surrounded by rubbish.”

In 2015 Jim ran every day in aid of Parkinson’s disease research as his father had suffered from the condition. His son Joss has taken up the daily challenge, this time in aid of Cats Protection UK.

Joss Tyson on one of his daily charity runs in aid of Cats Protection UK

Joss Tyson on one of his daily charity runs in aid of Cats Protection UK

“We got a rescue cat from Eden Animal Rescue, but she was originally from Leeds. Margarita, named so because she had survived by eating pizza crusts from the bins of a pizzeria,” he says. “She was a bit skittish and unpredictable at first but seems to have settled in. At some level Joss must have remembered me running for my dad and he wanted to do something to help cats. He’s been doing a minimum of a mile a day on the roads and fells, which we put on social media with pictures of the Lakes as a backdrop, and while he only set himself a £50 target, he reached £700 in six days, thanks to attracting people who love Cumbria and cats.”

Pandemic permitting, Jim is looking forward to the annual Lakes Comics Art Festival in Kendal, in October, which attracts artists from around the globe and involves displays and workshops.

Moving forward Jim has one eye very firmly on the past and the publication that kicked off his interest in comics as a child.

“I’ve actually sent my work to the editor of the Beano and had a good response,” he says. “That would be a dream job and as I already draw in that style, I feel I would be a good fit.

“I’ll continue running and it would be great to pull together enough work to have my own hardback collection of fell running cartoons, which would be like having my very own fell running version of the Beano annual.”

Instagram: jimtyson_