Focus catches up with Award winning artist Eric Lobbecke and talks about art exhibitions, rubbery politicians and an awesome opportunity for local artists.
Name: Eric Lobbecke.
You were born in Vienna. What brought you to Australia?
I came to Melbourne at the age of 7, because my father was sent here by Hilton Hotels to open the Sydney and Melbourne Hotels in 1973-74.
What is your connection to the Manning Great Lakes?
I married a local Taree lady called Vicki White, who lived and went to school in Chatham until she moved to Sydney to study graphic design at Randwick Technical College. We come and stay with her parents frequently, to catch up with them and the extended family who still live in and around town.
What do you love about the area?
I’m a surfer, so the beaches that stretch for miles around Taree, Crowdy and Port are always well visited when I roll into town.
I especially like a nice coffee at Bent on Food in Wingham and the warm welcome we always receive from all the people in the towns of the Manning.
We take time to visit the hinterland of Comboyne and Bobin, where we have a great stay at friends to do our art. The area has so much to offer creative people, with very inspiring landscapes and beautiful panoramas that my wife so eagerly captures in her paintings …
Is there a standout moment in your childhood where you decided you wanted to pursue an artistic career?
It was when my grade 3 teacher in Melbourne asked us to paint anything. I chose to do a witch, that I was very proud of. We had to let it dry overnight, and the next day it was gone, never to be seen again.
So if you see a witch in a 1970s frame somewhere in a garage sale that looks like a kid did it, done with lots of blue paint … let me know. I’m still looking for it! I think that made me realise that I could draw things others liked. Good feeling.
Most parents tend to be a little cautious when their child announces they want to follow their creative passions and become an artist. Were your family supportive of your choice to become an artist?
Mum and Dad always encouraged me. Dad used to bring home photocopy paper for me to fill up with scribbles, although Mum wanted me to get qualified in something at uni to help me get an income. I went to Tech, and Mum still wanted to see a degree under my arm … haven’t got one yet.
As an art student, was there an opportunity that stands out as pivotal in making the transition between student and professional artist?
The portfolio is what you are judged by. So if you are keen and believe in yourself and what you have to say with your art, you are three quarters of the way there. The rest is practice makes perfect. After all, I have been drawing 7 hours a day for the last 25 years! You have to love what you do, I guess …
Who has been your favourite subject to satirise over the years in Australian politics?
Bob Hawke was a beauty – rubbery head, great hair. Jeff Kennett – great nose. Howard’s lip and eyebrows. And the ultimate head that you could turn into anything was Bob Carr. I drew him has the map of NSW, a car (of course), a fountain – and even an Orchy bottle bong!
Is there someone who just screams to be caricaturised that you haven’t drawn yet?
My wife’s Aunty Marg. She is a very lovely lady who gives her family a lot of time and is a very local member of the Taree community.
The problem with drawing ladies is that you can be very unkind with exaggerations, and that is not always the intention when I draw. What I see and the scribble I do may come out quite harsh sometimes.
Many people would be familiar with your work in The Australian. They may not, however, be so familiar with your other works. You have done a series of works for an exhibition called Depouiller, which means ‘to strip off’ or more subtly ‘to peel away a façade and unveil what lies beneath the surface’. Tell us a little more about these paintings.
Drawing business men and politicians on a daily basis means that I am depicting the facade or public persona of these gentlemen who have power and who we hold up in our society. So for my first fine art show at NG Art Gallery in Sydney, I did nude fat people in their birthday suits, to show that we are all the same. We don’t draw a lot of naked people in the newspaper, and I like figurative painting – which is how I see myself. Put two and two together, and I came up with 30 fat naked paintings. It was fun.
What are you working on at the moment?
A Conversation with Nature is the title of my next show at NG Art Gallery in Chippendale, Sydney on April the 12th. There are 30 works that range from oil paintings to big charcoals, a blog garden and ceramic pots. These are all works relating to plants and the figure.
You are a multi award-winning artist. Is there one award in particular that you are especially proud of?
I am always pleased to receive an award from my peers and especially the Walkley Award, because it comes from the industry that I am so proud to be a part of. But … an Archibald or a Dobell would be nice!
This year you are partnering with FOCUS to mentor and support local amateur artists in the area of cartooning and caricaturisation. Why is it important to do this sort of thing?
The industry needs opportunities to nurture this valuable craft that takes time to develop to a professional standard. And FOCUS is allowing the talent from the Manning to have a spot to shine and show us what they can do.
I would like to help in this process, to allow the participants to have professional advice that is so rarely offered to rural cartoonists. To have this opportunity was something I would have jumped at when I was first starting out. So give it a go … I won’t bite, but I’ll be honest, and we will get some great cartoonists I’m sure.
What is your advice to young aspiring cartoonists?
Have a go! If you have something you want to say about issues and draw a lot … If you can’t draw a rabbit, copy one – and remember it for later. I used to copy every drawing in an Asterix comic. Check them out; you can’t go wrong by starting to copy what you see.
You’ll soon see that you won’t need to copy after a while; it’ll be set in your memory. Draw Obelix’s Dog – he was my particular favourite.
What makes a good cartoon / caricature?
Observation is the key. Show us something others don’t see.
Words to live by …
The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves … not mine, but a good one, hey?
Thank you Eric.
Are you an illustrator / cartoonist / graffiti artist? Do you live in the Manning Great Lakes / Gloucester regions?
Would you like the opportunity to be mentored by one of Australia’s top Cartoonists, Eric Lobbecke? Would you like to get your work published and exhibited?
We are taking submissions NOW for this great opportunity. Email 2 examples of your work, plus your name, age and contact info, plus a short bio, to
SUBMISSIONS OPEN FROM 23 MARCH 2011. All enquires to be addressed to the editor on firstname.lastname@example.org