Local cartoonists’ witty works showcased in the political heart of Canberra

Posted 3 Jan 2019

Story by CBR Canberra

Do you ever think you’ve gone through the looking glass to a strange and topsy-turvy world? You’re not alone.

Each week Australia’s political cartoonists have captured the goings-on in parliament with their usual humour and wit, from Section 44 claiming more heads than the Queen of Hearts to marriage equality, climate change, Barnaby’s dramas, and of course, the federal leadership spill that gave us another new Prime Minister.

Follow them down the rabbit-hole for Behind the Lines: The year’s best political cartoons 2018. This exhibition features three Canberra cartoonists including Pat Campbell. We sat down with Pat to discuss everything cartoon related, from inspiration through to techniques.

We’d never heard so much laughter in a museum as when we explored Behind the Lines. The Museum of Australian Democracy was full of giggling guests as we perused the range of witty cartoons. How did you decide which cartoons to exhibit?

I don’t decide so much as social media decides.  In the past, before the internet, as a cartoonist for a newspaper, I might get the odd cranky letter to the editor.  These days immediate feedback on social media indicates whether your day’s work has hit the mark or has taken a nose dive and left a crater.  There are days when I think I’ve done a good one and it doesn’t get a reaction, and other days when I bang one out to make the deadline, thinking it is rubbish, but it does well.  So clearly my judgement is not something to be trusted.  When it comes to choosing, I just look at the thumbs up to see which ones people liked – that makes it easy.

A lot of your cartoons seem to explore the efficacy of current environmental policies. Is this a cause that is close to your heart?

I focus on current environmental policies partly because they are an easy target to kick and serve as a reliable source of cartoons, but climate change is a serious concern for me, as a parent, and as a rational human being.

My broader family has roots in farming and I see the impact of climatic volatility on agriculture.  I saw first hand the impact of the autumn/winter drought and I appreciate how important it is to make agriculture as robust and sustainable as possible.  Of course, farming is also a contributor to environmental degradation and greenhouse gases, yet it is essential to our survival. But then so is a healthy planetary ecosystem. Real cognitive dissonance stuff for farmers and for us.  It’s not an easy problem to solve, but it has to be solved and pretending the problem isn’t there or isn’t a priority isn’t a strategy that future generations will thank us for.

On a more local level, there’s the ‘bush’ part of the Bush capital.  We’re lucky to live in a region with a lot of wildlife on our back door (though snakes can remain a bit further from the back door).   I like to listen to the birds and frogs, watch the rosellas come in for a drink from the pond.

Your cartoons are art in our eyes. Do you have a favourite spot in Canberra that inspires you to draw? 

Well, Parliament House is a Canberra location that gives me significant amounts material for cartooning.  But no, there’s no special spot in my life at the moment.  No muse disguised as a cafe, a tree by the lake, or a six-pack of locally crafted beer (not for want of testing them out).

Having said that, I have actually just moved into Gorman House with another local cartoonist, Stuart McMillen, and it’s a nice little studio.  So I’m hoping to spend a lot more time there, in what is a lovely central creative Canberran institution.

We want to laugh with you every day Pat. Can we connect with you on social media? 

At the moment people can find me on Twitter and Facebook, though I am a truly hopeless social media participant.  I’ll post cartoons, but I’m not a pack-of-20-a-day sort of social media commentator.   Feel free to private message me if you would like a print of any of my cartoons.

Behind the Lines 2018 is open each day until November 2019 at the wonderland that is MoAD (the Museum of Australian Democracy).MoAD is open 9am to 5pm daily. For more information visit moadoph.gov.au/btl

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