Richard Thompson on Ronald Searle influence

If you ask Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson who were some of his greatest influences, he’ll mention Ronald Searle. After the news broke of Ronald’s passing yesterday, Michael Cavna asked Richard about his influence:

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.

6 thoughts on “Richard Thompson on Ronald Searle influence

  1. I hadn’t heard of Searle’s death until seeing this. I don’t see much of Searle in Thompson’s work, though as Richard said, trying to emulate him would be overwhelming. Searle had such a unique, graphically powerful drawing style.
    I saw a collection of his wine-oriented originals on the walls of a winery in Napa once, they were really incredible illustrations. He was one of the greats!

  2. I loved this description by Thompson of Searle’s drawing style:

    “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.”

  3. Beautiful piece by Thompson. I was in the army stationed in Okinowa as an illustrator around 1967. All my life I had wanted to be a cartoonist. Especially an editorial cartoonist. Mauldin was a God to me (and still is ) But a buddy of mine was supposed to be a guard at the military library one night and he asked a few of us if we wanted to help.It was a chance to go through a bunch of cartoon books , New yorker cartoonists,
    Mauldin, Herblock, ( they did’nt have Playboys at military libraries) Then I stumbled across the Ronald Searle Paris Sketchbook and I couldn’t put it down. His linework, the fun it seemed he was having while drawing the people, the cars, the pets, the Baroque style buildings. It was Magic. It changed the way I saw everything. When I got back to the sun times-Daily news in Chicago ( Where I had been working before I got drafted ) Mauldin saw some of the cartoons I was doing for the paper and he (Jokingly) yelled ” No, don’t draw like Oliphant , draw like me” I never told him I was trying to draw like Searle. Mike Peters

  4. I’m not sure that it is true that people influenced by Searle’s style were ‘overwhelmed’. If you look at the early drawings of MacNelly and Oliphant for example you can see Searlisms. But they got over it. The genius that was Erich Sokol produced a book called “American Natives” (I think) that could almost be seen as an homage to Searle.
    Searle and another cartoonist who lived most of his life in France, Andre Francois, freed up cartooning and turned it from something quite straightforward and representational to something which could be stylistically more surreal. Francois used to trawl the post offices of Paris looking for ruined nibs so he could keep his line fresh and erratic. Between them Searle and Francois begat Steadman and Scarfe in Britain and a host of other cartoonists round the world.
    Scarfe’s lovely line may have come from being left handed in a world of right handed nibs. Many of us lefties resort to drawing with a brush as nibs were forever buckling and breaking under the strain of being used by the sinister.
    My own childhood hero, Hewison, actually took over the theatre gig in Punch from Searle and adopted Searle’s style and turned it into something quite beautiful as well. Would that I could draw well enough to be influenced.

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