Tooning in to Brett
The community’s favourite cartoonist Brett Willis is back with his ever popular TOONARAMA (this time called 2NARAMA) exhibition as part of Midsumma 2013. Famous for his cheeky homages to heroes, hunks and hangers-on from Melbourne’s LGBTI community and beyond, Willis tells MCV about his fascination for cartoon art and his latest selection.
How did art start for you?
I loved reading comic books like The Avengers and Superman as a kid. I’m not sure if it was the buff bods in tight costumes or the drawing talents of the artists that attracted me most, but they certainly inspired me.
What is it about cartoons that you love?
Cartoons are fun! I love the diversity of different styles, from the simple line work of manga to the more detailed art stories of Marvel superheroes and the buff sexuality of Tom of Finland. I enjoy the energy and how people interpret similar subjects in their own unique styles.
Who was the first celeb you drew?
While working for a local newspaper I had the opportunity to meet and present Olivia Newton John with my caricature of her at a press conference. Definitely a highlight!
How do you decide who to draw?
I feature a different celebrity caricature each week at my facebook page TOONARAMA. Being a Melbourne Storm fan, footballers make regular appearances, but mostly subjects tend to be topical – Dame Edna when touring or Johnny Ruffo in the Dancing With the Stars finals. Also, people inspire me to want to draw them, like Rugby Union player David Pocock after speaking so positively of gay rights on the ABC’s Q&A.
How do people normally react when they see their caricatures?
Most really like their cartoons. A good sign is when celebrities use their TOON on their website or as a Facebook profile pic. Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham made his into a fridge magnet and requested to use it in his recent autobiography.
Have you ever had an adverse reaction?
I aim to make subjects look as good as possible, rather than political style caricatures, which exaggerate and uglify, but a local DJ and an AFL footballer were a little embarrassed to be drawn shirtless and so buffed...
What can you tell us about 2NARAMA?
2NARAMA is the sequel to last year’s TOONARAMA exhibition. It features 50-plus limited edition celebrity caricature prints. The majority are drawn for the event and others are ‘best ofs’ from TOONARAMA. This year’s includes fabulous drag friends Paris and the late Pusswah Willow, Aussie Icons Dame Edna Everage, Pokies Legends Graham Pengilly and the late Renee Scott, Sexy Sportsmen Buddy Franklin and Billy Slater, actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger from Brokeback Mountain, celebrities Jennifer Saunders as Edina Monsoon, Magda Szubanski, Ricky Martin, Boy George, a naked Prince Harry and many more. Opening night is an open event and features a hot surprise show and the trademark TOONARAMA buff barboys!
2NARAMA, opening 6-8pm Friday 11th January. ArtBoy Gallery, 99 Greville Street, Prahran. Exhibition continues until January 20.
(Image - Brett Willis with the late Pusswah Willow who is also immortalised in 2NARAMA)