18 April 1953
Williamstown, Victoria, Australia
Leigh Hobbs is an Australian artist and author. Although he works across a wide range of mediums, he is best known in Australia and the United Kingdom for the humorous children’s books he has written and illustrated. These feature his characters Old Tom, Horrible Harriet, Fiona the Pig, Mr Badger and Mr Chicken. Plus the characters in the 4F for FREAKS books.
Life and career
Leigh Hobbs was born in Williamstown, a suburb of Melbourne, in Victoria, Australia but grew up in the Victorian country town of Bairnsdale.
After graduating from art school (Caulfield Institute of Technology - now Monash University) in 1973, his first job - at age 21 - was at Sydney’s Luna Park, an amusement park next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, where he worked as an artist.
His initial task was to design the colour scheme for an antique carousel. However, during his time at the park he also created two large three-dimensional characters called Larry and Lizzy Luna, which now reside at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
For a major part of his working life Hobbs supported himself primarily by working as a secondary school art teacher, 1978 -2002.
In 1980 Hobbs had a one man show of his caricature sculptures at the Rex Irwin Gallery in Sydney. Between 1985 - 2010 Hobbs was a freelance contributing cartoonist for the Melbourne The Age newspaper. During this time The Age published a number of major profiles of Hobbs and his work.
These were on 27 March 1999, 7 July 2001, 19 June 2002, 24 May 2003 and 24 March 2007.
In 1983 Leigh Hobbs created a series of glazed ceramic tea pots in the shape of Melbourne's Flinders Street Station. These are in the collection of a number of galleries including the National Gallery of Victoria.
In 1999 Hobbs designed the colour scheme for the entrance to Melbourne’s Luna Park in St. Kilda. Between 1998 - 2002 a French and Australian co-produced animated cartoon TV series based on his Old Tom books was created and broadcast in Australia on ABC TV.
The National Institute Of Dramatic Art – NIDA - adapted Hobbs’s book Mr Chicken Goes To Paris for the stage in 2012. This book was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Awards in 2010 and is a popular title in the Musée du Louvre Bookshop in Paris.
Leigh Hobbs’s children's books are often described as working on a number of levels and could be seen as gently subversive. For example, Hobbs's most popular creation, Old Tom, is a grotesque one eyed cat, but the word cat is never used in the books. Old Tom's 'owner' a prim matron like character called Angela Throgmorton thinks of Old Tom as her 'son' and the stories revolve around her efforts to socialise this creature who is in fact like a seven-year-old boy trying to break free of a mothers constraints.
Leigh Hobbs’s artwork, paintings, drawings, prints, illustrations and ceramics are to be found in numerous private collections, public art galleries, and institutions including the National Gallery of Victoria and the State Libraries of Victoria and Western Australia.
The following books were written and illustrated by Leigh Hobbs:
- Old Tom (1994)
- Old Tom at the Beach (1995)
- Old Tom goes To Mars (1996)
- Old Tom’s Guide to Being Good (1998)
- Horrible Harriet (2001)
- Old Tom’s Holiday (2002)
- Old Tom Man of Mystery (2003)
- Fiona The Pig (2004)
- Hooray For Horrible Harriet (2005)
- 4F For Freaks (2006)
- Fiona The Pig’s Big Day (2006)
- Freaks Ahoy (2007)
- Old Tom’s Big Book of Beauty (2007)
- A Friend For Old Tom (2008)
- Mr Chicken Goes To Paris (2009)
- Mr Badger and The Big Surprise (2010)
- Mr Badger and The Missing Ape (2010)
- Mr Badger and The Difficult Duchess (2011)
- Mr Badger and The Magic Mirror (2011)
- Horrible Harriet’s Inheritance (2012)
- Mr Chicken Lands on London (2014)