Author Talk with Judy Horacek
Talks / Lecture
Random Life finds one of Australia’s favourite cartoonists at the height of her creative career; still making us think and laugh. It is full of all the things we have known and loved about Judy’s work over the years – her concerns for the environment, social justice and feminism, along with her off-the-wall quirkiness and trademark flights of fancy.
Join Judy in conversation with Alex Sloan as she explores the cartoons that will make you laugh a lot, and occasionally weep.
*Speakers: Nichola Mackay-Sim (N), Judy Horacek (J), Alex Sloan (AS)
*Location: National Library of Australia
*Date: 7th of September 2017
N: Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the National Library of Australia. My name is Nicola Mackay-Sim and I am currently acting in the role of Senior Curator of the Pictures and Manuscripts Branch. I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, I thank their Elders past and present for caring for this land we are now privileged to call home. Tonight I'm delighted that so many of you have joined us this evening to hear about Judy Horacek's latest publication called Random Life. The pictures and manuscripts branch had worked hard to preserve and share the National collection, including the Judy Horacek collection of cartoons.
In 2005, the Pictures Collection acquired 80 of Judy's cartoons, created between 1996 and 2006. That group, though, represents just a small part of our Horacek collection, which of course includes her printed books, copies of publications in which her work has appeared, her personal papers and original artworks. Particularly treasured, the hand-coloured illustrations for her first children's book, Where is the Green Sheep, published in 2004. That book, created with Mem Fox, has become a childhood classic and one I'm sure parents and grandparents in the room have read many, many times. I certainly have.
Where is the Green Sheep is one, or being short-listed for several book awards, and in 2005 took out the prize for the Children's Book Council of Australia, Book of the Year Early Childhood. Since then Judy has added writing as well as illustrating to her list of achievements, namely her publications, The Story of GROWL, Yellow is My Favourite Colour and These are My Hands: These are My Feet, which is proudly published by NLA Publishing. But cartooning remains at the heart of her creative career. Her new publication, Random Life, is Judy's ninth cartoon collection and it is full of the things that we've known and loved about her work.
Joining Judy this evening is Alex Sloan, who you will all know from her years as presenter on Triple 6, ABC Canberra. Sadly she retired at the end of last year, though happily her service to radio and charity work was recognised in March this year when she was named 2017 Canberra Citizen of the Year. She is, of course, a much loved friend of the National Library. Please join me in welcoming Judy Horacek and Alex Sloan.
AS: Thanks so much in Canberra, you're doing me proud, coming in on a Thursday night for Judy Horacek, who of course has been described as a treasure, then it was upgraded to absolute treasure and then total and absolute treasure. And this by Dame Quentin Bryce. And I was wondering if it could be topped, the total and absolute treasure, but I think the dear late, great John Clarke did it in the foreword to the book.
J: So he did a foreword and Quentin Bryce did a - what's it called, a tagline?
AS: A lovey.
J: So they've both national treasures and I'm the absolute - total and absolute treasure. I don't know if it needs to be upgraded, doesn't it, what's better than total?
AS: Well can I just read a little bit from - because I thought John, beautiful John, in the foreword he says, and he likens Australian cartoonists to Australian birds and he says they beautifully adapt to their habitat, some with powerful beaks and sharp talons, others are elegant but shy. Some squawk, some whistle, some cry. And he continues in this unique island landscape. Judy Horacek is a honeyeater, agile, industrious in seeing her position as she darts from plant to plant. That's just so beautiful. Were you happy?
J: He's obviously watched me at work.
AS: Were you happy with that description as the honeyeater?
J: Well I would have been happy if he hadn't died.
J: Yeah. No, it's a very lovely foreword and I think that the analogy that he uses that Australian cartoonists are like birds when he says coming from somewhere else, this is what you notice, the bright plumage and all the different - I think it's a very apt thing because we are quite different most of us, not with many similarities and with a very different approach. I don't have talons, I don't tear things apart but I do chatter in what I speak.
AS: You do wallop us around the ears occasionally, though, don't you?
J: No, not the good people, only people who deserve it.
AS: In the best possible ways. That's what I was thinking, because you're a mixture of delight and silliness and zebras and elephants in the room. And then you will seriously wallop us around the ear and things on things like the environment, losing our humanity through the treatment of other people.
J: Yeah well that's my job. That's why I got into cartooning, it was to have my say about the world and things that I felt were wrong with it and I don't know that I've changed the world that much but it is - it's a fantastic privilege. I feel that to be able to draw a picture and to put in there what you think and to summarise things, so I'm the Australian - as the asylum seeks resource centre re-tweeted one yesterday. It said Judy's really not going easy on Peter Dutton, is she.
AS: You've got to tell it like it is. See, you're free from the ABC now.
J: I just have to quote them now.
AS: Judy, I was going to - this is your - counting your - the books that Nicky just talked about.
J: So I've got - this is Random Life, this is the new one. These are my previous seven books plus eight, so this is my ninth book.
AS: Isn't it 17 all up?
J: Plus the picture books are 17.
AS: Yeah, and you are not only Judy Horacek total and absolute treasure, but you are Judy Horacek publisher now, you self-publish things.
J: Yeah, so I self-published this one because I've been DIY most of my career, I was sorting out things myself and I thought well why not try it so I did and it was a blessing and a curse, as these things often are, but it was nice. One great thing was having the control but then of course you have to do everything yourself and there's no-one. I had to do something so that Judy could do something so that Judy could do something so Judy could do something otherwise Judy was going to be really behind in what Judy had to do, so it was woah.
AS: So the - will the next one be Horacek Publications or?
J: It might be, it could well be.
J: I did quite - it is quite - I did a crowd funding campaign through Pozible which is crowd funding for those of you who -
AS: Hands up if you supported it. Oh.
