In spite of the exodus of talent from the early years of this century, cartooning in New Zealand has developed steadily from the joke block and cartoon pure and simple of the provincial Punch days to the sophisticated modern style exemplified by the work of Gordon Minhinnick, of New Zealand Herald, Neville Lodge, of the Evening Post, and A. S. Paterson, for many years cartoonist for the Dominion. Today Minhinnick is the doyen of New Zealand black and white artists, and his cartoons are known from end to end of the Dominion. Permanently attached to the New Zealand Herald in Auckland, he has had much of his work syndicated, thus gaining the widest circulation. His strong points are strength of line and an irresistible humour. He is essentially the cartoonist, but at the same time he possesses the delightful detachment necessary for the practice of personal caricature. He has an immense fertility of ideas, and in the political field, despite a fierce opposition to socialism which is personal, he moves rapidly and fairly to the essence of his subject, and his explanatory texts display an economy of words which gives point to the whole of his humour.
Neville Lodge is also very much the cartoonist, with a strong leaning towards the joke block style and a restricted caricature type. But his ideas are admirably presented and they cover a deliciously wide field of topical allusion and humour. He has a less direct approach than Minhinnick and, if he scratches at all, it is never to draw blood. The bold line of his draughtsmanship is in keeping with the breadth of his humour.
A. S. Paterson, like Minhinnick, is an artist who could have reached a large public abroad, but there the similarity ceases. In his work for the Dominion he favoured the sequence of thumb-nail drawings to convey his ideas, but he possesses a broad versatility as well. His interpretation of Maori history and Maori legends was a thing of delicate outlines and informed understanding. He was born in Hawera in 1902 and has published several collections of his work. More recently, N. M. Colvin, Evening Post, Wellington, and W. E. Waite, Otago Daily Times, Dunedin, came rapidly to the fore in the post-war world as cartoonists of decided promise, their work showing both wit and talent. They have now moved on to London where they are unquestionably in the forefront of contemporary cartoonists.
While it is impracticable to make detailed reference to all the cartoonists and joke block artists who have made their mark in the past half century, it is essential that credit should be given to two New Zealand publications which, by providing remunerative rates and setting reasonable standards, greatly assisted black and white artists in this country after the exodus. These were the New Zealand edition of Aussie which appeared first in 1923 and lasted seven years, and the New Zealand Artists Annual, which under the editorship of Pat Lawlor, of Wellington, was in recent years one of the greatest influences of all. In it both professional and amateur artists were encouraged, and in the three years of its existence after 1929 it had the support and patronage of Low, Finey, White, Rountree, and others of the Dominion's expatriates whose names were by then things to be conjured with abroad. When the Annual failed, a victim of the depression in the thirties, it remained an invaluable record of the work of New Zealand cartoons and cartoonists.
The great pity is that, in the years that have followed, syndicated imported material with a strong American influence – the Strips and Comics – have to a large degree supplanted the daily cartoon. Some undoubtedly have a reader appeal, but with neither roots nor relevance as far as New Zealand is concerned they are an inadequate substitute for the locally produced article which is now almost rare.
by Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.