The Walkley Award-winning cartoonist has contributed to major mastheads, as well as independent publications and magazines, including Il Globo.
Given the current economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Zanetti has decided it’s the right time to stop drawing and devote himself to a new passion: real estate and property development.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have done what I wanted to do for 40 years, and now I’m moving on to something else I enjoy,” he said.
Zanetti was born in Wollongong, New South Wales, after his parents both migrated from the Veneto region in the 1950s and met in their new home.
His passion for drawing was sparked during his childhood.
“My father wanted me to find a real job, but I had other plans,” Zanetti said.
“He was a realist and came from a tough world, so he wasn’t so sure it was a good career move.
“He always said I should’ve been a lawyer because I liked to talk, but he was very proud of what I was able to achieve.”
Self-taught and talented from an early age (his school didn’t teach art), Zanetti used to sit at the back of the classroom and draw his teachers in “compromising situations”, passing his creations around to classmates and providing great entertainment.
“The teachers would confiscate them but I was told later that they’d always put them up on the noticeboard in the staff room,” the artist laughed.
“When I left school, they brought the drawings out and asked if I could sign them just in case they might be worth something someday.”
At just 16 years old, Zanetti sent some of his work to his favourite cartoonist, Larry Pickering, who told the youngster that he had the talent, but needed to work out whether he had the motivation to match.
And that he did: while still at school, Zanetti regularly contributed to The Sun newspaper in Sydney, becoming the youngest regularly published cartoonist in Australia.
From the age of 18, he worked for The Daily Telegraph, where he stayed for more than 10 years.
In 1983, at the age of 23, Zanetti received the Walkley Award for best editorial cartoon.
“When The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mirror merged, there were two cartoonists and they only needed one,” Zanetti explained.
“After 10 years of freedom I was told to change the way I was working; I’d be given a topic to draw on and would have to create a series of cartoons, with the editors choosing which one to use.
“I couldn’t work like that and that was when I left.
“As a cartoonist, you have to not only be humorous, but also make a statement.
“There are cartoonists who are trying to survive by not offending anyone and playing it safe all the time, but they’re not doing their job.
“That’s not the environment I wanted to work in, so I packed my pen and paper and went and did my own thing.”
Driving a 1959 pink Cadillac with his wife, he decided to cross uncharted territories and travel around Australia, knocking on doors and talking to editors to sign up local newspapers for his cartoons.
“Cartoons were in black and white and delivered via fax, and it was like that until the arrival of the internet,” Zanetti said.
“The internet devastated the industry and has levelled news and information distribution; it’s allowed anybody to create a news publication without a printing press ... all you need is a laptop and the internet.
“Now, anybody can set up a blog in under a day and reach the entire world.”
Following the change brought about by the digital age, many independent newspapers were gradually bought by large publishing groups.
Now, amid the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, more than 100 independent newspapers have been forced to close.
“I’m sorry for everyone in the sector who has lost their job,” Zanetti said.
“I’ve been ready to embark on this new adventure for a few years and now is the perfect time to move on.”
Zanetti said that, in times of crisis, the press generally tends to sensationalise the news so as to drive clicks, likes and subscriptions.
“That was Rupert Murdoch’s strategy: bad news sells, while fear generates engagement and revenue for news organisations.”
Now, Zanetti has turned the page and moved on from the media world without any regrets.
With a chuckle, he concluded:
“It’s time to have a real job ... my father would be pleased!”