Sunday, May 19, 2013

Listening to Leunig

On Monday night, Sam and I took the Barrmobile down to Bendigo to join our friends Susie and Woody at the Capital Theatre to hear Michael Leunig speak.

The Bendigo Library along with the Bendigo Writers Festival presented the evening as a warm up to the 2013 Bendigo Writers Festival (9 – 11 August). The highly regarded cartoonist for The Age newspaper and philosopher, known simply as Leunig had a conversation on the stage with Castlemaine based author and historian, Robyn Annear.

In 1999 the National Trust of Australia added Leunig to their list of Australian Living Treasures. He spoke vividly of how his ideas formed for his cartoons… not from some high and enlightened place that some have supposed. Instead, his inspiration for cartoons, he suggested, are mostly formed from the dark depths of desperation and shadows thrown from a looming deadline… This caused me to smile and conclude that cartooning and column writing both lead to similar emotional states.

Another point Leunig raised was our modern society’s need for instant perfectionism. Young people starting out in the workforce today often need to be brilliant right from the beginning to even be considered for a position. Leunig, who was born in 1945, declared, if he were starting out as a cartoonist for the first time today, no one would have the patience to hire him and then allow his talent to emerge and develop.

Does this mean in this day and age, we are missing out on developing geniuses? I wonder how many people out there, aren’t reaching their full potential because society lacks patience?

I think Leunig raises a valid point… but to play the devil’s advocate, I note, Leunig enjoyed drawing as a child, his cartoons first appeared in a Monash University newspaper in the late 1960s (where he completed an arts degree). After university he enrolled at the Swinburne Film and Television School before beginning his career as a cartoonist. His cartoons appeared in a number of different publications before he became a regular cartoonist for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.

He wasn’t an overnight sensation; he persevered with what he loves and worked his way up, over time, into the upper echelons of the cartooning world. While I can understand the point Leunig was making, I can’t help but think – perseverance (no matter what moment in history you’re living in) is what brings you success.

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