Andrew Weldon: A Conversation

9 December 2014 Katherine Smyrk

Andrew Weldon: A Conversation

The Big Issue Calendar has always featured the artwork Andrew Weldon, and this year is no different. We talk to the man behind those hilarious cartoons that make us giggle, snort and guffaw. 


Q. When did you first start drawing?

A. Like most people I drew as a kid, but came back to it in my early 20s while at uni, studying architecture. I was writing and performing for the Archi Revues – the faculty’s sketch comedy shows – and this was another way of writing comedy.


Q. When did you know you were going to be a cartoonist?

A. After I graduated uni I gave myself six months to try and work freelance as a cartoonist/waiter instead of getting myself an architecture career. After six months I had enough work to justify continuing the experiment (including a gig with the fledgling Big Issue). I felt I was on the right path for me.


Q. If you weren’t a cartoonist, what do you think you’d be?

A. Probably a mediocre architect, detailing car parks and trying to crack people up in the lunchroom.


Q. Do you have favourite cartoons?

A. Of course! Lots! There’s nothing better than coming up with an idea that has me chuckling at my desk. Doesn’t happen THAT often, but often enough...


Q. You often draw about quite political things; do you think cartoons are good for talking about serious topics?

A. Making a point through humour is very powerful. It can allow you to discuss the most serious issues, to communicate opinions and to make arguments with a light touch.


Q. How long have you been doing The Big Issue calendar?

A. The first one was in 1998, I think. It was a folded poster insert in the magazine and full of silly jokes labelling the dates on the grid (‘Guy Fawkes Celebration Day. Meet 1pm, Parliament House. Bring explosives’).


Q. What do you like about drawing cartoons for the calendar?

A. I love the idea of some favourite drawings of the year (the editorial team and I get together and vote in The Big Issue offices each year, believe it or not), getting a bigger showcase and being on display on people’s walls for a whole month. They are a bit bigger and I figure will be scrutinised during numerous toilet visits etc. so I take care in colouring them and making them look great. It’s always very satisfying to produce this work that’s a bit special every year and knowing that it helps give vendors a Christmas bonus.


Q. Do you hang up the calendar at home? Or is it too weird having your own pictures looking back at you all year?

A. The second one. Not so much weird, as just wanting to spend some time NOT looking at my cartoons. But I am very pleased when I see it up in other peoples’ houses...


Q. You’ve put together a number of books in the past, any plans for one coming up?

A. I finished a whopper of a project about a year ago (Don’t Look Now, a four-book collaboration with children’s book legend Paul Jennings) and I think I’m still depressurising from that! It turned out great, but dominated my life for a couple of years... I would like to get book collections of recent work together sometime soon. I’ve done a couple of these in the past (I’m So Sorry Little Man, I Thought You Were A Hand-Puppet and If You Weren’t A Hedgehog... If I Weren’t A Haemophiliac...) and it’s been very pleasing to collect bits and pieces of work from a number of years together in one place.


Q. This calendar is all about vendors and their pets. Do you have any pets?

A. I had lots of pets as a kid. My sister was animal obsessed; she wanted to be, and now is, a vet. My favourite was a wily cat soulmate called Mousetrap, who I had when I was about 12 (I even drew a cartoon biography of him, for the book of short childhood stories When We Were Young). No pets now though. I have a one-year-old and as my partner says, “Maybe one day when we don’t already have to clean up one creature’s poo...”