The Library was lucky to host a talk and demonstration, in late March, by Peter Lewis, cartoonist for our local paper, The Newcastle Herald.
Peter gave an interesting and informative talk to the large audience.
He started with a caricature of Bob Hawke; swiftly and simply produced, Hawkie, now hangs in my office.
He spoke about the politicians he loved to use and why. Hawke and Keating were in power when he started and they became his best friends. He joked he can do a lot with Abbott’s ears. But he loved drawing Julia Gillard the most. He met her about three years ago and when she found out he was a cartoonist she joked about her nose and he told her she was his favourite.
He showed a picture of the meeting with him and Julia and the Newcastle Herald staff, he sadly pointed out that many of them no longer work there due to cuts. And it looked like more were to come.
Peter then had a great slideshow of various cartoons published, and not published, from the past few years. He explained nuances of each cartoon, some had more depth than others. He said sometimes cartoons are pulled at the last moment, as they are deemed too political or risk litigation. He said Orica was the gift that kept on giving, and also the fig trees.
Peter had really sound political knowledge and was sensitive about difficult issues. He felt a cartoon was important as it could say things easier and better than words. But it is something that is consumed in seconds but takes a good 1.5 hours to draw. He further explained that the smart politicians know the cartoons can actually help them, but mostly he felt politicians were like seagulls fighting over a hot chip.
He also spoke about his dog at great length who is often featured in the cartoons as a witness or a counter point as if he were you in the cartoon. The dog was based on his own dog as a puppy, Romeo, who has since passed. People come up to him about the dog all the time, they love him and get upset if he is not in the cartoon. Sometimes, it is not right to include the dog in a piece though.
Peter finished the talk by drawing the portrait of an audience member, and it was outstanding. As he drew he encouraged questions and talk as he loves to talk while he is drawing people.
Peter was trained in fine arts and explained that cartooning, especially caricatures, goes against the grain for a classically trained artist, but it is fun. He likes that he gets to reinvent himself daily, but that needs flexibility and a sense of humour, which he definitely had. He likes to interest and amuse people and he hopes that comes out in his cartoons.
Everybody takes humour for granted, but it is much more difficult than it look. He is interested in how humour works and how do you make it funny for everyone. He prefers to use brush and ink rather than pens. Peter has done this all his life, but given more restructuring was happening at the Herald, may not be around for much longer. We all hoped this wasn’t the case.