J: Oh yeah. So that's where you put a project up and you say, please, I've always wanted to publish a cartoon book, can you give me some money, and if you give me money I'll send you a cartoon book and it's published and there were other rewards as well. So through that I raised the funds for the printing which was great and that meant I had the freedom to then make it another 32 pages and write then another 32 pages and at the end I was going, oh I don't know which ones to leave out. Oh, just make it another 32 pages, which is - it shows I'm not a very good publisher because publishers do not just keep adding a whole - that's the - you have to do 32 pages because that's how the maths works out so you don't have too many blank pages.
AS: But that's the whole point with freedom, wasn't it, it's artistic freedom.
J: Yeah, that's all I want. A nice - it's a nice little fat book, isn't it.
AS: It's a lovely fat book.
J: So it's over 230 cartoons in the end. So I started off thinking I was going to do 182 pages and then I just went -
AS: Just speaking of Quentin, tell us about -
J: Do you want to see a picture of Quentin?
AS: We do.
J: Okay, can I just quickly show some cartoons for the book because then I won't have to - So this is the passive aggressive elephant in there. Zebra window Bryce, vertical Venetian in Holland, 21st century superheros, able to leap to a building in a single bound while texting. When I become the richest of the rich I will happily give to the poorest of the poor, as long as they are having a go, of course, in which case they won't need my money. Win/win, obviously. This is the neon-liberal whole thing that poor people are only poor because they -
AS: It's a strong theme in this book.
J: Yeah. Well it shits me, it really - you know, that you can go to a private school and have lots of money and have your parents have lots of money, and that's fine, that's great for you, but think that somebody who has been brought up in this impoverished thing and got not very much education and had to leave school, et cetera, or had nowhere to do their homework or was cold or winter or something, to think that, well they're not running the world just because they weren't trying, that's - well we don't know that -
AS: [Unclear 12:25] housing market.
J: - that's why you're here, you wouldn't be here if you didn't think that.
AS: You'll get the [unclear 12:30].
J: In case of refugee crisis please break all grass. Compassion.
AS: Peter Dutton has that on his wall.
J: Yeah he does. He's got it tattooed on his chest. Surely she wasn't the only one who could hear it, beep, beep.
AS: We've all been there.
J: I'm sitting there go, will anyone notice I've had five slices, were they - no, surely they won't. Tattoos aren't just for Christmas, you know.
AS: That's fantastic.
J: It's that Dan Male privilege thing, no rooster ever has to justify when he crosses the road. Beware of the bath. Mermanauts - besides doing a whole series of hybrids. So this is me at the launch of Random Life in Melbourne and because I - because she's got a yellow dress on the cover, I thought I'd wear a raincoat because I don't have a yellow dress because I look crap in yellow, but that leads me to someone who looks fantastic in yellow.
J: Quentin Bryce.
J: And the reason that I asked her to call me a treasure on my book was because after she signed Julie Gillard in as the first female prime minister and she was the first female governor general, she was wearing a yellow suit. So I sent her a copy of yellow is my colour star, it's been republished, that's its new name, and she wrote me a note that said - or a card, beautifully - beautiful writing, fills up the space, didn't run out of space and have to go around the corner or go PTO or anything. Finished with this cue, and she said, you are a treasure, the book is a treasure and so are you, so I contacted her and asked via a securest route of my publicist and some - her publicist and someone else and someone else to ask if she would be prepared to say it on the cover of the book.
So one day I got a phone call, an unknown number on my phone, but there was an actual number, a Brisbane number, I thought, where do you go, oh, do I answer it or is it just going to be one of those scam things and I'm going to have to say no I don't need insurance or something. Anyway I picked up the phone, she said hello, Judy, it's Quentin here. And that was - so she said, of course that she would love to say that I was a treasure and that was when she put it up to absolute treasure and this is at Riverbend Books in Brisbane, which is her local bookshop. So I did an event, a Random Life event there and they asked her to introduce me. So she came and she introduced me and I thought she'd whiz on off in her con car afterwards but she stayed for the whole thing asking questions.
AS: She'd love it.
J: And this is not the yellow suit she wore to sign in Julia Gillard, that one she donated to the National Museum, but this is a new one she bought because - well you have to have a yellow suit, don't you, in her position.
AS: Who has a yellow suit, really, except Quentin. It's so funny.
J: Yeah, because I - fair and that's why - I've always thought that I look terrible in yellow but she's fair and she looks -
AS: Yeah. No, she can do it.
J: I said, if only I had olive skin or -
AS: There's a great photo at the time of the yellow suit and the Julia Gillard - at the airport and I think it was the Queen arriving and you had Quentin, Julia Gillard, Katie Gallagher -
J: Katie Gallagher, yeah.
AS: - and the defence official was also female. It was a fantastic photo of - there you go, and they all got on safely, off safely. So that's obviously a huge thrill to have all those associations and that kind of backing, Judy, that fandom.
J: Yeah and it was great through all that, she did that, and it was a great thrill that John agreed to write the -
J: To write the foreword. Everyone talks about what a lovely polite and charming man he is, but I think that it was a bit rude of him to die before the book came out. It was very - I knew him a little bit so enough to ask him and then be too scared to actually ask him again. Because I've said, would you write something for my book and he said, I'll think about it when I get back from holidays, which is not saying - it looks like it's saying yes but he might have just been, I'll think about whether I'll do it or not when I come back from holidays. So I of course put it off for ages to actually email him and say, well what do you think but anyway. When he - while I was writing it we had a lot of conversations about humour and comedy and satire and trying to use - making people laugh to make political points and points about the thing in the world, and I was looking forward to lots and lots more conversations but he - the book's called Random Life, he just proved how random life is.
