Magazine article The Spectator

When All the Rules Go

Magazine article The Spectator

When All the Rules Go

Article excerpt

Although best known as political cartoonist of the Daily Telegraph, and for his eye-catching covers for The Spectator, Nicholas Garland trained as a fine artist, and never stopped drawing even during his active though short-lived career in the theatre. Recently, he has focused his energies on print-making and is about to open his first exhibition of woodcuts at the Fine Art Society. Exploiting different densities of black ink and the varying texture of the woodblock into which he carves his design, he makes bold simplified images of considerable impact and sophistication. These couldn't be farther from the concerns of the political satirist, for they record Garland's enthusiasms - music, performance, travel - and disclose a pantheon of heroes which includes Cezanne, Orson Welles and General Ulysses S. Grant.

'I'd always wanted to be an artist apart from a short time when I wanted to be an actor. I was stage-struck for a while, but I didn't have any talent at all in that direction, or even any particular vocation. It was the glamour of it that appealed. My mother was a sculptor, her father was a painter and one of my aunts was a painter, so I grew up in a very arty household. It was natural for me to draw.' Garland's boyhood was spent in New Zealand, his family having emigrated there just after the war, and he left school in Wellington with an overriding obsession to get back to England. He applied to the Slade and was accepted as a foreign student. He studied painting, under William Coldstream, with a particularly gifted bunch of students which included Paula Rego, Craigie Aitchison and Euan Uglow.

`That's what I found wrong with the Slade - it was so organised as to be perfect for a talented student who knew what they wanted to do. I didn't. I left feeling an utter, total failure. It gave me a very sound basic training in drawing, which was very useful to me, but for a long time I didn't know what to do with it. For about eight years I didn't do any painting at all. I worked in the theatre as an assistant stage manager - it was the only thing I could do.' Garland ended up at the Royal Court in the late Fifties, in the famous period of Beckett, Ionesco, Osborne and Arnold Wesker, along with a legendary generation of actors including Peter O'Toole and Albert Finney, and directors such as Lindsay Anderson and Tony Richardson. Garland got to know Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook extremely well, and drifted into the Sixties satire trade. He worked at the Establishment Club, and met the people at Private Eye.

'I started doing cartoons for Private Eye, and began working for The Spectator. Quite soon I was making almost as much money drawing as I was in the theatre.' He began to turn down theatre work, even declining to co-direct a play with Peter Ustinov. His first piece for The Spectator was published in 1964, and he began to appear regularly in the Daily Telegraph in 1966. Remarkably, he is still working for both publications.

`I've always been interested in politics and caricature. At school I used to copy David Low cartoons and trace Ronald Searle's illustrations to the theatre column in Punch. I used to look at the cartoons in the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post. It was partly the curious world that attracted me - a world in which all sorts of strange things happen. …

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