'Self Portrait' from Home Page by Alan Rose. ‘A caricature of myself for advertising purposes.’ (A hand painted watercolour/pen artwork) Artwork courtesy of Alan Rose.

Artist Watch

The Artist

Alan Rose


‘I did a Press Artist Cadetship at the Herald and Weekly Times in Melbourne after working as a cashier on the front desk for a year. I kept going up to the newspaper’s Art Department and bugging the Art Director and cartoonists like Weg.’



Alan Rose was born in Ipswich, Queensland in 1956. Although he was christened Hugh Alan Rose, he preferred Alan to Hugh and never used his first given name. This didn’t stop police from issuing him with a driving licence in the name of ‘High Alan Rose’ – an indication of the heights he was expected to reach, perhaps.

Furthermore, Alan was born in the same hospital as cricketer Craig McDermott, a fast bowler for Australia, and Pauline Hanson, who left the fish and chip shop for a career in politics, where the opposition promptly bowled the maiden over.

Alan decided on a career in art when his mum pronounced him a genius after he drew a squiggly line on the bathroom wall.

‘Mum always encouraged me because her family was very involved with the Arts, mainly music,’ Alan said. ‘The house was full of caricatures I had done. She was constantly pointing them out and giving out my business card; forever thinking up ideas like going on TV for more exposure. She'd have made a great manager!

‘Dad supported me but was always recommending that I become a diplomat or join the Armed Services like him! He did send us little cartoons in his letters from Vietnam during the war but I think cartooning to him was a pastime not a career.’

Alan spent his last four years of high school, until 1974, at Mentone Grammar in Victoria, where he amused himself in class by caricaturing students and teachers.

‘I used to draw them in my school diary. I managed to hide it most of the time and I only got caught once. The teacher gave me a tongue-in-cheek scolding but I think he thought they were funny. The students were all clamouring to get into my diary!

‘At this time I was inspired by the Marvel super hero comics. I would copy trace and design my own for hours on end. During school holidays I was often housebound with asthma and would draw page after page of my own super heroes punching each other up! Mad magazine was a source of inspiration too; Don Martin and the movie spoofs especially.’

Realising that a reference from his mum was probably not going to establish him as an artist, Alan took the Diploma of Graphic Design course at RMIT in Melbourne.

‘When I left high school I remember thinking that I wanted to be a cartoonist. So I enrolled in the RMIT Graphic Design course. I hadn’t done art at high school. I wanted the graphics to be my fall-back job as I realised that cartooning might not be a full-time career. I still wanted to do cartooning, but I thought maybe I could work in newspapers or advertising where cartooning might be used a bit.’

Unfortunately, Alan ran into trouble in life drawing class because he had a tendency to draw people with large heads and small bodies.

‘It drove them nuts! I still haven't got my diploma because I failed life drawing in the 3rd year. This was after I left full-time work after five years to do my 3rd year. I was angry because life drawing was a small part of the course, so it's ironic that I now make my living as an Illustrator.’

In 1977 Alan began work as a cadet artist with the Herald and Weekly Times.

‘I did a Press Artist Cadetship at the Herald and Weekly Times in Melbourne after working as a cashier on the front desk for a year. I kept going up to the newspaper's Art Department and bugging the Art Director and cartoonists like Weg. I might add that when I first attempted to get my cartoons into Australasian Post the editor took great joy in saying, ‘They're not funny and they're badly drawn!’

‘I did my cadetship for two years until I became a Graded Press Artist. I think many artists did their training as cadets, though a lot of cartoonists were just that: cartoonists. Specialists. I was trained as a page layout artist. This was back in the days of huge banks of type machines. Computers weren't even on the horizon then. I'm not sure if they still do cadetships.

‘Anyway, during this time I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The company was great to me during my periods of chemotherapy. I left the Herald and went to Canada and the US for a year from 1980–1981 to get away from everything.

‘For a while in Banff, I drew caricatures and cartoons in a forest hut youth hostel…by kerosene lamp…carried the large artwork 4 km into town on an icy fire trail…caught a bus to Canmore an hour away…showed art to subject…got the changes…then did the reverse back – possibly sneaking in for a bath in the famous Banff Spring Hotel!

‘As I mentioned before, I went back to RMIT full-time in 1984, but still didn't get my diploma because I failed life drawing. But I did gain experience on the Forox animation table (I did an animated opening for the 1985 Melbourne Film Festival which was shown at the festival in the big Arts Centre auditorium), Video Paintbox television design computers at the ABC, and painting techniques that have held me in good stead in my cartooning career.  

‘I have always looked for jobs to pay the bills as I tried to do cartoons, often as a full- time layout artist, but I also did part-time jobs such as car parking, and I once worked on a lidding machine in a pickled onion factory!’

After he graduated to an ‘A’ Grade Press Artist in 1980, Alan went on to become Art Director for Newspress (The Age magazine dept) in 1982 and later joined The Sunday Observer in 1986 as Art Director.

The Sunday Observer was an independent paper owned by Peter Isaacson, a decorated WW2 bomber pilot. It folded when the big papers in Melbourne, the Age and the Herald brought out Sunday papers. I used to drive the editor crazy, bringing in cartoon after cartoon to him at deadline time when he was already stressed out.’

More Alan...P.2



‘Squatter’ from Humorous Illustrations by Alan Rose. ‘Illustration for Aussie Post Fiction Page’ (Hand inked, digital colouring) Artwork courtesy of Alan Rose.