ComicFest 2019 – 5 minutes with Sharon Murdoch

ComicFest is back for 2019! On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 4 of May at the National Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on May the 4th and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! For full programme click here and follow our updates on our Facebook event.

Meet Sharon Murdoch, a political cartoonist with Stuff Media. Her cartoon series Munro, about an orange cat, also appears in Stuff’s daily newspapers. Murdoch won Canon Media Awards Cartoonist of the Year in 2016 and 2017, and Voyager Media Awards Cartoonist of the Year in 2018 (formerly the Canon Media Awards). Two collections of Sharon’s work have been published – one on her political work written by Dr Melinda Johnston, and another of her Munro cat cartoons, which came out in late 2018. Of political cartooning, Sharon says she can’t think of another job she would rather do. Even on a bad day.

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: After I finished Design School I lived with Trace Hodgson, who at the time was a political cartoonist for The Listener, so cartoons were a normal part of the day, and he had lots of comics around – mainly underground. Later I worked with a Xhosa Women’s Community Development group in South Africa, and we used comic strips as a way to communicate information about AIDS prevention and early childhood development. I also helped put together a kids paper for the Evening Post newspaper, called Presto. Gradually I started doing political stuff. And so it went…

Q: What is your average day like?
A: On days I have to do a political cartoon I turn on the radio as soon as I wake up and listen to RNZ and trawl through news sites. If I’m lucky my partner will bring me a cup of tea – which may be straight kindness, or may be because he likes the kitchen to himself. Our cats Munro and LaLuna usually clamp me to the bed, so it takes a bit of manouvering to extricate myself. I walk into town and have another cup of tea at a cafe while I read the newspaper, and rough out ideas. Then some more walking is usually involved while I try to sort out what the characters are saying. Most days I draw at my desk in the Stuff newsroom. It’s a great place to be, because there’s more tea, and I get to hear what’s happening about the place.

I usually work till around 6.30 or so, and then I walk home again. If I have other projects on, I try to do them on the weekends, or if I’m on a deadline I’ll work in the evening, but I find as I’ve gotten older working in the evening is more exhausting than it used to be, and also takes time away from being with my partner, my teenaged daughter, the two cats and the dog, Iris.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: My regular political cartoons for Stuff newspapers and A book of my cat cartoons, Munro, came out late last year, and I’ve been drawing penguins for South Cider cider cans. At the moment I’m doing drawings for a book by Mike White about dogs.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: Lots of tea. Lots of walking. A favourite dip pen handle that I got off Trademe – it’s quite old and has it’s own reservoir, and Hunt and Brause nibs. The sketchbooks I use are from Japan City. When I found out that Japan City was closing I went in and bought about 50 of them. I use one a month, so I figure when I run out of those sketchbooks my cartooning career will be over. If not before.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: JJ Grandville, Lynda Barry, Edward Gorey, Edward Lear, Chris Blain, Mervyn Peake, Mathieu Sapin, Ben Shahn, Wanda G’ag, Kate Beaton.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: Something with animals.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: Excitement about drawing stories, whether that’s single panels or pages.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Dressing as myself is challenge enough.

You can follow Sharon on Twitter @domesticanimcal