Taking up the pen

A glimpse into the future of cartooning

It’s a brave new world out there, with some strong cartooning talent unearthed by the inaugural Young Cartoonist Award. A joint initiative between the New Zealand Cartoon Archive and the Listener, the competition has proven to be a great way to discover and encourage our country’s up-and-coming cartoonists.

The competition itself was based on the premise that New Zealand has an ageing stock of well established cartoonists, but that sooner or later these very big shoes will need to be filled. Fortunately, the competition has brought to light a talented bunch of cartoonists who are ready and eager to take up the cartoonists’ pen.

The winner was announced at a function in the APN Building, Auckland, on 9 May, with Cory Mathis, a student from Wellington, taking out the top award and a cheque for $5,000. Runner-Up awards, each worth $500, were received by Jeff Bell and Toby Morris.

Cartoon by Cory Mathis showing Pope Benedict as a marionette puppet, with strings being cut by a golden pair of scissorsCartoon by Cory Mathis.

And the winners are…

Towards the end of 2012 a call was sent out asking cartoonists to submit three works, each engaging with international, national and local issues. An impressive number of submissions were received, with entrants spanning the length of the country from Invercargill to Auckland.

Entries were judged by Listener cartoonist Chris Slane, former Dominion-Post editor and NPA CEO Tim Pankhurst, Listener editor Pamela Stirling, and Ian F. Grant, chair of the Guardians of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive. Cartoons were judged on the originality, clarity and effectiveness of the idea, as well as cartoonists’ understanding of contemporary topics and their drawing and caricature skills.

Young Cartoonist Award finalists: Jeff Bell, Cory Mathis, Toby MorrisYoung Cartoonist Award finalists: Jeff Bell, Cory Mathis, Toby Morris.

Judges and winners at the Young Cartoonist Award functionYoung Cartoonist Award function, left to right: Malcolm Evans, cartoonist; Chris Slane, cartoonist; Toby Morris, competition finalist; Ian F. Grant, chair of the Guardians of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive; Malcolm Walker, cartoonist; Pamela Stirling, Listener editor; Guy Body, cartoonist; Cory Mathis, competition winner; Steve Bolton, cartoonist; Jeff Bell, competition finalist.

At the awards function Ian F. Grant, founder of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive, said he was “impressed with the quite sophisticated approach of much of the work”. In particular, he was pleased with the way entrants demonstrated an “understanding of the irony in political situations and a good grasp of the realities behind the political spin”.

Pamela Stirling, editor of the Listener, said they were delighted to be championing the talent of young cartoonists and further pointed out that: “Cartooning is a tough job – the fact that it doesn’t merely amuse and entertain but also at times offends those who are lampooned is precisely its value. We in the print media want to honour young cartoonists and help mentor and support them as they learn – literally – where to draw the line.”

Cartoon by Jeff Bell, showing Kim Jong-Un with a crayon drawing plan to bomb the United StatesCartoon by Jeff Bell.

‘Next in Line’

Given the talent displayed by our young cartoonists, the chance to share these works seemed like too great an opportunity to miss. I’m therefore excited to be able to showcase these cartoons in an exhibition, Next in Line, at the Turnbull Gallery from mid-September. The exhibited entries will also enter the collection of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive, further enhancing what Chris Szekely, chief librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library, describes as “one of the brightest jewels in the Turnbull Library’s treasured collections”.

Cartoon by Toby Morris, showing two press reporters complaining about Jesse Ryder being assaultedCartoon by Toby Morris.

These works will add another dimension to the Archive’s collection of historical and contemporary cartoons by providing a glimpse into the future and giving voice to a younger generation. By exhibiting this new talent and by making these cartoons publicly available on the National Library’s website, Grant hopes that the exposure might encourage our country’s newspapers to make use of this emerging talent, and because many of the works should strike a chord in young viewers, a new audience will discover the “editorial cartoon as an important element in a democratic society”.

Melinda Johnston, Cory Mathis and Ian F. Grant look over Cory’s working drawingsMelinda Johnston, Cory Mathis and Ian F. Grant look over Cory’s working drawings.

Your chance to see our bright cartooning future

The Turnbull Gallery exhibition will include the three finalists’ entries, as well submissions covering subjects ranging from caricatures of international figures, including the Pope and Kim Jong-Un, through to local commentary on specific issues of direct concern to these young cartoonists. We are also fortunate to be able to exhibit a number of Cory Mathis’ original drawings, which will provide library visitors with an appreciation of the process of developing a cartoon through numerous caricature studies – Cory drew John Key over 100 times before he was happy!

Cartoon by Cory Mathis, showing Prime Minister Key using the Sky City Tower as a slot machineCartoon by Cory Mathis.

It’s this level of commitment to the craft of drawing that makes Mathis’ works particularly successful, however, judging from the talent shown by many competition entrants I think we can predict a bright cartooning future.

Next in Line: the young cartoonist award will run in the Turnbull Gallery from 30 September–7 December 2013.

By Melinda Johnston

Melinda is the Research Librarian, Cartoons, in the Alexander Turnbull Library.

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