Peter Broelman creating political cartoons from his home studio.
Peter Broelman creating political cartoons from his home studio. Contributed

Cartoonist Peter Broelman draws on witty humour

PETER Broelman says his gift for art - cartoons in particular - came to him at a young age.

Turn to the Letters to the Editor page or similar and there you will see our cartoonists take on the biggest headlines in illustration. Peter is one whose job it is to sum up the week that was through cartoons and observational humour.

He puts his flair for artistic comedy down to his childhood asthma - an ailment which meant he would while away the hours drawing instead of running around on the football field.

"When I was a wee lad I was a really bad asthmatic, so I spent a lot of time drawing. I couldn't do a lot of physical activities so I suspect what I was doing when I was seven is pretty much what I am doing now 40 years later. How does that old Jesuit saying go? 'Give me the boy and I'll give you the man?' And I wouldn't know a Jesuit from a hole in the head, but that's certainly the case of a continuation of what's happened with me," he said with a dash of his trademark humour.

It is his comedic wit that shines through in his editorial cartoons that reflect the big issues taking centre stage in our news bulletins.

When asked what he would be doing if he wasn't an editorial cartoonist, Peter said the answer was simple.

"I would still be a cartoonist without a doubt. My art is very one-dimensional, so I suspect I would still be drawing but perhaps in different fields. I have been a comic strip artist before, that was before I ventured into editorial cartoons."

Not only did Peter create comic strips, he was also a court artist and corporate caricaturist before venturing into editorial cartoons.

During his career, Peter has drawn for a number of publications including People, MAD, Cracked, and APN News and Media newspapers and magazines.

"People magazine is very blokey and adult in humour, and I contributed to it for 12 years. That was sold into Norway and Holland. I can't speak Dutch or Norwegian so it had to be translated by someone else. But it was nice to be paid in euros once a month."

Peter's talent for editorial cartoons has also won him numerous peer-voted awards, the first being the 2004 Editorial Stanley Award from the Australian Cartoonists Association.

"That was pretty cool … and it's very nice to be recognised by men and women who do what I do."

In 2005 Peter won the Editorial Stanley Award for a second time as well as the Gold Stanley for Cartoonist of the Year. This was the first time a cartoonist from South Australia had won the award. To prove it wasn't a fluke, Peter won both awards again in 2009.

He said the trick to being a successful editorial cartoonist was all about connecting with the readers.

"It's funny with the bigger papers, I'm always an advocate for more cartoons and comic strips because that's what people read as opposed to columns.

"The hardest part is the writing; the drawing is the easy bit. I have mates who are editorial cartoonists, some are gone, but while they would offer you advice, you are on your own. Michael Atchison, he's another cartoonist, told me cartoons were 95% idea and 5% drawing. So if the joke's not funny, you can draw until the cows come home. It's all about the writing and the creativity behind it. Quite often when I do one it might take three or four hours until I'm in the zone, then I spend an hour madly drawing it up."

While Peter said he didn't get a lot of feedback from readers, he enjoys reading their comments on the big news stories on social media sites.

"Facebook is nice, but Twitter is my favourite because as you know it's instant and if it's a breaking story as it's occurring a lot of people jump online and put their two cents in and sometimes it's a lot of fun to read. There are people towing the party line and you just ignore them, but there are some people who could be cartoonists if only they could draw.

"Reader interaction with the newspaper is important, good, bad, and indifferent. Well, maybe not indifferent, because they wouldn't be interacting … but the good and bad is important."

Peter said politicians had provided plenty of cannon fodder for the cartoonists of Australia.

"Politicians in particular are very thick-skinned. They have to be. For anyone who puts up with the drama of being in their own party, the cartoonist on the sidelines ain't going to bother them much. Internal party politics is one thing, then external politics is another thing in general.

"Occasionally readers get offended on a politician's behalf. I still sometimes do Tony Abbott because he is still a politician and still a public figure, but some people send me emails saying to leave him alone.

"He is certainly no favourite of mine, I make no secret of that, but from a target point of view, he is certainly up there with John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. With Tony Abbott, because he suffered from a lot of foot-in-mouth which almost made the cartoons in themselves, it was a case of art imitating life so it was a bit of a two-way street."

Peter said the politicians from Queensland had also been a veritable source of inspiration for himself and many other Australian cartoonists.

What is the ACA?

The Australian Cartoonist Association was established in 1924, and was originally known as the Australian Black and White Artists' Club.

The ACA is the world's oldest cartoonist organisation, and the list of former presidents includes Peter Broelman.

The Stanley Awards are named after founding member Stanley Cross. His cartoon, "For gor'sake, stop laughing, this is serious!'' was the inspiration for the awards, with Eberharde Franke commissioned to sculpt a model of the cartoon. Bronze, silver and gold statuettes were cast from the model and presented to the winners at the inaugural awards night in November, 1989.

For more information about the ACA and to join their ranks of cartoonists, visit

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