Artist comes clean about life and work

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Thought provoking: Artist Michael Leeworthy is inspired by his own experiences to inform and take a laugh at his life in a new self help book. Picture: Gary Sissons

Thought provoking: Artist Michael Leeworthy is inspired by his own experiences to inform and take a laugh at his life in a new self help book. Picture: Gary Sissons

ART imitating life or art imitating art? Michael Leeworthy manages to mix ‘n’ mangle the time worn adage in his latest publication “So you want to be an artist? You had better read this first ”.

It was Oscar Wilde who famously made the seemingly innocuous statement that “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life” in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying.

Decades later the truth of his position remains a debating point.

Leeworthy, a Red Hill-based artist and gallery owner has gone a step further by publishing a small book of cartoons depicting himself and those who seek to either comment on or buy his art.

On the cover, he depicts himself painting in the bath while thinking “Famous artist” and was only too happy to replicate the pose for photographer Gary Sissons.

Leeworthy, a 50-year survivour of the art world, cheerfully admits his time in the business has not all been canvas, brushes and paint.

“By art business I also include window dressing, stain glass windows, interior decorating as well as painting and illustrating,” he says.

“Although the booklet will appear a cynical view of art and the public at first, I have to say that not one cartoon is exaggerated – they are all true.”

Even the bathtub cover has a reality. Leeworthy says for many people the comfort of a warm bath puts them in a dreamy state. A state a mind that could easily lull someone into think “Famous artist”!

“It’s also a reminder of being careful what we wish for,” he says. “You don’t always get what you desire.”

Leeworthy says “just about every artist” who has seen the book can relate to the depicted situations.

“Everything in there is true and I’ve tried to pepper [the booklet] with helpful advice,” he says.

Leeworthy did not attend art school (“all you do at the end of that is get a certificate”), but even as a 10-year-oldwas regularly borrowing so many art books from the library that it made cycling a difficult act.

At one stage in his working life he was adept at balancing the demands of driving a timber truck (with jazz blaring from the tape player) and being a window dresser.

“I’ve been lucky getting away with it [surviving in the art world]. I’m not the best artist in the world, but I can be the most realistic. I’m living off my art now,” Leeworthy says.

Unknown to them, it has been the visitors to his gallery, and some of his buyers, who provided the inspiration for his cartoons.

Captions of his drawings include such gems as “I like the way you don’t finish your painting. It leaves something to the imagination” and “A bit of a hobby is it mat?”

Another gentle put down: “I didn’t bring my husband, he’ll buy anything.”

Michael Leeworthy’s gallery is at 133 Shoreham Rd Red Hill South, call 5989 2776 or 0408 051 027.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 23 August 2016

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