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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Searle in Hawaii

In February 1965 Searle travelled to Hawaii on a reportage assignment for Holiday magazine.
Ronald would trade in his first class ticket (an expense covered by the magazine) for two economy class tickets allowing Monica to accompany him.
They stayed at the Hanekulani Hotel, Honolulu from 11th -24th Feb.


They related their impressions of Honolulu in a letter to his secretary at Perpetua Jean Elsmoore:

"About the only place you'll find the romance of the Sandwich Islands is on postcards like this.  It is really rather like Los Angeles and an awfully long way to come for the same sort of material.  However the people are nice and the climate is sunny and steadily in the 70's it has taken us just about a week to acclimatise and drag ourselves about.  This enervating air I suppose geared to flopping on the beach and not moving.  One thing they do have here is flowers and flowers and flowers. . . "

Monica added "Greetings from the most commercial paradise so far"

(Transcribed in Ronald Searle Remembered, Chris Beetles Gallery 2012)


On their adventures for Holiday magazine the Searles established a routine where, upon arriving, Ronald would find the nearest postcard shop and identify the major landmarks of a location that may feature in a Holiday article.  Through the day he would make observational sketches, thinking of gags and noting amusing characters.  Monica would cover the scene with a camera to capture any details Ronald missed out then back at their hotel in the evenings Ronald would work up a finished picture.  They would proceed like this daily before flying on to the next destination.

In the letter  it seems they took it slowly in the tropical heat and I recall them telling me that the climate exarcebated Ronald's health problems.  He was stricken with a return of symptoms of the diseases he suffered in the jungle as a POW. I believe this had an impact on his ability to work  effectively and some of the Hawaii drawings were finished back on mainland US soil.
However these Hawaii images are amongst some of my favourite of Searle's Holiday drawings.


With this raucous depiction of Waikiki Beach Searle elaborated on his location sketch below-playfully annotated "plus cast of thousands"! The gag concerning male tourists serenading their wives with ukeleles most likely sprung from the small sketch below.


I interpret this gag as an elderly tourist (or resident) painting a 'chocolate box' sunset.

'Hotel Street, Honolulu'

The waitress sketched in blue below made into the composition above.
These hula girls too it would seem?
And this couple?

In the following sketchbook drawing of 'Aala Street' we can see just how much Searle later embellished the scene in the final drawing.  This image and the previous finished picture were unpublished by Holiday as far as I know.


Always searching for a gag Searle notes that grass skirts are fire resistant

This devilish totem inspired the gag in the next image 
Again, these two remain, I believe, unpublished.

 After Oahu Searle's next assignment was to report from the Catskills which I'll get to in the next post . . .

(Thanks to Mark Stanleigh for the Holiday mag contributions, Chris Beetles Gallery for the letter transcription and Ronald for letting me photograph his sketchbooks.)

4 comments:

UM said...

A great post Matt! I could still kick myself that I didn't get that Aala Street drawing when I had the chance.

matt dawson said...

Fascinating post, great to see Ronald Searle's process from sketch to final piece. Those sketch book pages are sublime. As always, an inspiration, thanks for taking the time to share.

merf said...

Aala St. final sketch is awesome!!

Catherine Aldred said...

Very interesting. A very structured, thorough approach to capturing all that was needed in his reportage sketches.