Friday, December 31, 2021

Remembering Ronald Searle


Remembering Ronald ten years after his death on December 30th, 2011 at 91 years old. View photos of him throughout his life here

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Rake's Progress pt.3

The British Museum website has steadily uploaded images of prints and drawings from its collections including the Ronald Searle material. I was able to visit the museum and look through the original drawings of 'The Rake's progress' in 2009 but time was limited and I couldn't request to see everything. However the website turns up this fascinating artifact- 

Searle's rough draft sketchbook in which he compiled the sketches with the finished printed cartoons. It's insightful to see how Searle altered the compositions between the rough and the final image.

(Click on an image to go through them full screen)

This gag on the final page is fun. No one would see this but Searle and you and I decades later.

See 'The Rake's Progress' pt.1 here and pt.2 here

Friday, September 17, 2021

Village Life

If you're ever in the haute-Provence region near Draguignan be sure to make the drive to Tourtour the village where Ronald Searle lived- it's worth the trip. The visitor's website had been updated with an online version of the exhibition that displayed Ronald's drawings for the village magazine Lou Troumeptoun. See it here

More on 'the village in the sky' Tourtour here

Monday, July 05, 2021

Summer of Searle

 I'm celebrating Searle's reportage work for HOLIDAY magazine on Instagram at the Art of Ronald Searle account here.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Ronald Searle NEW BOOK preview

The exhibition celebrating the centenary of Ronald Searle's birth runs through the end of May 2021 at the Museum Wilhelm Busch, das Deutsche Museum für Karikatur und Zeichenkunst in Hanover, Germany

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

March 3 Ronald Searle's birthday!

Thee exhibition at the Wilhelm Busch mseum, Hanover celebrating the centenary of Searle's birth was delayed last year due to Covid but is now open through May. There's a focus on different aspects of Searle's career including animation.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Searle's Favorite Painting

One of the 20th century's greatest cartoonists chose his favourite painting for Country Life.

This week, we delve into the Country Life archive for our My Favourite Painting column — back to 2010 when we spoke to cartoonist Ronald Searle as he approached his 90th birthday. Mr Searle died on December 30, 2011, at the age of 91.

Ronald Searle on Vauxhall Gardens, 1784 by Thomas Rowlandson

‘Obsessed as I am with the magical, satirical pen line, I am very much aware of its roots – its forebears, those who created it with genius: Hogarth, Gillray, Rowlandson, Cruikshank. But if I must declare a favourite, I confess that I feel closest to Rowlandson.

‘That living line, that freshness of colour, that beautiful reflection of rural nature, all stirred in with a penetrating dissection of character. It all comes together beautifully in Vauxhall Gardens.’

From Country Life 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Soul of Searle

It's wonderful to see my old boss Pete Docter of Pixar Animation proclaiming Ronald Searle as a key influence on the design of his new film 'Soul'. In an August 2020 interview with 3D World magazine he is quoted:

The human world of the film marks a departure in the usual style of the studio from large, cartoon eyes to small eyes set in exaggerated features with long limbs, angular elbows and pointy feet - all hallmarks of Searle's style. 

Pete, I heard that one of my favorite illustrators, Ronald Searle, was part of the inspiration for the look of the film. How did his work influence you?

PETE DOCTER: Pixar has always been fighting against the idea of a house style, but we do kind of have kind of have one. And so, Dana and I talked about why it be great to buck that somehow, so that the characters in this movie couldn't just be airlifted into "Toy Story" or "Finding Nemo" or one of the other films. We wanted to find our own design sense, and I think we succeeded. There are probably people that still will say, "Oh, it's very Pixar." But if you look at Carl from "Up," he's two heads tall; he's this big block. And Joe has, I think seven and a half or so, much closer to real human proportions. What we really pulled from Searle are those wonderfully stretched proportions, thin, spindly arms and legs, and kind of stockier bodies and he just fit really well with the look we were after. Jazz also played a huge influence in the design of New York City. It comes with its own visual sense, like those great album covers from the '60s. So, we tried to pull that into the movie as well.

