We don't need to tell you everything great in Melbourne is tucked down a laneway. But you're perhaps less inclined to be popping down alleys once you get out Hawthorn way. That needs to change. Long-time friend to local and 'unusual' art, Kustom Lane Gallery, presents Cartoon Goulash, complete with in-person appearance by Californian cult cartoon master, Shawn Dickinson and local legend, Sir Lluis Fuzzhound.
Despite having worked with many, I always imagine successful artists to be too-cool-for-school types who will have a very well-developed appreciation of their special-ness. I'm often wrong, never more so than with illustrators Shawn Dickinson and Sir Lluis Fuzzhound. In the simplest of terms, they are good blokes. Good, talented blokes.
Dickinson and Fuzzhound's friendship started years ago when (Australian) Fuzzhound was a fan of (Californian) Dickinson's work. They started chatting online and a friendship grew, culminating in dual cartoonist exhibition, Cartoon Goulash, at Kustom Lane Gallery in Hawthorn. Dickinson even flew over for the event, meaning the two met in person, and opening night goers got the unique opportunity to meet both Fuzzhound and Dickinson and see them drawing 'stupid pictures' (their words not mine), in person.
Enthusiastic drawers from a young age, Fuzzhound and Dickinson have found commercial applications for their skill in drawing posters, T-shirt designs and album covers.
While cartooning has a long history and is warmly recalled by many of us, it's not as common in the gallery space. It's venues like Beat regular, Kustom Lane Gallery, which give artists like Dickinson and Fuzzhound a place to share their wares. Kustom Lane Gallery is run by Tony Peake and his family and has been around since October 2007, no mean feat in arts world. The gallery is cunningly tucked away behind The Glenferrie Hotel giving Hawthorn residents a taste of laneway culture in their own backyard. A wander in off the street takes you into the relaxed display space. While the concrete floors hark back to the garage it may once have been, the pieces are well hung and well lit, not to mention, fantastic and refreshingly reasonably priced.
You may recall Dickinson as the illustrator behind cult comic Untamed Highway. Since leaving it behind, he's taken up commissions creating collateral for rock bands including the Ghastly Ones and the Hexxers and magazines including Car Kulture Deluxe.
Local Fuzzhound is a regular illustrator of Kustom Lane Gallery's posters. He also has provided illustrations on album covers for Digger And The Pussycats, Los Chicos, Johnny Casino And The Secrets and The Manic Pistoleros. His commercial work includes art for Zak Surgboards and Stickerguy.
Both artists are influenced by retro comics but have different styles. "You can definitely tell which is mine and which is Lluis'," says Dickinson, who works with many characters but is still looking for a key character which is memorable and accessible, and the key to writing a good comic. "I'd prefer to find one character people can relate to that I can draw for a long time, like a Bugs Bunny," he says.
While many illustrators look to communicate political views or complicated metaphors through their stories, Dickinson is keen to keep it simple. In terms of a favourite comic he points to Popeye. As with any storytelling, he says the character is key, "Once you have a good character, it's easy."
He's certainly got the sense of humour to deliver enjoyable uncomplicated comics, not to mention some mean illustrating skills. Amongst the impressive collection, in terms of quality and quantity, at the Cartoon Goulash exhibition are certain pieces that stick in your mind for a giggle. Like, Wolfmobile: a wolf-gent in drives a Cadillac with one (typically well-endowed) lady in the passenger seat, who is suspiciously eyeing off a pair of curvaceous pins rising out of the boot, sporting a tag tied around one ankle reading 'SPARE'.
Another series depicts some jaunty skeletons playing instruments, including stand-out Base guitar Skeleton. Fuzzhound's pieces by comparison are intricately drawn, with classic muted retro colours. There are even some pencil roughs included, revealing the work behind the pieces.
It's a long way to come for an exhibition, but Dickinson has enjoyed the experience. "It's the first time I've met Lluis in person", he says. It's a change from the Californian scene which he says is pretty crowded. We're happy to have him.
Cartoon Goulash is showing until September 26 at Kustom Lane Gallery, 8 Luton Lane, Hawthorn. For more info hit up kustomlane.com.