Manawatu artist inspired after receiving letter from idol Murray Ball

Brent Putze's comic Belle was largely influenced by Murray Ball.
Warwick Smith/Fairfax NZ

Brent Putze's comic Belle was largely influenced by Murray Ball.

Manawatu artist Brent Putze can vividly remember the moment he was inspired to pursue his career.

He was a young, keen and creative 11-year-old cartoonist and decided to write to his idol Murray Ball. A short while later, he received advice that changed the course of his life. 

The comic strip Belle comes from Putze's pencil and much of his style is inherited from his favourite artist – the man he's never met, but wrote to many years ago. 

Brent Putze's drawing board for his comic book Belle.
Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ

Brent Putze's drawing board for his comic book Belle.

"I was a young, keen cartoonist – now I'm an old, keen cartoonist – and back then I'd started up my own cartoon strip with great ambitions," Putze said. 

"Like most Kiwis then, I was a fan of Footrot Flats. But more than that, I was a fan of Murray Ball.

"I looked up to him because he also did some cartoon stories for some English comics, which were a big part of my world growing up. His style was easy to spot."

Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball died on March 12.
Brett Mead

Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball died on March 12.

With slim odds, he took it on himself to seek feedback from the best New Zealand had to offer. 

Putze compiled copies of his cartoon strips, wrote a letter and sent it all off to Ball. 

"Low and behold, he wrote back. He was so considered and constructive with his advice and comments on my work."

Unfortunately, Putze has lost the letter, but clearly recalls Ball's ideas.

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"One was to not rule the outlines of the frames – to keep them loose, so it adds to the free-flowing look of the cartoon strip. This is something I still do today in my Belle comic strip."

That's why it seemed fitting that when Belle was published at the end of 2015, Putze sent a copy to Ball. 

He told Ball how the letter he sent, all those years ago, played a major part in encouraging Putze to follow his cartooning and illustrative career. 

"I did not know Murray was unwell at the time," he said.

"It was his wife Pam who wrote back to me shortly after telling me that Murray was unwell, but that he 'loves cartoons and Belle will be something new for him to look at'."

Putze said it was through an interview with Pam Ball on Radio New Zealand that he learnt how serious her husband's condition was. 

"I didn't really know Murray, but I always thought he was so kind to write back when I was a kid. And this kindness was repeated again by his wife Pam many years later.

"Murray Ball was an extremely talented cartoonist with a wonderful social conscience. He has made many people happy over the years and will be sadly missed."

 - Stuff

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