Retraining yourself at any age
Mick Horne is the clever animator behind our one-minute fables including The Golden Bird, a short animation that reminds us to spend our money on a life that brings freedom and happiness instead of possessions. A creative discovery changed Mick’s life trajectory from a serious 20-year career in the Australian Navy to doodling cartoons for newspapers.
Mick lives on a quiet street in Safety Bay, a small suburb along WA’s coastline in Perth, in a home he and his wife moved into more than four decades ago in the 70s. They were married for a decade by then after he first caught her eye at a ladies’ sports carnival outside of Sydney where they were both based in the navy.
Following an interest
Mick joined the navy when he was just 16 years old as an apprentice before being transferred to work on aircraft. “The navy was great because it pulled me into line,” he said. It taught him the value of teamwork and camaraderie – and he even got to live in San Diego in California for a year in the 60s.
While two decades in the navy brought lots of opportunities, Mick knew when it was time to step away when the responsibility of aircraft maintenance was weighing too heavily on him.
Back in WA, he joined the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and was doing an evening TAFE course in painting to balance the stress of work. Something that started as a hobby of “drawing, doodling and mucking around” turned into a career of publishing cartoons and comic strips in newspapers and creating digital animations.
One thing leads to another
It all started with a book his mum gave him back when he was younger: Paul Rigby’s Cartooning and Drawing Techniques, published in 1987. Not only did the book lead him to make cartoons and animations for a living, it also led him down a path to discover his biological father.
Mick joined the Australian Cartooning Association after the book spurred an interest in the art. He started going to events run by the association; one was in Canberra near the war memorial. “We wandered around and found out you could get hold of old documents, and my dad was in the Royal Australian Air Force. We got the documents and it showed where he was in the war, and he wasn’t in the right place for a few years to be my dad,” Mick recalls.
“If you don’t have a sense of humour after twenty years in the navy, then you weren’t paying attention.”
“At that stage both my mum and dad had died. But I did a lot of research and discovered who my father was. Mum had kept me, which was unusual at the time, then she met Dad who I didn’t know wasn’t my real father. I phoned around and discovered the secret that everyone else seemed to know except me.
“If she hadn’t bought me the cartooning book, I never would have found out the secret she kept from me and I never would have met my father a couple of years before he died. Every couple of months we would take him out to the local pub in Joondalup for a meal. I’ve got a couple of brothers in town I never knew I had too.”
Learning a new trade
Mick has been creating computer animations for around a decade now after drawing political cartoons for several newspapers since 1996. “I thought about reinventing myself. I like a challenge, so I thought I would try animation,” Mick says.
He says he’s a few generations behind today’s youth, but then he explains he’s built himself a Wix website and uses a tablet to create 2D animations. Quite impressive for a man who says he’s not that tech-savvy. “I try to keep up,” he says.
“If you like your job you’re not working.”
He got to meet his cartooning hero, Mr. Rigby, down in WA’s Margaret River when he interviewed him for a cartoon magazine. Mick explains Rigby ended up in Perth on his way to London many decades ago but never made it on the ship at the Fremantle port after a few too many beers. He worked for the local newspaper as a cartoonist before being poached by Murdoch in Sydney – and eventually as head cartoonist for the New YorkPost – but settled back into the slow slumber of Margs after a busy career before he passed away.
Finding the funny side of life
Mick knows how serious life can get sometimes – whether it’s bearing the responsibility of maintaining aircraft without fault or finding himself in Washington around the corner from the Pentagon when 911 unfolded. But it has given him the perspective of how important it is to enjoy the smaller moments. That thought cemented just a few years ago when he had sudden quadruple bypass surgery.
“If you don’t have a sense of humour after twenty years in the navy, then you weren’t paying attention,” Mick jokes.
Mick says he has “a weird sense of humour” and always looks for the funny side of everyday life as inspiration for his cartoons and drawing. “You’ve got to have that. If you don’t have a sense of humour you can’t see the bright side of life,” he says. “It’s across the board, whether it’s young kids or CEOs of big boards – don’t take it too seriously and lighten up.”
He and his wife just celebrated 53 years of marriage and are content living in the home they brought their three children up in. “We’ve been here in this house for 42 years. This will do us. The trees have grown a bit. The kids grew up here and the house has got a lot of nice memories,” he says.
Semi-retired, Mick says: “I’m quite happy doing cartoons. It’s something I like doing so it’s not really a job. If you like your job you’re not working. I sit back and take it as it comes.”
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