As I Imagined It

Interview with Andrew Weldon, Melbourne based cartoonist.

Satirical cartoonist, Andrew Weldon, has drawn himself a career. What used to be “doodles to amuse” himself whilst completing a degree in architecture, now has him scouring current affairs and meeting deadlines for major publications.  “It can be stressful, especially when I’m running dry. There’s nothing like the adrenalin of a deadline, it’s very easy to circle when there are none”.

Melbourne University’s newspaper, Farrago, was the first to publish Andrew’s work. Since then his cartoons have appeared in The Age, The Australian, The New Yorker and the Big Issue. When Buffalo Milk approached Andrew for our issue exploring ‘life imitating art’ and explained that we would be interviewing a series of artists, we noticed that something wasn’t sitting quite right. “I never feel entirely comfortable being called an artist. It’s a type of art, just not a fine art; but I guess it’s all personal expression”.

“The first thing I thought on this concept was how sometimes you imagine something ridiculous, and then it actually happens in real life. I’ve collected a number of articles where this has happened”. In one instance, Andrew drew a cartoon of a baby with an advertisement tattooed on its head, making a joke about the money made from the ad being able to put the child through college. Sometime later he read an article about a woman who had actually sold her forehead as ad space, which left him thinking, “ha, the world really is as crazy as my imagined satirical version of it”.

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Cartoon by Andrew Weldon

Some prophesies, however, haven’t been as bittersweet. For years Andrew had illustrated the cover of the Big Issue’s annual Fiction Edition. In 2004 he had planned a holiday and ensured all work that could be done in advance, including this cover, was done in due time. His cover was an image of a man sitting on his surfboard reading the Big Issue, so captivated he couldn’t see the giant tidal wave encroaching behind him. The release date was December 27th, one day after the tragic Boxing Day Tsunami. “I was so embarrassed and ashamed because it may have been seen as a hurtful trivializing joke about victims of disaster, in the end I had to hope people would have seen the publish date and known this was just an unhappy coincidence.”

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Cartoon by Andrew Weldon

“Art and life can intersect uncomfortably. I don’t want to be inadvertently hurtful.” The nature of a satirical cartoonist is generally to offend some, but hopefully make the majority laugh,  “When I’m taking inspiration from others lives, or commenting on current events, I can’t be afraid of offending people, but ideally I want any offence I cause to be intentional.”

Andrew has published several books, which include compilations of his cartoons over the years. “My cartoons reflect moments in my life. I’ve released a couple of books- I love print, ‘the book’ is this holy object for me.” Again we see this intersection of life and art, “in my books I can see what has been important to me, the news over time, what’s made me angry or amused me.” A special image Andrew shared with us is a cartoon he released shortly before the birth of his second child, whilst reflecting on his “wonder, cluelessness and terror of the first birth”.  Through this image we can see that cartoons aren’t just ‘the funnies’ or mere ‘comic relief’, “cartoons are cathartic” as Andrew states.

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Cartoon by Andrew Weldon

Andrew’s tongue-in-cheek prophecies may not always be perfectly timed, but what is in life? It is in these moments when art and life collide where we can acknowledge life as the freaky force that it is.

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Self portrait by Andrew Weldon

First published for Buffalo Milk

Photos by Madeline Ellerm