One artist who always brings a smile to my face is Jeff Leedy, a San Francisco Bay area pastel expert who focuses on humor. You can see many examples in his coffee table book, Are You Laughing at My Art? (Find that and dozens of prints and original art at http://www.leedyart.com/artist/index.html.)
Mr. Leedy is also a funny interview subject , and a generous one, who gave me permission to reproduce the art here.
Jeff Leedy was, as he says, born at a very early age, and it has long been one of his life goals to spread laughter in the world, but it took many years before he melded his two best skills – his humor and his ability to paint. He describes himself as “the collision of the New Yorker and Impressionism,” meaning the New Yorker cartoons, of course.
Trained as a graphic artist, Mr. Leedy began his award-winning career working with top ad agencies in New York and San Francisco before becoming a freelance illustrator in Sausalito.
He wrote, “The art I wanted to do was Impressionism, and I chose Monet’s bridge [over the lily pond at his home in Giverny], but it needed some humanity. So I put a little boy on the bridge . . . The painter side of me loved the gestural whirl of colors, but the humor side said, ‘No big deal. What do little boys do on bridges like that? Hmmmm.’ And the answer made me laugh.” He drew the little boy and has been laughing ever since. (In case you haven’t guessed, he titled the painting “The Pisser.”)
He says he finds ideas everywhere – “Every day I attend the school of the funny.” He has an obvious affection for the amusing/annoying habits of cats and dogs, and pokes fun at sports (golf), occupations (lawyers, waiters, nurses), and human nature in general. Perhaps because he lives close to the wonders of California’s NapaValley, he has done a bunch of paintings related to snooty descriptions of wine. And as he gets older, he makes frequent fun of the mixed blessings of aging. (Pictured here is a pastel titled “After Dinner at a Chinese Restaurant.”)
He approaches each idea for a painting with two personal promises: “First, that I will strive to make each piece as artistically satisfying as I can, and second, to have as much fun as I can.” As a result, his work has appeared in multiple international humor exhibitions from Japan to Bulgaria.
In the future, Mr. Leedy hopes to paint murals in public spaces, any place that needs a good dose of joy. “Imagine yourself coming into a big hospital lobby, maybe a rail station or public building and there, huge on the wall is a work of art that absolutely cracks you up. How good to feel that way. Underneath the painting a tiny plaque. It reads: ‘Are you laughing at my art? Well good. You look like you could use a laugh.’”
Additional resource: http://www.sausalitoartgalleries.com/Jeff%20Leedy/Jeff%20Leedy.htm
What do YOU think?
- Most people enjoy humor in art, but if they buy it, they have a tendency to hang it in bathrooms or “non-serious” rooms, rather than over the living room couch. Why do you think that is? Why isn’t our sense of humor prominently displayed?
- What do you think of Mr. Leedy’s idea of putting humorous art murals in hospital lobbies, train stations or other places where people could do with a lightening of their moods? Do you think it’s a good idea? If so, what can you do to promote it in your own community?