Saturday, March 26, 2016


Searle first visited Morocco in March 1951 and a handful of the sketches he made were published in the broadsheet News Chronicle March 28th. I believe he was traveling with his first wife Kaye Webb and it is probably she who penned the accompanying dispatch (as she did for their reports on London for the same publication).

'We saw our first  yashmak in Tangier; the international port where taxes are low and a ten-roomed house sells for 15,000 pounds.
The Arab shop in the souk (bazaar) burst with Swiss watches, French perfume and American shirts, nylons, watches and fountain pens. Great Britain is represented by chocolate and sewing machines.
In Tangiers' market place, the country-women from the Spanish zone, their babies tied to their backs underneath shapeless white haiks, sell flowers, vegetables, much-handled bread and sweetmeats. The men, bearded and turbaned, gather entranced as children round the story-tellers on the square.
The narrow streets are bursting with boot-blacks, vendors, begging children, pickpockets and donkeys so loaded that we cram into noisome doorways to let them go past. . .

'In Fez the Arabs retain their dignity and their privacy in their thousand-year old walled city. Tourists gape at the wonderful golden marriage belts, the elaborately ugly copper bowls, the tooled leather blotters and admire the pretty, friendly children. They have no way of guessing that they are ridden with tuberculosis. . .

In Marrakesh, El Giaoui's country, the people are gayer, lazier, more corrupt. The white clothes are replaced by brilliant jellabahs. There are more bicycles than donkeys and the famous Place Djemaa el Fna is teeming with snake charmers, musicians, dancers and storytellers from breakfast time until nearly midnight. At sunset their their noise reaches a crescendo and drowns the voice calling the faithful to prayer from the nearby mosque - and we never saw any of the audience turn towards Mecca.'

In 1965 Searle returned for a reportage assignment to capture in drawings Casablanca for HOLIDAY magazine. The format allowed him to use colour and a couple of the pictures he made even drop his trademark linework in favour of impressionistic swatches of colour. These pictures are among my favourite of Searle's ouvre. We can see how is style has developed over the intervening 14 years.
On one visit to Searle's studio he permitted me to photograph the original sketchbook he kept on the '65 trip to Morocco and I present them here with the corresponding finished pictures (which were not all published by Holiday).

Wilhelm Busch - Deutsches Museum für Karikatur und Zeichenkunst
Holiday Magazine, 
Uli Meyer, 
 British Library, 
News Chronicle
Ronald Searle

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

6 drawing lessons from Ronald Searle

Top animation news site Cartoon Brew ran an article I wrote on drawing lessons learnt from the master and his work. Read it here

Friday, March 18, 2016

Molesworth on the radio, chiz, chiz!

I'm informed that there will be a programme on BBC Radio 4 about Molesworth on 28th March.
The programme is called 'Down With Skool: The Art of Molesworth . . . Philip Hensher explores the art of Molesworth with contributions from Mike Leigh, Gerald Scarfe, Wendy Cope and Posy Simmonds'.

A programme broadcast in 2004 had the following synopsis:

'Nigel Molesworth, the blackly comic anti-hero who influenced a generation with his anarchic take on life, featuring contributions from some of his fondest fans. “I couldn’t live with someone who didn’t enjoy the Molesworth books,” says poet Wendy Cope, whose strong loyalty is shared by fans such as John Walsh, Sir Tim Rice and Russell Davies. “Molesworth had a fantastic influence on me,” says Walsh. “He’s more than a comic character, he’s a classic post-war meritocrat and a wonderful role model.” 

The world first met the surly, ink-splattered schoolboy – created by writer Geoffrey Willans and illustrator Ronald Searle – 50 years ago. Down With Skool, published in 1953, is a wonderful parody of the ghastliness of public school life.The following year, How To Be Topp continued Nigel Molesworth’s fantastically misspelled and world-weary account of life at St Custard’s. His mangling of the English and Latin languages, and his detestation of swots and those who are good at games, gave the world a cache of unforgettable images and catchphrases. 

But there’s more to Molesworth than brilliant comic observation; his jaded view, argues Sir Tim Rice, also offer valuable lessons for life as well as laughter. As the St Custard’s soccer team lose game after game to Porridge Court, Molesworth offers these pearls of wisdom: “It is a funy thing tho, your side always gets beaten whichever skool you are at. That is like life i suppose.” 

