A few years back, local artist Sam McNair started a caricaturing business. During the lockdowns he has started to make YouTube clips – “how to draw …” for kids and adults. “Cartooning with Sam” aims at enhancing art education by becoming a resource for community artists and teachers.
I really like the approach, beginning with stick figures, then creating form and depth. Is this a process you have always followed?
It wasn’t until I tried to draw a proper comic in my 20s that I started using stick-figure construction lines. It seems obvious now. When you have multiple panels with repeated characters that need to be clear for the narrative, the stick-figure method really economises the design period. It saves so much frustration. I tell my students, “It’s like making a sandwich – it’s easier to start with bread than mayonnaise”.
How did you learn to draw? Was there a “breakthrough” moment?
Like most children; I drew a lot as a kid. I wasn’t especially good but I enjoyed it. When I was 8, I was diagnosed with perthes disease. It was bad. Perthes is a rare bone disease. Quite painful. I spent a lot of time unable to move. That was the critical time for my drawing development. I managed to come out of it with this new avenue to express myself through cartoons.*
What are you currently working on? New clips?
I’m working on a new drawing clip about food monsters. It’s one of my cartooning challenges which is designed to encourage agency for the learner and offer teachers an open-ended task. Offline, I’ve just published a book: After Bruegel. It’s a kind of political satire, eye-spy, homage to Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It’s available from Booktopia and Amazon.
Have you received any feedback from viewers? Requests for exercises?
Yes! I’ve received some great feedback on the drawing videos and have had some requests: one young Canberran cartoonist has requested dragons and another has asked for cars. I’m excited to cover these topics in the near future.
Post-lockdown, where will you be working as a caricaturist? How can readers contact you?
When the lockdown finally subsides, I will be doing live caricatures again. Definitely. I love my job. With so many bookings being postponed they are now starting to clash. When it rains, it pours. I am open for bookings. If any readers are interested, please use the contact form on my Sam the Caricaturist website, or facebook message “Sam the Caricaturist” and I can confirm availability.
*This scenario – a sickly stationary childhood that leads to a creative career in later life – is quite common for cartoonists. Jim Davis (of Garfield) suffered from intense asthma attacks and could rarely go outside, Stephan Pastis (of Pearls before swine) had bronchitis. He and Davis both attribute their artistic development to being stuck inside. This doesn’t mean you need to have had an unfortunate childhood to be a cartoonist. With an entire generation locked down right now I’m hoping that they too might carry the flame with drawing as part of their lives.