Q&A with Andrew Weldon

3 October 2013 Andrew Weldon

Q&A with Andrew Weldon

Andrew Weldon by Andrew Weldon

Cartoonist Andrew Weldon has contributed to The Big Issue since our first edition in 1996. Over the years he’s also contributed to the likes of The New Yorker, The Spectator and The Bulletin and his work appears regularly in The Age. He also worked with children’s author Paul Jennings on a series of four books, Don’t Look Now. Here Andrew talks cartooning, collaborations and the ‘magnificent eye-baggage’ of Peter Costello.

Can you describe your routine as a freelancer?

I have regular deadlines I have to meet, about four to six in a week at the moment. There’s The Big Issue, as well as regular work for The Age, Medical Observer and occasional other publications. I also get the odd one-off freelance commission. Most of my regular deadlines fall in the later part of the week, so my week tends to amp up as it goes on. Any surplus time is spent on side projects – I can usually fit in one big one at a time. 

What do you do when you’re struggling for ideas?

Panic. Then stare into space. Try and find unexpected connections between disparate concepts. There, that’s my cartooning secret in a nutshell.

Who are your favourite cartoonists?

I discovered one of B Kliban’s books in a second-hand bookstore when I was 16, and I can confidently say it led directly to me becoming a cartoonist. Matt Groening – I love his Life In Hell [comic strip]. Tim Kreider is a favourite (American) political cartoonist (he’s now renounced cartooning and moved onto writing – also brilliant). I like Roz Chast and I’ve come to love lots of the stuff in The New Yorker. Locally, Leunig is an artist I’ve always admired greatly, but there are so many people I admire and enjoy. We have an amazingly rich cartooning culture in this country.

What do most successful cartoonists have in common?

An ability to observe the world, and have something original and amusing to say about it.


For many people, Australian politics has become depressing. Do you ever find it hard to see the funny side?

Funniness is usually doable, but it can sometimes feel hard not to be sneering and cynical – to contribute to the culture of negativity. The challenge is to contribute positively to the debate, I guess.

Who are your favourite political figures to draw?

John Howard used to be easy. Other cartoonists had reduced him to a simple series of symbols by the time I came along (eyebrows, glasses, bottom lip). I always enjoyed Peter Costello and his magnificent eye-baggage and aura of evil sadness. Philip Ruddock’s undead pallor was fun. I find Tony Abbott near impossible to get a likeness on and Kevin Rudd is bland-looking. So the old crop was definitely more fun.

What do you like about illustrating kids’ stuff as opposed to grown-up cartoons?

It can sometimes be more ‘pure cartooning’, the focus is on the humour in the image itself rather than the idea behind it. Often the humour is in the appearance of a character, or a funny scene, and more straightforward than an adult cartoon. I like the balance of doing that and adult stuff. It means using different bits of my brain.

How did the collaboration with Paul Jennings for Don’t Look Now come about?

I’d illustrated a non-fiction book of his in 2003 (The Reading Bug), but we weren’t in close contact. Years later, I got an email from him out of the blue. He had written a group of interlinked stories and liked the idea of them having an illustrated component. The result is a combination of our two sensibilities: Paul’s fabulous storytelling and my cartooning. Fun on two levels!

Do you do a lot of collaborative work?

I haven’t done much collaboration and I really enjoyed the process with Paul of bouncing off each others’ ideas – creating something that’s greater than what either one of us would produce alone. When that process was flowing well, it was fun and exciting. The most challenging aspect of any collaboration is when there are disagreements about the work, but thankfully on this project they were minimal. Paul was a great, generous collaborator.


You do two cartoons for every edition of The Big Issue: one political (for ‘Hearsay’) and one gag (for ‘Ointment’). Which is easier?

The gag probably has more latitude – to be witty or silly or just stupid. The political cartoon should (hopefully) be opinionated, intelligent, incisive, informed, and sometimes requires a tricky caricature! So the gag wins on easiness. But I love doing both. Again, it’s using different parts of my brain.

You’ve been contributing to The Big Issue since its first edition, what keeps you on board?

I love the fact that it is a way for my funny little drawings to actually tangibly benefit people in need, on a regular basis. This constantly warms, pleases, amazes and humbles me. I’ve also loved, and felt privileged to have such a wonderful, regular forum for my cartoons, in a great publication. I love being part of such a positive enterprise.

To see more of Andrew’s work, visit andrewweldon.com.