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Don't Stop Laughing, this is Serious! with Judy Horacek
Talks / Lecture
7 March 2019
Cartoonist and former Canberra resident Judy Horacek gives her perspective on the Library's cartoon exhibition, Inked: Australian Cartoons.
She will also provide insight into her own work - what she loves about cartoons and the cartoons she loves, how the profession has changed in the three decades that she has been in it, and her musings about whether the medium will survive in this new age.
About Judy Horacek
Judy Horacek's work has been published all over the world, which includes regular gigs in The Age, The Australian and The Canberra Times.
Horacek also makes children’s picture books, both on her own and with Mem Fox.
Image: Judy Horacek, 2001, The unjolly swagman, , nla.obj-148725554
Don't stop laughing. This is serious with Judy Horacek
*Speakers: Cathy Pilgrim (C), Judy Horacek (J)
*Location: National Library of Australia
C: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome. Welcome to the [recording skips] traditional owners of this land, the Ngunawal and Ngambri people. I thank their elders past, present and emerging for caring for this land on which we gather this evening.
I’m delighted that so many of you have joined us here this evening to hear Judy Horacek speak about cartooning in Australia. The National Library holds in its Pictures Collection at the moment about 80 of Judy’s cartoons created between 1996 and 2006. These represent just a small part of our overall Horacek Collection which also includes books written and illustrated by Judy, copies of publications in which Judy’s work has appeared and her personal papers which incorporates original line art, colour art, hand-colour illustrations for Judy’s first children’s books and including Where Is the Green Sheep? That book created with Mem Fox and published in 2004 has become a childhood classic and one I’m sure many parents and grandparents here in the audience tonight have read many, many times. I know that I have.
Since then Judy has written and illustrated several of her own children’s books including one called These Are My Hands, These Are My Feet which was proudly published by National Library of Australia Publishing. But cartooning remains at the heart of Judy’s creative career and her work has been published all over the world. She’s a global sensation. At various times she has had regular gigs in The Australian, The Canberra Times and currently The Age. A onetime Canberra resident Judy has been a regular visitor to the National Library for many years.
Last night we were delighted that Judy opened our exhibition, Inked: Australian Cartoons. In that speech she said that often the measure of success for a cartoonist is having their work stuck on someone’s fridge or on the back of the toilet door. Among my Library colleagues and friends Judy can perhaps measure her success by the very large number of Women with Altitude coffee mugs and t-shirts between us.
Tonight Judy will explore what she loves about cartoons and share with us the cartoons that she loves. Please join me in welcoming Judy.
J: I feel really setup now, I have to be a global sensation, Kathy, that’s a bit frightening. Have to have a wardrobe failure or something. Would that work?
So I would like to – thank you all – I would like to thank you all for coming, it’s really lovely to see so many friendly faces, friends old and new and it is fantastic to be in the Library, this beautiful library and lovely to be in Canberra and the weather Canberra has put on for me is just completely superb. It’s very nice to be back and that crisp morning this morning and then the warm day, I love this.
So I’d like to start by acknowledging that we’re on Ngunnawal land and pay my respect to their elders past and present and send my very best wishes to all their cartoonists and artists. I’d also like to acknowledge the Library as I’ve done and the amazing work it does and thank them for inviting me to come here and talk and celebrate this wonderful exhibition. Hands up if you’ve seen the exhibition already. That’s good. Well for the rest of you that’s homework.
We cartoonists get very excited on the rare occasions when our field, our medium is put up and taken very seriously. It is as Kathy said an ephemeral thing, you read a cartoon, it’s funny. Sometimes even two days later it’s not funny anymore because the context has gone so to have it celebrated in this way is a wonderful thing. I’d also like to thank Guy Hansen who’s the curator of this exhibition Ink – do you want to put your hand up, Guy?
And the author of the accompanying book to - which I can recommend to you because it’s full of fab facts on cartooning. He’s a huge fan of cartooning which is possibly a liability for a curator but that’s a cross he has to bear. He began in 1992 and so – an annual exhibition that’s still going to this day which has cartoons that reflect back on the year that we’ve just had and it’s now held at the Museum of Australian Democracy.
So welcome to my talk on cartooning. I have to say we’re all friends here, aren’t we? I had a thousand words at one point and I’ve cut it back and back but I might have cut out the interesting bits so if there’s a bit that sort of seems to be going on in too much detail about something you don’t feel is important I was going to say call out and say you’re being boring but that would probably [mos] 5:22 me for the rest of the night so I’ll just try and read your faces or the general air.
So – and I also always mess these things up. Oh hello. Welcome to my slide show. Don’t let them sense your fear. Nice dishes, good dishes. Make cakes, not war. I had such fun drawing all those cakes. Surely she wasn’t the only one who could hear it. Eat me, eat me. That’s why it’s good I don’t have a proper job. If I was in meetings where there was leftover cake I’d just be terrible. Hey, there’s a sign on this monster. It says if you can read this you’re too – tattoos aren’t just for Christmas, you know. So I thought that was appropriate to put that one in given that the exhibition’s called Inked.
So when I reread the blurb about what I was going to say tonight it sounded a little like I was going to venture into the history of cartooning. I have no-one to blame for myself for this because I wrote the blurb. But I’m not a cartoon historian, I’m not any kind of historian and so I would like to warn you at the outset that all opinions expressed are my own and all historical points represented are available for questioning and you can check them in the Inked catalogue which is available in the National Library bookshop outside. I hope to avoid any accusations of truthiness but I do want to say what I’m going to say is from my perspective and my perspective alone.
