A good cartoon works on many levels to express something significant about life. A great cartoon gives form to deeply personal truths, saying the unsayable. Cartoons can also be funny.
I enjoy doing cartoons. The choreography of words, images and ideas is exciting and there is often much more in a cartoon than was intended. There is a strange sophistication involved in the creating and reading of cartoons, a language steeped in cultural and universal symbols that can move us in extraordinary ways.
I'm not saying these cartoons do all of this, all of the time. On a good day, they will delight and inspire, on another day, they may raise a grimace of recognition, or a faint chuckle. What I do know is that they have brought encouragement and laughter to many, over the last thirty years. I'm sure you'll find something to smile about.
spelling, cultures and different churches
I do cartoons for people in different countries, so some of the spelling might be Australian and some might be American. A couple even have British currency mentioned in the text. Sometimes, cartoons don't translate very well across cultures, but I've found that these seem to do quite well, at least in english speaking countries. I try to draw on universal human themes rather than have a smaller focus, and I think this helps them bridge small cultural differences.
Most of the work I've done has been for Protestant churches, although some of the later NCLSR books included a Roman Catholic audience. Once again, I try to look for universal themes, and I've found that Catholics, mostly, enjoy the cartoons as much as any Protestant.
but is religion all that funny?
Everyone's heard of political cartooning, but religious cartooning? To me, everything that is noble and pathetic about the human is on public display in the church. It is all there and it's great material.
Power plays, charity, hypocrisy, courage, gossip, love, jealousy... nothing is parodied in these cartoons that I am (we are) not guilty of in some measure.
When people laugh at these cartoons, generally they laugh at themselves. It makes life a little easier to know that we are not alone. Challenges are easier to face if they are given a name.
Many of these cartoons first appeared in books by the National Church Life Survey Research team in Australia. They pioneered the concept of actually asking people what they thought about church, faith, religion etc. They did this on a huge scale, covering around 80% of all Protestant and Anglican (Church of England or Episcopalian) church attenders in Australia before expanding to include Roman Catholics and then the broader community.
The books that resulted were an effort to make the research results available, understandable and relevant to the general public, a gargantuan task for anyone that knows anything about statistics. For the cartoonist it was a gift, I was able to comment on every aspect of church life and the staff at NCLSR were an inspiration to work with.
These cartoons span a number of years, going back to the early nineties. In that time I have tried many different drawing styles, graphic techniques and use of text.
Amongst the characters, there are the uglies, the beans, the long noses and many others. There are some cartoons with watercolour washes and others with photographic backgrounds. The tone is alternately strident, poignant, cheeky, sad, reflective and hopeful. Some are just plain corny.
After everything I've tried, I still love using my trusty mapping pen (must remember to dip in ink, not coffee). I scan the image into my computer and finish it, ready for publication.