AS: It was actually the [unclear 17:18] comment that rings in my ears about him after his death, and he went down the track and never came back.
J: He never came back, yeah, he's some Kiwi bloke -
AS: Yeah, it was beautiful, it was just beautiful, so we think of John and I think of all those missed conversations because he would have talked to you for hours, that you were -
J: Yeah so it was never - after he died it became clear that he had very few conversations that were less than an hour. And he would ring up and would - it would say unknown number because he didn't know how to put his number in the phone or something but - and I'd say - and Francesca would go, oh I think that's John. Francesca's my partner, and she said, oh well I'll see you in an hour or so and I'd go off into another room and we'd have a chat about just all kinds of stuff. Just amazing stuff.
AS: The favourite when the documentaries after his death, a favourite line from someone who was working in the early days with him and they said, yeah and we used to swim and then that would take a couple of hours because John would talk to the pool attendant for an hour. And I thought that's just exactly who he was. Moving on from that -
J: I just want to show you Yellow, so this is - Yellow is my Colour Star and that's the American version. It looks like an animation, doesn't it.
AS: It's beautiful.
J: So Yellow is my favourite colour, I like red too, also blue. Green is great and pink is fun but yellow is my number one. Do I just say hip-hip to purple, I say hooray, but yellow is the colour that brings sunshine to my day. And why I'm showing you this, of all the colours that I see yellow is the one for me. Which colour is the queen for you, yellow, orange, red or blue, purple, green or maybe pink. These pictures from there have just been installed in the paediatrics ward at Canberra Hospital. So you can just see the diver.
AS: Yeah, that's beautiful.
J: They're not - it's very hard to photograph a hospital but that's the diver there. So I worked with the hospital, obviously, but with Fiona Edge, the designer who's a friend of mine, she also designed Random Life. So she worked very hard, just working out because it's quite amazing - it's amazingly different to be putting pictures on the wall that have come from a book and there were lots of considerations, like you don't want people to - there's traffic and movement and stuff so I just thought I'd show you those. So there's the main figure and I'd just done the Canberra Hospital using a number of artists, just to try and make themselves less hospitally, which is -
AS: And were you really happy to be asked to be one of those artists, was it?
J: Yeah, it was great so they were picking people who had a connection with Canberra. I don't live in Canberra anymore but I was here for 13 years -
AS: Canberra's Judy Horacek.
J: - and so I still feel like I have a very strong connection with Canberra. So I'm now at the hospital which hopefully no-one ever has to go to the paediatric ward, but if you do well there's some things waiting. And this was the first thing I did with them, so this is the doors to the neonatal ICU and that's got the green sheep, well various sheep from there. Translucent, so people don't smash into each other as they're coming in and out of the door, but we -
AS: It almost makes you want to go there, but we hope, as you say, you don't have the reasons to.
J: Yeah I hope nobody has to go there. I'll let you do some stuff now.
J: Alex is going, now I know why I've never talked to her for longer than 10 minutes, she just takes over.
AS: Oh I love Judy, we've known each other a long time now and it's always delightful.
J: But we have never spoken for 10 minutes before - for long than 10 minutes, it's always been [unclear 20:54].
AS: That's always because you're whisked away because people want to see you.
J: No, it's because you're on the radio and your producer's going, get her out of here, you've got more guests.
AS: She once saved my daughter, who was little, after she'd squished her fingers at Helen Maxwell Gallery, so we've always had a - Judy Horacek brings out warmth for so many reasons and saviour now. But, Judy, you made a reference before about why you started cartooning but you actually - you were a poet and a writer of short stories, weren't you. Tell us - just take us on - I'm sure you've talked about it many times, but.
J: Well I've always - so from when I was very small I drew pictures but I also wrote and wrote poems and stories and things, I was that kind of child. And always wanted to be some kind of artist or poet or writer. So I kept that going, I went to university and did fine art and English literature which is what you do if you want to be an artist and a writer and you're not quite able to do it and then you're completely paralysed because you've studied the work of the greats for years and years and think well how can I possibly do it.
But I'm really glad I went to university because for me cartooning is more about ideas than just - because I did have a big fight with my parents at the end of Form 4 which is now called Year 10, where I wanted to go off to art school like Kathy Wilson and have a groovy time and they said no you have to stay at school at least until you've got - at least until you've done Year 12 in which case then I realised I'd have to do a folio to get to art school so it was easier just to go to - do arts because I didn't have to do anything extra apart from fill in a form. So, but I kept - I was always drawing and writing and I was involved in a poetry group that met at the North Melbourne Library and one of the women drew little pictures when she was - in her sentences and so the person running it said why don't we all try and do a cartoon, and that was - I went home and did a cartoon the day before the next meeting, not in advance and that pattern stayed. But it was just amazing as well, I want to be a cartoonist, this is -
AS: So it was love at first draw, was it or?
J: It was just - yeah it was just this light bulb moment and I'd always read cartoons and loved them but I suppose I just thought, oh well I'll draw a cartoon. I sat down and went, man, nothing, and this having to do one meant that I just thought more about it and I know that now, you don't just sit down at a desk and then do something, you've got to do a lot of boring stuff before that, like thinking about it.
AS: Well in fact this is a fantastic cartoon about the blank page in here, isn't there, or the blank sheet. There's one of your - I'm sure. Don't look at me like that, Judy, like you've gone mad. It was - it's a terrific -
J: There's so many cartoons in there, I can't even remember them.
AS: But we'll get to that one, I'll find it in a minute.
J: No, there's lots of blank pages in my work, I am often talking about the blank page, because it's scary. And one of the things I do when I have to come up with an idea is I use paper that's got stuff on the other side so that I'm not wasting paper because if I get a pristine piece of paper then I feel well I really can't put my stuff on it.