Fast lane. Slow lane. General bewilderment lane. I don’t know, I used to swim at the Dixon Pool and they – on the fast lane – I don’t know if they still had it - they had a sign underneath that said please be realistic when choosing this lane. So another reason why there's lots to say is I’ve been doing cartooning for a long time now and cartooning history, I’ve become part of cartooning history. I started 30 years ago, over 30 years ago and at times as I’ve been writing I’ve had this sense that I’d – what I want to say is going to resolve itself into some fantastic intellectual through-line about what’s happening with cartoons and how they’ve come to the point where they’re at etc but I'm not sure that it has so that’s still to come. So next time I give a lecture at the National Library, that thesis will all be presented. There might be a doctorate – could I go and get a doctorate for that? Dr Horaceck, that – my father’s a doctor so it’s always been desired that one of the children became a doctor so a doctor of cartooning, I don’t think that’s what my parents had in mind.
So I’m not a historian and I don’t even know if you say a historian or an historian, is there a ruling on that? It is an historian. But there’s a bit of history in the title I gave this talk and that’s this cartoon here. So this cartoon many of you will see, it’s by Stan Cross and the caption is for God’s sake, stop laughing, this is serious. It was done in 1933 which is the depression in Australia and it was published in a magazine called Smith’s Weekly. It’s been named Australia’s most famous cartoon and the funniest cartoon but the person who named it the funniest cartoon was the Editor of Smith’s Weekly who published it so not sure about that. But it’s certainly very well known and the Australian Cartoonist Association have an annual award night called the Stanleys and you win a Stanley if you win. I was going to give you a picture of one but I would have had to find it on the net ‘cause I’ve never won one. Go to David Pope’s house, he’s got a shelf of about 100 of them.
So it was done during the depression and it’s often seen as a metaphor for the Australian spirit of just laughing in the face of adversity, not letting things get them down, bit of a larrikin spirit. Stan Cross himself apparently said it was just about the man laughing because the guy above him doesn’t have any undies on. I believe that both can be true, absolutely that it is that. So the title is a reference to this cartoon but I’ve said don’t stop laughing because I believe that humour is a fantastic way of looking at serious issues and making light of them but to make them less complicated. So not make light of them to say well this doesn’t matter but to make light of them to say actually, this is what we should do or this is the way the world could be better or this is how we understand this.
I’ve often said that humour is a fantastic way of changing the world and obviously this is a triumph of hope over experience because in the 30 years I’ve been doing cartoons the world’s got a bit more horrible. Now things are really serious so we absolutely have to keep laughing.
The next slide I’ve got – so this is a Tandberg slide. The public image of Malcolm Fraser, the real Malcolm Fraser. This is from the exhibition as is the Stan Cross one. Partly what I wanted to say about this is that you can see how much cartooning changed in – that’s probably only 70 years - maybe not even 70 years, 1933 to Malcolm Fraser’s heyday. This cartooning started in newspapers and magazines and it came from the tradition that in newspapers and magazines they – before photography or before photography was commercially viable there were drawings and they were done quite realistically because they were pictures of events and things and pictures of people etc.
So this is the tradition that those cartoonist artists came from which is very highly rendered, beautifully drawn pictures and they – when photography started coming in art sort of didn’t really need to do that anymore so cartoonists – well this drawing then when cartoons became released from that ability to have to reflect the world. So cartoonists could get more and more idiosyncratic in their style and more and more economical in their line and a master of the economical line is of course Tandberg and that was one thing he tried very hard to do, to just get it – as few lines as possible, just absolutely expressing what he wanted to say in that thing.
So in a way – I’m not even sure if it’s the same – can we still call that a cartoon and this a cartoon? We can but they’re obviously very different and don’t know where I was going with that. You see that was one of those things that was going to lead to the brilliant thesis but it just –
Now this one is a Dyson cartoon. It’s Labour wants a place in the sun from 1913, that’s Labour with a U so this is the working man down the bottom and this is Capital, the greedy – the man in the top hat, very fat, very greedy, beating down the worker and the worker is that noble beautiful idealised but also incredibly thin. Now this is one that just struck me that I did. The changing shape of capitalism. So then more? You dare ask for more? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Now have lots more, lots more, so cheap, so delicious, have lots and lots, shovel it in, more, more, more, that’s the way. So it’s very different - I did this for Overland so you can be a bit didactic when you do cartoons for Overland, the progressive journal.
It’s interesting now trying to draw a figure to represent capital because the evils of capitalism, somebody in a top hat who’s very large and very give me, give me, give me. That’s an easy kind of metaphor. Now if you want – now the people who are rich and in charge of the world, they work out at the gym, they have personal trainers, they’re all slender and in designer suits. So it’s harder to make them look in a drawing – harder to get that idea across. But – so this was how I did it. I also have to tell you that - look how beautifully that is drawn. That’s what they did in those days where we’ve just become more lazy now and this is how I draw. But I get to use colour which they didn’t get to do so that helps. This – that’s a break. But a mistake, it’s deliberate.
The second reason for the title, Don’t stop laughing. This is serious is I think that we are the end of a great cartooning era because to me I think cartoons are very much linked - the rise of cartoons is linked to the great age of newspapers and that’s where they started and that’s what – where they have been. Now that newspapers are no longer a growth industry it’s affected cartoons and my work’s mostly not been in newspapers, it’s been in magazines and journals and lots of political left wing sort of publications. But there’s been – I think there’s a flow-on effect in all that kind of work from the fact that there’s not the newspaper work around that there was. So I don’t think people will stop drawing funny pictures or I don’t think they’ll stop trying to make political points through drawings but the conditions that allowed cartoons to flourish in that fantastic way that you can see in the exhibition are coming to an end.
So – and other cartoonists tell me I’m pessimistic and they go people will always be doing funny pictures and it’s true but I think in that the energy now is moving to other things and to young people doing things that I don’t even know about. The internet obviously is hugely to do with that, where that is going to take us, how publication is going to be was I think in the next five years probably or 10 years or something. Becoming unrecognisable so – but you look at the energy in the comics world for example and you look at graphic novels and you can see that there’s still – there will always be I think this will for people to draw pictures and express the world visually in that way. I just don’t know how anyone’s going to make a living out of it.
