A Tauranga mother of four has turned a love of art into a business, making quirky cards with cartoons that are both humorous and meaningful to other women.

The cartoons that "are mostly being mean to posh ladies" were inspired by moving to Tauranga, says artist Mig McMillan.

"I do not think the cartoons would ever have happened had we not moved to Tauranga.

"One of my children said to me recently that if we had not moved here I would not have done cartoons at all because 'they are mostly about being mean to posh ladies'."


Moving to Tauranga was such a culture shock, she says, after living in Te Kuiti where she really loved the "village" scenario.

"There, you live next door to gang members and writers and police officers and dancers and artists and business people and academics and farmers and ex prime ministers and All Blacks and cavers and tribal leaders and all sorts of people, and your children go to playcentre with their children and their mother bakes you scones when she hears that you have mastitis from the neighbour who popped over to borrow the trailer.

"And you hear te reo in the street and can understand it a bit because everyone uses it as much as they can and your kids run down the wide and empty footpaths and get scooped up and smooched by the other person in town because they know them and that is what it is truly like to live in a small and culturally diverse town. So Tauranga was a totally homogenous nightmare."

Some of her impressions of Tauranga inspired her cartoons.

"I do still sometimes get a case of Stepford Wives when I am out and about in the 'burbs - mainly dropping my children off at friends' places who have pools and big enormous televisions. And everyone is nice even though they have mostly painted their houses the same colours inside and all seem to have big grey couches that go in an L-shape.

One of my children said to me recently that if we had not moved here I would not have done cartoons at all because 'they are mostly about being mean to posh ladies'


These things are my inspiration. "I am always a bit worried, though, that if a big lump of money did fall on my head while out gardening or something that I might immediately book a holiday to ski in Canada or accidentally get a fridge that takes photos of itself!"

She had always been interested in art. Her uncle owned an art gallery in Auckland that showed contemporary New Zealand artists and her father's aunt was an artist but she herself never really did any growing up.

"When I went to teachers' college I told my parents over the phone that I was going to take art as a subject. Gales of laughter was the response. I had done absolutely nothing artistic at all ever and any attempt at doing anything had been a disaster.

A lump of clay remained a lump of clay after a week of futile pummelling, projects were always rather lacklustre in presentation skills and paper mache and I did not really seem to get along. Drawing fared no better, and even now I have to say that I often draw better with my eyes half closed."

Mig takes inspiration in the day to day. "Usually I will notice something - an advert, a news article, something on Facebook or one of the kids says something like, 'Mum, can we go to Fiji?' And when I say no they cry. 'Well now I will never ever be able to get braids in my hair!'

"The beauty industry is a bit of a gold mine - how important is it really to have perfect brows when there is quite a bit of global warming happening? It usually takes a couple of days to get the wording and the picture right. I have to mull and rethink and swap things about."

The person she draws is loosely based on herself.

Humour also is important. Imagine how stressed we would all be if we could never see the funny side of anything?


"Yes, she must be [me], I suppose. Although she has longer hair and wears high heels more frequently. She can be a bit more neurotic and cynical, too."

She says they are intended to be humorous, sometimes with a message.

"I often whip up a card or small booklet for friends when they have told me something funny and if the cartoons were any more complex and took too long my children might starve or be left at ballet overnight.

"As far as messages go, I just think that we need to make light of some things and take more seriously others. For example, why do people worry more about their wrinkles than they do about the fact that some people cannot afford their electrical bill?

Why are people mourning the death of a rich, old, Western rock star when thousands and thousands of poor, not so old, Africans are starving to death due to famine as a consequence of war?

"Humour also is important. Imagine how stressed we would all be if we could never see the funny side of anything? Being bad at stuff is particularly funny, especially singing. I think all terrible singers should be in special choirs that could open and close for more serious choir gigs so that everyone could appreciate the perfection of the good choir, but get a good bit of joy at the end. There is absolutely no humour in perfection."

Her sometimes black humour means her cards fill a particular gap in the market.

A couple of years ago my uncle got very sick and I wanted to send him a card. There were none that honestly conveyed anything near what I wanted to say - they were all totally depressing.

So I did my first humorous cartoon cancer card. He loved it and I loved giving him something that did not just sit on the mantel waiting to be replaced by an inevitable funeral wreath."

She is aware female cartoonists are scarce in an art form that is often dominated by males.

"I think it stems back to the fact that most teenage boys spend a lot of time drawing rude pictures with their sharpies all over their books and pencil cases and school furniture during almost every single moment of their secondary education."

Her uniquely female perspective combined with a keen eye and sense of humour means her cards are enjoying a growing following.

"Every cartoonist - like every writer, like every artist, like every teacher, child, politician, parent, person - adds their own perspective. It is a view of the world through a particular lens."