AS: So what is your process because David Pope, for instance, he does his all on an iPad these days but what's your process, is it?
J: So tidy, isn't he.
AS: Lovely David.
J: So my process is, I try and clear a little bit of space on my desk which is piled up like this. And if I'm trying to have an idea I just will sit there and try and have an idea and I write notes. So I'm not - I don't draw little drawings, they're mostly notes in words and particularly if I want to do a cartoon about a certain topic then I'll often try and find something to read because if I'm reading something, even if it's got information that I already know there's something about that information passing across my brain that means another part of my brain can be working on how to tweak it or twist it or add it to something else.
So often I set a timer of that for an hour and in that hour I'm not allowed to keep getting distracted, I'm not - I turn my phone onto flight mode, I'm not allowed to make a list of things I have to do, I just have to think of things that seem creative.
AS: Can you show us the cartoon that - and tell us about the thought patterns?
J: I don't know if I can.
J: Oh this is - no, not at all - go back.
AS: That's beautiful.
J: This is a - I had an exhibition at Beaver last year, Beaver Galleries in Deakin. I am having one next May so this is about this big and this is a bit different for me, it was just doing water colours just for the sake of it. That's another one from there.
AS: They're stunning, they're just beautiful.
J: So this one's called The Failed Mermaid. You can take the girl out of the cartoon but - And then this - the cover of that - of Random Life's obviously a similar thing. So there, with all the words and [unclear 26:03] on there, so - maybe I'll go the other way and find a cartoon. No, they're too far away.
AS: That's okay. It was just one of those -
J: So this is my website, to remind you to - just to remind me to tell you that I have a website, just to do a little bit of PR.
AS: It's a really good website, actually.
J: Oh thank you.
AS: [Unclear 26:20] notes.
J: And I have a monthly newsletter that some of you, I'm sure, are signed up to but I've put in all the information about stuff in the shop and talks I'm giving at exhibitions et cetera. So the thought process of this one; can one be in emails be wrong, maybe I really do need P&L enhancement.
AS: It's a perfect one.
J: I get - because I get a lot of spam and that's because I've not - I don't work for an institution that controls that for me so my ISP controls it but then they start busting through and I suppose because I was - sometimes you get emails and - I would like the bank ones, you're always getting ones from different banks and you go, well that's spam, that's spam, that's spam. And then the day I first got one from a banker I actually banked with, I went, oh, no, maybe it's not, maybe I should read it, maybe - and even though I knew it was spam and it was exactly the same as all the other ones I went - and that, so and again it's - then when you suddenly get one that goes, do you need to lose weight and, what, can you see me. That thing, so I guess that that - you just - the constant Viagra et cetera, I was just trying to find a way because it is a contemporary thing that most of us are familiar with all this spam, so - and I guess I was just bringing out a general sense of insecurity to it as well for that - what I was thinking.
AS: So you have a - you've published, what, weekly in The Age since - for the past seven years, is it?
AS: So what - does the deadline eat at you or how does?
J: It - no it doesn't eat at me, it depends. So I did one - I've got a deadline tomorrow morning which I won't meet because I'm here, so I had to do it last night and I've got an ideas book so that when I write my hour thing and I write down all these little notes and then I cull from that and write down things that - well hopefully - the best days I get a cartoon idea and then I draw out that cartoon story. But other days I go, oh there could be a cartoon there, the wording's not quite right or there's something not quite there. So I have these - an ideas book and last night - so yesterday I had all these things to do before I came away here and so - but I knew that if I started doing my cartoon it would take me the entire day. So I was just doing all these other things and then at about 5:30 I went, well I've got to do a cartoon now because I want to go home and have some dinner at some point. So I just flipped through and I just went, yeah that one's great. So it's a cartoon of a horse on a desert island and it's called Robinson Horso. And it was just - there'd been - and other days, well like the one that I did before that, so I'm twice a week in The Age now.
The one I did before that was just one about asylum seeking and - which is a Dutton-esque character saying it's a cruel, terrible world and people will do anything to escape and find a safer life for their families. And yes it's definitely a cruel world and that's why we send them back because we're just doing our bit to help. That's been in my book for a while but suddenly the other day I just - yeah this is the time, this is just - you know, with everything that's happening on [unclear 29:38] and everything that's happening with the babies and the children and everything I just felt well this is - that. So that comes into it as well, what's going on at the time.
AS: And in the introduction actually to the book here, say that a lot of people think of cartoons, oh you're having a fabulous time when the politicians are particularly dreadful, that this is a glorious time for cartoonists. You argue against that, don't you?
J: Yeah well I think the psychopath cartoons think that, but I think that - well there's a few things and one is that one thing that cartoonists do is we exaggerate. So if you've got people that you can't exaggerate, if people are being cruel beyond belief. Or Trump, how do you exaggerate Trump, I'd hate to be an American satirist because you'd say something and then the next day he'd adopt it as policy, you're so responsible.
And it was the Simpsons who invented Trump as President, where they were thinking well who would be the most bizarre President we could possibly have, and they had - about 10 years ago an episode where he was President. But I think that - for me and the type of cartoons I do and the type of cartoons David Pope does as well, we're trying to envisage a better world. So having people who are doing these bizarre things - well I don't think they're bizarre things without consequences. And I don't know how you do a cartoon about Malcolm Turnbull because that man is so complicated that do, we know that he believes in the same sex marriage, we know that he believes that climate change is real, we know that he believes in all of these things and yet he's standing up there saying, oh, we've got to have the coal stations for another five years and the postal survey, et cetera, which was what my cartoon probably would have been tomorrow for Monday, had I not had to do it yesterday.
AS: The high court decisions.
J: So it's about a horse now, yes.