So as I said it’s not a history, it’s only my perspective and my perspective is that of a female cartoonist working in the latter few decades of the 20th century and continuing into the first decades of the 21st so this is my potted history of cartooning told from my perspective. Someone invented printing presses, someone said let’s print the news, got rid of all those pesky town criers who keep waking us up. Then all the words with no pictures looked dull so they put pictures in to break them up, that was before photographs so they engaged artists to do it. The artists started drawings, realistic drawings then someone said let’s add funny captions and they became known as cartoons which was originally a word just for a preliminary drawing. Raphael has cartoons of things that then became murals and wall paintings. So – but it became attached to funny drawings, pictures with a joke in them.
Then once photography came in cartoonists started developing their own whacky styles and that style became its trademark. To be a cartoonist one of the important things to do is you develop your style so that your work is instantly recognisable. The two strands, newspaper ones which were political and then other ones, places like Punch magazine which were more about social observations. So – and newspapers were profitable and magazines were profitable and then most – the standard story of a cartoonist is a young man who’s gifted at drawing, bit of a larrikin in him, always in trouble at school for drawing pictures. Rocks up with a lot of hutzpah to a newspaper editor, says give me a job. The newspaper editor says yes, I like you. He goes into a room with all the other cartoonists and he’s kind of learning his trade from the older cartoonists and then as they move on he moves up.
That was the whole succession in newspapers, it doesn’t happen anymore. People don’t – there are not jobs anymore in that sense, there are sort of freelance gigs that you can get but not – nobody’s employed as a cartoonist. I think David Pope when he got his job on The Canberra Times was probably the last time anyone got a job doing cartoons and well deserved too ‘cause he does a brilliant job.
So the cartoonists and the editors were nearly all men by the way. That’s not just my opinion, it’s simple maths. So where my opinion comes in is in the fact that I’m mentioning it to you. The cartoons themselves were all about men so occasionally a woman would figure and in the cartoons that I grew up with they were of two types. There was the overweight housewife often holding a rolling pin, in an apron yelling at the man or there was the beautiful huge-busted, big-hipped, tiny waist woman who was the aspirational – incredibly long eyelashes. She was the aspirational figure and if only the man could get access to her he would be able to live the life he should have lived without this other woman who’s holding him back. I assume one type morphed into the other but it was never – there was no transitional phase ever shown so perhaps it involved a cocoon or something, I don’t know.
Then in political cartoons of course women just didn’t feature at all. So it’s not to say that I don’t admire those cartoonists that I grew up with who – because they’re brilliant artists and they did amazing things and they instilled in me a love of cartooning and what it can do and it’s not their fault that they’re all men.
So I grew up in Melbourne and I particularly remember Wegg’s cartoons in The Herald and he did do those two women figures but I loved his cartoons, I loved on Friday they had Wegg’s Weekend so – weekend papers so they had Wegg’s Weekend where he did six or eight cartoons and that was my favourite day of the week. I remember kids in the – at school who – parents got The Sun and The Sun had Jeff – which is now The Herald Sun in Melbourne – The Sun had Jeff Hooks’ cartoons which all had a little hook hidden in them. Does anybody – yes, remember those. I never knew what they were talking about because we didn’t read The Sun in my house but that’s – they’re still there. He’s another beautiful drawer.
So they were – those people were of their time in the way that I am of my time and that’s absolutely all you can be and I won’t invite people to – get that.
So when I began cartooning back in the late 1980s there was one female editorial cartoonist employed on a paper and that was Jenny Coopes on The Telegraph. The late ‘80s when I became a cartoonist was an amazing time for women making inroads into journalism, into stand-up comedy, being radio announcers, being newsreaders. Many of you will remember that it was once a commonly held belief that women couldn’t read the news because their voices were too high so nobody would take them seriously if they were talking about important events. So that was the milieu that I became a cartoonist into. Is that grammatically correct? That was the milieu into which I became a cartoonist. I became a cartoonist in that milieu. An historian. I’ll remember that. An historian.
This is a Bruce Petty cartoon which is about the different social mores and he’s of – they’re the different states and so that first one is Tasmania. That’s the female and the one beneath is the male. You can’t see what I’m pointing at here, sorry about that. I’ll try using the – no, I won’t, you can work it out. Then there’s the Queensland, the Victorian, the West Australian, South Australian, New South Wales and actually some of them still ring quite true. But I’m not prepared to say which ones and the ACT doesn’t feature so we can laugh uproariously at this one.
Bruce Petty so different from say Stan Cross’ line or Will Dyson’s line, he’s just crazy, just crazy stuff. He was – when The Australian was here so when Murdoch started The Australian and it was quite a progressive paper Bruce Petty moved up here and there’s this fantastic documentary about Bruce Petty where he’s driving around Canberra in a little MG with no – roofless, beetling around and he’s going up ANZAC Avenue and all the trees are about this high and he’s standing on the edge of the lake. Bruce Petty’s very tall and he’s got stovepipe trousers and very pointy shoes and about that much sock and then ankle. There is no lake, there’s kind of – it’s the puddle that’s obviously approaching – I can’t remember what it’s called but if you ever get to see it it’s fantastic.
Hmph, an almost perfect sunset spoiled by lack of decent mobile phone reception. So this is the cartoon that was on the first bit but that’s the top line and when I saw it without the line I almost can remember what the line was because it’s become so normal, we just – everybody just stands there with their phones like that. It’s not – when I did the car [recording skips] 23:01 but in fact it – probably we have to stop drawing people without phones in their hands now because that won’t look realistic.
