Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Interview:: Oslo Davis

Corner of LaTrobe and William Streets, Monday 10am
"As I told him, losing ten kilograms could be the difference between losing your job and keeping it."

Queen Street, Tuesday 4pm
Woman 1: "Now that's how dinner should be: loud."
Woman 2: "Yeah, but not so aggressive."

Oslo Davis is an international man of mystery. Trust me, I've been sitting here googling images of him, to no avail. According to Google Images he's a black and white line drawing. But no matter, the show will go on, with or without a headshot.

Oslo has finetuned the art of eavesdropping - into his very own style. You've probably seen Oslo's work in The Age. His new book Overheard is a collection of more than 100 cartoons that have featured in the Sunday Age.

PMM: You have a new book Overheard. Are there any particularly salacious overheard conversations that you couldn't include in the book?

Oslo Davis: I've been quite fortunate in getting almost all Overheards past my editor, but there was one that didn't get through featuring a couple walking out of the law courts swearing their heads off about somebody. I find too that people's voices drop when they get talking about anything juicy. I try to lean in, but I sense their forcefield go up.

When did you start illustrating overheard conversations?

I did a drawing for A2 in The Age about what people were saying outside a theatre during interval and from that an editor thought it would make a nifty regular cartoon.

When I am busy eavesdropping I am paranoid the person speaking will catch on that I am listening. How do you make yourself look inconspicuous? A fake moustache doesn't seem to cut it for me. Earphones that aren't plugged in? Bugging devices?

Turning the iPod definitely helps. As does following from in front (an old trick I learnt from episodes of The A Team). The key thing is pretending to be engaged in something else - reading a newspaper, browsing some jeans. Even mindless talking to a friend, but bending an ear to a nearby gas-bagger is doable.

Tell us about the process for each illustration.

I store up a number of overheards in a little notebook. I try to take a photo or do some sketches of the scene of the crime when people have moved on. Then I sit down in my studio and draw it all up, using pencils and ink wash.

As a child did you always want to become an artist?

Yeah. I always wanted to do something that used my creative brain, be it something to do with comedy, theatre, painting or drawing.

When and how did you get your 'big break'?

I've been chipping away doing drawings for years. In the early days I just drew and sketched and made my own books and newsletters of drawings and writing which I posted to friends and people who worked at magazines and newspapers. I also did a lot of free work, just to get my work into journals and magazines. Eventually the right people started to see my work and I got little drawing gigs here and there. The Age has been supportive over the years and the former editor of M Magazine gave me my first big long-term break with Overheard three years ago. I guess it was a risk for them to bring someone on who didn't have a track record of working consistently for a paper, but so far so good.


Cartoonists such as Bruce Eric Kaplan, Roz Chast, Saul Steinberg. TV shows - Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Mighty Boosh and The Office. The early films of Woody Allen and anything written by David Sedaris.

Flight path for Oslo Davis - what's next on your agenda?

I currently have a Creative Fellowship at the State Library of Victoria and for that I am working on a large wordless newspaper of drawings that will hopefully be out later this year.

And something completely random that we should (or shouldn't) know about you?

I once saw a man walk to the horizon and back in a western desert in India.


Crossley Street, near Pellegrini's, Thursday 11am
"And hey - you'll never guess who I saw weeping at the end of Mary Poppins the other night: Eddie McGuire!"

You can get your very own copy of Oslo's book - Overheard here (such a perfect gift for Father's Day - or an ace coffee table, pre-bedtime read).

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