AS: Which is the beauty of you, isn't it, that you can give us a good wallop around the ears and then you can - you love the silly, you love silliness.
AS: Yeah, and -
J: Robert Dessaix said to me recently at the - he was at the Bendigo Writers Festival when I was there as well, and he said, you really are a very silly woman, aren't you? You don't look silly but you're very, very silly.
AS: And for Robert to say that would be the ultimate compliment really.
J: Well I took it as that because what could I do really.
AS: But you think that - you sprinkle magic, it's just beautiful. I'm really - this book, I sent Judy an email saying I'm going to buy lots and lots of copies for Christmas because it sums up where we are at the moment. It's just that perfect - and there is the bit of happiness in there as well and fortunate and [unclear 32:23].
J: Yeah and we are fortunate. I've had a very fortunate life for all that there are no female cartoonists properly employed in Australia apart from Cathy Wilcox and for all of those things, and I do get to be silly and I do have a lot of freedom in what I do. But there's the balance. It's also - I'm particularly silly now because a lot of my work - when I first started a lot of my work was for community groups and political organisations and things. So it was all very serious stuff. I did so many cartoons of get - about violence against women which obviously it's a hilarious topic so you don't have to work very hard. Whereas now I'm in The Age and I'm in a spot, it's down near the back of the paper, it's not an editorial cartoon so it doesn't have to comment on the news of the day so I can comment on - well I take the opportunity to comment on it and nobody's told me not to so I keep doing it. But I'm down next to the quiz and under the weather so I have this freedom and I feel like part of that is a spot that's meant to be entertaining. So I get to just be ridiculous.
AS: Have you ever had a knock back from - has an editor said no, I don't want that?
J: No, the paper's so bad now you don't have an editor anymore, you just have somebody who says, great but you've sent it in, CMYK and it needs to be RGB, that's about as editorial as they get nowadays. I've been - in my career I've been - when I worked for the Australian magazine, which I did for a while and they did actually say one of them went too far and they said it wasn't very - they said it wasn't about the politics, it was and it wasn't a very good cartoon and I fulminated of course because I was being censored and we cartoonists get very pompous when we think we're being censored. But in fact they were right, it wasn't - it was a very didactic beating around the head cartoon and I prefer not to do those ones, well except maybe sometimes about Peter Dutton, but they're not going to convince people. You want to do a cartoon that's actually - it's going to convince at least can help convince people who are unsure about an issue rather than just one that's screaming through a megaphone at people.
AS: Do you think cartoons can change people's minds?
J: Yeah I think they can. I think no, because I haven't got any data, I've got anecdotes.
AS: Go for it.
J: But people are only going to tell me what they - I do know one time I gave a talk, and it was to a very conservative audience of women and I put up cartoons about - well my cartoons, so things like the rooster crossing the road and - the animal impersonation's one that some of you will be familiar with where a man is saying, looking down at this woman with a microphone saying, if you could try to sound less like a woman. And she said, what, you want me to do animal impersonations? Which is a cartoon that a lot of women are familiar with because we're told to try and sound less like women and the alternative to that is, I was just trying to take the mickey out of that. But I've seen women look at each other and realise the person next to them's laughing as well and think, oh it's not just me, that's what happened to this audience, that there's a thing that's happening to a number of people. Yeah, I don't know because -
AS: Has your mind ever been changed by a cartoon?
J: Oh. Probably not. No, I don't think it has.
AS: But you may be sent down a thought-trajectory that you hadn't been, I'm sure. That's what they're so brilliant at, aren't they?
J: Oh, it's just pulled the rug out from under my entire life.
AS: That's had more [unclear 36:16.
J: If my mind has never been changed by a cartoon and I read a lot of cartoons, how can I expect other people's minds - Certainly I've had - I've got information through cartoons and that some people, the way people get encapsulated, a political situation that can give you an angle on it that you didn't have before.
AS: I thought that David Pope with after the Charlie Hebdo, who drew first, that was - because there was such a big debate, wasn't there. No-one agreed with people going in and murdering whatever but there was a big debate about had it been inflammatory, the stuff that they'd done. And I just thought, oh I wonder if you [unclear 36:53] has changed the minds with that question, with that cartoon.
J: If he had done it?
J: The Charlie Abdo thing's very complicated, along with the Bill Leak thing. A lot of the people who are Je Suis Charlie, were Bill Leak must be sacked and they were doing -
AS: Free speech.
J: - [unclear 37:13] very similar cartoons. It's a different kind of cartooning than - it's not a cartooning that I like particularly, that kind of we are really deliberately going to try and annoy people. But it's a long tradition in cartooning and it's one that's adopted by a lot of people. So it's not my personal taste, I suppose is what I'm going to say but it gets - I don't think anybody should be murdered at their place of work or anywhere. Obviously that is a complete crime, but it's - to me what I take from that is just the internet and how crazy it goes in deciding who's in the black hat and who's in the white hat and it will never ever change. So that the whole social media thing, it's oh black and white now. And once they've decided someone's bad it doesn't matter what they do. So Bill Leak did a lot of cartoons that I thought were awful but every so often he'd do a fantastic one in the middle of that but people would still - wouldn't go, oh, Bill Leak's done one I agree with, they just interpret it as going, oh, look what the arsehole's done now.
AS: We're all in our echo chambers.
J: Yeah, echo chambers, exactly, and so it's - and I'm not so much because I fly under the radar a bit which is -
AS: How have you done it? How have you managed to do that?
J: I'm old, I think, is that what you say. Well I think - I don't do things that are deliberately provocative. I don't have a huge high profile in a newspaper. I don't think Cathy Wilcox gets all that much hate mail. I get trolled a little bit but not massively and I just ignore it as well because that's - and that's not to say that I think that that's the only way to do it. I think people who do fight back and call out, the Clementine Ford way of doing it is going, look at these vile things that people believe they are entitled to say to another person. I think that's an important strategy as well. It's just not mine because I'm a wimp.