Please enter your four-digit pin. Twenty-first century superheroes. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound while texting. Jack, please tell me you didn’t swap our only cow for the address of a website about beans. Leave me alone, Mum, I know what I’m doing. That’s the break and probably now I'm supposed to say all that stuff about feminism okay so yes, exactly. If you could just try to sound less like a woman. You want me to do animal impersonations? So that was – people would say your voice is too high. I mean I’ve had it said to me by an ex-boyfriend that – and so I just twisted it because why is the alternative to sounding like a woman sounding like a man so – but there have been men who haven’t understood this carton because they’re saying well – I know, go figure. Think what, you're saying men sound like animals?
Damn feminists. I do like taking fairytales and twisting them. Feminising them? That’s probably not the right word. Strong, brave, clever, pretty, pretty, pretty. When I grew up it was a time – when I grew up - it was a time when girls were getting to play with Lego and there was changing and there were all these colours and if I – my mother made me play with stuff and I had trucks and my brothers had dolls and all of that. It was – it’s great but suddenly there’s this pink everywhere – not suddenly, there’s this pink now everywhere so you go into say Kmart or Target and you’re in the boys’ aisle and they’ve got all the other colours and the girls have got pink. Various shades of pink but it’s all pinks and it’s not natural because 100 years ago pink was a boy’s colour because it comes from red and red is fiery and you don’t put women near red because you know how they get.
One small step for a woman, one giant leap for mankind. Show us your tits, hey, baby, how about it, ugly bitch? Not because you’re a woman of course but because you can’t urinate standing up. Oh you’re going to think I’m a bit obsessed with urination. Career advice number 9, a simple water pistol can vastly improve your status at some workplaces. Make sure you choose a powerful one. Wow. I was going to be the perfect wife, I was going to cook and sew and clean and clean and clean so what happened? They taught me to read. This one’s directly from my mother, I can’t claim any credit for this at all because it was a conversation we were having and I said – I’m the one saying so what happened? They taught me to read and she did read a lot.
So when I was at uni trying to decide what to do with my life – it’s not a blank yet. Can one million emails be wrong? Maybe I really do need penile enhancement. You know when you get all that spam that says lose 10 pounds or – and you think can they see me? So when I was at uni trying to decide what to do with my life I realised that cartooning was a way to combine my love of writing and my love of drawing and my love of trying to make people laugh and at the same time I discovered feminism so voila, I had things to say and the medium to say it. I decided to make my main characters all women because I looked around and the cartoons I saw didn’t have women in them predominantly apart from those two types that we mentioned.
It meant – initially it meant that I risked my cartoons being misunderstood because people would look at a cartoon that had a woman in it and assume it was about menstruation or childcare when it might be about occupational health and safety. That has changed a lot which is fantastic. Men were the every person and women were the subgroup. White, middleclass men were the every person and I also always tried to show diversity as best I could which was another thing that wasn’t really happening in cartoons. So apart from the occasional caricature of a Japanese tourist or a Chinese chef there really wasn’t anyone apart from white people in cartoons.
So once I decided to be a cartoonist I got together a folio of my work and went doorknocking and because my discovery of feminism came along with the discovery of social justice and full-blown left wing consciousness I was very selective about the doors I knocked on and lefty feminist community organisations, unions mostly and I began getting bits of work and it went from there. I also contacted The Age a couple of times, different editors for different sections and the art department and they put me on file.
So I’ve never had a proper job as a cartoonist. I apologise if I’ve said that 50 times and I sound like I’m whinging but – maybe I am but I’ve had casual gigs where I do one cartoon a week or two – at the moment I have two cartoons a week at The Age which is fantastic. As I was saying today when you do one cartoon a week you feel this pressure that it’s really good because you don’t have a cartoon appearing the next day. If you have a slack one everyone has to wait a week. So first in The Age then The Australian and then when I was living in Canberra I was in The Canberra Times and The Sunday Paper for quite a while.
I’ve had to supplement my living by doing other things, some cartoon-related, some not. I’m just going to see what’s going to happen. So this is when we’re with Altitude and this was the first cartoon that I published in – I’m so sorry it’s so pixelated – the first cartoon I published in The Age and I was published just coincidentally. So one day out of the blue an editor rang me up from The Age and said have you ever considered being published in The Age? I said I’m on file but – I did a bunch of cartoons and this was the first one she published. Coincidentally it was on the 8th of March and it was 1995 which – International Women’s Day so that was a bonus but it was also – my cartoons in those days were published on the obituary page. Not sure – anyway that’s where they were and this was on the page with the obituary of Olive Zakharov who was a very progressive Labor senator and was killed far too early in a car accident.
So that was all wonderful and very nice so this is one with Altitude and people liked it. But the only reason – a lot of you know this cartoon but you don’t know it because it was in The Age on the 8th of March in 1995, you know it because of what I’ve done with it and what I’ve done with it is because I’ve tried to make a living with cartoons, partly just trying bigger and better places to put my cartoons. So this one has been on a tea towel and an apron and I know that’s ironic being a feminist cartoonist and having your stuff on tea towels and aprons. They don’t make them anymore because nobody really uses tea towels and aprons. So – unless they’re say MasterChef. There’s a lot of people in the world now who are adults and voting and they don’t know what a tea towel is. Someone said to me I just thought it was the towel you dried your hands on when you were in the kitchen.
So this is one with Altitude and here she is in the screen-print version so a number of my what I call classic cartoons I’ve turned into screen-prints that I printed actually at Megalo up here in Canberra with a – expert printer who had got everything, all the registration exactly right up and keep dirty fingerprints off it because I’m crap at that kind of thing so I’m the one who carries them from the press to the drying rack and put down another piece of paper. Everyone to their own abilities.
This is another of those classics. It doesn’t matter what other people think, the important thing is that you believe in yourself. This cartoon illustrates something that I believe about cartoons which is that the best ones are either – that you look at and you think how the hell did she think of that or you look at and you think I was that close to thinking that one up myself. That’s what this one is and that’s what woman with altitude is as well, I think, and when I did – I also usually say when I did the woman with altitude – nobody was doing other stuff with altitude, airlines didn’t have meals with altitude and cafes in the mountains didn’t do food with altitude so I was the first. But I knew it wasn’t going to be long ‘cause it’s sort of obvious. Your concern about global warming has been placed in a queue and will be answered by the first available government that gives a damn about the environment.
