Sharon Murdoch talks sexism, politics and Simon Bridges as a centaur | Two Sketches with Toby Morris

Sharon Murdoch talks sexism, politics and Simon Bridges as a centaur | Two Sketches with Toby Morris

– They’d get letters at the newspaper, that would say he, you know, told about, – Mr Murdoch said that this? – Yeah, Mr Murdoch.
– Yeah. – Is a wanker. (laughing) Mr. Murdoch was a bigger wanker when they found out that she was a woman. (lively music) – Cool, we’re doing it.
– Hm-hmm. – Do you know how you’re gonna draw yet? Have you worked it out? – I thought I might draw a cat. – [Toby] A cat? Okay.
– Well no. Yeah I thought a cat. I don’t wanna draw a politician today. – Okay.
– Yeah. – Cool, okay. I was thinking that I
would draw a politician. (laughing) As I’d assumed that we
were talking together, I would draw a politician. I was thinking about
drawing Simon Bridges, mainly just ’cause he’s someone that I find quite funny to draw. – Yeah you have him down pat too, you’ve got the way that
his mouth goes to the, – (laughs) Like a rubbery,
rubbery bottom lip eh? – Sideways, yeah yeah yeah. – But I was thinking maybe this
time, just to change it up, I was gonna throw you a curve ball and say can you include your dog in the picture? – The dog? – Iris.
– Yeah. – But if you’re drawing a cat already, – No I can do, I could do Iris, – Iris and,
– and yeah, Iris and a cat. – Okay, just to keep you on your toes, I thought that that might be good. – Yeah, yeah
– Bit of a curve ball. – I was thinking about horses for you. (laughter) – Okay – But maybe Simon Bridges,
– I can draw Simon Bridges, – As, a centaur.
– As a centaur? (laughter) All right let’s do it – I’ve been way meaner to
you than you’ve been to me. No no, you don’t need to do that. – Sure, no that’s funny,
I think it’s really funny. I’ll give it a go
– Yeah. – I can’t promise that my horse legs, is what I always have problems with, I hate drawing horse legs, their knees they’re so strange but,
I’ll give it a crack. – I’ve found recently the trick with them is to give them quite thin ankles. – Thin ankles. – So they’ve, you give the leg, – Like knobbly knees and
– Yeah like knobbly knees and very thin ankles
– okay. (light guitar music) (pencils scraping) So, you’re the editorial
cartoonist for Stuff, the Sunday Star-Times, the
Dominion Post, the Waikato Times. You’re the first woman to, first woman editorial political
cartoonist in New Zealand. And the three time reigning
cartoonist of the year … (snorts) champion, how do you introduce yourself? – I usually say these days,
it took me a long time to say that I was a cartoonist ’cause I started quite
late with cartooning. – Were you always a
drawer, you’re obviously an artist for a long time
before you started cartooning but did that start from
when you were a kid? – Uh, yeah I used to draw
a lot when I was little, I went to a school called
Southland Tech which was like the last of the, must
of been like the last of the technical college, you
know the kids that went there, they were usually from a
kind of poorer part of town and they were training to
do trades mostly, you know? – And was that studying kind of technical drawing or like art or? – Yeah yeah I did technical drawing and I didn’t take any of the,
what did they call them? Home economics, home science? I didn’t take any of those
I’m consequently very bad at all those things. (laughter) – And did you at that stage did you think that that would be your
career, would be drawing or? – I think I had this fantasy,
when I was about 15, 14. I was gonna leave Invercargill and one day I was gonna come back in
a little red sports car. – Okay. (laugher) – And I’d have a portfolio. – Right okay the portfolio was the thing. – Yeah yeah yeah. – And then the Wellington Media Collective I wanted to ask you about.
– Yeah. – The Media Collective was doing posters for some activist groups right? Sort of Springbok-tour,
and land marches and, – Yeah I was originally set up to do that. Collective was in this big
old building on Marion Street in Wellington and it was
really rough you know it was, like, it had screen printing space and there was a big bathtub
for rinsing off screens and a dark room and some
drawing tables and stuff and mostly people came there
to print political messages posters about
all sorts of things. It was a really happy place to
work for me for a long time. ‘Cause I knew I was never
well suited to an agency or to being in a more
commercial environment so, – Why was that, just
personality was your– – It probably was personality
I remember at design school in the end last year at design
school it was quite a shock ’cause we’d all been happily drawing and designing nice posters
and that sort of thing, – Creative expression.
