I was drawn to art early. I started sketching and modelling in plasticine at the age of four. Although I had no formal art training, I served an apprenticeship in a London studio of cartoonists, fashion artists and illustrators, ultimately going on to work for two London advertising agencies.
I then took the plunge and set up on my own and became a contributor to most major publications in the UK, drawing thousands of cartoons and comic-strips under the nom de plume “Leon” as well as my own name.
I’ve drawn under contract to Playboy Publications Inc., created designs for Charles Wells the Bedford Brewery and an acclaimed commemorative gift pack to celebrate the wedding of HRH Princess Diana to HRH the Prince of Wales.
In 1975, I met Kim Casali the creator of ” Love is…” and a unique working relationship developed. I was commissioned, by Kim and her husband, Roberto Casali, to write and draw her well known syndicated daily cartoon panels, under her signature “Kim”, which he has now been doing for an unbroken 42 years. Sadly, Roberto Casali died less than a year after I started drawing the feature. During Kim’s lifetime, and until her death, I – as well as writing and drawing the daily cartoon – also designed for Kim, a range of “Love is…” merchandise for notable UK licensees including Blackstaff Textiles, Marks & Spencer and Kinnerton Confectionery and Tele Flora in the USA.
I also created a completely new “Love is…” weekly colour strip, which I wrote and drew for The Mail on Sunday for 20 years. Following Kim’s death, I continue to write and draw the daily panels and work closely with her eldest son Stefano Casali, who heads and runs his mother’s legacy.
At the height of Roald Dahl’s popularity, I – in collaboration with journalist Brian Lee – adapted Roald Dahl’s book “The Big Friendly Giant” into a weekly cartoon strip “The BFG”, which Brian wrote and I drew. They soon ran out of material from the book and Brian devised new scripts which were approved by Roald Dahl. This enabled the BFG to be published every week in the Mail on Sunday and syndicated to a worldwide audience for over 14 years.
At the beginning of 2017 I was invited by AGT Agency Moscow and sponsors Gazprom, to become part of the Football for Friendship International Children’s Programme reaching out to boys and girls in 64 countries around the world. I created a series of drawings called Friendship is… Freida and Freddy, the main characters, are now the official mascots for the Football for Friendship Programme. In 2017 I was invited to the beautiful city of St. Petersburg and in 2018 to Moscow to be part of the activities.
I also created and founded Cartoon World at http://www.cartoonworld.org and the Cartoon World Foundation which was founded by me and my late wife Mercia to house and preserve my lifetime’s work and extensive collection of cartoon and illustration art. The main aim of the Foundation is to make my work available to a wider audience through exhibitions and an online archive.