One of a rare breed, Johannes fits the bill
What do Australian cricket captains and prime ministers have in common? They are all changed more frequently than our editorial cartoonists.
In the 55 years since The Australian was founded, only half a dozen artists have held the position. Australia has plenty of funny people, and plenty of fine caricaturists, but those talents are seldom found together.
Factor in merciless newspaper deadlines and the number of candidates vanishes into the low single figures.
If anyone could teach cartooning it would be Bill Leak, whose virtuosity graced this newspaper until his death in 2017. And ascending the cartoon world’s throne today is Bill’s son Johannes, who absorbed his father’s love of cartooning from infancy. He has lived on the NSW central coast for years, and relishes his down-to-earth Ettalong
Beach community. “There’s a great danger for a cartoonist in living in the inner-city bubble,” he says. “You get tapped into the mainstream here in a way that maybe you wouldn’t if you’re bang in the middle of town. This is a place that wipes away all of that inner-city chatter.”
Bill lived for years on the other side of this bay, drawing his cartoons, painting the bird life, doing the crossword at the coffee shop in Hardys Bay.
It was, says Johannes, “the perfect escape from the city’s distractions”. He sweeps a hand across the view: “Can you imagine a better place to live?”
After 2½ years working all across the paper, Johannes has satisfied editor-in-chief Christopher Dore, who declares him “the perfect person for the job”.
Johannes describes the new role as a “very complete challenge” — his dad once said cartooning was “as hard as a cat’s head” — but anticipates a correspondingly profound sense of fulfilment.
Johannes’s cartooning will be different from his predecessors’, but the cartoonist’s aim remains the same. “If you get it right — bang, hit the nail on the head — it rings true to people. You’ve put into an image what they were already thinking, but they didn’t know how to express it. If you can do that, well, that’s the magic of it.”
Cartoonist Johannes Leak relaxes in the tranquillity of the beach in Ettalong, the NSW central coast town he calls home