My people. I did this cartoon last century, a lot of these cartoons I’m showing you I did last century and sadly my work often doesn’t date so I did this cartoon and then I thought I will turn it into a screen-print, a - limited edition screen-prints and try and make some money from it. But then Kevin Rudd came in and I went no, no, it’s fantastic, greatest moral challenge, I cannot do that to Kevin, he’s just – this cartoon is just destined to just be an acronym really soon. A year later I made the screen-print and there it is.
This is another one, woman with a past, woman with a future, woman with a present. This one is also the screen-print, if you could just try to sound less like a woman - the one we saw earlier – you want me to do animal impersonations? Passing a building site fantasy. Bet she’s intelligent, wouldn’t mind a game of Scrabble with her. What a mind. I’d give her the Nobel prize any day. Speaking of being on the back of toilet doors this was actually I was told on the back of the toilet door at ANU. The person who put it there’s not in the audience, are they? They were once, it was very embarrassing. Someone had graffitied on it, wits. So I had sat there as the professional trying to think what are the kind of things people call out of cars? What can I – I didn’t get it. It was just – I was a little bit crushed, I have to say. But I do now get to tell you and so that’s fine, I still get the laughs so that anonymous person who did that, thank you very much and –
These are my – these are the cards that I made so for a long time I made my own cards and got – had a distributor which is another market that’s kind of fallen apart in the world so someone else now does them who can print on demand and – that’s a long story but there are still horror [check] 35:08 cards out in the world and that’s good because that’s another plank in my slasher – cartoonist slash card-maker slash printmaker slash something.
This is my website and I’m telling you this because I have a newsletter and if you’d like to sign up to it that would be great. I have actually a form here so if you’d like to write your name and your email address on it I can sign you up so you don’t have to do anything. The newsletter I send out once a month with the cartoon topic of the month. This month it’s greed so from the way you’ve been laughing I think many of you will enjoy greed about what we’re doing to the planet and also some stuff about chocolate. So that you have to have a website now.
Once upon a time also if you were a cartoonist you just went in and you drew your cartoons. Sometimes you could draw your cartoon completely pissed, there are plenty of stories about that and you didn’t have to do a website or any of this other stuff but that’s not – I mean I don’t think there’s many jobs or businesses where you don’t have to have a website and get on top of all those skills as well or know some great people who help you with those skills. Hand up, Fiona Edge. I don’t think Ben’s here but Ben’s brother, Ben and his brother who’s a fantastic web designer so you get people to help you and it all comes together in the end. But then as soon as you finish the website it starts look like you need to do a new one. It’s a bit like Sydney Harbour Bridge, you paint it and you get to the end, you have to start painting it all over again.
This is a wonderful thing that happened. Guy is involved in this. I am woman, hear me draw. It was an exhibition that I had at the National Museum of Australia to commemorate Australian women, white women having – 100 years of having the vote so rather than just do a boring lino – I think you said, that wasn’t me – rather than just do a standard historical exhibition Guy did an exhibition of my cartoons and this little catalogue lived a long time and then had this version. I am woman, hear me draw with a whole new chapter and all the cartoons in colour. I coloured the ones that weren’t in colour and the new ones were obviously in colour. These are my other books. This is my most recent book.
Quentin Bryce is an absolute treasure, that’s what – she wrote me a card once because I sent her something and she wrote back and said you are a treasure. So I rang her up – no, I contacted someone who gave me her – someone’s someone, someone and eventually the message got to her and I had on my phone this number that I didn’t recognise and my partner said oh don’t pick up and I went oh might be important. Hello Judy, it’s Quentin. Kind of important. Anyway she upped it, she added – she said not only will I say you are a treasure, I will say you are an absolute treasure. So that’s the quote up there and then John Clarke, the late and much beloved John Clarke, wrote the foreword and while the book was at the printer he had his heart attack and died. So when I got the book back from the printer it was this very ambivalent kind of take the book back and give me back John Clarke.
This is – I self-published the book because the bottom was falling out of cartoon book publishing and that’s - woman with altitude appears as my little [coliform] 38:32, I think they’re called? Yeah, slight nod from Guy there. This is also to remind me to tell you that I'm having an exhibition – sorry, I’ll get back to cartooning in a minute – I’m having an exhibition in May at Beaver Galleries here in Canberra and if you join up to my newsletter you will hear all about that and you can come to the opening. You can come to the opening even if you don’t join up to my newsletter but you just won’t know when it is. So these are some of the prints that I’ve done and this is a painting. This is the Failed Mermaid. This is the very original green sheep. For those – for anyone who hasn’t been near small children in the last 14 years I have a book that I did with Mem Fox, the first book we did together called Where Is the Green Sheep?
That did, as Kathy said, became an instant classic, it just has – it’s now sold over a million copies. So it’s thanks to the green sheep that I can keep trying to be a cartoonist, really but that’s the original etching so that’s what Mem Fox fell in love with and said – have any of you ever seen Mem Fox talk? Judy, oh my goodness, I have just seen your green sheep. That’s how she is. Or asleep, they are just the two speeds of Mem. So she fell in love with it and said you should do a book and I said let’s do it together and it’s fantastic and we’ve subsequently done four more together although she says there won’t be any more, she’s retiring. She doesn’t think of me. That’s like – it’s 35 books or something and why should she stop? It’s a break.
