Thank you, Ronald Searle, for being you.


cat on a stackFinally got around to doing a cartoon illustration for my bookbinding workshop posters…something I’ve wanted to do for some years! I always knew that the design would borrow, heavily, from Ronald Searle‘s wonderful illustration of a disgruntled cat atop a stack of books, featured in his book Slightly Foxed – but still desirable.

The orange cat here is, of course, my very own Dude…a fatso trying to get comfortable in a very tight space; and the books have been done more decoratively, because I’m a bookbinder, after all, and not a librarian or book dealer. 🙂 But I cannot pretend that this was an original idea…the spirit of Searle so obviously pervades my illustration.

I have always had a special place in my heart for Ronald Searle’s cartoons: his brilliant cats, his scrawly men, his swinging sixties women, his wretchedly nasty St Trinian schoolgirls (yes, that sexed-up, dumbed-down, rather ‘blah’ movie is just Hollywood’s spin on a wonderful series of illustrations by Mr. Searle) and his many, many covers for The New Yorker

I loved Slightly Foxed – but still desirable so much that when I came across it at National Bookstore in Greenhills, about 15 years ago, I bought the two copies the bookstore had. In it, Searle celebrates the joys of rare book collecting by taking the sometimes cryptic descriptions of books found in the catalogs of rare book dealers and antiquarians, and illustrates each in a hilarious and lovable way. To a bookbinder, naturally, these illustrations are an absolute delight.

I still have both books…now also looking ‘slightly foxed’…but all the more desirable for that.

Thank you, Mr. Searle, for your genius of levity!

Ronald Searle is still very much alive…a prolific, joyful and beloved illustrator, there is an amazing amount of his work on the web, as well as interviews and biographies. To see more of his work, I highly recommend the Perpetua: Ronald Searle Tribute blog, and this article from The Times, written in March, 2010…shortly after Mr. Searle’s 90th birthday.

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8 thoughts on “Thank you, Ronald Searle, for being you.

  1. Never been a cat fan but Searle is top dollar. Been trying to get my cartoons published in New Yorker for decades. Your color choices are very 1960ish(that’s a compliment). May I download copy to put under glass of my drawing desk?

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    1. Yeah, Searle is definitely a cat lover, so I’m especially drawn to his cat cartoons, though Lord he has hundreds without them, and they’re great, too. They say it’s pretty lousy, drawing for The New Yorker these days… I read about it here, but still it would be awesome to get on the cover or back page! Just to say you’d been!
      The colors are a bit over-saturated in this photograph. I should never edit the photos at night, my fluoro lamp makes it so hard to see colors properly.
      I’m mystified but please, go for it, download whatever you want…on my Flickr please go to ‘view all sizes’, I think the original is a decent quality photograph. Thank you, Carl!

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    1. Hey, wow, thank you Glenda! As I said, I owe too much of this illustration to Searle, so he deserves the real admiration.
      Yup, lots of the books are based on my real ones. Some are fantasy. 🙂 It was fun, decorating the spines of my cartoon library.

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