Alan J. Hesse and cartoons
I care deeply about Nature, and my mind is constantly occupied by what we are doing to it, and to ourselves.
I am lucky to have travelled widely (see bio section below) and to have come into contact with many different cultures and natural landscapes. These experiences have shaped the person I am today and define the purpose of what I do, including drawing cartoons.
Having forged a career in conservation, I no longer draw cartoons just for fun like when I was a kid, but for something more important: education. Many years ago, my friend, co-author and mentor Dr. Louise Emmons, was listening to me musing about whether I should attempt a PhD. I knew that I was not an academic, but when one is buried in the conservation community, it seemed the only way to go.
During this conversation, Louise said something I have never forgotten: 'PhDs are a dime a dozen. Do your cartoons'.
It took me years to really understand what she meant, and now I know she was right.
I was always doodling as a child, and often got into trouble for it at school ('not paying attention!'). However, my cartoons also gave me an instant 'joker' reputation among my peers, especially when I sketched the teachers. This would quickly make me new friends, and even get me under the radar of bullies. Always the new kid in school on account of my father's work travels (see Bio section below), this came in very handy indeed.
My cartoons were much celebrated by my family, and were to improve with time, largely thanks to my constant practice copying the comic characters I best loved (see my blog about influences). Many years later (as from 2000 to be exact), my cartoon sketches finally aspired to a higher purpose than just making friends and family laugh. By combining my technical knowledge of environmental subjects with my ability to draw cartoons, I found a virtually empty niche to fill: that of making important information easier to understand, and certainly more fun to read.
Thus was born my first brand: Cartoons for Conservation. This concept has since matured into the more inclusive 'AJH Education Comics & Cartoons'.
Science and Art belong together
I believe that there is little use in preaching to the choir. In the context of what I care about, this means conservationists talking only or mostly to conservationists. Those who have important knowledge that could benefit Nature and people should also be speaking to a wider audience, the majority of people who do not have this knowledge. The trick though, is to use language that anyone can understand, and if it's done in a way that's fun, so much the better!
Cartoons and the collection thereof we know as comics or graphic novels, are considered to be the 9th Art. Leonardo da Vinci, among others, knew very well that art and science are two sides of the same coin. I believe that art can help science be more appealing to children and the general public.
The Age of Information
There is such a thing as too much information. Information is important, but too much of it at a time numbs the mind. People shut down. For it to get anywhere, information needs to be engaging, and one way of being engaging is to make things fun and quirky.
This belief is the foundation behind my work with cartoons and comics. My constant challenge is to try and make my cartoons and comics funny, as entertaining as possible. In terms of style, I go for satirical, ironic humour. Most people love it. Some don't get it, and a few even get offended. That's when I know my stuff is good! But that's a story for another day...
My father was British, my mother was French, and I was born in Pakistan. I practically grew up in a suitcase; my father's career (as a soil scientist and programme director) led him to all sorts of unusual places, some of them to live for a couple of years at a time. I thus lived my childhood in many interesting countries, such as Syria, Italy, Oman, and India. As an adult, I continued to travel, exploring parts of Africa, Europe, Asia and South America, where I have been living since 1993. I can safely say I am a seasoned traveller. This has shaped my identity, and has increased my understanding and respect for different cultures around the world. I love to reflect this appreciation in my cartoons and comics.
Since age 12 I knew I wanted to somehow work with or surrounded by wildlife and nature. Thanks to my parents' support I was able to fulfil this objective through obtaining a BSc in Behavioural Science (University of Nottingham, 1992) and, 11 years later, a MSc in Conservation Biology (Manchester Metropolitan University, 2003). I however developed my practical skills in conservation whilst living in Bolivia, where I enjoyed a very adventurous, somewhat 'gung ho' frontier lifestyle (the details of which would fill a book).
Interested in working together?
If you are interested in my cartoons and would like to know how I might contribute to your work, drop me a line. I take all work projects very seriously and always try to deliver over and above expectations.