Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Richard Thompson & Jack Davis

Today we lost two giants of American cartooning- Richard Thompson  and Searle contemporary Jack Davis.

Richard was a huge fan of Searle and helped me out with initial contacts for the 'Searle in America' exhibition in 2013. Here is a touching tribute written by Richard on his hero's death in 2011--

'I wrote this for Mike Cavna at Comic Riffs. For a little more, go here; for much, much more, go here (it's worth it). For almost too much, but to understand Searle more fully, go here.

For a long time Ronald Searle's work exerted a tidal pull on me, as it has at some point for a lot of cartoonists. The first time his stuff hit me hard was in 1978 when I got a big, lovely art book titled Ronald Searle, and it was like a window opened. His drawings were so potent and dense and alive with comic energy. His pen could do anything; it went curling and spiraling all over the paper, describing a world that was ugly, bitter, grotesque, hilarious and sometimes, briefly, quite sweet. It made me suddenly aware of how liquid ink is, how it skips and splotches and pools when it hits the paper. It was also obvious Searle had a deep appreciation for the history of the graphic arts and an awareness of how he fit into it. This was heady stuff for a generally clueless 20 year old semi-cartoonist to be exposed to, and it took a few years for me to put my own eyes back in my head.

 Searle's style was so powerful that any other artist who mimicked its effects was pretty quickly overwhelmed by it and exposed as inferior. I think Searle himself was a little intimidated by his chops. There's a bit in his biography that tells of him taping the fingers of his drawing hand together to slow himself down and avoid becoming too facile. I've heard that he planned his work pretty carefully and his wiry, sprung lines were laid down with a lot more control than might be apparent. 

Pat Oliphant said something to the effect that going through a Searle period is good for cartoonists, as long as they pull out of it before it's too late.  The best way out, of course, is to draw and draw some more, as far away from the source of inspiration as possible and under circumstances that don't allow for cheating (i.e., a deadline). It's hard but think I managed it. 

But still, I'd give my right arm if I could draw like this-'

Richard wrote this piece on the occasion of Searle's 90th birthday in 2010

'Master penman Ronald Searle turns 90 today, and this is an update of a post from a coupla years ago. I'd meant to do something new, but I don't have the time now so it'll have to wait a few days.

Below is Searle's illustration for the song "National Brotherhood Week" from the book Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer With Not Enough Drawings by Ronald Searle. The original hangs in my dining room, just waiting to offend an unsuspecting diner. I think it's the only piece of art I've ever bought, and when I first unwrapped it I studied it for almost an hour, sometimes with my nose an inch from the paper. For a long time his style exerted a tidal pull on me, as it has at some point for a lot of cartoonists for over sixty years. Look at those hands! just clumps of fingers sprouting out of sleeves, and look at the way he's laid out the page in bendy chains of rectangles, look at how he's balanced the various line weights and the black sleeve and the curly hair, and look at all those gormless-looking faces...

I've heard that Searle plans his work pretty carefully and his unmistakable wiry, sprung lines are laid down with a lot more control than might be apparent. His work always makes me aware of how liquid ink is, how it skips and splotches and pools when it hits the paper.  Though he used to draw not with ink, but with a kind of stain meant for I think furniture. He liked it because it aged interestingly into a greyish purple, and because it handled differently than regular ink. They don't make that brand of stain anymore, and he's drawn with regular ink for years, and better than just about anyone else.

Happy Birthday to Mr. Searle, and I hope he's well and working in his converted windmill in the French countryside.'

The Art of Richard Thompson from GVI on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Searle Down Under

Over the course of his career Searle did several assignments on an antipodean theme, not the least of which were the 'wine' drawings for the Australian arm of wine-maker John Goelet's vinery business Taltarni and Moonambel.

For Sports Illustrated (Nov 1st, 1971) he illustrated  John Underwood's article 'Poms, Butcher-Birds and Bogeymen' . The original article is archived here

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hommages & fakes pt.3

The art interns at Disney TV were recently given an assignment to design a 'royal family' in the style of Ronald Searle.

Teacher and artist Bobby Pontillas created two very Searle-esque renditions of the 'royal families' from 'Game of Thrones'. These look amazingly like real ink pieces but are, in fact, created with digital 'brushes'. Read how Bobby achieved the Searle line over on his Tumblr

 Glynn Aiden

Alexis Page

Nathan Fergason

Jackie Kong

Roxann Cole

Taylor Krahenbuhl 

The artists at Dreamworks Animation did a similar exercise a few years ago. Check out those images here.  All the drawings inspired by Searle for my 2013 exhibition fundraiser are on view here 

Master Searle stylist Uli Meyer is still working on his animated Molesworth and gives a tease of an update and is appealing for original artwork on the Facebook page.

This is how NOT to do it! The latest awful forgery to surface on the art market.

