I thought I might make use of a short break to post some of my cartoons from the year that was. Perhaps a couple that didn’t make it into the regular end-of-year collections from Scribe (Best Australian Political Cartoons) or the Museum of Australian Democracy (Behind the Lines).
I haven’t posted here for awhile. It is clear the place could use a bit of a spring clean! I will have to speak to the manager.
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Drawing a cartoon about the national apology to thalidomide survivors and their families, it’s easy to get carried away by the many fine and heartfelt words spoken on the day. Politics puts its best face on during occasions like these. But then you read the timeline of Thalidomide Australia’s interactions with the Australian Government as they doggedly sought recognition and action overy many years. Every national apology, every national gain, only comes at the end of a long, long fight from below. That will have to sit as my lesson from 2023.
In scrolling through my digital notebook to pull out a few cartoons from this year, I’ve also spied a couple of rough sketches that never got drawn up for print.
This one was drawn after the death of Ron Barassi, a celebrated captain and coach in Australian Rules football. Barassi is the player whose name is given to the imaginary geographical line (upon which I live) that roughly divides Australia between it’s rugby-loving and Aussie Rules regions. He was a legendary player for the Melbourne Demons who switched clubs, which brought to mind an image of him taking on a role with Humanity FC.
The other “in memoriam” sketch I found is of the great Australian cartoonist Bruce Petty.
It is impossible to overstate the influence of Bruce Petty on cartooning in this country. He was curious about the world, and surveyed everything with a critical, democratic, humanist eye. Watching him draw was like watching him think, his arm a direct extension of his brain. With a piece of paper and a felt-tip pen Bruce would take a line for a walk to see where it might end up, cutting and pasting the elements back together afterwards to give the reader a more direct route to the final destination.
For half a century, no one in our game drew the big picture bigger, in all its messy and contradictory complexity. Cartooning is a terribly reductive medium. It purports to distill things to their essence, but more often than not it succeeds only in reducing things to simplistic and vulgar distortions. Bruce’s work seems to have been a lifelong experiment in trying to say things simply without rendering the world simple.
Like Barassi for football, Petty for Australian cartooning is in our First 18, and probably our captain-coach. Without the angry sprays at half time, obviously. Bruce would’ve understated the team’s predicament with a wry smile and dry comment. I imagine everyone sucking on orange quarters and standing around the whiteboard, trying to follow along as Bruce quietly took a pen and triangulated every player’s position to the quantum level.
Thanks to all those who bought posters, prints or cards of some of my pictures via RedBubble this year. I don’t think I managed to put up anything new this last 12 months, but I’m hoping to get back to a few drawing projects outside of political cartooning in 2024. I’ll post stuff here when it materialises, and post any news on my Mastodon and Instagram accounts.
I am no longer an admin of the Coast is Calling poster collection on RedBubble, so if you want to contact me about those please email me directly rather than through RedBubble’s BubbleMail.
Thanks also to my peers in the Australian Cartoonist Association, who awarded me “Stanleys” for editorial cartooning, humorous illustration and as cartoonist of the year in 2022, and to the Museum of Australian Democracy, who picked me as their political cartoonist of the year for 2022.
All the best for the new year.