A featured BgW author – part of an occasional series
Looking at the creative origins, motives and the author’s own insights into their work – and you can buy the books too!
We can organise a visit from Leigh to your school.
He is an Australian artist and author, best known in Australia and the United Kingdom for the humorous children’s books which he has written and illustrated, although he has produced works across a wide range of mediums.
His books principally feature the characters Old Tom, Horrible Harriet, Fiona the Pig, Mr Badger and Mr Chicken, and characters from the 4F for FREAKS books. He was the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016 -17.Buy a Leigh Hobbs title from BgW here
Leigh speaks about his work…
This is a great film, from the Story Box Library, in which Leigh demonstrates his artistry and how he develops his characters.
Leigh thinks that all his creations, even Horrible Harriet, come from some aspect of his own make-up.
The final short sequence of this professional and telling film, is Leigh adding the finishing touches to a sketch of Old Tom. In a few sweeps of his hand he brings depth, life and movement to his drawing.
A marvellous demonstration of how art, storytelling and enthusiasm combine to make some wonderful books for children and adults.
About Leigh Hobbs
Leigh Hobbs is an Australian artist, author and lecturer.
He was the Australian Children’s Laureate 2016 – 2017.
Leigh is best known for the twenty children’s books he has written and illustrated featuring his characters Old Tom, Mr Chicken, Mr Badger, Horrible Harriet, Fiona the Pig and the Freaks in 4F.
His book ‘Mr Chicken Goes to Paris’ has been a constant best seller in the Louvre Museum Bookshop for nine years, while Old Tom was turned into an extremely popular television series and, in 2017, Horrible Harriet was adapted for the Sydney Opera House stage.
Leigh was a secondary school art teacher for twenty five years, and has had experience inspiring children to create in words and or pictures at countless Literary Festivals including the Hay, Oxford and Cheltenham Festivals and school visits around the world.
Leigh’s work with schools
Leigh has huge experience of working with children, as an illustrator, author and lecturer, and before that as a teacher. He makes sure all children have fun at his presentations and learn a huge amount about writing and using illustrations.
Teachers too will find new ways to be creative, and free themselves and the children to draw, write and discover new characters. Leigh aims to have children relish the act of creating, drawing and writing at their own individual levels.
“This is about how different we all are, not who is best”, says Leigh.
As part of the presentation or workshop each child will have a unique drawing and have developed a special character in his workshops as described below.
Leigh’s Presentations and Workshops
Creating Characters Workshop
Suitable for most primary age groups (for children: 6 – 12yrs and lasts approximately 60 mins.
The theme of the presentation is ‘Creating Characters’. Ideal length: 55-60 minutes. The AIM is to have children relish the act of creating, drawing, writing, – free from the pressure of assessment or ranking. The sessions are very much hands on workshops and from the beginning the students are told that ‘this is about how different we all are, not who is best’.
Students draw Old Tom step by step following Leigh’s instructions, all the while noting that even though every drawing will look like Old Tom, ‘every drawing will be different because each student is different’.
After that the students relax, show each other their work, and then draw Mr Chicken while selecting different ways to draw different facial expressions.
After this the students are ready to create their own characters in words and pictures.
Leigh also gives presentations and / or workshops to older students and adults on the subject of ‘Visual Literacy’. This is a very interesting presentation with plenty of time for discussion and enables students to understand how visual images and concepts effect learning and interpretation, enhancing text and story.
A press release from The Sydney Morning Herald …
“At the Sydney Writer’s Festival he had 2500 enraptured children drawing with him- he is both artist and author and he is a fan of the increasingly vulnerable school libraries and their librarians.”
The power of the book, the influence of the Laureate…
In an interview in Mirrors, Windows and Doors, at the commencement of his Laureateship, Leigh was asked about the abandonment of the library – as both an intellectual resource in schools and communities, and as a valued concept in the learning process. (We have the same foreboding about ‘the book’ in the UK too, Ed.)
In a wonderful, energetic and focused reply Leigh described his tenure …
”…as the Australian Children’s Laureate, during my two-year term I’ll be visiting every state in Australia at least once as an advocate for the power, value and importance of reading. I’ll be running workshops and doing presentations for and to adults on visual literacy, the power of picture books and creating characters in ‘words and pictures’.
And for the kids I will be running workshops with the theme of creating your own characters…in words and pictures. I was a secondary art teacher for twenty five years, so my teaching survival skills are quite honed”.
Grounded, energetic and enthusiastic – just as Leigh delivers his workshops or argues for the profound influence of the book and it’s creativity driving influence on young minds in workshops – whatever the age of the audience.
A love and feel for place…
Last year Leigh conducted a brief tour of Australian illustrated children’s books for The Guardian in the UK.
In a wonderfully illustrated article, Leigh compares and contrasts his own work with those of other artists. It is a comparison which highlights, we thought, the vivacity, colour and movement of Leigh’s own work, but also shows how mood and feeling are created, by others in storytelling, through the use of the image.
In his generous and affirmational article, Leigh counterpoints his own style and methodology of story creation with that of indigenous artists and others, who use colour and tone in ways that are very different from Leigh’s work, but are as emphatically telling in their quality to generate reflection and feeling.
Leigh’s article for The Guardian is a triumph of context. If you are interested in the imagination of young Australians, and the proponents of creativity for it, then Leigh’s tour is the exemplar.
Discover more of Leigh’s work on his Australian web pages here…
Reading the book, buying the book…
You can sample Leigh’s work, by buying the book, below!
At BgW we are always happy to source titles in volume, or to seek out back catalogue items for your project, school, setting or event. Just let us know.
Man of Mystery
Angela Throgmorton decides it is high time that Old Tom helped around the house. But Old Tom has other ideas . . . and just who is that mysterious figure disappearing into the night? Join Angela and Old Tom on a wild chase through the dark streets, with Angela determined to unmask the Man of Mystery!
Buy this book from BgW
Old Tom’s Holiday
When Angela Throgmorton wins a luxury holiday trip, she’s thrilled. The poor woman needs to get away. She’s exhausted from caring for Old Tom, who likes to relax, and never helps around the house. It’s a trip for one – maybe Old Tom can clean his room while she’s gone. On her whirlwind trip, Angela travels on airplanes, trains, and buses…
Buy this book from BgW
Mr. Chicken arrives in Rome
Whether you like pasta or not, Mr Chicken is loose in Rome. Armed with his guidebook and an enormouse sense of curiosity, Mr Chicken sets off to explore the architecture, places and people of Italy’s first city…
Buy this book from BgW
Mr. Chicken Lands on London
From meeting the Queen, to squeezing himself into a red London double-decker bus, Mr. Chicken sets out to explore the curious city on the banks of the River Thames.
Never less than curious, always more chicken than the landscape can cope with.
Great fun, as always from Leigh Hobbs.Buy this book from BgW
You can find our buying a book FAQ’s on our BookMonitor review web pages here…
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Luna Park image by Greg Hewgill - Creative Commons