John Shakespeare, Illustrator and cartoonist: The
Sydney Morning Herald - July 2017
Shakespeare official website The
Sydney Morning Herald - Cartoons: John Shakespeare
Media Man crew have long had a deep appreciation and
respect for art. Today we further delve into the interesting
world of political and news based cartoons and illustrations
via the experiences of Australian based John Shakespeare
who is well known for his thought provoking illustrations
in The Sydney Morning Herald.
and when did you discover your artistic streak?
always drawn as a child, my dad was a technical drawing
teacher at high school in Brisbane, and he always
brought home lots of used paper, so there was always
drawing materials on hand. I grew up on Mad and Cracked
comics in the 70's and was very inspired by the cartoonists
you always have an interest in politics, or did that
just tie into your position as a cartoonist, who did
a lot of work as a political cartoonist?
I was never that interested, but it grew on me! The
trick to commenting on politics is to realise it's
basically a sporting contest, winners and losers.
This is what makes it fun, with all the emotions you
encounter in a battle, hope, heartbreak, greed,jealousy
You originally started as a
political cartoonist at Fairfax's 'The Sun' with a
very minimal drawing style. How did you evolve to
drawing caricatures and illustrations?
been there a year, when the paper folded. I was offered
to move to the SMH, but they already had enough cartoonists,
so I was told by the art director, John Sandeman,
that I could become a graphics artist, or develop
my caricatures. I chose the latter, and He gave me
two weeks to come in to work and practice. I bought
a few books of caricature artists I liked, and studied
their techniques. After that time I'd shown some promise
, so he let me keep going, and for the next two months
I drew for 8 hours a day, trying to develop a style
of my own. Then I started getting published in the
Herald. I'll be forever grateful to him..would never
happen these days!
Did you always believe in the
message in your cartoons, or does Fairfax Media powers
that be ever ask you to illustrate a particular message
that may not necessarily reflect your personal views?
allow us to think for ourselves, the only problem
occurs when I have to illustrate a story with opposing
views to mine, so I have to find a way to interpret
their message, while keeping my principles in the
do you most love about art?
love being able to bring to life a thought, to a blank
piece of paper.
friends or colleagues ever have a go or challenge
you about your stronger cartoons and illustrations?
What is your view on the late,
great (and sometimes very controversial cartoonist
and illustrator, Bill Leak, as both a person and as
was a great friend, I knew him since I started at
Fairfax in the 80's. He was a kind, funny and generous
man, but also an unapologetic rascal! He always enjoyed
pushing the boundaries and loved offending. To me
his work was always the same, but with the explosion
of social media in the last decade, suddenly a cartoon
that was once only seen in print, could now be spread
instantly to a huge audience, and that means instant
outrage and publicity. He hated Twitter.
It's well known that the media
and art industry is extremely competitive, and you
have excelled at both... what's your "secret"
think being able to compromise and work as a team
at Fairfax, realizing that my illustration appearing
in the paper means working with an editor and layout
designer, often it will be a story I don't feel like
illustrating, or a shape I don't want to draw within,
but I always aim to act professionally and do the
best work I can for the story. It also helps that
I have a few different styles, like caricature, illustration
and cartooning, so it stays varied and interesting
Would be correct in noticing
that our friends at The Sydney Morning Herald are
not using as many John Shakespeare cartoons and illustrations
these days, as they were back until May this year,
and if so, is that just part of cost cutting at Fairfax
Media, or anything else you are able to comment on?
no, I was just on holidays
Any plans for a cartoons or
illustration, illustrating cost cutting at Fairfax
Media and / or in the news media sector in general,
and the overall instability in media, witness Channel
have lost a few cartoonists and illustrators sadly,
it's never nice. But they are still highly committed
to a visual presence, which includes cartoons and
When you are not drawing cartoons
and illustrations, what do you do to relax?
don't touch a pencil, that's for sure. After drawing
5 days a week for 30 yrs, it's the last thing I feel
like doing. I love reading, although I haven't read
a book since Broadband! Browsing online is my favourite
thing, especially following the Trump circus.
How has the internet and news
media websites been both a good and a bad thing for
those who work in both media, journalism and art?
been an amazing tool for cartoonists. You can put
an image online and get instant feedback from the
public, whereas before we were just sitting in a desk
on our own and not knowing how the drawing is received
by the readers, apart from the occasional letter or
two. It's also a great thing for beginner cartoonists
and illustrators, being able to self publish to a
potential audience of millions. The downside of course
it's harder to get the advertising revenue compared
to the golden days of newspapers.
What's your motto?
it simple. I love a big bold image with no words if
possible. It's why I prefer the 2d 'punch and Judy'
view so the message is instantly received, with little
How would you like to be remembered?
I made people smile for a second.
Art, cartoon, news business followers and political
pundits are now even better informed on John's amazing
talent and contributions to the illustrating and cartooning
profession. To keep enjoying John's work stay supporting
Sydney Morning Herald (hard copy or website),
and follow his online portfolio via website
media. Media Man is going to continue to cover
the arts, illustration and cartooning world so stay
by John Shakespeare
by John Shakespeare
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