Born in Guildford, Surrey, on 13 August 1949, John Minnion is largely self-taught as an artist. In the early 1970s, as he later recalled, he was “making a living from selling his Alice in Wonderland posters”, and developed this work by producing and selling his own versions of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (1973) and The Hunting of the Snark (1976). He then “decided to do things properly by enrolling at the London College of Printing to study book production and typography”, studying there from 1976 to 1977.
In 1978 Minnion became Political Caricaturist at the New Statesman, a post he held until 1988. He has also contributed to The Listener, The Times, Guardian, Marxism Today, Nursing Times, Classic CD, Sunday Business, On Air, Daily Express, New Zealand Listener, BBC Worldwide, BBC On Air, and other publications. In 2001 Minnion moved from London to Liverpool. During six years of drawing illustrations for The Listener, followed by work for the recording company Naxos, he had built up a collection of caricatures of musicians, and in 2003 published Uneasy Listening: A Caricature Guide to 20th-century Composers.
Minnion cites his influences as Beardsley and Trog. Preferring to work in black and white, he uses a mapping pen and brush with indian ink or coloured inks. He calls his drawings “caricatures, not cartoons,” explaining that “cartoons are jokes and I don’t do jokes.” He sees book publication as in some ways preferable to newspaper and magazine work, noting that “illustrators are not an especially celebrated sector of the art world, but they often have a feeling their work should hang around a bit longer in the world than it does”: “Unassuming though they are, newspaper illustrators occasionally wince when they see yesterday’s drawing shoved under the cat’s dirt-tray.”