Yorkshire born, Leslie Simpson, the Director of the British Society of Painters and the creator of the Whimseycollies, is a member of a family that proudly claims two centuries of working in the arts.
He is the sixth cousin of John Simpson (1782-1847), official Royal Portrait Painter to Queen Dina Maria of Portugal, and widely regarded as one of the leading portrait painters of the early 19th Century.
Leslie himself first realised he had a talent for art at the age of five. While other pupils were drawing matchstick men, he was drawing proper people in full detail, a talent that was recognised by teachers and his classmates throughout his school career.
After earning a living as a cartoonist, commercial artist and jobbing painter, Leslie’s first large canvas was the life-size crucifixion (8ft by 3ft) painted in 1971. It was the main exhibit in a big art exhibition at the Unity Hall in Wakefield, the first large show organised by Leslie and his wife, Margaret.
This was followed by his first major commission, a large oil painting depicting the last Wakefield City Council in full session, which took a year to complete and now hangs in Wakefield Town Hall.
In 1981 Leslie and Margaret organised the first Yorkshire Artist Exhibition in the Kings Hall in Ilkley, featuring the 12 leading Yorkshire artists led by Davis Hockney, together with 100 other artists. From That developed the major British society of Painters exhibitions which are now held four times a year in Ilkley.
As well as organising the exhibitions, Leslie has continued to paint. One of his latest commissions was from Tiger Electronics dog poo-Chi superimposed on it. This now takes pride of place in the boardroom of Sega Electronics in Japan after being presented to their chairman.
In March 2003 he decided to throw caution to the wind and combine his love of fun with his enjoyment of the world’s brainiest dog, the border collie-he has three himself-and the result is the Whimseycollies, which soon became established as firm favourites among art-lovers up and down Britain and have now branched out into calendars and children’s books.