Questions for Joanne Brooker, Illustrator & Caricaturist
- How did it all begin? Tell us a little of your early life and influences, and when you knew you wanted to be a caricaturist? An unusual career choice, maybe?
- I can clearly remember at age five, trying to draw a rose. Finally I drew round scribbles with a stick stem. Another child said it looked like the scribbles were petals and I was amazed. From that moment on all I wanted to do was to figure out how to make lines into objects. I used to draw all the time at school, even if I should have been working. The most obvious thing to draw was the teacher. That was how I learned caricature, good and bad! I was surprised that I was being praised for my drawing even the cheeky drawings of my teachers. It was an easy move from drawing teachers to drawing politicians at the newspaper!
- How would you say a caricaturist differs from an artist? What are the key skills a caricaturist must have? Talk us through how you decide on which personality is a good subject, how you start thinking about representing him or her, and how long it typically takes you to finish one caricature?
- A caricaturist understands face recognition. We all have the ability to recognize faces but are not aware of the thought process that is instinctive to us all from birth. I look for the features on a face that I recognize in that person and then I exaggerate them. A caricature looks more like the person than a regular drawing as it mimics the way the brain sees faces. I then add my feelings and what I want to say about that person. If I feel strongly about the subject then the caricature is strong. That is what makes caricature powerful as it can be more honest than some subjects are comfortable with. Most caricatures take minutes to draw but there is a lot of thinking going on before I put pen to paper. Once the face is in my head, it is easily transferred to paper.
3. Tell us about your Dubai adventure? What were some of the most interesting commissions and your most cherished memories of living in Dubai?
I lived in Jumeirah Beach Residences overlooking the Gulf. I thought I was in paradise. We moved in before it became popular and often had the beach to ourselves. I taught caricature at many schools around Dubai which was fun. Kids in the UAE are very open and confident. I also drew caricatures at Atlantis Hotel which was an amazing experience. It was a very successful venture and I wish it could have continued.
My biggest project in Dubai was drawing caricatures of people that live all about Dubai. I wanted to find a way to meet and connect with all the nationalities and levels in Dubai. Myself and another artist, went about Dubai from the fish market, souks, clubs, barbers, restaurants, building sites, camel farms to the financial centre. We drew caricatures and gave them away in return for a photo.
- Do you think people have forgotten to laugh today, caught up as they are in the rat race and stress of 21st Century living? How can a caricaturist help inject a sense of humour in society?
I don't think people have forgotten to laugh, in fact we look for opportunities to laugh as much as possible. The stresses of life and especially with the results of the GFC, make it vital that we take the time to lighten up. At the end of life do we treasure money and objects or the time we spent laughing with our friends and family? As a caricaturist I love to make people laugh. If I give them a drawing and they smile then I feel it is more valuable than any money. However, I do still need to make a living!
- Tell us a little about your family, and your biggest priorities today?
My family were a big part of my return to Australia. As much as I love to travel the only place you really belong is where your family is. I had to constantly return to Australia from Dubai as my daughters kept having babies! I now have seven grandchildren and they are my biggest priority.
I will always travel and look for adventure and I hope this will teach them that the world is a wonderful place and that they can do anything they set their minds to.
- Any big dreams, or magnum opus project that remains to be fulfilled?
- My dream now is to extend my artistic abilities into oil painting of portraits. I have begun a series of paintings which will be exhibited at the end of the year. I am already taking commissions. Maybe one day, my work will be worthy to be exhibited in Dubai!
7. Your biggest strengths and your greatest weaknesses? (three of each, if possible)
I always say my strengths are my weaknesses and my weaknesses my strengths. They all go to make up the complex creature that is me. I am resilient and stubborn, tolerant and impatient. I do not like being told what to do but I appreciate instruction from those I admire. I don't like pomposity or arrogance but I can be guilty of both. I am cheeky and childish which can also be flippant and silly. I try hard to be honest as I am a very bad liar. All this I put into my art.
- Apart from your art, what are your favourite pastimes? What is a typical day in your life like?
I enjoy disappearing into a book. I love traveling and have a list of all the countries I am yet to visit. I love camping and being in nature. My day will always have art in it somewhere, reading about it, drawing or painting, writing up lessons or watching documentaries about it. I love to teach people as I am always learning from my students.
- Did you manage to interact with any Emirati artists and caricaturists during your time in Dubai? Do you think the Emirati culture has a tradition of caricature at all?
I taught caricature at the Dubai Ladies Club which gave me an opportunity to meet Emirate ladies. There is certainly plenty of artistic talent there! Interest in cartooning and animation has been encouraged in Dubai, with the success of Mohammed Saeed Harib wonderful animated stories Freej. I hope that Emirates will continue to see animation and cartooning as a viable career. Caricature is in every culture if you look back far enough through the history of art. Times and context often decides when it makes itself known.
10. Any regrets about life? Any ambitions left to pursue? If you were not a caricaturist, what would you have been?
I sometimes wish I had known as a young woman what I know now, but then if I had then maybe I wouldn't have learned what I now know! I wish I had gone to university when I had the chance but then life follows its path and there is no way of knowing if some other path might have been better.
If I had not been a caricaturist I would have been a photographer. I think that would have given me the chance to do more creatively and to use it document life. I admire war photographers in particular..
1. Secrets to living life to the full.....don't take yourself too seriously, no one else does!
2. Life to you is.......................full of promise
3. Favourite artists / caricaturists of all time? Sebastian Kruger who made caricature recognized as a fine art.
4. Three things that you love and hate about Dubai? I loved it drama, it's crazy originality and its extremism.
Hate is too harsh a word but I was disappointed that the GFC caused the worst to come out in some people. I hope that one day Dubai can and will welcome back the people that wanted to be a part of Dubai in spirit as well as for income. Taxi drivers could be a challenge at times as well!
5. Your two favourite cartoon characters from the world of art or film?
Alice in Wonderland and the illustrations of John Tenniel.
Fred Flintstone, who I used to draw from the television when I was a little girl. The artwork of Hanna Barbera still fascinated me.
6. Can computer animation ever replace the art of caricature?
No. Nothing replaces the hand of an artist.