This was one of the most disappointing sessions I have been to in the Book Festival. The session was dominated by Liz Lochhead, who was meant to be interviewing Leon Morocco, yet it was only till very late on and during a very brief period of questions that we were actually allowed to hear Leon Morrocco speak. For this interview we should have been concentrating on the artist himself and not making use of the session as one to promote Liz Lochhead. By all means allow the introducer to give us some background, but then he or she should stand back and allow the main person to speak and introduce their new book.
Liz Lochhead told us all that Alberto Morrocco, Leon's father, was born in Aberdeen and then served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the last war. Leon, we were told, was born in Edinburgh and studied at Dundee, the Slade and Edinburgh College of Art. However, it was while teaching at the Glasgow College of Art that he met Liz Lochhead. It was Leon's first day as a lecturer and Liz was a new arrival also; he was told by the senior lecturer, "see the lassie over there - she needs help!" Liz told us that she was trying to decide whether to be a painter or a poet and Leon told us that she managed to pass the exam as he put forward her writings as an exam piece which the examiner accepted!
Liz Lochhead then discussed the Glasgow School of Art which she felt was too macho and the few girls felt like second class citizens. Leon nodded his agreement. We finally got to the new book, "A Painter's Journey" which Liz Lochhead raved about and said that the colours were fantastic and the many illustrations made the book - it was just like having your own selection of Leon Morrocco paintings, but in book form. Liz Lochhead told us that she had written the introduction. Asked about the paintings that were included, Leon said that they all require a level of difficulty otherwise his feeling was that the artist is not tested.
When, finally Leon was given an opportunity to speak at any length he told a very good story about travelling. He said that one day he was passing through customs for a painting visit to Morocco. The Customs man stopped Leon and looked at the various paintings that he had with him; initially he got close to the paintings and then read the signature. The Customs man slowly looked up and with a grin said, "You are very welcome here Mr Morrocco!"
In the question period, which was far too short, he said that often he would make a sketch and then finally extend this into a larger painting. He described how he had been looking for somewhere to sketch and came upon a very busy junction. Having seen a tower that he liked he took himself off to a secluded position so he would not be disturbed. The crossing grew busier and busier until at last two American tourists arrived and they managed to put the final seal on the chaos!
There was little time for questions which was a great pity as people were keen to know more about his mother and to have a fuller explanation of the significance of the painting on display behind him. I think that many people were disappointed.