Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Drawing the line

Judith Weik showed me the Spanish edition of Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror on Saturday. It is a Colombian publisher's edition for South America. It is called My Uncle's Tales of Terror for some reason though. Judith was sent a copy because they had asked permission to reproduce the author photo she had taken of me. I haven't received a copy myself yet.

Another box of the UK edition of Uncle Montague arrived from Doodled Books. I have to find some spare time to sit down and number, date, sign, line and doodle however many copies there are and then send them back for them to sell online.

And speaking of my old friend Dave Simonds, he sent me a great present. It is one of the great Comics Journal Library series of books published by Fantagraphic Books. I already have the ones on Jack Kirby and Robert Crumb - this one is titled 'Drawing the Line' and features Jules Feiffer, David Levine, Edward Sorel and Ralph Steadman.

All of these artists have been an inspiration to me as an illustrator - not in any specific stylistic way, but in terms of the seriousness with which illustration and cartooning can and should be approached providing the artist has the intelligence and wit and skill to warrant it.

Feiffer is perhaps the one who has most influenced me. He had a strip in the Observer magazine when I was teenager - called simply Feiffer. It was brilliant: sharp, witty, clever - all the things I wanted to be but certainly was not. It became a model for the kind of strip I would love to do and has certainly haunted all my work in that field. He writes really well and he draws with such economy and seeming spontaneity. He is quite simply brilliant and anyone who disagrees is just plain wrong.

David Levine can be a bit stiff and formulaic for some, but he obeys the first rule of caricature - his drawings actually look like the person he's drawing. He absolutely nails a likeness. Time and time again. And just take a look at any UK newspaper to see how rare that talent is. He is a marvel.

Sorel is another master of the caricature. How he draws so loosely and still gets to draw such accurate likenesses I really don't know. It is like watching a concert pianist playing a particularly busy piece of Beethoven. It's a kind of magic, as Freddy Mercury so wisely put it.

Steadman was big when I was at the end of my time at college, doing those big coffee table books on Freud and Leonardo and so on - it seemed to mirror the punk aesthetic that was fashionable at the time. He is loose like Sorel, but I much prefer the latter. Where I was once impressed by all the expressionist scratching and splattering, now it just seems like theatrical bluster to me now. He still knocks spots off most other British illustrators having said that, young or old.

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