Political caricature* is one of the great art forms. Now I know that sounds kind of arrogant coming from a political cartoonist, but through experience I can say that there is nothing that gets people’s attention or emotions going more than a great caricature of a well known politician!
The letters, emails or comments on my social media that I receive after a particular political cartoon is testament* to that!
The political caricature sums up a politician in a few simple lines of the pen, whereas a biography of the same politician may take 10,000 words!
Not only is a physical likeness part of the depiction*, but a good caricature should illustrate the political characteristics of the subject.
When you are a daily cartoonist like myself, these caricatures become “templates” for politicians that you can use to craft a theme.
For example, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was a fitness nut, so I always drew him in his red Speedos.
Our first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard was a big favourite of mine to draw. I depicted her as fellow red head Queen Elizabeth I who ruled England from 1558-1603. I saw similarities between the two. Gillard came to the throne in “Elizabethan” like circumstances when she ousted sitting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, although he did not go to the chopping block like they did in the old days!
Australia is blessed with an abundance* of politicians that just beg to be caricatured! One of them is National Party MP* Barnaby Joyce.
Barnaby reclaimed the leadership of the Nationals after sitting on the backbench for three years. He lost the leadership back then when events in his private life made it difficult for him to remain leader. But Barnaby never went away.
He is a country MP, one of the best “retail” politicians in the country some say. By that they mean he is good at speaking in plain language to the electorate. He calls a spade a spade*! He is often controversial and visually he is great to draw. His big, boofy head and the large Akubra hat make drawing Barnaby Joyce a delight!
So this week when he challenged the leader of the federal National Party, Michael McCormack, and defeated him in a party room ballot, I saw it as a great opportunity to draw Barnaby again.
I love to use animals in my political caricatures. Animals have been used since time began in humans’ depiction of other humans, particularly in mythology. For example, the Egyptians and their Sphinx; half man, half lion.
These animals are used as metaphors* to describe the attributes* of the human. If you caricature them as a lion it says something about them. Just as if you caricature them as a rat … that says something too!
I drew Barnaby as an old Merino ram. Barnaby has been around for a while, just like an old farmyard animal. He is wily* like a ram, politically he has been shorn a few times and his political battles have left him with a few scars. But he is still around.
I have spent quite a bit of time on farms and worked with sheep in yards and when I heard of Barnaby’s challenge and victory an idea came into my head.
When you are working with rams in the yard, you never turn your back on them! Sometimes they will just have a go when you’re not looking and give you a good old headbutt up the rear!
I saw a similarity between this and Barnaby’s political manoeuvre*. Poor old Michael McCormack didn’t see that cunning ram coming and, as the cartoon shows, he is flying through the air out of the yard before he knows it!
Politics is harsh and brutal at times, just like life on the land. The cartoon draws a parallel between the rarefied* halls of parliament and a common farm stockyard. Maybe they are not too dissimilar!
- caricature: a drawing which exaggerates certain characteristics of a person
- testament: serves as evidence of a fact, event or quality
- depiction: they way something or someone is represented or shown
- abundance: very large quantity
- MP: Member of Parliament
- calls a spade a spade: speaks clearly and directly about something
- metaphors: when objects are used as symbols of something else
- attributes: someone’s qualities or features
- wily: clever or sneaky at getting what they want
- manoeuvre: series of movements requiring skill and care
- rarefied: distant from the lives and concerns of ordinary people
- What did Mark Knight like to draw former Prime Minister Tony Abbott wearing?
- Who did Mark Knight like to draw former Prime Minister Julie Gillard dressed up as?
- Who did Barnaby Joyce replace as National Party leader?
- What has Mark Knight drawn Barnaby Joyce as in his cartoon?
- What two things does Mark Knight say should be depicted in a good caricature?
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1. What Do You Think?
“Caricatures aren’t funny, they are mean!” Do you agree with this statement? Write points that support your opinion.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability
Choose a famous person – someone in sport, the media, entertainment … even a politician! Follow Mark’s tips to draw a caricature of them.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts
Look at the cartoon and make a list of five nouns that you see. Then describe those five nouns with five adjectives.
Be specific and add where those nouns using prepositions and another noun.
Now choose your favourite bundle and put all the words together to make one descriptive sentence.