Michael Leunig: very popular Australian cartoonist, born in Melbourne in 1945. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, including the banned Sixties London magazine Oz. He currently does a regular piece in the Melbourne Age on Saturdays. The cartoons, illustrations and poems range from social commentary to totally bizarre whimsy: wonderful little drawings, often quite sad.

The Home for the Appalled

They took him on a stretcher
To The Home for the Appalled
Where he lay down in a corner
And bawled and bawled and bawled
"There's nothing wrong with me", he wailed
When asked about his bawling
"It's the world that needs attention,
It's so utterly appalling:
He sobbed and cried and called.
And the chorus rose to join him
At The Home for The Appalled.

From Everyday Devils And Angels, Penguin, 1992.
Some drawings can be seen at:

Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that.

Michael Leunig is not just a cartoonist. He is an observer, a commentator, and above all a philosopher.

He started out in Footscray which is a rather diverse industrial suburb of Melbourne as a political cartoonist, until such time as he could afford to move to the country where he and his wife and four children could be more peaceful. He takes some sort of pride in the fact that he does not own a television, go and see films, or even read the newspaper regularly.

In the sixties his work was included in very assorted publications including Newsday, Woman's Day and London Oz magazine. it was during these early years that Leunig developed his distinctive pen style and his eye for the absurd. This led to the publication of his first book, The Penguin Leunig.

Most Australians are familiar with his work as he appears about 4 times weekly in The Age (and less often in the Sydney Sun Herald) and is invariably taped to every refrigerator in the country. Nobody really knows about the face behind the cartoons though, but it seems that he is a pensive man, shy, deeply spiritual, very witty, and sometimes depressed. In an interview in HQ magazine in 1998 he was asked "How did it feel to be named one of 100 Australian living treasures?" and he replied all humbly and naive:
"I can remember being told this and I kind of smiled. I was a bit touched."

The cartoons which appear in newspapers are usually topical; revealing a flipside to an issue which may not have been discussed. His books seems to be random spontaneous ruminations and musings about ridiculous thoughts, but which always carry a profound sense of truth, and often, fulfillment in the form of that warm fuzzy "awwww" feeling. Our religion teacher in high school was rather obsessed with him and often derived deep meaning from the cartoons which would would never have arrived at on our own. It seems the cartoons go in levels. They can be enjoyed both by the casual observer, or the dunce, as well as the intellectual, the philosopher.
Leunig uses the 'everyperson' in most of his cartoons, which are often multi-framed, or containing quite long narratives. Sometimes the everyman is silent and sometimes there is poetry. The everyman is "a small, wide-eyed creature with a huge nose; a naked angel, ageless and genderless; an innocent messenger-fool presenting no possible threat and therefore permitted to state any case or express any feeling shamelessly". He draws the character from the inside out; starting with the pupil of the eye, not just a haphazard dot but carefully drawn; then the eye, then a nose, then the head then follows down through the body. He doesn't do this quickly and each stroke is considered with a great amount of care.

Frequently the duck appears as an observer, and is a gentle reminder of the purity and innocence of nature. There is also the angel who keeps us mindful of our own physical mortality. The moon, always in the form of the waning crescent, is forever about. The constant companion, mysterious, feminine, and nocturnally wise.

Leunig's collections include:
(in chronological order)

My favourite cartoon is the one where there's this crowd of people praying to the sky and one man praying to some sort of paper box all stacked up. And one man from the crowd comes over to the man and says "SO... you believe in this do you?... well just watch."
and he blows the box over and says "YOU SEE... COMPLETELY HOLLOW!" and the crowd laughs, and say how brilliant it is, but the man picks the paper back up, and in the final frame we see the box clumsily taped together, as he prays to it again. aww.

Perhaps the most famous of Leunig's little rhymes is:

come sit down beside me
i said to myself,
and although it doesn't make sense,

i held my own hand
as a small sign of trust
and together i sat on the fence.

The one thing not yet mentioned, is that Michael Leunig is also an artist. Not just an artist in the metaphysical sense that all creative endeavour can be considered art, but Leunig also has a large portfolio of print work that could not be described as simply cartoons. They all still contain the slightly offbeat angle on life that is Leunig's signature, but they also convey meaning without using words.

The following taken from http://www.chrysalis.com.au/biography.asp?intArtistID=13 -

"He was a member of a group of artists invited to create a mural which is now located at the National Gallery of Australia. His drawings, prints, paintings and cartoons have been exhibited at private and public galleries throughout Australia, and are in private and public collections both in Australia and overseas.

A major retrospective of his drawings and paintings was organised by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1992. The "Introspective" toured State Galleries of Australia until May 1994.

From 1998 to 2000 a comprehensive exhibition of his printmaking "The Happy Prints" toured Regional Galleries in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania and was exhibited at the National Archive of Australia in Canberra, A.C.T.

From January 2002 to June 2002 The Museum of Sydney exhibited "Leunig Animated" an exhibition of Leunig's sketches, drawings and cartoons along with the detailed animation cells made from his material."

Michael Leunig also created quite a stir in Australian society when on Christmas Day 2001 he stated we should "find a place in our hearts for the humanity of Osama bin Laden" and that December 25th "is a family day and Osama is our relative."

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