alley cats and note pads

tom 2

The germanic genes triumphed again and I found myself one of the first people arriving at the conference. I helped myself to the coffee on offer and waited to the side, my tropical floral tunic not allowing me to blend in with the brick wall behind me.

A thin, grey haired man approached me.

“Come over here, I need your opinion.”

His fluttering about earlier provided me with the information that his name was Leigh and he was one of the presenters. I had rifled through my conference papers and discovered that he was in fact the children’s author Leigh Hobbs

“I want everyone to draw Old Tom, and ….”

I had no idea who Old Tom was. I knew it wasn’t in any likelihood to be Old Tom’s Cabin, so I was prepared to admit that I was in total ignorance.

“I want everyone to draw Old Tom, and I was going to hand out poster paper, but do you think it would be better to use A4 sheets or that,” he explained, pointing to the free notepad I had pilfered from the freebie table, along with two pens and a pencil.

“Notebook.” I had no idea what artists preferred, I had been shocked into a no talent, artistic experience, after my grade eight art teacher had scrawled, what is this? on the back of what I had considered a fairly good rendering of a trapeze artist in the spotlight.

“May I ask, why?”

No you can’t. “The notebook has card backing and allows you to have something to rest your paper on as you draw.”

“Excellent! Notebooks it is then.”


More than one attendee felt the panic of unexpected artistic exposure when the word circulated that we would be rendering Old Tom. Leigh lulled us into forgetting our insecurities with a very witty and librarian affirming presentation that paid particular homage to the pastoral role that Teacher Librarians provide in the school.

But the moment came, notebooks to the fore. He stepped us through each element. First a dot that became a spiral, that became an eye. Then, another eye, ears and top of Old Tom’s head.  Old Tom is a scruffy alley cat who has survived life’s many vicissitudes. My cats to this point have always been the one circle on top of another, with triangle ears, a tail and big whiskers. I’ve honed it a little in recent months since Petite Fille has learnt to say, “Cats meow”, but it would still be considered primitive art. Very primitive and distantly art.

However, until the tutelage of Leigh Hobbs a former art teacher of 25 years, I tasted artistic success. I had a cat, in fact, I had my very own Old Tom, fish bone in hand.

Cats shall meow, now!

6 thoughts on “alley cats and note pads

  1. This is delightful! It saddens me to hear so many adults say, “I have no artistic ability,” or simply, “I can’t draw.” Our meritocracy culture squashes the impulse to draw in even very young children. The kindergarten students I work with often cry because they can’t draw a car, a horse, a bird. I tell them “Of course you can!” and show them how to break the figure into basic shapes. But it leaves me thinking, ‘When did children start saying they can’t draw?’ When I was a little girl, I just picked up a crayon and drew pictures, as did my classmates. It was just something children did, until some idiot art teacher told them they weren’t any good.

    It’s wonderful when someone like Leigh Hobbs re-awakens the urge. Hope you continue to try drawing!


  2. I love this story. I really love that the speaker was able to break down that childlike need to doodle whatever comes to mind. I agree with the above comments, Too often as children we’re told we can’t do something, so we just stop. Nonsense! I’m glad you found you’re ability again.


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