Cartoon illustration: Card designs

At various times during the early 90s, in an entrepreneurial effort to generate some income from my cartoon art, I designed and self-published several series of gift cards & cartoon art prints.  Self-publishing, in this case, meant spending what little money I had on laminated colour photocopies (not particularly cheap back then), and hawking them around whatever little shops took an interest, generally not even breaking even, let alone providing any income. Poverty – lack of access to resources – tended to diminish the scale of everything: print quality, distribution, market reach, returns.  Creatively, I still applied myself to each new attempt with my usual care & enthusiasm, and always managed to refine some technique or other in the process.


My first series was a collection of eight colour postcards, often using puns and with a certain bent humour to them.  I had been using gauche paint & brush to create cartoon artworks since the late 80s, and had held two small but successful solo exhibitions of this work in Newcastle.  I liked the fluidity of line that a brush provided, so I continued to develop this throughout the early 90s, alongside my other forms of drawing.  In this series, I was still influenced by ‘pop’ stylings to a certain degree, and my lifelong appreciation of Robert Crumb, and the humour ranges from just silly fun to somewhat disturbed.

Dolly Dripfeed ‘Art Cushions’

Not card designs as such, but from the same time. Dolly Dripfeed was a character I developed in the early 80s, although it’s probably more accurate to say she announced herself to the page.  This particular series of designs from 1990 were intended to become hand-painted calico patches, which a friend was going to sew onto black leather slips and sold as ‘Art Cushions’ – none of which eventuated, but the art is worthy of inclusion here.

Rats’N’Cats Prints

In 1988, in Newcastle, I had my first solo exhibition of small painted cartoon artworks, ‘Disneydecodalia’. One of the artworks (titled Rats’N’Cats), depicts a saloon bar scene in which all the male characters are rats, and the females are cats.  I extrapolated that idea into this series of black-and-white prints, primarily as an exercise in perfecting my brush line technique.  I was thinking of 1950s master comic artist Will Eisner, and the black brushwork mastery of contemporary Charles Burns, when I designed these pieces.

Love Planet

Around 1993, I made yet another entrepreneurial attempt: a series of hand-painted cards with a cute alien theme and a ‘feelgood’ tone – the Love Planet series.  Originally they were to be professionally printed and distributed via another entrepreneurial venture – a friend’s – which unfortunately crashed and burned before it had wings.  These cartoons got a lot of positive feedback at the time, and I still like them, but a couple of them rely on puns of songs that were big at the time: Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’ (the card reads: ‘I’m waiting for you…just to fry my love), and Sinead O’Connor’s version of Prince’s  ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ (the card reads ‘Nothing comperes to you..’). Fairly innocuous and unashamedly cheesy….but warm and comforting, like melted cheese…

Little Angels

From the same period as the Love Planet series, this collection of simple b&w ink cartoons were also intended for publication as gift cards. Rather than relying on overt humour, the Little Angels drawings were an attempt to capture a certain elusive feeling – of whimsy, but also of inverted realities, logic- or gravity-defying simplicities that might make perfect sense in the world of angels, an odd sense of life being almost weightless.  While some who saw these cards assumed I was trying to ‘do a Leunig’ (and Melbournians were especially precious about him in the 90s), I was actually recalling numerous European cartoonists I’d encountered as a boy in the 70s, flipping through a German friend’s collection of overseas magazines from that time – wordless whimsical freefloating cartoons, with attention to stylish design, and some visual twist or pun that shifted one’s perception, a little like an optical illusion.  Those cartoons had a lasting impression on me, in that they demonstrated a more understated absurdist approach to cartoon drawing.