AS: Will we have a look at some more cartoons?
J: Had my parents regressed or had I, Mum, Dad - who [unclear 39:22]. Some of these ones make no sense whatsoever but it's all these self-referential kind of - my parents don't look like that, by the way. The glass ceiling, don't just stand there, polish it or something.
AS: It's a fantastic upturn.
J: Every journey begins with a single step. Are you sure, I thought it was a double espresso.
AS: You take the mickey out of the coffee obsession.
J: I do take the mickey out of the coffee thing. I think that I'm really savage about the coffee thing because I don't drink coffee myself and I'm from Melbourne and it's just - it's gone a little bit insane there, honestly, with people going, oh my God, I can't do anything without coffee. And you go, well you've got a physiological addiction, you could get over that. No, no, I'm so superior person that I can't do anything without coffee. So I do these cartoons to take the mickey, and they stick them on the fancy espresso machines in the fancy cafes, so they're proud. But - oh, I must have put that in twice. The damn elephant in the room is tricky enough without it deciding to hold the remote as well.
Do you know, the first time I heard the phrase, the elephant in the room, I'd never heard it before. It suddenly appeared, hasn't it, over the last couple of years, and because when I was young elephants were small, they'd be in the fridge, do you remember that, how do you know there's been an elephant in your fridge?
J: Footprints in the butter.
J: Do you remember that saying?
AS: Yeah I do.
J: Yeah. So you get this sense that it's a subtle thing, whereas now there's this big giant thing in the room. But the first time I heard it, Mem Fox said it and she was talking about having a conversation with a publisher about a manuscript and it was the elephant in the room. And we were just talking at cross-purposes for quite some time because I thought the manuscript was about an elephant in the room, which is such an unlikely scenario really.
AS: That's so - it's interesting.
J: The future in black and white; coral, bleached coral reef.
AS: See, that's one of [unclear 41:27] surrounding here, so that's a terrific cartoon. That's wonderful.
J: Caz Cook Tweeted that she liked that. Very excited.
AS: That's beautiful.
J: Fellow human being, epitome of all evil.
AS: Yeah, I thought that was terrific too.
J: My space in The Age, it's only about that big so I have to - I get very inventive with how to make it seem bigger, so dividing it in half is one thing I can do. And sometimes I can divide it into four. Terrifying and dangerous Australian things; spiders, snakes, shark, indefinite detention. What do you want, equal rights. Ladies, remember what we practiced, equal rights, please, sir. Coach said I was playing like a girl; awesome.
This is on the wall at the MCG, the Museum of Australian Sport or the Australian Sports Museum in Melbourne and it's two metres high or three metres high.
AS: Isn't it great?
J: It's fantastic, so it's really good. And a friend of mine, Denise, went and stood in front of that little girl, so she had her feet on the ground which is probably about there, said she was the same height as there and so it looked like the bubble was coming out of her head and the girls were talking to her.
AS: That's very clever.
J: I had no idea I was a dry cleaner in there.
AS: So that's peak and silliness as it's - That's the zebra thing, tell us about the zebra thing. The elephants, the zebras, the chickens.
J: With elephants and zebras they're just funny, aren't they. There is a zebra thing, isn't there.
AS: There is a zebra thing.
J: I like zebras and I guess so in the book there's also a joke about the zebra who's changed his stripes to brown and gold and other zebras are saying, but we've always, always bagged for Collingwood. Yeah, so I guess one of the things that I'll - when I'm sitting down with my time I go, oh, it might be time to do another cartoon about a zebra now. Is there anything left in the elephant in the room thing? Little Bo Peep gets older. Now what was it I was looking for again? It's getting too close to the bone, that one.
J: As much as I hate clichés, I have to say I think that's the wrong tree you're barking up. So I think I'm always looking at phrases and things people say and things people have always said or things people are just suddenly saying and just trying to find something in there. It's just - it's desperation really and deadlines, that's where I got my ideas. Jane resolved to spend less time on Twitter but more time Tweeting. And that's the last one.
AS: That's beautiful. And I think we're probably about to open it up to questions, if you'd like to talk to the wonderful Judy.
N: We have microphones.
AS: We have microphones. Just before we do the - Monday's is hilarious too, your obsession with Mondays.
J: Because my day in The Age was Monday. It's still Monday, I'm Monday and Wednesday now, but. And Monday's funny as well.
AS: It is funny.
J: And we all just hate it so much. I'm freelance, I usually work on the weekends as well and I still hate Mondays.
AS: Oh there's so many - I do, this is a wonderful book. Now, please, ask Judy some questions on this - oh, right up the back. Look at that.
J: I always like making the people with the mics run.
AS: Yeah, he's fit.
Audience: Hello. Totally, totally wonderful. On the way here, there was a demonstration on Commonwealth Bridge and it was equal pay and equal rights, and as you know it's an Australia‑wide strike for childcare workers who say that they're not being respected and they're not getting a good wage. What would you have devised as a cartoon for the strike because it's a very significant strike, in my opinion.
J: What would I - I'm a bit deaf from the plane and my cold.
Audience: So there was an equal pay for rights for childcare workers.
AS: So it was a demonstration about that and it's an ongoing, you know, childcare workers can't even get home loans, they're so badly paid. The way we pay both aged care and childcare workers is just disgraceful, it's absolutely - I'm with you on this. And I think our lovely question that we're saying, what would you do with that in your ideas, Judy. Just come up with an instant cartoon for us.
J: Yeah. No, I would sit there, I suppose, and I would play around with just some ideas and I would bring in the huge rates of CEO pay, I'm sure, and to create some kind of contrast with that or something. It's awful.
