Careers In Art: Leigh Hobbs

Term: 3 Year: 2008

Painter/ Illustrator/ Sculptor/ Writer

Leigh Hobbs is a painter, writer, illustrator and sculptor. He is the creator of the children’s book character Old Tom which has been animated in an ABC television series. Another of his characters Horrible Harriet is said to be and amalgam of various awful students Hobbs has taught over 25 years of being an art teacher.

At what age did you decide to make a career from visual arts?
I wanted to be an artist from the word go. That is, from early primary school. Drawing has always been a passion. During my 25 year teaching career my aim was always to eventually leave and earn a living from my artwork in it’s various incarnations.

Do you come from a creative family?
No I don’t come from a creative family. I do come from a supportive one though. Even though much of my work left my parents ‘cold’ so to speak.

What is a day in the life of Leigh Hobbs like?
I get up at 6 am and walk the dogs. After breakfast I’m out in my studio by 7.30 am. I spend most of the day in the studio but it’s not all productive.
I fiddle around a lot. Tripping over things and cleaning up. Searching for inspiration. I read at night. English history, art and architecture are my favourite subjects.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
My favourite medium is pen and ink. Nibbed dip pen & Indian ink. I love the feel of art materials. Paint, inks, brushes. I’m a particularly messy worker but I suspect this has something to do with the rhythm of getting ideas out of my head and on to paper or canvas.

What effect has the computer age had on your work?
As far as actually producing my art work goes I don’t use a computer at all. I have a laptop for emails but that’s about it. I try and work my scanner and printer but when I do it is only for communicating with publishers or designers. I have found it very difficult to learn computer skills but I am improving. I may eventually use a computer to apply colour for a particular book.

What are some of the negative aspects of your job?
It’s 5% inspiration and 90% hard slog but I am a driven and self disciplined person so I battle on even when an artistic problem is infuriatingly difficult to resolve. Artists and writers work alone, and so one can lose a sense of perspective, and maybe fret about things…work or otherwise. On the other hand how wonderful to spend the day drawing, painting and writing.

What is something you would love to do that you haven’t already done?
I only want to get better at what I do.

How would you describe your first published work?
It was “OLD TOM”. I’m proud of it as 5 publishers rejected it/him before Penguin said yes and the book was/is full of ideas which had been bursting to get out of my head and on to a printed page. Of course I always see faults in my work and so I see plenty of those alas.

Where do you get most of your inspiration?
My imagination. I see or hear things and combine them intuitively in my head.
Mr Chicken is probably my weirdest character and he came about through a visit to the poultry section of the local supermarket.

What fellow artist/illustrator has most influenced you?
Ronald Searle is the cartoonist/illustrator I most admire. He is a superb draughtsman and has produced a fabulous body of work over the past 60 years.
I first saw his work when I was at primary school in the early 1960s and it had a huge impact on me even as a young boy I knew this man was terrific.

What’s your favourite publication to date?
‘OLD TOM’S BIG BOOK OF BEAUTY’

What is your favourite piece of clothing in your wardrobe?
A paint splattered blue workmans jacket I bought new in Paris. I love the colour…but it’s never made it into my wardrobe actually.

Who would you most like to sit next to on a flight to Europe?
Mozart. So I could do my best to look after him. It’d be the least I could do for that divine genius.

If you were speaking to a secondary school student who was showing interest in following in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
Persist. Accept challenges. Keep trying new techniques. Travel overseas.
Resist being pigeonholed. Look at art books and galleries as much as possible.
Seek out the wonderful art created by artists through history.
Never get big headed.
Visit Leigh’s website for more information www.leighhobbs.com.au

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