Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Regular readers know that I am a big fan of the brilliant Richard Thompson.   I recently had the pleasure of working with five other fans to compile a book on the Art of Richard Thompson, available from Andrews McMeel on Amazon this fall:

As we get closer to the release date,  I will tell you about the book and its beautiful full color paintings and elaborate illustrations.  But today I'd like to focus instead on the preliminary sketches and doodles that we found littering the floor of Richard's studio like used Kleenex.  

You'll never get closer to Richard's happy genius than in these sketches, often discovered with footprints on them or crumpled and folded from being jammed into old boxes.

The following two sketches were for an illustrated version of Candide that never saw the light of day:

I am generally not a friend of cross hatching, but I have never seen anyone fling cross hatching onto the page with such  audacity. 

Whether a face has been caricatured a million times or never,  Richard's sketches seek out the most fundamental forms and designs from scratch: 

Making even white porcelain look dynamic...

…or a book on the floor look funny

Many a timeless truth was drawn on paper that would have to be upped 3 or 4 grades to satisfy federal standards for toilet paper:

Love comes 
Love goes

There will be time later to focus on Richard's large, finished works but I always feel closer to the DNA in drawings such as these.


  1. Beautiful! I can't wait for the book.
    Why aren't you a friend of cross hatching?

  2. Moran-- Most cross hatching is an uninteresting way of achieving a half tone. The line is flat and nondescriptive. But look at the personality in Richard's cross hatching, and the bold aesthetic choices he made about where to stop and start. That's closer to swordfighting than it is to cross hatching.

  3. These are really good! Thanks!

  4. ..Moran beat me to my question..
    Thanks for a continually enlightening blog..

  5. What a joy.
    Even after clicking and enlarging, the mysterious alchemy of discipline and abandon displayed here remains as elusive as ever. How does one hand contain (and direct) these opposing elements?
    What a pleasure to contemplate all the
    assured and (seemingly) spontaneous little drawing decisions made in these irreverent gems. Thanks for posting.

  6. Great work. He's like the new Ronald Searle.


  7. @Anonymous at 2:00 PM

    "He's like the new Ronald Searle."

    He WAS like the new Ronald Searle. Tragically, Thompson has had to quit his brilliant comic strip CUL DE SAC as he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a few years ago. As the disease progressed, Thompson had more and more difficulty in drawing until, finally, he could no longer.

    You can enjoy his work by purchasing THE COMPLETE CUL DE SAC, a wonderful two-volume set in a slipcover, available now, as well as THE ART OF RICHARD THOMPSON when it is available int he Fall.

    I have the one and am waiting eagerly for the other!

  8. Antonio Araujo-- Yes indeed they are. If you aren't familiar with Richard's work yet, it's worth getting to know.

    D.H.-- Many thanks, I appreciate it.

    Rezie-- I'm glad you see what I see in these.

  9. John Cuneo-- It's interesting that some of Richard's biggest fans are the most accomplished illustrators today. The book coming out this fall includes accolades from Carter Goodrich, Peter de Seve, John Kascht, Ed Sorel and even John Cuneo.They all recognize the quality in Richard's work.

    JSL-- There are some similarities, but of course it's hard to think of an illustrator who hasn't been influenced by Searle.

    Robert Cook-- The Art of Richard Thompson contains many interesting insights into Richard's Parkinson's. But as for today, this post is just about the drawings, standing alone and unaffected.

  10. Those who are interested in Richard's art might want to look for the Art of Richard Thompson Facebook page.

  11. David,

    shut up and take my money! :))

  12. Sean Farrell6/11/2014 11:46 AM

    That Bill Watterson and Richard Thompson show at the Billy Ireland Museum, Ohio State Campus is up until early August if anyone is doing a driving trip this summer. The show is every bit as good as David mentioned in a recent post.

    Also a recent Washington Post article tells of Watterson raising money for Richard Thompson.

  13. Signed (yes, SIGNED!) copies of both these beautiful collections are available through Richard's hometown indie bookstore, One More Page Books. Order on the website or by phone.

  14. Great post, thanks.

    Also, David, would love to see a little post on more interesting ways to achieve tone in ink.

    -Richard LaBorde

  15. Sean Farrell-- Thanks for adding that.

    Bookstore Terry-- Definitely!

    Anonymous / Richard LaBorde-- There are books on pen and ink drawing that discuss this topic in some detail. Generally, my view is that a simple, uniform cross hatching is just one step up from Zip a tone or a Photoshop screen. There is so much more artistic potential in adding tone to a drawing. But I admit that even some of the great masters such as J.C. Coll (http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/2009/05/one-lovely-drawing-part-26.html) use some cross hatching as long as they put some personality in it. Some people (not me) especially love the faux wood engraving tones of Franklin Booth. Others love the stippling technique of artists such as Drew Friedman (or check out Norman Lindsay's stippling on his Lysistrata illustrations). Speaking of Lindsay, he avoided cross hatching in the tones in his impressive illustrations for Petronius. Hmmm... maybe this does require a separate blog post.