AS: It's terrible. They are the most precious people in our lives, they're both our little ones and then our older people and then we pay them - people who look after them nothing, it's just terrible.
J: Yeah and it's been that way for a long time.
AS: I know.
J: And it's because -
AS: It's appalling.
J: One of the reasons is because it's always been seen as women's work and the same as our teachers, they-
AS: So my hope with the automation because all the blue collar jobs are now is that those jobs will come across to the so-called pink collar jobs and then they will all come up. That's my hope.
J: That sounds good.
AS: That's my theory. It's a failed hope.
J: I still cross that George Columbaris' workers who have been underpaid that much money, now they have to wait and it said in the paper today they have to wait over a year. The skunk, he could just hand them a little bit of his money and they'd all be fine.
AS: I'm with you. At the front here, and keep putting your hands up.
Audience: This one's for Judy and Alex.
Audience: What do you want to be when you grow up?
AS: I've got there, I'm Canberra's happiest retiree.
J: You're a Citizen of the Year or something, aren't you?
AS: Yes, which was lovely.
J: I don't know and I do wonder that because at the moment I'm - because I'm doing the children's books and I'm doing exhibitions and I've just started making little ceramics and things.
AS: Oh, have you?
J: Yes, it's really fun. It's not because - it's not a blank piece of paper, you've got a lump of clay and you just push it until it becomes something. And so I'm just trying to work out when I grow up and I have more time to work in the garden or something. Yeah, I don't know.
AS: But you must be grateful that a creative life and working with ideas, it's - you must be grateful about that everyday.
J: Oh yeah. No, it is amazing. it is, it's - I've carved out something aside from - I'm in The Age now two days a week but it's a small thing, so it's aside from the actual profession of cartoons, like David Pope in the Canberra Times and other editorial cartoons and stuff, so they're people who have jobs and superannuation and all that they pay, et cetera, and I've done the cartoons that I believe in and I've put them onto merchandise because just to get them published sometimes, put them on greeting cards and things. So it's been a little entrepreneurial which is why - and the book fits into that so I don't - I would hate to just be in my room being creative and drawing all the time, I don't think that would suit me. Although sometimes I think it sounds incredibly attractive, I just know that I'd go, no I want to go and learn how to make a book or learn - ring up people and get quotes for something.
AS: So it's probably a progression of all that - all those processes.
J: I probably just want to do what I do now but better, how's that.
AS: More questions? Right in the middle there. Thanks Stuart. Look at him.
J: We set this up deliberately, Stuart.
Audience: You bring so much joy to our family everyday, so thank you sincerely from my three year old and my 50-something year old husband and me.
J: Thank you.
Audience: I'm really interested to find out if there are people in your life that drives some of the characters in your children's book. I'm thinking specifically about the one page towards the end of Green Sheep where you have a whole heap of sheep, some singing, some dancing, some flying. I'm really interested in the narcissistic sheep that's looking at itself in the mirror and whether or not that was based on someone you know.
J: We all have to look in the mirror sometimes. There's the innovative and agile sheep, they're all the ones on the bouncing and the thing and there's - no, it was the - when Mem and I did that book, so this is where the Green Sheep which is - here is the blue sheep, here is the red sheep, here is the bar sheep, here is the bed sheep, and there's sheep all the way through it and each pair has a relationship, but - and there's a rhyme in each of the quadrants. So, but we just played around with a whole lot of sheep and there was the jar sheep and the bar sheep and the crying sheep and I did the bone sheep which had a skeleton in it and I did the dead sheep. At one point I did the bong sheep because I was going, oh I'm so tired of these sheep. And we just picked the ones and so obviously all one syllable so we just picked the ones that fitted best in the book with each other, et cetera so that on that page at the end of the book there are just some of the leftover ones and some that obviously are like Carmen Miranda. The Carmen Miranda sheep has quite a few more syllables than one so she couldn't go in. So no I just like the - well I think I did the fishing sheep and then I just had the lakes so a matter of - so there's a space for sheep there can be looking in there. So you've taught your children the word narcissistic, have you?
Audience: You'd need to know what he was like.
AS: But that's beautiful that - yeah, it's cross - Judy's loved and reached - talks to people across the generations and the genders. That's a huge achievement, isn't it.
J: Well yes I think so.
AS: You're not supposed to question.
J: [Unclear 52:04] big nose yourself, are you, I go no, it's nothing, Alex, it's nothing.
AS: That must give you a warm, fuzzy, sheepy feeling.
J: Well I think it's - I do think it's amazing given that I haven't had a regular spot that people do know of my work and have found it and come across it, even though I've not been on the television or not had that regular publication and things like that. So when I'm going, oh I've nowhere and then I have no superannuation and all of that, I can go no but there are people who have come across the work and it - and I believe it's through the strength of the work. Don't hate me for sounding arrogant but this is what - I do think it's because of that and because it does speak to people and I've had a lot of people over the years say well that cartoon's about me or how did you know that that was my life or this is exactly what I was thinking. I took that cartoon [unclear 53:01] just and said this is what I'm talking about and stories like that. And that's amazing, that really nice thing.
AS: I was just saying to Judy before [unclear 53:12] who's been to Canberra a couple of times, I gave her the women with altitude t-shirt because I've thought for a soprano it's like - it was multi-layered and she was delighted so I've got this vision of her out on some stage in rehearsals in your t-shirt.
J: Well she should send me a photo and I can put it on my -
AS: Oh, okay.
J: - website.
AS: She's a big Tweeter. Any more questions? Yeah, right at the back, Stuart. You know you'd love it and then down here. Double.
