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.