So you know when I said there was only one female editorial cartoonist when I started cartooning? There is now 30 years later one female editorial cartoonist and that is the wonderful Cathy Wilcox. Over there you missed one. That’s Kevin Rudd and there’s red hair. This one’s in the exhibition. So she is a cartoonist for the Fairfax papers, Sydney Morning Herald, she’s based in Sydney. So when I started cartooning there were quite a few women drawing cartoons in the same way as women were gaining ground in other areas, going into public life. So there was Cas Cook, Jane Cafarella, Debra Kelly, Kerry Miller, Jo Wake, Trudy Clutterbuck, Kathleen McCann, Bev Aisbrook, Fiona Katauskas and others but we were generally not working for newspapers. We were sort of working alongside newspapers or for community groups or for other things and never really in the mainstream and mostly people have had to move into other things.
Some people have contributed with a cartooning component like Cas and her amazing books about childrearing and babies and others branched off into other types of artwork. Debra Kelly does incredible, extraordinary collages. Jo Wake is still doing comics. Fiona Katauskas and I are still battling away and you might – if you watch Insiders you might recognise her from Talking Pictures where she is the producer and she also is sometimes the featured cartoonist because she is handy and good. Sometimes she’s the presenter when Mike Bowers is away but as far as editorial cartoonists go it’s still only Cathy Wilcox. But on the plus side because so many cartooning jobs have disappeared completely the percentage of women is massively higher.
So – and here’s some other of my favourite cartoonists. No, like Guy, I don’t have any favourite cartoonists but here - this is Leunig so Leunig was very influential on me when I was growing up, maybe not so much now. He just did different stuff. He took everything into an emotional landscape, I think, quoting from the catalogue there, gardens of the human condition, this is. He didn’t want to do politics so there’s a famous story that one day when he was supposed to be doing a political cartoon he just drew a man riding a duck with a teapot on his head and they published it. You know it was the ‘70s, they did that kind of stuff. Try doing that now. Although you could if you were Michael Leunig but – I thought I’d put the man on the espresso machine and I’d tie some animal to its head.
This is David Rowe. We’re on a mission, where to now, boys? David Rowe is the most extraordinary artist and he is one of the very few people who still does everything by hand and so that is a painting that he – and it takes him several hours to do that and this is the Blues Brothers obviously with Morrison and Tony Abbott in the back. He just does a mean Tony Abbott. This is John Kodelke and I love this cartoon when it came out. The light on the hill. It was attracting the boats. It just says so much, brings in so much history, it just – I just think it’s fantastic.
Now the Walkleys. Everybody goes they’ve won a Walkley but Walkley people don’t pick from all the cartoons, the cartoonists have to pick what cartoon they submit and John Kodelke is always saying oh my god, I put in the wrong one again and he’s not very good. You sure I’ve won a Walkley? I think that that year – oh no, the one I thought should have won a Walkley that he didn’t put in was Julia Gillard letting go a little Kevin from a bird cage, that’s a bird cage. And saying fly, Kevin, fly and Kevin 747 – I can’t remember exactly what it was but it was a brilliant cartoon, trust me, and John didn’t put it in that year so this one possibly did. You will know this one, he drew first by our very own David Pope which went viral. I think he drew it and went to bed and then a million people had liked it by the next morning. That’s a break.
The final thing in my title, Don’t stop laughing. This is serious is that I feel that we’re in a world of the quip so a lot of humour nowadays just goes for the easy laugh. It’s happening in comedy, it’s happening in social media. We concentrate on Peter Dutton looking like a potato as if that has anything to do with – we laugh at Tony Abbott wearing Speedos even though he doesn’t as far as I know wear them in Parliament. Possibly the only good thing about Tony Abbott is that he likes exercise and that’s a good role model for people. We laugh at politicians for the slips of the tongue that they make even though any of us would make that, the suppository of wisdom. I could have said that. They’re neutral things but somehow everybody just goes – there’s more and more going on about that rather than trying to come in underneath and trying to get at why they’re – the way they play with the truth and they’re – all the kind of stuff they do.
So that’s just my little whinge and I think – and I’ve talked to other – not cartoonists so much but other comics about that as well and Hannah Gadsby who’s now well – global sensation, Hannah Gadsby, up there with me, she – when she did Nanette. So I saw one of the very early Nanettes and I sent her a message and – well Nanette is about how comedy – in it she’s quite strong about how all the comedy shows around her during the Comedy Festival, so many of them are just everybody making jokes about the wrong things and not the serious things, they’re not trying to change anything but believing that they’re political.
So I’m getting near the end. I go to Papua New Guinea every so often – I needed that to remind myself – and we go and work in some schools and one school just gave us this amazing welcome one day. Another school, do you have anything that says – so it says person because everything says princess on there. I showed it to some of the girls there and it’s a very gendered uneven society there but some of the young women are great and they actually – the last day so they have Book Week and we – a couple of us go over there for Book Week. They acted it out and they made a little shop and someone came in and I was in tears, I tell you, that – this is the – one of the princess dresses that they made and these are the two others. So the shopkeeper kept handing over these paper dresses, it was just beautiful. This cartoon actually did this century so yeah. Break.
So I’ve been a cartoonist for over 30 years and I started off calling myself a feminist cartoonist which I still am but now I find in the work that I’m doing other issues taking up more of my time and my thinking. Also in the publishing space I have it’s not particularly a political space so I do try and keep a delicate balance of just some hard-hitting political cartoons, hopefully hard-hitting with simply silly ones. It’s not because there’s any form of censorship, it’s not because anybody’s saying look, you can’t do that, it’s just because the space, it’s – I’m under the weather and I’m next to the quiz and it’s – people, just trying to stay under the radar with my politics. But also with a lot of the feminist cartoons as I said that I’ve done, they haven’t dated, damn it and so that’s both a success and a failure I think of my work. So – but for some of my cartoons I would love them to date.
