Pat Grant – Blue

10 February 2012 Artery

Yesterday a press release caught Artery’s eye – have a look and step into the amazing world of Pat Grant and his latest work Blue, created in part with the support of the Australia Council’s Literature Board.

On a hot Saturday afternoon in December 2005 cartoonist Pat Grant went to the beach to go swimming and, by a series of unfortunate mistakes, found himself in the middle of the infamous Cronulla race riot. Since 2005 a new kind of Australian nationalism has crystalised around surf club car parks and coastal town bakeries, marked by Australian flag board-shorts and Southern Cross tattoos, and Grant has been sitting at his drawing table trying to figure out what this new movement in beach culture is about. It took five long years to process his experience of the Cronulla Riot and his memories of growing up in a small coastal town in NSW. The result of all this thinking and drawing is Blue, a new graphic novel about the Australian beach.

Part autobiography, part science-fiction, Blue follows a single day in the lives of three spotty teenagers who skip school to go surfing, only to find themselves investigating rumours of a dead body in their beach town. Things become even more confronting than they had planned when the trail leads them to make first contact with a new wave emigrants to their coastal town, strange blue skinned foreigners, who might just be the harbingers of a sweeping change. Blue is a delicate and affectionate portrayal of an iconic place and way of life, told with an unerring ear for the vernacular. But it’s also an allegory of difference, fear and change, of continuing political importance to contemporary Australia.

Grant’s approach to cartooning is largely an old fashioned one. Each page is painstakingly drawn over 20 to 30 hours on large pieces of illustration board with a sable brush and India ink. The images in Blue have been taken directly from drawings collected over many mornings spent wandering on the beaches of NSW and Victoria with a sketchbook. The drawings in Blue are inspired by real life without losing their cartoonish charm, intricate without being over-worked and, when combined with Grant’s sparse writing, result in a cinematic story telling experience that lends itself particularly to an Australian experience of place and landscape.

Pat Grant is a renowned Melbourne cartoonist, whose work has appeared in Meanjin, Going Down Swinging, and The Lifted Brow as well as in magazines such as Artlink, Australia’s Surfing Life, and Tracks but all of the best stuff comes out in his zine called Lumpen.  Grant has been publishing installments of Blue online, to critical acclaim. His other comics include The Last Sharehouse and Waiting for Something to Happen.

Blue can be found online at

In 2009, Pat Grant received a $5,000 grant from the Australia Council’s Literature Board’s Write In Your Face initiative to complete the first chapter of his graphic novel Blue. The grant was administered by Express Media.

Image Credits: courtesy Pat Grant