There are also insights into the black humour of the books from Searle’s biographer Russell Davies, and tantalising glimpses into Willans’s early life. Listeners also learn that Searle created his grim scenes of school life less than 10 years after returning from a period of slave labour as a Japanese prisoner of war on the Burma-Siam railway, while Willans survived war service on the Atlantic convoys, only to die young before the last of the Molesworth books hit the presses.'

Speaking of Molesworth here's an homage from 2005 . . . 

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Ronald Searle's America

I'll be doing a talk up north at The Charles Schulz museum in Santa Rosa mid June.

'The quality of the entire book is remarkably impressive, from the editorial selections to the printing. It's a wonderful and inspiring tribute to Searle that I'll be returning to often.'

-Amid Amidi, editor Cartoon Brew

'Just got my copy of Matt Jones' Ronald Searle tribute book and I'll agree with everyone else who has  seen it. It's really fantastic. It's huge, too! A great coffee table book with sketches and finals for those who love to study him. It's a collection of his impressions of America, most done for British magazines. Wouldn't be surprised if it leads to a Searle resurgence, and maybe another book, because the previous 'Art of...' book from the 80s is not very impressive. Buy it!' - Kevin O'Brien, Pixar

 'One of my favorite collections of Searle...ever! Congrats, Matt Jones, and Fantagraphics ( and the esteemed Ronald Searle) on an absolutely stellar book!' - John Musker, director Disney's 'Moana'

' The book is really fantastic . . . And it’s so huge: I have to extend the height of my shelves to fit the book in … I know what I will read and study the next days and I am sure that it will help me with my own archive work.' - Elisabeth Reich, Ronald Searle Archive, Hanover

'This Ronald Searle book is astounding. Each page is a breathtaking art lesson & joy. Bravo!' 
- Mo Willems, childrens' book illustrator & author

'It’s Christmas early!!! 'Ronald Searle's America' is AMAZING.' 
 - Pete Docter, director of Pixar's 'Inside Out'

'Ronald Searle's America should become THE reference book for any Searle fan and/or illustrator.' 
 - Uli Meyer, animation artist and Searle collector

'Got ours and it is fabulous!!!'  - Susan Goldberg, ex Disney artist

'Just got my advance copy of your book and am stunned by its beauty and content.  What an amazing publication. All that hard work and persistence sure resulted in something extraordinary.' 
- Howard Green, Disney Publishing

'I honestly can't get enough of this. Ronald Searle's America is an amazing collection of the artist's work from his time in the States. If you're a fan of him or of drawing at all, you should check it out. Thanks Matt Jones for putting together this treat!' - Avner Geller, character designer, Dreamworks Animation

'Just received Ronald Searle's America. It's a beautiful book. I'll be buried in it for months to come. Thank you!' -Oliver Maltman, writer & actor 

'RONALD SEARLE'S AMERICA IS FINALLY HERE! Matt Jones’ new book on the seminal cartoonist exceeds expectations. Enormous and overflowing with masterful works by the great Searle, this book is gorgeous. Smartly curated, it's also a wonderful time-capsule: America through the astute, inventive and hilarious illustrations of a rarely-gifted observer. Searle, from the UK, is in peak form as he takes us on a tour of our United States.
Permit me a really envious aside: I'm astonished that this magnificent tome represents only a sliver of Searle’s unparalleled career, as any artist would be delirious with joy if by the end of their life they had produced the contents of this book alone. (...and a really true aside: All the flowery words are not only deserved, they're guaranteed!) Matt Jones has lovingly (and obsessively) created a worthy monument to the remarkably influential father of three generations of cartoonists. And counting.'

Nick Galifianakis , cartoonist  Washington Post

'This book is incredible. I bought it on pre-order because the deal was great - but this book is well worth the 85 dollars listing price. It is GORGEOUS. Both the quality of the printing and the size/weight of the pages is great. But of course MOST importantly - this book is chock-full of beautiful illustrations. Ronald Searle was a wonderfully prolific and hugely inspirational artist, and this book showcases his work beautifully. I suspect I'll be taking this one off the shelf quite often.' 
- Amazon reader review

'Searle book is fabulous.  Great job!!!!!!'
-Ralph Eggleston, Pixar Production Designer

'The book is so damn good!!Thank you for putting it together.'
-Jesse Aclin, Feature Animation character designer