But my biggest concerns at the moment are climate change and asylum-seekers. I’ve just got fellow human being and in a boat, epitome of all evil. Terrifying and dangerous Australian things. Spiders, snakes, sharks, indefinite detention. In case of refugee crisis please break glass. This is the planet and what we’re trying to do to it. The future in black and white, coal, bleached coral reef. The more the ice melts the warmer things get, the warmer things get the more the ice melts, the more the ice melts the warmer thing get, the warmer things get – slap him, someone, he’s hysterical. Quiet, all of you, we’ve got to think. My break.
So now that I’ve depressed you all I’m going to finish up with some animal cartoons. The passive aggressive elephant in the room. Beach scenes you will never see. Polite seagulls. Please, I insist you take that chip. No, no, absolutely you must have it. I had no idea I was dry clean only. Makes no sense, you know that, don’t you? It’s that damn male privilege thing, no rooster ever has to justify why he crosses the road. I waited and waited like the fairytale said but I simply turned from an ugly duckling into an ugly duck. The last one, much as I hate clichés I have to say that’s the wrong tree you’re barking up. Thank you very much for listening.
C: Thank you so much, Judy. What an absolute treat that was for us all. Thank you for sharing your insights, your perspectives, your passion and your creativity. Thank you. We do have time for just a few questions tonight –
J: Depends how long my answers are, of course.
C: We’ve got a microphone on either side of the room so if you can raise your hand we do need you to use the microphone because we’re recording for a podcast tonight. So we’ve got one just in the middle here.
A: Hello, thank you for a lovely speech. I’m really glad that you’ve been able to ride on a green sheep’s back for so long and I’m sad that Mem Fox is retiring. What other author would you like to work with?
J: I don’t necessarily believe Mem Fox has retired, she’s said it before. You know like Hannah Gadsby, come on, you don’t believe these people. I actually would prefer to just do my own because there’s a lot of work in drawing a picture book and I think that is that – although that said there’s a climate change activist in the States who I met when she was riding a bicycle around the world asking people about water and we’re going to collaborate on something so I think that that kind of collaboration would work. But I like the brand of Judy Horacek and Mem Fox and then the brand of just me so we’ll see but that one, because it would be about climate change I think would be a really strong one. She’s also – she’s very tall and slender and she’s got this wiry hair like that and I just can’t wait to draw her.
A: Earlier you mentioned Australia’s love of larrikins. I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore, I think that anyone that performs a larrikin act now is pounced on by the media if not the police. Do you still think we love our larrikins?
J: We probably never did love our larrikins as much as we always pretended we loved our larrikins, that’s one part of that question and I think that we still do love people who make us laugh and their – I mean I'm not sure what specific events you’re referring to, I mean one person’s larrikin is another person’s lout, that’s true. Certainly there was a lot of larrikin behaviour like men – people looking up women’s skirts, that was seen as larrikin once upon a time and now we don’t see that as larrikin because we just go actually it always made us girls uncomfortable, we never thought it was funny, flicking the bra strap, all of that. So there’s some larrikin - some things that were once seen as larrikinism that I think were part of being a dominant group and that now you’ve got people from less dominant groups saying well that – we didn’t like that, didn’t make us comfortable etc so yeah, I don’t know. Yes and no, I think is the answer to that.
A: Judy, I enjoyed very much your cartoons in The Age and I think I heard you say that you also have cartoons sometimes in The Australian, is that correct?
J: No, I did for a long time. I know how most of you probably feel about The Australian but honestly it was the best gig I’ve ever had, I had a big space, it was in colour, it was on shiny paper. I was at The Australian magazine at one point, I worked there for about four years where they decided to – the magazine that came out on the weekend and they decided to revamp it and they put in two cartoonists and – but it didn’t continue.
A: Well that really destroyed my question as it were because I was going to ask you whether you were selective about what you put in The Age and The Australian and whether you got a difference in feedback but you’ve already answered –
J: No well cartoonists don’t actually get very much feedback anymore, no, we don’t. The best feedback you can get – that I get at the moment is where I say did you receive the cartoon? They go yeah, thanks. Yeah so – but I never did anything different, I did – when I was in The Australian I just sort of did what I do and that – for good or for ill and that was fun. Do you think I do right wing cartoons for one paper and – you’re never allowed to work for the two stables anyway so if you’re working for one you have to quit from the other one, that’s not – yeah.
A: Great talk. I just want to find out how you came up with your own style. You were saying at the beginning something about you have to then develop your own style and so I’m thinking how long did it take to do that? How did you know when you’d hit on your own style? Were you purposely trying to find something different from someone else or do you just do what you do over and over and it sticks?
J: I think you just draw and partly my style was to do – Cas Cooke has a very pointy nose in the atmosphere about what we’re drawing and then people say 10, 15 years earlier have very round noses, Leunig’s noses and a couple of other cartoonists who started then so it’s partly a fashion that you’re not even aware of doing but it just became the way I drew. I know when I first started I would have a profile and there’d be one eye inside the profile and one eye just floating weirdly outside the profile and I did that for a while ‘til I thought what am I doing? But it’s just developed and part of it’s true is the pen that I use is responsible for my style so I use a Rapidograph pen which is – or an Isograph pen which is an architect’s pen when they used to use pens. So it gives a very smooth even line like mark-making as they talk about at art school where – doing pencil or all that kind of stuff so that was part of it. I don’t know why I used those pens except that I had them. They’re terrible, you have to shake them to get them to work so I could have done a lot more cartoons if I’d used a pencil.
A: Judy, I was just wondering if you’ve ever had a cartoon rejected in case it was too close to the bone for an editor or something.
J: I’ve had a couple of cartoons rejected and I have fulminated and I’ve gone oh I am being censored and then a week later I thought it wasn’t a very good cartoon so this did happen at The Australian where they said look, it’s not about the content of the cartoon, it’s just too didactic, it’s just too in your face and I was going oh typical. But they were right, it wasn’t – like there’s no point in putting out something – especially if you’re trying to convince people or just put a good point of view if you’re just sort of – if it is just not working as a cartoon, if it’s not funny, if it’s just too – not strong. I can’t think of the word that I mean so that has happened but I think there is a censorship that goes on that – where you don’t want to just – you don’t want to sort of do the wrong thing.
