The Bunker Cartoon Gallery will be hosting an ‘insane’ exhibition in April. Tony Lopes, the creator of quirky comic strip Insanity Streak, will have his works on display for our region to enjoy. We catch up with the man himself to find out what makes him tick.
Where did your interest in drawing come from?
My interest in drawing has been with me for as long as I can remember. At school I’d spend more time doodling in the margins of my textbooks than studying. I always had to go off and draw cartoons. I especially loved to study the old Warner Bros cartoon characters. I count Chuck Jones among my greatest influences; everything I know about drawing funny I learned from him.
My first sale was to a niche publication called Sky & Space magazine. I was an ambitious 16-year-old and like most aspiring cartoonists at that time, I loved to draw alien cartoons. Luckily the editor, whom I’m still friends with, loved them too.
Did it come as a natural talent to you, or was it something you had to work on?
Yes, cartooning was definitely something I had to work on – especially the writing aspect. I quickly learnt that without the gag, you have no cartoon. Strong writing skills are important and something that took time for me to master. Finding a voice and comedic style only came with experience.
How would you best describe your work?
Most of us are familiar with Insanity Streak. Give us an insight into this comic.
Insanity Streak is a single-panel floating theme comic strip that finds humour in the small moments of life. The strip has no central characters, no regular subject matter or setting; this imposes few limitations on my comical style. I enjoy this freedom, as I get to take the readers anywhere. Since I started Insanity Streak 11 years ago, I’ve always tried to work with one simple motto in mind: above all else, make them laugh!
The thing I treasure most from these years is the relationship I have built with my readers, meeting over coffee every morning. I don’t have regular characters that readers identify with, so what you identify with is me; you’re reading what I have to say, which is a rare privilege.
What readers don’t know about Insanity Streak is the long haul it took to get the strip into print. I mailed out countless samples to newspaper editors all over the country. In the end, persistence was the key to my success. In fact, I can now honestly display a filing cabinet that contains well over 200 rejection slips … of course, I’m only now just finishing therapy.
Where do your ideas and inspirations come from?
If only the answer was: “Aisle seven at Woolworths, next to the soft cheeses” – but the truth is, I don’t know. If I did, I would patent the technology, license it to a large corporation and sell it globally. I suspect that if I could answer it more decisively, then maybe I could stop these nonsensical explanations and vague meandering answers.
Anyway, I digress; as for where my ideas come from, the real truth is I make them up. My writing routine includes one morning a week at the local beach, where I sit with a vat of coffee and brainstorm. I find the beach is where I’m most relaxed and the ideas seem to just flow.
We hear you’ve released a book of Insanity Streak …
Yes, the book is titled Insanity Streak Striving for Quantity, and it’s my first, truly comprehensive collection of Insanity Streak. Sure, I have other titles available that have never made the New York Times best-seller list, but those books were the tip of the iceberg. This hardcover book contains over 400 cartoons and is packed with laugh-out-loud comedy goodness that I’m sure my legion of fans (well, perhaps pluralising the word ‘fans’ is taking some liberties) will absolutely love. So, I urge everyone to buy a copy!
Why? I hear you ask. Well, sentimentally it will become a great family heirloom and collector’s item; visually, it looks good on a coffee table; and functionally, it works great as a birdcage liner (your choice, depending on your needs).
You’ll be in Coffs Harbour for your April exhibition at the Bunker Cartoon Gallery. Tell us about this exhibition.
The exhibition will showcase original art that I have donated through entries to the Rotary Awards over the last 10 years. There will be a nice mix of early work right through to current material. You’ll see how my work has developed.
Also on show will be some never before seen original Insanity Streak cartoons for sale, along with limited edition prints, and of course, my new book.
What are you looking forward to most about your visit to the Coffs Coast?
This is my tenth visit to the Coffs Coast, and as always, the relaxed lifestyle and beautiful scenery is enduring. But I must say, over the years meeting the locals has always been great. The folks here are so friendly and very supportive of Insanity Streak.
Lastly, the exhibition will be a highlight. It’s exciting for me to actually see people enjoy my work, to gauge their reaction in person. This is something you never get to experience when you work alone in a studio.
I’m never sure if a particular idea works; I generally have to trust my judgement and hope the readers will share my humourous sensibility.
Where would you like your career to take you over the next 5 years?
I try not to think too far ahead to be honest, … a gag a day for another 5 years?! Jeez! That scares the bejesus out of me.
Rather, I prefer to just take it one day at a time and see what happens. So let’s just say I hope the future continues where it is right now, entrenched in my career of making people laugh.
Thank you Tony.
Bunker Cartoon Gallery is holding an exhibition of the works of Tony Lopes from Friday 8 April until Saturday 14 May. For more information, contact the Gallery on 6651 7343.