Wednesday, 5 December 2007


At the Australian Cartoonist's Association (ACA) Stanley Awards ceremony a few years ago, host Bill Leak made the comment that a sense of community was to be found among illustrators and cartoonists that he had never found among “fine arts” practitioners. As I'd spent a couple of years working with both groups on a range of issues in a previous job, I found myself in wholehearted agreement, “fine arts” practitioners being a catty little bunch of often overly-precious tools at the best of times. (At the worst of times, one would be quite happy to see the whole damn lot of them fall under a bus).

It was
James Kemsley, the then President of the ACA and Ginger Meggs cartoonist for well over 20 years who was in large part responsible for nurturing this sense of community among his cartooning colleagues, working tirelessly on their behalf to ensure that ACA members were armed with advice and resources and the support of their more successful members to make a go of their craft in an increasingly banal and insipid world where economic impact statements and productivity reports are forever being regarded as the high-water mark in modern civilisation, "art and entertainment" being that thing better left to poofters and losers who didn't have what it took to "get a real job".

I didn't know James well enough to be the type of person who'd just turn up out of the blue at the door of his house for a chat and a beer, but I do know that if I'd ever dared to pull such a ridiculous stunt, Kemsley would have been welcoming, polite, warm, generous and all those other soggy little adjectives that are too often applied to men and women in this life who wouldn't know grace from grapefruit.

died on Sunday, December 3, 2007 from motor neurone disease at the age of 59. I knew he was ill as he had cited health reasons in his decision to step down from the Presidency of the ACA. But I'd no idea this horrible disease was the reason for it, myself having left the visual arts field of work a couple years ago and being in scant contact since.

Rest well, James. You will be sadly missed by anyone and everyone who ever had the pleasure of your company.

From 1989, Kirsty MacColl “Days”