That’s one form of censorship where you’re just doing it to yourself and then there's another form of censorship which is what voices are in the paper at all so – and they’re mostly white male voices and so that’s not me personally being censored but that’s just – that’s the points of view that get represented that we read about. So no, I haven’t been censored, I’ve been actually protected by what I thought was censorship but turned out to be someone watching my back.
A: Thank you very much, Judy. I imagine that the quality of your cartoons you probably judge on the number of people that you can offend so I wondered if you retain a good QC just to protect your back just in case.
J: I don’t actually seem to offend all that many people. I don’t know what I'm doing wrong. I did – there was one man, a journalist who interviewed me, he was very offended as he looked at my cartoons and he said why are your cartoons so anti-men? I looked at what he was looking at and I said there’s no men in those cartoons. He said exactly. So yeah, I offended him obviously and I did offend someone with a cartoon that was of two shepherdesses on a hill with some sheep and saying they just ran off after the star that’s normally above the nativity. So oh they just ran off after a star and the other shepherdess said must be the male menopause. I mean the only reason that works is because it’s a joke about people saying it must be the female meno – the menopause so – but somebody wrote me a letter and said that it was sexist and if you’d done it the other way round I would have been really upset etc.
It actually came from a hospital and he said he was a doctor but I thought maybe he was an inpatient like that – yeah so my work doesn’t really – for good or for ill it doesn’t really offend people that I hear. I don’t get trolled very much at all. I did get trolled actually by this man who said I’ve been reading Where Is the Green Sheep? to my daughter and I notice there’s a lot of rainbows in it and I’ve been on your website and I see that you support marriage equality. Do you think it’s appropriate to be talking to three-year-olds about homosexual sex? Well no, I don't think it’s appropriate – or heterosexual sex either. Anyway it was quite bizarre because I just ignored it and then he wrote I notice you’re just ignoring my – you're ignoring my post and then he wrote again and said it would make me far angrier if you keep ignoring me than if you write a reply to which I disagree and why should I – anyway I wrote a reply and I said I'm sorry it’s taken me so long to reply but my partner had an accident overseas and so we’ve been dealing with that and she has been – she’s been extremely ill.
So – but as to your question, yes, I do support marriage equality. No, I don’t think you should talk to children about sex but I do think rainbows are just rainbows. It’s a chromatic scale, it’s a scientific fact. I didn’t say ‘cause you are going to be exhausting yourself if this is how you’re looking at the world. So – and then he wrote back and he said oh thank you very much, I hope your partner gets better soon. So – because I was a bit nervous when I sent it, I thought is he going to say I know where you live now and I’m going to come round and this is just so – I don’t know what that was all about, look at me, look at me or something. So that was a very long answer to the question.
C: One more question.
A: Judy, thank you very much for your 30 years of scribbling. You have inspired us all to do our own scribbles and yarns and things and I just can’t tell you how much we love it. Just two comments. One is I think the reason why cartoonists stay on the light side of life is that those who are cartoonists who draw on the dark side of life can make an even harder living like Mary Leunig. I don’t know how she puts two and two together to make a crust of bread, I really don’t. The darkness in her life that comes through the cartooning, it’s just – it is so sombre and sad. So thank you that you do have the light side but your light side gets to the nub of the issue which is the beauty of it, you just show us something that we’d never thought of, put two and two together and it’s the wrong tree.
But I was going to ask you, in days gone by people who did have things in the newspapers would get lots of letters from people who liked what they heard, not the grumpers but the people who like it. Do you get lots of lovely letters?
J: No. I don’t think people write letters so much anymore. I get comments if my stuff is posted online, nice comments for that and then often I’ll – somebody’ll put me into a thread and somebody has posted one of my cartoons without saying it’s me so I don’t know and it’s – there was one I did that offended – oh I did offend three New Zealanders. I did a cartoon. I delighted thousands of New Zealanders but three of them were offended and told me so. I did this cartoon about – that said somewhere in the Tasman Ocean – this is a picture of all these fish. You can see where I’m going, can’t you? – is a line separating the fish from the fush. So I then did another one – because I did check it with some New Zealanders beforehand, not enough, not - someone in next studio to me but not the one in the next studio from her. But I then did another one that there was a – from view from the east inside where there’s a line separating the feesh from the fush so that balanced it out.
But the one that got Tweeted and passed around a whole lot was still the fush one and it was really beautiful seeing some of the comments with people saying oh I miss your accent, Bro and it just became this thing because so many people in New Zealand – we’ve got such a strong relationship with that country with Australians living there and New Zealanders living here etc and there were just – it was just really lovely but it was – and it was on a website or – not a website, a thing and without my name and about – lots of people had liked it so I wouldn’t have known about that except somebody said this is a Judy Horacek cartoon.
So – but if anybody here would like to write a letter to the paper and they’ll forward it to me that would be completely fine with me, or the Library I’m sure would forward it to me or my email address is online and you can sign up to my newsletter and then I’ll write you a letter every month. That’s – we probably have to stop, don’t we? I could take one more question, we could be here ‘til midnight but we probably shouldn’t do that. Thank you very much for your laughing.
C: Thanks again, Judy, and as we bring this evening to a close, if you would like to head upstairs and purchase one of Judy’s many cards, books or prints including Women with Altitude I went and checked, there’s some in the bookshop. They’re available tonight with a 10% discount and Judy has also kindly agreed to sign copies of her books tonight. We also have extended the opening hours of Inked: Australian Cartoons now showing in the Exhibition Gallery so I encourage you to do your homework, as Judy said, and enjoy the exhibition and possibly even laugh out loud at the cartoons that are on display.
So thank you all for joining us here at the National Library this evening and I hope to see you again at your National Library soon. Goodnight.
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