Meeting Canadian artist Leigh Cooney


I have been corresponding by email with Leigh Cooney for many months. Leigh is an artist who lives in Stratford Ontario. I had an opportunity to meet him in person last week while visiting the Toronto area. My lively and thoughtful email discussions with Leigh prepared me for meeting a kindred spirit, and I was not disappointed.

For many reasons, Leigh took himself out of the outsider art category. He now describes his work as “Neo-Folk” or “Pop-Folk”.  Whatever it’s called, I know you will find his creations delightfully subversive and humourous.

The next few blogs are things that Leigh and I discussed. I posed a series of questions for him in an effort to get to know the artist behind the art.

Question: Tell me about when you first decided to “create art”. What do you think triggered the timing? What materials did you use?

Answer: Like so many creative people, “art” in some form or another has always been a part of my life. My very first memory of doing something artistic was from Ireland when I was probably no more than 5 years old. I was filling in the faces in a colouring book and I remember my older brother sitting on the floor beside me.  I was doing the faces green and red and blue or whatever was close at hand, and my brother told me that was wrong and handed me a “peach” coloured pencil telling that it was “skin colour.”  It seems almost laughable looking back, but we were just kids, and besides that, we could be forgiven because this was Ireland in the early 80’s, there weren’t really any other nationalities in the country for another 10 years.

Anyway, it was like a Eureka moment for me.  It was then on the living room floor that I decided to stop messing about and take my career seriously…  as either an artist or an astronaut.  Or this might just be revisionist history. One thing is for sure, it took me 23 years before I would move on from coloured pencils to oil paint.