Audience: What happens when you need to draw an animal or something you've never drawn before? So do you go and find it in a zoo or do you look at reference photos or do you just draw a blob and then shape it so that it looks like an armadillo. What do you do?
J: Is that - you'll have to -
AS: So -
Audience: Oh sorry.
AS: - an animal that's unfamiliar, how do you go about drawing it, do you go to the zoo to look at it, do you look up reference books, do you - if it's an armadillo or something that you -
J: Yeah, I Google. I used to go down to the library and we used to - my local library, this little - I'd go in there and there I am, a grown up person going, oh I'd like a book on vultures and - or just something, but now everything's online so I can just look up stuff. I don't tend to use - so I would look at - what was an animal I was trying to draw the other day? I can't remember but I would look at the animal - a few photos and just say, okay, well this is the relationship of its forehead to its mouth and its legs to its body and that kind of thing. But thereafter I leave it alone because I can get too stuck in trying to - in my most recent book with Mem Fox, Ducks Away, which is about a mother duck who goes onto a bridge and she's followed by one duck and then two ducks, three ducks, three ducks, four ducks, five ducks and then they fall off one by one and while they're falling - the first ones off and the mother duck's going, what I'll do with four on the bridge and one below and then there's three on the bridge and two below. It's a book with hidden maths, it's really very good. But I was trying to draw a bridge and some ducks and some water and the ducks had to be able to fall in the water but also the top of the bridge, and it was just doing my head in because all I could do was have this proper perspective drawings but then that wouldn't work for the next drawing. I took photos of bridges and I went on a holiday in Japan where there are lots of bridges and I'd masses of photos to try and get that - something that is recognisably something but then works as - that could do what it wanted to do. It was terrible actually because I ended up running really late with this book and my agent rang up the editor and said, how's Judy going and I just had to get one page right and then I could do the rest of the book. So we finally got one page right and the editors was going, yes, okay, the book's going to happen now and the editor happened to say to my agent, oh she's done the first - she's done page one. And my agent said, I don’t know why she didn't ask me - well I do know why she didn't ask me because I probably would have fibbed. But - and my agent said, but she's done the other pages. The editor went, no, she's just done the first one but the other ones will come really quickly and I just - So cross, but anyway I got it done in the end.
AS: That's a good question.
J: And it's a cute book. But for ducks I think I did look up some ducks then, just to make sure that I was - that they looked duck like and not looney duck like but tried to make Horacek duck like or something.
AS: Now I think there was a question here.
Audience: Why do you draw people with pointy noses like that?
J: I don't know, I think it's partly the fashion when I started so Cathy Wilcox does pointy noses and Kaz Cooke does pointy noses and a generation earlier, Michael Looney does big blobby noses so there were lots of blobby noses. So I think it was just part of a style that was around that time. So that was in the early '80s where it was all starting. I've stuck with it. I wish I had - but I've always done people with tiny eyes as well and that's - a lot of cartoonists have - they have an eyeball and eyelids and eyelashes and all kinds of stuff and that greater expressive possibilities. So I just got this tiny dot which I can move a couple of millimetres and change expressions quite amazingly.
AS: Well it's beautiful.
J: I think that's why I do - I remember one time I did something for 3CR which is Melbourne's community radio station and I had to do some - I had to - I wanted to do white and black people and everything was published in black and white, so there was only white and black, you couldn't have anything else. And 3CR said, look, we're just going to take this down to the Koori Information Centre and make sure it's okay, that you haven't offended anything by drawing this black person. And the guy at the Koori information said, yeah, sure, that's fine with us, but jeez you'd never see a Koori with a nose like that.
AS: Always saved by Indigenous humour - sense of humour. Any other - I think otherwise we'll set you - oh, just one more. Last one, last question.
Audience: Judy, you said that when you're keeping notes for your cartoons you tend to have written notes rather than a bunch of sketches and I'm just wondering, when you go to actually draw them, does it normally just work out at the first go or do you normally have to redo it and redo it to get the perfect [unclear 58:50].
AS: No, I redraw and redraw.
J: So I tend to draw it in pencil and then pen and then I will trace it again. And this is one reason why it would be good to be electronic, because I will do - so I've got to get the words to fit as well, especially now my space is so small and so I have to work out if there's going to be three lines of two words each or two lines of three words each and do a - my own proportional spacing but also just to get things right. So I do tend to trace and re-trace, that's why I draw on photocopy paper so I can just see through it.
AS: So you're not tempted to go down the digital David Cope?
J: Well I bought myself an iPad Pro, so I wasn't tempted back in the day when David started doing it and all that where you'd have to draw like that and look at it on the screen, I just thought that's going to be too hard for me to learn how to be doing that. But now that you've got things like the iPad Pro with an amazing pencil that you can draw - you can get it like a charcoal and it's very pressure sensitive and everything so I did buy one of those but I lost the pencil so. No, I've mislaid the pencil, so I haven't -
AS: I can see a cartoon coming on.
J: And I'm always on deadlines so that I can't - I go oh I could do that now, no but I've just got to do it the way I know how to do it because I've got to get it done.
AS: Judy, you're an absolute and total treasure. Thank you. Thanks so much.
J: Thank you. No worries.
N: Yes I feel like the meaning now. We've got some refreshments for you upstairs, though. We've got the book for sale, 10 percent off, I believe in our bookshop and Judy might even sign it for you, perhaps.
J: I'd be very happy to sign.
N: Oh, very nice of you, thank you. And, look, as Alex said, they're a great Christmas present. Get them for lots of your family. I think I will be too. So I'd just like to say a huge thank you for a very special evening to our lovely ladies I'll say tonight. Our absolute - and what is it, total and absolute treasures.
N: So just thank - I'd like you to join me in thanking, once again, Judy and Alex. I'll see you upstairs.
End of recording