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

'Australian Race Crowd' Sports Illustrated 1966

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 

Shannon Tindle's latest Searle homage for his centenary- Dr. Strange!

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'.)