The Australian Cartoonists Association. A guide.
By Jules Faber
Hello. This is intended to be a fortnightly column on the inner machinations of cartooning, caricaturing, comics and general buffoonery but who knows where it will all go? One thing I always love when writing is when a character takes you in a direction without your prior approval and you end up mining a rich vein of content from somewhere you never expected.
That said, I thought I’d begin by attempting to demystify an organisation that has been around in Australia since 1924. In fact, it’s the world’s oldest cartoonists association and began in Sydney before branching out across the country. Today it sees members in every state and many from overseas too.
People ask me what are the benefits of joining and I always reply that these are numerous and we’re always working to improve them as time goes on. The strongest aspect of membership, to my mind, is the networking. Building up a group of professional friends and colleagues in what can be a very lonely profession. Most of us cartoonists sit at home, hunched over our workstations warding off natural light while many people with ‘normal jobs’ have work associates.
An organisation like the ACA helps bring like-minded people together to share war stories, tips on products and dealing with clients and to share work opportunities.
Chances are good if you have a problem in your work, a friend in the ACA has had to deal with the same thing and can help steer you through the situation as easily as possible. And if new to the industry, having an organisation like the ACA behind you is helpful as we have a recommended list of charges for various types of work. From a good networking base, as lot of issues cartoonists encounter can be de-escalated and even prove beneficial rather than detrimental.
Further to a professional development front, the ACA also produces a two-day conference and awards night each November. The conference features artist talks, demonstrations, workshops, career discussions and panels. Here members learn of new products and can even test drive the latest equipment through our partners and sponsors.
For each conference the ACA will bring one or more guests from overseas and this is a wonderful opportunity to get to know these cartoonists in an intimate atmosphere. Guests over the last decade or so have included Ann Telnaes (Washington Post), Nancy Bieman (Animator –Treasure Planet, Hercules), Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine), Sam Viviano (MAD Magazine), Ron Cobb (Hollywood concept artist – Back to The Future, Star Wars, Conan), Alex Stitt (Animator – Life. Be In It, Grendel³), Chuck Jones (Legendary WB animator), Reg Mombassa (Mambo), Stan Goldberg (Archie Comics, Marvel), Nicola Scott (DC comics), Jason Seiler (Rolling Stone, TIME), Pat Oliphant (Legendary editorial cartoonist), Sergio Aragones (MAD Magazine, Groo) and the list goes on. International guests will attend the conference, mingle with members at our events and generally have a blast. Some enjoy it so much they join the ACA and come back on their own.
The Stanley Awards night that accompanies the conference began in 1984 and is a wonderfully fun night out. In a peer-voted system (every full member gets a vote and can enter up to three categories in the Yearbook, which is sent out annually) the ACA awards its membership gongs for:
- Best Comic Strip Artist
- Best Comic Book Artist
- Best Children’s Book Illustrator
- Best Caricaturist
- Best Editorial/Political Cartoonist
- Best Single Gag Cartoonist, and
- Best Animator, as well as the coveted
- Cartoonist of the Year.
Each year there is also the Best Cartoon of the Night competition on a theme given only that evening. The winner takes home a great prize and gets to create the cover art for the following year’s Yearbook. And yes, even non-cartoonists in attendance have won it!
The ACA also helps connect members with other organisations like the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and the Copyright Agency who can helps cartoonists in various ways. As the world’s oldest organisation of its kind, the ACA has made a lot of solid relationships along the way and these groups are more than happy to help members.
Before I finish, there’s another great feature of being a member – the Member’s Portfolios pages on the ACA website. As a respected body in the world of cartooning and illustration, publishers and editors seek cartoonists for work opportunities through our site. Cartooning can be a tricky industry to stay afloat in and many of our members receive work through this major benefit to membership.
I’ll be back in a fortnight, but in the meantime, go check out our website and see more of what I’m talking about: