Monday, December 02, 2013

SF Chronicle

Kenneth Baker, art critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, interviewed me about the exhibition. It appeared in the Thanksgiving edition.

'Countless Americans probably have seen the work of British cartoonist Ronald Searlewithout realizing it. People often confused it with that of prominent younger contemporaries Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe, who salute Searle's influence.
Famous for wild-eyed drawings of cats, Searle (1920-2011) drew numerous illustrations for American periodicals, from TV Guide to theNew Yorker. He inspired even much younger contemporaries, including Matt Jones, who recently organized "Searle in America" at San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum.
Born in Wales, Jones, 37, has lived in the Bay Area for a number years, working as a storyboard artist for Pixar. His admiration of Searle's art led Jones to set up a blog devoted to his art in 2008.
We discussed the exhibition by phone.

Q: When did you get interested in Searle?
A: Growing up in the U.K., it's sort of in the DNA of the culture. The St Trinian's girls were famous. They were these boarding-school girls Searle invented who went around tormenting their teachers and other students. Many things in those books were based on his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II.
Q: Did you meet Searle?
A: I got to know him a little bit, and he ended up contributing to the blog, and was very appreciative of it. ... He had a reputation like (Stanley) Kubrick of being a recluse, and seeking privacy at all costs. But to me, he couldn't have been more of an old-school gentleman, very hospitable, very generous, full of stories. I hope some of them will make it into the book I have planned. ... He didn't drive, so back in the heyday of magazines that would fly him first class all over the place to illustrate travel stories, his agent had to drive him thousands of miles.
Q: Do you find yourself imitating Searle's way of drawing?
A: I try not to, but once you've seen his work, you can't unsee it. He didn't mentor me as such, but he gave me pointers, and I have them in mind when I'm working. ... He's my Obi-Wan Kenobi. ... He used to caricature even buildings. ... You can see a razor-sharp satirical mind jabbing at the culture.

If you go

Searle in America: Through March 30. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. (Closed Thanksgiving.) $3-$7. Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission St., S.F. (415)

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