Drawing on future cartoonists

02:44, Oct 03 2013
cartoon archivist
Looking ahead: Cartoon archivist Melinda Johnston wants to know what the next generation has to say.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a satirical cartoon might be worth ten thousand.

Melinda Johnston is trying to find out what the next generation of cartoonists might have to say.

She has been with the Alexander Turnbull Library since February and is helping to archive current cartoons, so their meaning can be preserved.

"It's definitely a unique opportunity. This role doesn't really exist anywhere else," she said.

"Cartoonists are getting older and we want to see what the future generation has to say.

"A cartoonist's work is always topical; it's about tomorrow's news stories."

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Looking to the future, the Alexander Turnbull Library has put together its Next in Line exhibition, which opened this week.

It features works from the entrants in the inaugural New Zealand Cartoon Archive and New Zealand Listener Young Cartoonist Award.

"There were entries from Invercargill to Auckland," Ms Johnston said.

"I was incredibly surprised at the level of skill that came through. Some of the works are really amazing."

The exhibition is presented in a new way, with the public able to pick up the works and turn them over to see the meaning behind them.

"We're asking the audience to have a go at interpreting the cartoons themselves. It's part of the fun," she said.

The exhibition also includes sketches and a video of the process the cartoonists take to produce their drawings.

Ms Johnston said the library wanted to showcase the techniques and images. "The works are now a mash-up of traditional and contemporary techniques. They've become digital items that can be manipulated."

In addition to the exhibition, the winner of the Young Cartoonist Award, Cory Mathis, will run free drawing workshops for 5 to 12-year-olds.

"We will be putting up a new cartoon for each week of the exhibition, including some from the workshop," Ms Johnston said.

"The nature of cartoons is ephemeral so [the exhibition] goes along with that."

The Alexander Turnbull Library is also running a Cartoon Colloquium forum as part of the exhibition, looking at the influence and participation of female cartoonists.

The Wellingtonian