– Yeah. And this guy showed up from an agency, who had been at an agency
and all of the sudden it was about but would it sell? And I remember that first
day in class he had said, “let’s draw a grid of who buys coffee”, and without waiting for anyone to answer, he wrote housewife into the
grid and I started arguing with him and said no that’s not right, ’cause you know look at all of us, it’s not housewives buying coffee. But he got quite cross
with me and so after that whenever class started he
would kind of dismiss me at the beginning of the class by saying “of course Sharon’s gonna
argue with this but, yeah we’re gonna carry on regardless.” So yeah I probably knew then
that it wasn’t for me you know. – You were working for Stuff as a designer before you were a
cartoonist, is that right? – Yeah, and I used to live
with a cartoonist, in my 20’s. – That was Trace Hodgson right?
– Yeah. – Did that make cartooning more appealing, or less appealing, seeing someone actually doing it day to day? – I was really delighted by what he did, that I’d see it every day and I think he was particularly good. – Oh he’s one of the greats I think. – Yeah, I think he’s one of the greats, and I was actually put
off by seeing his work ’cause I just thought, I can’t
even begin to match that. I think what it did in the
end, what encourages me now, is and it was something I
heard Dylan Horrocks say, is about doing things your own way. You think there’s all these rules about how you have to do it. And then you… Well I don’t draw political cartoons like most people do them. – Oh, your style is completely
different to Trace’s, yeah. – Yeah, yeah. And so, you can do it your own way? There’s not the rules you think there are. (gentle music) – I’m intrigued to see
what pens you’re gonna use when you come to ink yours. I look at your cartoons often
and think how did she do that? I don’t know what tools you use but also the mix of what’s
analogue and what’s digital is not entirely clear to me how. (laughing) Like how do you do it? – It’s not very clear to me, either. I have these… When I’m doing political
cartoons I use dip pens, I think it’s ’cause they’re scratchier. – There’s something kind of
blobby and scratchy about them. – Yeah, and I quite like it
’cause they’re unpredictable, in my hands anyway they’re unpredictable so they don’t look like
my drawings because something unpredictable has happened. Whereas I think I have a tendency to maybe try to be too controlled with it– – Takes the character out of it. – Yeah, kills the drawing. I do drawings in, I have these sketchbooks these are the best sketchbooks
in the whole world. They were from Japan City. But I do a really rough drawing– – That’s in a biro? – Biro yeah. And then I quite often photocopy it and stick it on the light box and then just draw over that. – And that’s just a steel nib that you’re dipping into the ink? – Yeah I always used
to dip it into the ink and then I was talking to Anna Crichton and she uses this schmincke,
it’s an acrylic ink, it dries quite quickly
which is really good for me ’cause I’m usually working on a deadline. And this, it has the
reservoir built into the back. It has a little metal plate that presses against the nib so it holds the ink. I use that one all the time. And then there’s a Hunt 101 nib which is I think– – That’s a famous name I’ve heard that in interviews with cartoonists. – There is, I think
that’s the Hunt one there. It’s quite pretty it’s got the… – Oh yeah. – And I keep an eye on
Trademe, look out for old handles to you know if they come up. – [Toby] What was the impetus for you to start doing political cartoons? – [Sharon] I was doing
political illustration for Tracey Watkins
columns but then I found I was taking them more
in my own direction. I was kind of thinking of
them as an independent thing around the theme of her column. – You had something to say yourself. – Yeah that’s right and nobody seemed to complain about that too much. And the Waikato Times editor
heard me running some… – You just syndicated right the same– – Yeah he got in touch and
he said would I do theirs, which was really neat
and so I was doing these and then I would take mine in to show the guy who was an editor
at the Dominion Post at the time and he was going, oh you know. But then after three weeks, I
think it was about three weeks he said oh okay we’ll you know. – It seems incredible that
you were under their nose for so long without the organisation being aware of the potential
of what you could do. – Yeah I think that’s quite often the way it is though isn’t it? When someone’s in house– – Do you think especially
so that you’re a woman, that it didn’t occur to them? – Yeah well probably. I mean they probably wouldn’t be looking at a woman to do it because
women around the world, there’s just not many women. And I don’t even understand why because women are interested in
politics and they draw. – From the start you’ve
signed your cartoons Murdoch, was that a deliberate thing to kind of not make it so obvious that
