Quarantoon: interviewing NZ cartoonists under lockdown

Dylan Horrocks, Senior Lecturer in the School of Design Innovation, is using his downtime in lockdown to conduct a series of video interviews with cartoonists and illustrators to see how they’re being impacted by the lockdown.

The idea originated with Dylan’s students. “During the first couple of weeks of lockdown, many of the students were stuck at home bored,” he explains. “A couple of them joked that they'd already watched everything on Netflix, and one asked for suggestions of useful videos online. I started putting together a list of videos that were relevant to their coursework. At the same time, I had been recording lecture material on Zoom, having staff meetings on Zoom, catching up with family and friends on Zoom - basically, living on Zoom! So I thought I might as well use this opportunity to check in with some cartoonists, see how they're getting along in these strange times, and share it with our students. I also put them on YouTube, in case anyone else was interested.”

Dylan started with Tony Morris and Sarah Laing because they’re both doing interesting work related to the pandemic which he’s already incorporated into his lessons.

“Toby actually visited the Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation last year,” Dylan explains. “He gave an amazing public lecture and generously spent time with our Communication Design students, so they were already familiar with him and his work. The work he's been doing with Siouxsie Wiles for The Spinoff on the Covid-19 outbreak is a master-class in visual communication; his graphics have been shared all over the world and used by governments, news media, and health agencies to explain how the coronavirus spreads and how public health measures can slow it down. Our own Prime Minister held up his "Flatten the Curve" cartoon at a press conference. His drawings are making history and I really wanted to ask him a few questions about it while everything's still unfolding. Thankfully, Toby was willing and, as always, he was extremely open, honest, and thoughtful in his answers.

Sarah Laing's work during this crisis has been very different—personal diary comics that document her everyday life under lockdown. In a sense, she's recording history as it happens. It's one of the things Sarah does best—candid in-the-moment experiences, quickly drawn in her warm, distinctive style. And it's struck a chord with many readers, who find her daily lockdown comics provide an opportunity to reflect on what we're all going through. They've also been an inspiration for some of our students to record their own experiences in diary comics, so it was great being able to catch up with her and chat about the work she's doing now. She even showed us inside her sketchbooks.”

Dylan hopes to expand the series to include overseas creatives too.

“I talk with friends around the world all the time online,” he says, “and everyone has been profoundly affected by this pandemic. We’re living through history and—to be blunt—it kind of sucks.”

Dylan has found the switch to working from home relatively easy.

“I’ve worked from home for most of my adult life, so I guess I'm pretty used to it. My bubble consists of my very lovely family (and one dog), so I'm in excellent company. So many people are having a really rough time right now so I feel pretty lucky. I miss my colleagues, though, and the students. We catch up on Zoom, but like everyone, I'm looking forward to the day we can all be in the same place at the same time. Which is a good reason to stay strong until we can be sure it's safe.”