One of a rare breed, Jo­hannes fits the bill

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE WATERSON

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.”

JOHN FEDER

Car­toon­ist Jo­hannes Leak re­laxes in the tran­quil­lity of the beach in Et­ta­long, the NSW cen­tral coast town he calls home

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