it was a woman drawing? – Yeah, and people did assume it. They’d get letters at the newspaper that would say he, you know, told about, – [Toby] Mr Murdoch said this– – Mr. Murdoch is a wanker. (laughing) Mr. Murdoch was a bigger wanker when they found out that she was a woman– – They’d be I imagine
the same type of readers that are writing to the paper. I remember you telling
me a story at some stage that you would be mistaken
for Murdoch’s wife at functions sometimes. – No what that was, that was so funny, that we’d gone to this lunch and there was Bob Brockie and Tom Scott, I
think Dylan Horrocks was there and there was various people but– – [Toby] Most of this–
– yeah yeah yeah. And we all filed in together, and then I’d been cartooning
for a little while and Steve Bell and I were
supposed to be speaking together a couple days later at Auckland University and so we were sitting next to each other and Tom Scott at one point
leaned across the table and he said to me, and
I had met him before but I’m quite unmemorable or something, he leaned across and
he said well you should start first since you’re the guest. And I thought that’s very civilised and then he asked me how
I was enjoying New Zealand and then I realised he thought
that I was Steve Bell’s wife. (gentle music) – So I bought a copy of your book along and I’ve got a couple of bookmarks in it for a couple of cartoons that I thought might be worth just sort of looking at. And I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about your process behind them. – Hear me explain myself. Now account for yourself! – What were you thinking? – I know I get letters
about that all the time. – Do you? Yeah I’m interested to know
how much feedback do you get? There must be positive feedback as well as angry feedback right? Or is it mostly people write
in when they’re annoyed. – No I do get quite a
lot of positive feedback. I think there’s that old fashioned notion that they’re just a kind
of antagonistic thing– – [Toby] Yeah traditionally
they’ve been designed to provoke which is not necessarily what you’re always trying to do. – No I think for me, quite often they are about a kind of solidarity. Or even a compassionate thing. You know you’re saying I
see what’s happened to you I see what’s going on. – Yeah I feel like that’s something that’s really different about your work and possibly it’s to do with you coming from a woman’s perspective
or possibly it’s to do with your activist background. But I feel like they do very often come from a place of kind of empathy or being spoken sort
of from the perspective of vulnerable people. Like this one is the one that I’ve always found really moving,
the special treatment. – Yeah and I think that some people maybe misunderstood it in
that my mother is Māori I got all the whitey genes but– – [Toby] Is that your
mum on your necklace? – It is my mum. – [Toby] I noticed that before. – She’s lovely. When I drew that, sometimes
it’s hard to explain that when you’re drawing you have to use a lot of visual metaphors. So I know that there
was a couple of people got upset about that cartoon and said oh so it’s saying that Māori were– – [Toby] Victims. – Yeah victims and beaten
down and that they’re all wandering around with missing teeth and all that sort of thing. And I think it wasn’t what
the cartoon was saying. It was using this sort of physical injury as evidence–
– [Toby] A metaphor. – Yeah the metaphor for
this psychic injury, the injury of being colonised
and all of the things. And it was because of that terrible quiz, you know the way it had been worded. What it did is it
assumed special treatment that they were already
getting special treatment. – Other one that I wanted to ask about which is not in the book is
that pat yourself down one just blew me away, I’m
interested just to hear you talk about what’s your sense of what your cartoons are supposed to do or how you wanna react
in a situation like that. – I think there is a duty
not to inflame something further but there’s
also the duty to witness and kinda say what you’ve seen. And I don’t think that you can be here and not see that we do have
this really endemic racism and that we act like we don’t. I remember at one point when
I first started doing cartoons and I had gone into work
and I had seen a cartoon that had run in the paper, there was two old white
men and they were following two asian women down
the road and the cartoon said something like, oh
yeah we should not let the men in but let the woman in. I can’t remember how the
punchline of it went. And I went into work the next day and I was saying to someone
who approved that cartoon? And they said oh it was really funny. And then they said, you
know if you didn’t always have a point to make you
could be funny as well. – Wow okay. – It was one of those experiences actually as a woman cartoonist which
was being put in your place. – Picking up on that a little bit, you don’t seem like you feel like your job is to be funny right,
