When I started cartooning last century I didn’t know any cartoonists but I did have two books of cartoons – they were my guides. One was a collection of Michael Leunig’s cartoons, the other was of Bruce Petty’s.
Last night Bruce Petty presented the keynote address to the 21st Australasian Humour Studies Network Annual Conference here in Adelaide. It was a real treat. He described – and drew – the last 50 years of cartooning, thought, life, and everything, and how our brains have tried to keep up … and our imagination has been battered in the process. The photo shows Bruce Petty with the drawing he produced showing how the cartoonist fits into it all.
Bruce was a panelist in the earlier session, which discussed humour in relation to the Charlie Hebdo murders. It was a valuable discussion about the role of cartoons and refreshed many questions. Cartoons work because they cross lines, but (for me) do you cross lines because they are there, or because there is something to be said from crossing certain lines? (That is simplifying it a bit too much perhaps). Can you claim selective context in a multicultural and globalised world? And why would you?
The conference information quoted Shakespeare (Love’s labour’s Lost):
A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear /Of him that hears it, never in the tongue /Of him that makes it
Ah, this strikes a chord. When I have given cartooning classes I have asked kids to think about what they want to happen in their reader’s heads – and then work back. I think it is a good guide.