Cartoonist Illustrator Author
How it all began
At school I loved drawing, and loved those days when it was raining too hard or snowing too deeply to go outside so we could stay at our desks and draw.
When I was in Toronto studying zoology I shared a room in a women’s residence with a friend and used to draw cartoons between bouts of studying, stick them on the door, then pop back inside and wait to hear what happened when people walked past. If I heard footsteps, then laughter, then footsteps, great, but if I heard footsteps, then silence, then footsteps, or just lots of footsteps, I’d whip the cartoon inside again, stick it on the wall in front of my desk, look at it for hours, and try to work out what wasn’t working. I’d totally forgotten about that until my old room mate reminded me years later when I had become a professional cartoonist. I had undoubtedly already learned a lot from my door.
When I finished school, I studied zoology, then came to Australia and studied to be a vet.
After being a vet for a while, I took a temporary break to move around the country with my then partner, and had kids.
While I was waiting for them to be old enough for me to get back into vet work, I took our unhinged dog, Raffi, to dog training school to see if I could help him understand how being a dog was supposed to work. I drew some cartoons for the newsletter and was delighted by the response, which made me decide to try to get work as a cartoonist until I went back to vet.
I spoke to a cartoonist to find out things like, how to find work, whether you show prospective clients a portfolio of cartoons about their subject or any subject, what to draw cartoons with and on and how big, how to present them to whoever you are drawing for, who owns copyright, what copyright is, how to work out a fee, whether you get them back, and where to start. He suggested a publication and I took a portfolio of work in expecting them to ask questions they didn’t ask; they took a quick look at the portfolio of work I had taken in and said they’d take one cartoon every two weeks. Just like that!
I sent some of the cartoons to The Sydney Morning Herald and they liked them well enough to offer me regular work as a freelance cartoonist which I did fow quite a few years. I was cartooning at a time when there were lots of publications using cartoonists and I ended up drawing for lots and lots. I sent some to The Medical Observer and ended up drawing two small cartoons to go with anecdotes, and one big one on anything vaguely medically related on a regular basis for twenty six years.
As you can imagine, I have boxes and boxes of cartoons. And they don’t include all of the ones I created digitally once technology had moved in that direction.
I would start with a spiral bound blank paper artist A4 notebook, divide it into roughly eight squares, then would scribble down ideas with lots of scratching out and scribbling over. Sitting in a cafe was a great place to do this, because the activity stirred up energy, but at the same time made it important to focus hard. More than once I had people ask me if I was OK … I had to explain that the expression on my face was thinking.
I would place a template of the box that had to go around the cartoon beneath the top sheet of a pad of thin paper, and draw the cartoon in pencil, quite loosely. I’d then draw over it in ink and trace the box, incorporating my signature. When that was dry, the pencil could be rubbed out. It would then be photocopied onto thicker paper; I had discoved that photocopy toner repelled water, so when I painted over my cartoons with watercolour paints or ink wash the colour would bead off the lines leaving them crisp and black.
Originally I would send cartoons by post or courier, or take them in myself.
When everybody went digital I started creating cartoons using a graphics tablet and stylus and send themn directly. I tried to make them look as much as I could like the hand drawn ones and part of that was achieved by using transparent layers of colour over each other to give the uneven effect of real paints.
Cartoon workshops were always fun to put on, and one time my right arm got to be made up to play a blonde cartoonist’s arm in the Australian TV series, Heartbreak High.
I’ve also won a few awards as a cartoonist which has been lovely, including twice being voted Best Single Gag Cartoon Artist by the Australian Cartoonists’ Association.