it’s more to make a point? – I think I’m like you. I think I read somewhere
where you wrote about, what did you say about that? You said about– – I haven’t been doing
editorial cartoons much recently but I never felt like my
job was to make a joke. It’s not necessary to make a joke. It’s like an opinion column
it’s a place to say something. – [Sharon] Yeah. – And sometimes that thing is funny but I don’t feel like a
cartoon has to be funny. – No, the same. And of course there’s a lot of things that you cannot be funny about. – I know there’s some
cartoonists around the world that would say, PC’s gone… you can’t make any jokes anymore. But I feel like that’s not– – No, I don’t think. And as well as that a lot of those jokes are so fucking tired, they’re just tired. And you think how many more times are we gonna laugh about that when it’s not funny anymore and
it’s damaging people? (gentle music) I noticed that when Al
Nisbet who cartooned for the Christchurch Press and there was a number of complaints about his work. And I’m sure that a lot
of people really loved it, but he did some terrible– – Yeah I think I probably made a few complaints about him to be honest. (laughter) – Someone was saying one
of the things about him they said you looked at
them and you had the feeling that he didn’t like anyone, you know? Even the politicians I don’t like there’s something when I’m drawing them there is an affection,
there is affection for these people who they are kinda
doing our work for us. They do this job that
would be pretty punishing and so even though it
might appear like I am completely taking the
piss about something, there is also some kind of, well I hope it conveys some kind of
humanity and affection for foibles and for all the things that we all do when we’re you know. – Well you’re putting
yourself in their shoes for a minute to draw them too. I found when I draw them I have to think, how would he stand? How would she be walking? What are they wearing? What’s their expression? You kind of become them for a second and act as them, become them for a second. – Yeah, and it’s really intimate. Drawing’s really intimate isn’t it? When you’re drawing someone it is like you’re touching them nearly. Because you are kinda stroking the lines of their face and their body. – When I’ve met politicians
in person and thought I’ve looked at your nose
for a very long time it’s kinda strange. – Yeah like you feel like you know them a lot better than you do. – You often hear that politicians will put the really nasty cartoons
about them on the wall of their office as a
sort of a badge of pride. – Well I don’t think Judith Collins has ever bought one of my cartoons. And she has been one
of my favourite people to draw so I’m a little offended. – It seems like you enjoy drawing Judith. I could tell in your drawings. – [Sharon] Yeah. – Is there one drawing that you’ve done, like any particular
ones where you feel like you’ve absolutely caught the person? Any particular ones you remember where you feel like you’ve nailed it? – There’s a cartoon that’s in that book that I’ve always really liked, probably no one else
particularly noticed it, is of Judith Collins getting rapped over the knuckles with the wet bus ticket. That’s like this joke on a old joke and Gerry Brownlee’s been sent off to get something to punish her with and he’s going trip trap, trip trap trip trap off into the distance. And he comes back and I really like, I don’t know why but I like. – [Toby] Got Judith in that one? – [Sharon] Yeah I felt
like I got Judith in that. – There’s one that I remember of yours, where you drew Bill English as a chicken. I remember just looking in awe, like how did you do that? There’s something about
it that’s just like, it’s just so him it
made me laugh out loud. (gentle music) – That’ll do. – You all finished? – Sort of. – I’m looking forward to seeing this. Ready? That’s my Simon. – [Sharon] Oh my god you did capture him. He’s got no pants on. (laughter) you’re probably the first
person in the country that’s drawn Simon
Bridges with no pants on. – As a centaur. – Yeah. – You can’t draw a horses
tail without making some sort of John Key ponytail
reference there somewhere. – And look at your perfect signature. My signature’s so shit. – Well show us then. Oh look at that, wow that’s so cool. I love her. – Monroe and Iris and the mouse. – Amazing that’s so
cool, thank you so much for chatting today that was
really really really special. – It’s been really fun. – Yeah it’s lovely to catch up. Thank you so much. (gentle music)

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8 thoughts on “Sharon Murdoch talks sexism, politics and Simon Bridges as a centaur | Two Sketches with Toby Morris

  1. Awesome work, Toby. Despite being an ex journo and following along with the NZ press, I'd never heard of Sharon's work or her story. Loved it!

  2. Quite fat arnt you, is that from stuffing yourself with all the white privilege you’re always wanking on about, tubby bastard.

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