The artist behind the cartoons
Born and bred in country NSW, Jeff Northam is a qualified Sydney journalist who designs the pages of a major Australian newspaper.
A self-taught artist, Jeff has been drawing ever since he could hold a pencil. He loves nothing more than the challenge of a blank page. His unique style has developed through constant drawing and experimentation, resulting in vivid and engaging cartoon artwork and puzzles. Jeff aims to amuse, challenge and entertain his audience as they tackle each original, hand-drawn creation.
Jeff loves creating puzzles and hopes his readers find equal enjoyment solving them!
If you would like to meet the artist, Jeff offers cartooning classes exclusively in Sydney. For more information about these, please get in touch! You can also catch Jeff at Sydney’s local markets where he offers unique, made-to-order artwork on the spot.
The story of Braindrops
I've been drawing cartoons all my life and and started turning my doodles into puzzles when a paper I created layouts for didn't give me enough material to fill a children's page. Twenty years later and my style has solidified into my Braindrops cartoon puzzles which appear weekly in the Review liftout of The Australian newspaper. I often make the puzzle a joke with the solution the punchline. I think it gives the audience motivation to complete the puzzle and a reward at the end; maybe a laugh, possibly a groan. The first step is to find a good (or bad) joke. For instance I loved this one: What do you call an exploding ape? A baboom. Lots of words have the word APE in them, so I collected seven that also contained the letters of the answer. Paperboy had the B, Chaperone had the O etc. I gave clues for the seven Ape words and highlighted one letter in each to spell the answer. Then I drew an ape holding a stick of dynamite from a jungle mine site. Other puzzles I fashion out of the thousands of drawings I have created over the years. Choosing the best ones and designing the puzzle around them. Despite great tablet drawing programs, I still use ink and paper and scan my work into the computer. In Photoshop, I design and colour the puzzle and add the words. The internet has made things so much easier, from sourcing puzzle and joke ideas to providing endless picture examples. In the old days I went to the library to work out how to draw a horse for example. There's word websites that allow you to search words that contain other words, like APE, and find words that are made up of certain letters or even to create crosswords. I get inspiration from everywhere. Once I saw the name LIAM written into a newly laid footpath, realised it spelt Mail backwards and did a puzzle on backward names (like PAM and PAT). I remembered the old Mexican cooking eggs puzzle from my childhood, they're called Droodles, and I turned them into graffiti on a train which you had to find. I love creating puzzles, it exercises my brain, provides endless satisfaction and releases my drawings into the world instead of being unseen in the bottom of a drawer.
So what are the benefits of puzzles?
Research has shown that brain teasers and puzzles are both entertaining and beneficial for brain health. Puzzles help to:
• Boost your brain activity
• Strengthen cognitive skills
• Provide satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment
• Improve concentration and memory
• Encourage people to "think outside the box"
• Have quicker reactions
• Improve mood
• Develop problem-solving skills