Like any cartoonist, I started drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil. As a kid, I spent hours on projects such as drawing an entire rugby game (what happens when you grow up in New Zealand), cross sections of underground tunnel systems and secret cities (what happens when you grow up with war-mad brothers), the great wall of China and Chinese terracotta warriors (for school assignments), and sketching on serviettes in restaurants while waiting for my family to finish eating.
In junior high school in Australia, my love of drawing was sealed as I entered my first technical drawing class. Later after completing my applied arts degree, I started work as a freelance cartoonist, which expanded into desktop publishing, graphic design and web site development.
When one of my biggest clients hired me as their personal assistant, my career path completely changed. Despite the serpentine path I’ve taken in my professional life, I’ve been fortunate to have accumulated many different experiences which today serve as a great source of inspiration.
As a kid I grew up in a bilingual family and together with English, my first language was French. This meant I had access to a world of foreign language comics and cartoons, which I probably would have never read if it hadn’t been for my upbringing.
The first illustrated books I remember reading were Busytown by Richard Scarry and Struwelpeter / Max and Moritz by Wilhelm Busch. Both being complete opposites in terms of illustration and content. These were followed by the enigmatic Miffy and Clifford, the big red dog. Before long, I was reading Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Gaston, Spirou and the Smurfs.
The local hero Murray Ball and his Footrot Flats comic series, Mad magazine’s Mort Drucker and British cartoonist Bill Tidy were my cartoon gods and idols, who I studied endlessly.
In primary school, the whole class belonged to a book club, and we devoured books on a monthly basis, such as classics like Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are and The Tiger Who Came To Tea written and illustrated by Judith Kerr.
When my family moved to Australia, I fell in love with the huge trucks and road trains, and got hooked on the comics in Trucking Life and Cartoons. This led me to the Ettamogah Pub cartoons published in the Australiasian Post.
Aussie classics such as Ginger Meggs, Norman Lindsay’s A Magic Pudding, May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and The Bunyip of Berkley’s Creek illustrated by Ron Brooks, were part of my immersion into Australian culture.
I loved the illustrations in the Hardy Boys, Biggles (drawn by Leslie Stead), and Brick Street Boys by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. One of my favourites was the Choose Your Own Adventure series – a fantastic idea accompanied by fantastic illustrations. Other favourites included BC, Crock, Andy Capp, Blondie, Garfield and Viz.
Being a huge WAFL fan (West Australian Football League), I remember the amazing caricatures of local footy players that were released by the Sunday Times newspaper and drawn by Cedric Baxter, as well as the editorial cartoons drawn by Paul Rigby and Michael Leunig.
At art school, I was introduced to and studied the work of Will Eisner and Robert Crumb. I remember being blown away by The Son of Sherlock Holmes, Maus, and other graphic novels.
I became a big fan of Japanese manga and animation, after watching Studio Gibhli classics like Spirited Away, as well as Akira, Final Fantasy and Ghost in a Shell.
When I moved to the Northern Territory, the tongue-in-cheek humor of NT News cartoonist Colin Wicking and his portrayal of life in the Top End, was an endless source of giggles.
While living in Germany, a friend introduced me to the East German Mosaik series, and their brilliant way of bringing history to life. I also discovered the underground humour of Brösel’s Werner.
In recent times, I’ve discovered the great Scandinavian artists such as Theodor Kittelsen, Hans Dahl, John Bauer, Peter Nicolai Arbo, Kjell Erik Midthun, Selma Lagerlöf (Swedish children’s book author), Jason, Tore Strand Olsen and Sven Nordqvist the creator of Pettson and Findus. In Norway, I also started reading the fabulous Bone series by Jeff Smith and the Mutts series by Patrick McDonnell.
I’ve been inspired by recently published graphic novels used as travelogues, and historical and cultural portraits, such as those illustrated by Katriona Chapman, Øyvind Lauvdahl, Joe Sacco, Riad Sattouf, Guy Delisle, Marjane Satrapi and Jenny Jordahl.
Cartoons and illustration have been and still are an inseparable part of my life, even if I haven’t always been an active drawer. As a teacher, I often drew cartoons to make learning fun for my students. Now after a long break from drawing, I’ve decided to pick up my pen and start over again.