See more Searle style drawings at the 'hommage' sections here and here and here

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Paris exhibition

Searle fans visiting Paris should stop in at Galerie Martine Gossieaux on the Left Bank at rue Université behind the musée D'Orsay. She usually deals in drawings by her husband Jean-Jacques Sempé but several years ago but together an exquisite collection of Searle's caricatures from the French theatre originally made for Punch magazine. They are currently on display at the gallery or see a preview at the gallery website.

More on the gallery and the catalogue here

Sunday, July 10, 2016

More reactions to the book

I sent film director and Searle fan Mike Leigh a copy of 'Ronald Searle's America' his reaction was kind: 'Your RS book is tremendous. It's glorious, and I cherish it.'

Animator Tim Watts was impressed too:
'I have been looking through the book.   It is really terrific - it is beautifully laid out and designed with lots of fresh, detailed information and photographs as well as largely unseen drawings.   I wish there were more books like this that offer more than the repeated stories one tends to hear from book to book about a subject.'

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

A Grain of Sand

 I can't find out much more than the following but I'd love to see this short film. (Another is the 'John Gilpin' short made by Halas & Batchelor with Searle's drawings for the '51 Festival of Britain)

'Created for the UNICEF film, Grain of Sand, 1964. This film tells the UNICEF story simply and dramatically. In the first part, William Blake’s poem, Auguries of Innocence, is narrated over graphic animation by Ronald Searle; the second part features a day in the life of a Tunisian boy. Narrator, David Wayne'

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library, OSU

'The plight of children in some parts of the world is portrayed in animated sequences by noted British artist Ronald Searle, the narration following the style of William Blake's poem. There is live footage of a day in the life of a ten-year-old boy in Tunisia. What he observes on his way to and from school illustrates some of the work of UNICEF.'
196414 min 50 s

William Jeremiah Burke

('Continuing into the 1940s and through the 1960s, the correspondence details some of his work as director of editorial research at LOOK magazine and its sister publications Quick and  Flair magazines. Correspondence, diary, manuscripts of novels, poems, articles, photographs, books,
memorabilia and other personal and professional papers of an author and director of editorial research at LOOK magazine, 1943-1968'.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Singapore Exhibition pt. 2

The Magical Pen Line:
Ronald Searle

'One of the most influential illustrators and cartoonists of his time, Ronald William Fordham Searle, (1920 - 2011) is considered one of the leading artists of 20th century Euro-American illustrative
arts. The British artist whose artistic oeuvre spans over five decades, has contributed to numerous prominent publications, such as The New Yorker, the Sunday Express, News Chronicle and Punch
just to name a few.
The impact that Searle’s style has had on graphic arts is hard to overstate. Searle’s signature style of line drawings by ink pen has paved the way for innovations in contemporary illustration and
animated films. Regarded as a radical aesthetic during its time, this edgy style was to influence later generations of animated film across a span of genres, such as Walt Disney, United Productions
of America (UPA) animation studio, all as well as contemporary artists such as Sylvain Chomet and Matt Groening.

The Magical Pen Line: Ronald Searle features over 50 reproductions of rare illustrations, sketches and artefacts, from the Imperial War Museum (London) and the Wilhelm Busch Museum of Carica-
ture and Illustrative Arts (Germany).
The exhibition traces the young Ronald Searle’s time in Singapore as a prisoner of war. During this time, he produced more than 300 drawings and illustrations documenting the Japanese Occupation
in Singapore where he was captured and was forced to work on the Thailand-Burma Death Railway. This first part charts his un-flinching determination to give a personal and direct picture of the
facets of war, from ordinary days in the camp to brutal incidents, as well as early cartoons.
It also shows the birth of what became Searle’s signature style in the technique of quick and pointed sketching, and in the way he will present his satirical outlook of life. To quote him in a 1967
interview, “Everything was rooted there I think. To go into those sort of circumstances... inevitably marks you, marks your way on anything you do, anything you relate to afterwards.”
In this exhibition, you will see Searle’s skills and dexterity in translating scenes – both from the realms of conflict and struggle, as well as the realms of entertainment and satire – a skill that will later grow to cement his reputation as a versatile artist.
Complementing this selection are also his works as an illustrator and designer focusing not only on satirical cartoons, but also on his work on animated films, showing title and character designs as
well as story boards.
Searle received widespread recognition for his unique work, and original style especially in America. He received the National Cartoonists Society’s Advertising and Illustration Award in 1959 and
1965, the Reuben Award in 1960, their illustration Award in 1980 and their Advertising Award in 1986 and 1987. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2004. In 2007,
he was decorated with one of France’s highest awards, the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, and in 2009, he received the German Order of Merit.

The Magical Pen Line: Ronald Searle is held in conjunction with the Society of Animation Studies Conference which is organised by the School of Art, Design & Media (ADM), Nanyang Techno-
logical University.'

(From the pdf Exhibition & screenings here)