In a piece published at the Writing Studio the film-makers cite Searle and Disney's '101 Dalmatians' as inspiration. Searle, of course, was an un-credited source of inspiration on that film too consulting with the animators and production designer Ken Anderson. (see my post on that subject here)

Filmmakers’ approach to the film and the characters’ performances was inspired in part by two diverse influences: the art of English artist and satirical cartoonist Ronald Searle, and the animation from Disney’s 1961 animated classic “101 Dalmatians.” Says animation supervisor Jude Brownbill, “Searle and ‘101 Dalmatians’ influenced the look and feel of ‘Soul’ in almost every department—from the imperfect shape of buildings, furniture and props, to the number of folds on a characters’ clothing. For animation, Searle’s influence inspired bold and direct posing within clear compositions that lead the viewer’s eye through the scene. Studying ‘101 Dalmatians’ reinforced the importance of laying out one acting idea at a time and holding within key poses to allow important moments to be read more clearly.”

Early concept art shows the artists working with a Searle-esque line quality.

                                                                artist: Nancy Tsang

artist: Camilo Castro

Art director Daniel Lopez Muñoz on designing Joe Gardner with Searle in mind:

Disney animator Milt Kahl’s influence can be seen in the way Joe seems inspired by Roger from 101 Dalmatians, but the influence of British illustrator Ronald Searle can be seen in the character designs as well. 

It’s so great that you noticed that. I haven’t actually discussed that with anybody when I was designing Joe. You have the character Roger in 101 Dalmatians and he is obviously a very classic, white character from a Disney film, but I really wanted to find a new character that could live on the way that character did, so there are certainly some influences there, but the artist I really narrowed my sights on was Searle. He had an incredible eye for representing people’s personalities and their interior persona onto a caricature in a wonderful, masterful way. He hadn’t done that many representations of people of color. Most of his work is of the white people surrounding him in England. We got inspiration from him, but had to find our own way, thinking of his shapes and angles, in creating the diverse characters in the New York cityscape.


'Dancers, Harlem' from Searle's NYC sketchbook

Although Searle made his reputation lampooning stuffy, white British people he did, in fact, portray Black characters often, most notably when he first visited America in the late fifties and explored NYC with his sketchbook. In an interview he professed his fascination with the city:

"in between dusk and dawn I am out gathering stuff for Punch.I gather that the first batch arrived safely 
and that they are going to start off with one big drawing as a double-spread and follow it each week or 
so with single pages or double spreads.  I'm expecting to get off tomorrow another packet . . . Central Park, Chinatown, Harlem, perhaps even the Bowery.  I may have to go back there for a bit more material. It's exhausting I must confess but I still enjoy drawing Manhattan almost as much as Paris."
'Zanzibar Club, Harlem' from Searle's NYC sketchbook

'Savoy Dance Hall, Harlem' June. 1957

Searle's first wife, Kaye Webb, related to her readers “The other night we ventured down to Harlem to a famous dance hall where we heard some wonderful jazz and saw the floor literally rocking with the enthusiasm of the dancers. After that we went on a tour 
of Harlem nightclubs, finishing up in Count Basie’s bar eating southern fried chicken at three in the morning.”
'Count Basie's Bar, Harlem' from Searle's NYC sketchbook

In 1960 Searle travelled to the south to cover the New Orleans jazz scene for HOLIDAY magazine.

'Sweet Emma Barrett' from Searle's New Orleans sketchbook

On another reportage assignment in Atlantic City Searle captured the visitors to the Boardwalk

You can see LOTS more of Searle's drawings around America in my book available at bookstores and the publisher's site Fantagraphics

Of course the cat in the film has a direct correlation to Searle's cats.

Cat design by Jason Deamer