Interview Joanne Brooker
1. Tell us about your background and how you got started in caricature and illustration.
I remember being fascinated with draining from the age of five. I drew all the time on anything I could find, desk, school books, my arms! As my teachers were always in front of me at school, I drew them. I think this was my early training for drawing caricatures of politicians. Luckily my teachers liked my caricatures and were very supportive. I can’t the same of all the politicians I have drawn!
In 1988, I finished Commercial Art training and started working in various art related jobs. In 1991, I joined the Australian Cartoonists Association and though them I met Tony Champ who was the editorial illustrator with Qld Newspapers at the time. I thought his job as an illustrator was amazing so I decided this was for me. Through sheer nerve I talked the editor to giving me a job as an in house artist that lasted for ten years! It was fast, stressful, demanding and the most wonderful work for an illustrator. To see my artwork in print was always a thrill.
2. You're currently featured in the National Museum of Australia's Behind the lines exhibition. In your opinion, what role does political satire play in the reporting of news and public issues?
I lived in the UAE for two years and Kuwait for a year. I also travelled alone through Iran and South America meeting local cartoonists. Although we are aware of the censorship for cartoonists in these countries, the idea that a government can imprison or murder a cartoonist for his/her artwork seems ludicrous here in Australia. Living in these countries has made me very aware of the power of the political cartoon. Caricature can capture more about character than many powerful people care to have shown. In Australia we take these freedoms for granted and sometimes, I think, we forget how valuable political cartooning is in the media. I hope that there will be a new generation of political artists in the future and this art form won’t be lost.
3. Can you walk us through your creative process?
An editorial illustration requires an image that grabs attention and captures the strongest ideas within the story. I can call on a variety of styles from realistic, graphic, cartoon, caricature, line work or computer work as suits. I have a vast collection of reference books and magazines and if I don’t have what I need, I can find it online.
For a caricature I look for a good clear image that reflects something of that person character. Once I have the elements orgnaised I can sketch up in a matter of minutes. Painting in acrylics takes an afternoon, oils a few days. Line work art is done in an hour. Many years of working to a deadline has made me a very fast artist!
Most of my clients find me online so a lot of my artwork is scanned and emailed to them so it makes no difference if they are the other side of the world or next door. This is a very fast and efficient way to work.
4. What would your dream job or commission entail?
I have actually lived my dream jobs! Through my work I have travelled to China three times working in fourteen cities in all the provinces. I have worked in Bolivia, Dubai, Kuwait, South East Asia and India meeting artists from all walks of life and cultures. I have drawn hundreds of people from all over the world in some amazing places.
I have travelled all over Australia as an artist and had a wonderful time.
But if I were to choose a dream commission at this stage, I would like to paint a series of portrait oil paintings of famous Australians and have them exhibited.
5. Do you have any advice for other illustrators?
To be a professional illustrator you need to learn as many styles and techniques as you can master. This greatly increases your ability to service a larger client base. Always treat your art as a product that is a reflection of your time and talents and charge accordingly. Always be professional and treat clients respectfully as they will pass on their experience with you to others. Illustrators need to support each other not work against each other. The only person that wins in a price war between artists is the client.
Remember you have a lifetime to learn, practise and enjoy being an artist. There is no cut off point, any retirement, no limits. To be paid to do what you love is the greatest way to work. To use your art to expand your life is a great privilege.