Thursday, March 13, 2008


There are millions of drawings out there with a claim on our attention, but that doesn't mean we can't pause for a moment over one lovely example.

When you stand in a meadow full of daffodils, your eye may settle by chance upon just one. Not the Best flower, not the worst, but by looking at it and smelling it up close you learn something about every other flower in the meadow.

Today's flower is from the great Ronald Searle. Here he does what he does best-- dips his pen in his DNA and comes up with a brilliant, caustic, insightful drawing.

Searle's line is a joy to behold.

In the following detail, note how Searle applies his trademarked approach to three completely different surfaces; the hard geometry of architecture, the soft folds of a curtain, and the natural lines of flowers have all been humanized by Searle. This is what great artists do.

Searle's editorializing is as sharp and wise as his line. Look at the marvelous way he conveys these gelatinous corporate "yes" men:

It's hard to overstate Searle's influence on generations of artists that followed him. (Obvious examples include Pat Oliphant, Jeff MacNelly and Mort Drucker).

His drawings are always worth revisiting.

(PS: for more about Searle, check out this great tribute blog dedicated to Searle.)


HurĂ³n said...

Great blog.

Diego Fernetti said...

Never lent too much attention to Searle until I stumbled upon your blog. What a daffodyl I found!

chuck pyle said...

Ah! Ronald Searle, an illustrator that I have loved as long as I can remember, such character to every mark, and such characters he creates! I particularly recall fondly his illustrations accompanying S.J. Pearlman's wacky travel stories. Made Pearlman's wit all the sharper and made me feel so vested in the stories. A great inspiration, a slightly mad genius inspiration for us all..

spacejack said...

Wish I could make such nice curls with a quill.

Anonymous said...

Searle is the greatest. It's about time somebody paid him some attention.

Anonymous said...

Great choice, David.

Everything Searle touches becomes Searlized. Those gentle flowers are possibly the most generous I've seen him toward a subject. Doesn't say much for his take on humanity... but that's what I like about him!


David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Huron. Good to have you here.

dfernetti, Searle is one of the true greats of 20th century linework. The more time you spend with him, the more I think you'll be impressed.

Chuck and Spacejack, I agree!

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous, there are a couple of good monographs about Searle, and a website devoted to his work out there, but for the most part I think he is undervalued by most fans today.

Kev, I love the way he Searle-izes everything; I agree he has a sour view of humanity, but in the right mood that can be just wonderful.

Matt Jones said...

Good analysis, albeit brief. Mind if I link to this post from the Searle Tribute Blog?

Regularly check this blog-you always choose great examples to study.

David Apatoff said...

Matt, your tribute blog was the the "website devoted to his work" that I was referring to. I lost your bookmark when I originally wrote this post, but I have now linked to your blog in my post. Thanks for reaching out.

Josh (musarter) said...

I might venture to say his line restraint or use of white space is superb. On this piece notice the flowers and how the line work fades as draws away from the focal point. Yes, the use of heavy and thick lines is noteworthy but equally extraordinary is his ability to know when to not use lines, or diminish lines. Searle is a master of his craft.

Unknown said...

(Obvious examples include Pat Oliphant, Jeff MacNelly and Mort Drucker).

My favorite Searle disciple would have to be Chuck Jones. ;)

illustrationISM.... said...

RON SEARLE is my FAVORITE pen & ink'ster!
His ink line(s) has a life (soul) of its own.
i would love to have his 'flow' - my mom, dad & wife would say at this point - "well...get off your keester and start drawing like a mad man then!!"

mark @