This blog post was published on the Pikitia Press Blog on Thursday January 23rd, 2014 written by Matt Emery. As June Mendoza is a patron of the Tait Memorial Trust we wanted to share this fascinating article about a great Australian. We are very grateful to Matt Emery for sharing these illustrations and his interview with June on his blog.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
June Mendoza Interview
June Mendoza was born in Melbourne, Australia,1927, to an artistic family, pianist, composer Dot (née) Mendoza and musician John Morton. June focused on an art career from twelve years of age, taking life drawing at fourteen. By seventeen June was illustrating book jackets, magazine illustrations, town-planning exhibition artwork, record sleeves, some portraits and the adventure comic strip Devil Doone.
Mendoza immigrated to England in the early 1950s and worked for Hulton Press producing illustrations and comics for Eagle’s companion title Girl. After five years June transitioned into full time portraiture with subjects including Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Sammy Davis Junior, Sean Connery, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II (twice), HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Sir William McMahon, Prince Edward, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Sir John Major, Sir John Gorton 1972 (official Parliamentary portrait acquired 1972 – the first and only official portrait of a Prime Minister by a woman artist).
In mid 2013 June answered a few questions for Matt Emery via email.
Do you recall what your first professional illustration job was and how old you were at the time?
Hopeless with dates, But discounting portraits, which I was already doing by the time I was 12, I remember a big job on a Town Planning exhibition for some architects when I was about 17, which involved humourous, but relevant, illustrations accompanying text, on about ten large panels.
How did you get the job of illustrating the first episodes of Devil Doone?
Can’t remember, But I had this ability to repeat likenesses of the characters in different situations and with different expressions.
Do you recall any other cartoonists that were active during the time you drew comics in Australia?
No. Except the beloved Les Tanner, of course; but he was something else.
What brought you to England and what were the first comics you worked on there?
The world was on the other side, and we all wanted to be there. I took over from a splendid comic artist on the already running and popular ‘Belle of the Ballet” for Hulton Press. Alan Stranks, who was doing ‘PC 49’ for them recommended me— again, because of this likeness thing. Then I ended up doing all sorts of things for them.
Why did you use the pseudonym Chris Garvey for some of your work for Girl?
I think it was just to keep my portrait work separate from the commercial stuff, and I kept it ambiguous plus the surname of an amazing human being in my life, who died very young.
Did you read or have a familiarity with comics before you started drawing them in Australia?
As a kid I had my weekly, eagerly awaited comic to devour; can’t remember its’ name, but I do remember another I loved called Film Fun which featured mostly British actors,entertainers etc, amongst which was a regular strip featuring Lupino Lane. Amazingly, by pure chance, I ended up, in my actressing days, working with him in the West End and on tour, in his famous show ‘ Me and My Girl ‘ Lovely man. News of my first portrait to be accepted by the Royal Soc. of Portrait Painters was on tour with him in Cambridge: we all went to the pub after the show and celebrated.
Were there any particular differences or demands you encountered upon entering the English comics industry?
Only that I was now working in full colour, and needed to learn how to apply this to deal with the vagaries of the printed result.
Are there any particular standout memories from your time in comics?
Matt, too long winded. I did about five years of it inc. years of ‘ Belle of the Ballet’ ; serial on Joan of Arc [ fascinating ] ; ‘ Petruschka, ‘the ballet; a cooking series; and misc. illustrations, covers etc.
But portraiture was the prime, constant accompaniment throughout ——– from the age of 12.
George Blackler provided ‘Moko’ for Maori actors in the film production of John Guthries novel, The Seekers.
Sources: Special thanks to Phil Rushton, Devil Doone scan courtesy Ausreprints, Devil Doone history at Comicsdownunder , Artist June Mendoza with [her] portrait of Sammy Davis Junior courtesy June Mendoza, http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/167570547 , June Mendoza seated with her arms around two of her children, Ashley and Lee; Elliet is standing in left foreground. A portrait of all four children is in the background courtesy June Mendoza, http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/167570548
Originally posted by Matt Emery at 9:53 PM, 23rd January 2014
Pikitia Press is a small press publishing operation run from my spare room in St Kilda, Melbourne. I founded Pikitia Press in 2012 to publish works by and about Australia and New Zealand cartoonists. The Pikitia Press blog is an ongoing effort to record contemporary cartooning/comics and cartooning history in New Zealand and Australia.
Matt Emery – Pikitia Press Publisher – Dec 2012