‘Gok and his Style Team’ from Caricatures by Alan Rose. ‘Caricature of internationally famous stylist, Gok and his team’ (A hand painted watercolour artwork) Artwork courtesy of Alan Rose.

Artist Watch

The Artist

Alan Rose (continued)

‘Sometimes I’ve encountered people I’ve caricatured previously, but hadn't met. That is always a weird experience.’


Fired up with ambition, Alan headed for the UK where he worked as the Art Director for the Recorder Group of newspapers from 1990–1993. Did he ever end up working for Rupert Murdoch?

‘I was there a fair time after the Rupert revolution. I did try to get a job at the Times and the News buildings in Wapping were like a fortress. High walls all around and barbed wire on top!

‘I worked for a week at the Star newspaper, a tabloid in London, and they had a plastic Rupert Bear (apparently a famous English cartoon character) in the foyer that you put coins in for charity. I thought ‘Doesn't Rupert have enough money!’ I worked for Rupert-owned companies when I worked at the Herald and Aussie Post though.

‘I found it hard to get work in the big papers, which was my real aim. I didn't have enough computer experience for the Guardian or the Times. My job at the Recorder Group of newspapers was freelance, so I was laid off whenever cost-cutting measures came in. Then I would work delivering the papers.

‘One day, when I'd finished my job of cleaning a petrol station from 5–7 a.m. for three pounds an hour, and then spent 12 hours delivering newspapers, I thought, ‘I've had enough of this!’ It was mid-winter and freezing in the mornings.’

After heading back to Australia, Alan became an ‘A’ Grade Press Artist for the popular Aussie Post magazine from 1993–1997. When Aussie Post was forced to close after it became unsustainable in a changing market, there were a lot of Australians who really mourned its passing as an iconic publication that seemed to have been around forever as part of the Aussie way of life.

‘I got the Aussie Post job because, since Rupert owned it, I'd worked with the other artists at the Herald. I had a great deal of magazine layout experience but because it was all designed on computer, which I hadn't worked with a lot, I was helped through. Magazines are still put together this way, I think. But I would imagine the system is much more streamlined today.

‘I left Aussie Post in 1997, just before it was moved to Sydney. New people were being brought in and it was obvious it was moving north under the Pacific Publications banner. It was finally killed off in Sydney.

‘There was a lot of angst between the older workers and the new interlopers, but as the sales kept slipping and changes to the magazine failed, it was obviously on the way out. When its own mother company brought out a puzzle and whacky story magazine (That’s Life?), the Post's sales dropped 20,000 copies a week to its own sister publication!

‘I had always been doing freelance work, but now I decided to go freelance full-time. I found it hard to get full-time layout jobs but I was given the fiction page of Post to draw as a freelance, as well as drawing cartoons for other weekly articles. During this period I spent a lot of my spare time creating a music cartoon strip called ‘Sludge’. I really enjoy doing strip cartoons.’

Over his long career, Alan Rose has become the ‘go-to’ person for cartooning and caricature – political and sporting, brochures, adverts – you name it. Most Australians will be familiar with his work, particularly the illustrations he did for Aussie Post, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell.

‘I did caricature at school, so I had a head start. I just flogged my art from magazine to magazine on the phone teeing-up interviews. This was in pre-internet days. I aimed mainly at sports magazines like Australian Basketballer. I've always liked to draw art with action in it.

‘Picking the features to exaggerate in caricature is a real art form. Harder, I believe, than drawing portraiture. It's trying to capture the essence of a person, looks and personality while exaggerating their features, bigger or smaller.

‘I start with a large face and try to find the defining features in the face. I have a normal symmetrical model in mind, and try to see where the subject differs from that. At the same time, I will think of a funny pose or situation that I can put that subject in. If they walk with a nose-in-the-air type posture, I'll exaggerate that. But getting a likeness is paramount, so that is the most important thing.

‘I am a great cricket fan and I've been a member of the MCG for over 25 years. I draw black and white caricatures, from the Record magazine, in the members on match days, cricket and AFL. I had an exhibition of these in the members in the 90s. I have been doing this since 1994 and you can see the drawings in ‘Celebrities and Sportspeople’ in the Caricature section of my web site.

‘For a while I drew some cricketers in big full-colour caricatures and gave them to the subjects outside the players’ change rooms. I gave one to Sir Richard Hadlee and he took me into the rooms and thanked me. Imran Khan, the now Pakistani politician, said, ‘I don't want anything to do with that sort of thing!’ Gave me an insight into their different characters!’

Many of Alan’s private clients have asked him to draw a caricature as a gift for the person who has everything or for people celebrating special occasions. He does a range of caricatures from photographs, including family and office caricatures. How do people get in touch with him, do they have any particular or unusual requests, and how does he determine what exactly it is that they want?

‘Private clients usually email me from my web site. Then they email me photos and details of the subject, whether it’s for a birthday present, or to celebrate office milestones. They often have no idea what they want, except something like they've seen on the website. They often ask for their noses not to be too big! Hey, this is a caricature! I do have a couple of regular magazine jobs but I rely on word of mouth a lot.

‘I think people get a kick out of recognising caricatured people, and seeing the comical exaggeration involved. I try to add funny things about their work or hobbies. I do love doing caricatures, though the ones I sell aren’t too exaggerated as the clients seem to like my realistic type style. It’s fun combining all the client’s hobbies and so forth into one cohesive drawing. I enjoy the live caricatures I do, though I'm doing less of them lately.

‘I once pretended to be a live caricaturist on a pier in Port Melbourne, while a young couple walked past. Unbeknownst to the girl it was a setup. I'd already drawn him proposing to her. I pretended to draw them. There was a howling gale blowing and freezing rainy conditions. There was I trying to hold an easel and large sheets of art board moving like sails in the wind. How she ever believed a live caricaturist would be working out there I'll never know. Still, he got the desired result!

‘Sometimes I’ve encountered people I've caricatured previously, but hadn't met. That is always a weird experience.’

More Alan...P.3




‘Sludge It Is’ from Strips by Alan Rose. ‘Sludge on Tour’ (Hand inked, digital manipulation and colouring) Artwork courtesy of Alan Rose.