Spell-bound by 'blind' cartoonist

Brent Harpur, Melbourne-based cartoonist and legally blind, sets up in the Star Court Theatre before the screening of Scatter Joy, a documentary based on him. Pictured here drawing a cartoon of Spike Lieberman of Brunswick Head.
Brent Harpur, Melbourne-based cartoonist and legally blind, sets up in the Star Court Theatre before the screening of Scatter Joy, a documentary based on him. Pictured here drawing a cartoon of Spike Lieberman of Brunswick Head. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

YESTERDAY at the Byron Bay Film Festival sessions at the Star Court Theatre Lismore, audience members were treated to the inspirational tale of Brent Harpur, a cartoonist who also happens to be legally blind.

Scatter Joy by filmmaker Amy Hoogenboom is a 26-minute documentary that was screened at the afternoon session in Lismore.

It gave an insight into the New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist's life as a legally blind cartoonist.

The documentary took about 10 months to make, and involved Ms Hoogenboom filming Mr Harpur at work and talking about his life and experiences as a cartoonist.

Ms Hoogenboom said she met Mr Harpur about a year ago and was immediately entranced by him.

"I thought, 'Wow, that's intriguing, a cartoonist who's also legally blind'. That's not something you see very often," she said.

"It's hard enough being an artist anyway."

"(What Brent does) is inspiring really, for anyone."

Mr Harpur said that as he began drawing cartoons at the age of five and only began to go blind at 11 years old, he "doesn't really know any different".

He said he just does what he loves and simply decided to stick with what he felt he was good at.

The documentary itself, he said, talks a lot about his disability and how it affects his work.

Ms Hoogenboom followed him and filmed him going about his usual business - busking in Melbourne; teaching cartooning to both adults and children and cartooning at various events.

"It's quite a good insight really - an insight into a lack of sight," he said.

Mr Harpur said that he did have some limited sight, enough to see what was immediately in front of him, although not that clearly.

For Ms Hoogenboom, it's an experience in itself having the world premiere of her film at the Byron Bay Film Festival in Lismore, as she studied media at Southern Cross University here and also studied film at Lismore TAFE previously.

She said she was a bit nervous that some of her former lecturers, tutors and classmates might be in the audience, but also very excited.

Mr Harpur makes a living in Melbourne teaching cartooning and says it's something he has a true passion for.

He said he especially loved the joy he could see in children when they draw.

"Children are just natural artists," he said.

"I'd love to come back here (to the Northern Rivers) and do some classes or workshops."

If people would like to see Mr Harpur come back to the region to teach some workshops, he said they can get in touch online.



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