Meet jules faber, one of the coffs coast’s most unique cartoonists…
Have you always been a natural drawer?
No, far from it! I liked to draw when I was a kid, like most folks, but I had no ability. That’s something I tell my students – anyone can draw. There’s no such thing as ‘born with a gift’ – no more than anyone’s a born mechanic or a born lawyer. It just takes loads of practice. Around the age of 14 we tend to change our thinking and generally stick with it or let it slide. Most people let it go at that age, but I stuck with it.
> How would you describe your work?
It used to be more rigid, but in working for daily papers, it tends to loosen you up a bit for speed. In terms of humour or comment, I’d say ‘eclectic’, because I tend to write and draw stuff from all avenues of life.
I don’t just do, you know, fishing gags or hospital gags or anything like that. It’s a big world, and I’d eventually like to cover all of it!
> What was your first job as an artist?
I was studying animation in 1999, and two fellow students and I were asked to draw caricatures of people in nightclubs to promote a bourbon brand. It was great money for art students, and they gave us samples so we ‘knew the product’ – which was great, being a student and all!
I’m still really good friends with those guys, and they’ve both gone on to become well regarded artists in their own right.
> What have been some of the other projects you have been a part of?
I’ve worked in live caricaturing for 10 years, which has taken me to some pretty amazing places. I was a co-editor on a small press comic book called Sporadic, which won an award back in 2002. That was fun, and we got it up to five issues before we retired it.
Something I’m particularly proud of is I’m the President of the Australian Cartoonists Association, which is the world’s oldest organisation of its kind. It’s been instrumental in benefiting my career in terms of advice, but it’s also helped me forge some really great friendships with a lot of Australia’s best cartoonists.
These days in Coffs I do a lot of live events, drawing people at parties and functions and stuff. I can also be seen at the Harbourside markets every Sunday and drawing editorial cartoons for The Independent.
> What was it like working with Disney?
It was a great learning experience. I came into it straight out of animation school, but soon discovered you learn much more on the job than in the classroom. I worked on a show called The Proud Family and was the sole background inker for nine episodes.
The animation was pencilled, but the computer program they used for backgrounds required inks, and they liked my inks at the interview. I drew around 2,000 backgrounds in my time there, and I hid my name at least once in every episode I worked on!
> How did your TAFE studies help shape your work?
At TAFE we were actually the last group to go through using the old technology of painting cels and shooting direct to film. I made five films while I was at TAFE, and I tried to make each one unique to itself. I lived directly across the street from my campus as chance had it, so I rarely went to college once we were working on our assessment films.
One was a trailer for an action movie, one was a comment on space and humanity and another was a stop motion film. I eventually did a digital one which was fun too, but I did them how I like to work, in that I made them all interesting to me by being different.
> You also teach at TAFE now …
Well, I used to. When I graduated in 2001 I was asked to come back as an assistant, then after six months I was asked to take classes teaching comic book illustration and scriptwriting and storyboarding. I did that for two years while I was establishing my own freelance business, before the college changed campuses and discontinued the course.
> Tell us about the multi-award winning MiBraine.
I took a correspondence course in Freelance Cartooning back in the mid ‘90s, and one of the projects was come up with a comic strip on a subject that you know better than anyone else. I didn’t consider myself a leading authority on anything much, but I knew my own mind better than anyone else, so went with that. I wanted to make it catchy, so made a gag out of the title so it reads like ‘migraine’. A lot of the jokes are like that – puns and plays on words.
There’s other stuff in there too – situation comedy and pop culture stuff like references to movies and comics. I try to keep it all pretty varied to, again, keep it interesting. As an interesting sidenote, the logo is an ambigram – that is, it’s designed so that you can read it upside down as well. I like playing with that sort of mathematical design and stuff, so that was a little thing I mucked around with one day.
MiBraine was published last year in a few papers here in Australia and I had it on GoComics in the US, but I’ve never really tried to sell it very hard. It was sort of a hobby to work on my own stuff while doing stuff for clients all the time. I entered it in the Rotarys here in Coffs last year, not expecting anything and came in second with it in the comic strip section. This year I tried to beat that, but instead landed in the exact same spot!
So I guess I’ve defended my ‘second place’ title now. Hopefully next year I can have MiBraine take out the gold, but it’s really just such a thrill to be in the Rotarys. They’re Australia’s biggest cartooning competition, and it’s fabulous that we have such a huge international competition right here in Coffs Harbour, with the entries archived in our fabulous Bunker Cartoon Gallery and Museum.
> What projects have you got planned?
In 2004 I had a book published, and my publisher asked me soon after to begin writing the follow-up. I put it aside after a while, as it was sounding a lot like the way this sort of story is always told.
Over the years I’ve looked for the perfect way of writing it, and I’ve only recently discovered a means that suits it perfectly. I’m pretty excited about how that’s coming together right now, so that’ll be a big part of the next year for me.
> Thank you Jules.