Bruce Keogh got the itch to draw when he was in hospital at the age of 15, inspired by a patient in his ward who was sketching portraits from newspaper photos. As a self- confessed political junkie ‒ even at that age ‒ he soon began dabbling in political caricatures and cartoons. He also tried his hand at writing — all of which remained in manila folders.
Creativity in satire had become a magnet to him.
He loved reading the likes of Mungo McCallum and Phillip Adams and admired the work of Les Tanner ‒ the famed cartoonist with The Age ‒ especially for his brilliant portrayals of then Liberal Victorian Premier Henry Bolte.
Tanner’s sardonic depictions the plight of the first Australians and reflections of his detestation of racism and social injustice were inspirational to Bruce.
When Tanner visited his school to give a talk to his year 12 class, no other students had seen his work, let alone heard of him. Bruce was appalled — and embarrassed for Les, whose disbelief was obvious. That was in 1968.
Bruce had known he did not have much in common with his private schools peers and the Tanner experience strengthened his resolve to challenge ignorance and apathy on social, political, cultural and environmental matters.
He dreamt of one day becoming an accomplished cartoonist and satirical writer. But overwhelmingly, doing his bit to diminish environmental degradation was his primary itch. The itch to draw and write took a back seat. With his family, he moved from Melbourne to Northeast Victoria and, for the majority of his working life, produced millions of native trees and shrubs for revegetation.
Now back in Melbourne, Bruce has been able to scratch that insatiable itch and begun drawing and writing in earnest. His interest in all issues social, political and cultural had never waned. He is incredulous at the level of indifference to climate change. That itch ‒ aggravated by eternal inequity and absurdity ‒ will never diminish, but as he says:
“It sure feels good to be scratching it!”