cartoonist and writer, was born, she states, at 5.17 a.m. in Melbourne on 17 December 1962 and has 'lived variously in Darwin, Alice Springs (briefly as anything) and Sydney [she was at Bondi Beach in 1994]. Now I’m back in Melbourne [1996].’ Rather than going to art school, she began her career in 1981 as a cadet reporter with Fairfax on the Melbourne Age and worked on general news as well as the women’s pages and the Entertainment Guide. Her 1988 Acrid Rain [falling from the bicentennial logo onto a cross woman] was reproduced in Bridges & Heimann (p.82). She is a member of the Black and White Artists Club (at least from 1994 & probably earlier). In c.1996-97 she wrote a weekly column in the Sydney Morning Herald’s 'Good Weekend’ magazine illustrated only with bizarrely incongrous photographic vignettes of famous people such as Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana as joke self-portraits but in 1999 was again illustrating her weekly articles in the Australian with her own cartoons.

In 1984 Cooke created the cartoon character 'Hermoine the modern girl’. She appeared in The Eye for years then as a weekly feature in the Sunday Age and Sydney Morning Herald (late 1980s) as well as in several books including The Modern Girl’s Guide to Everything , The Modern Girl’s Guide to Safe Sex and The Modern Girl’s Diary . After The Modern Girl’s Guide to Safe Sex had been on sale for a year, it was seized by the NZ Customs who, she claims, said they were 'alerted to the likely content of the book by the word sex on the cover’. Cooke’s commentary and cartoon collection Real Gorgeous (featuring 'Hermoine the Modern Girl’) was published as a CD-ROM by Film Australia in 1995; it received the 1995 AFI Award for Best Short Film.

She stated in a geekgirl interview in 1996: “I’m learning to get a whole lot better at making stuff happen on computer, but I still really love drawing in old-fashioned pen and a bottle of the blacker-than-black waterproof ink – delicious”. In 1997 she did a calendar printed on “paper” made from sugar cane pulp. Her novel, published 1997, was about [the city of] Darwin. She wrote and illustrated a book of advice on etiquette problems, Keep Yourself Nice (Allen & Unwin, 1990); its illustrations include cover of (a leering male) “Hi there, cupcake!” and (female with chainsaw) “Should I use a fish knife?” Living with Crazy Buttocks (Penguin 2001), a collection of essays mainly published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age with others based on radio pieces, is relatively lavishly illustrated with her own spiky cartoons. Her first children’s book, The Terrible Underpants (Puffin, Ringwood: Vic., 2000) – written when she was 'a mum’ – consists of 15 full-page colour cartoons and a brief narrative.

Kerr, Joan
Date written:
Last updated: