AN INTERVIEW WITH GERALD SCARFE
ĎAdvertising is lies. Iím not wanting to sound pompous but I am trying to get to the truth and thatís what I see as being the truth. And Iím lucky enough to do that, you know, I can be rude to the King or whatever.í
RICHARD MARSHALL INTERVIEWS RONALD SCARFE
COPYRIGHT © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS
3AM:So where did it all come from? What started it all off?
GS:Well, I was an asthmatic child so I spent a lot of my childhood in bed so during that time I just drew, made puppets and read. Ten, twelve years of my life were bed ridden and I think thatís where I learned to draw and where I learned how to use drawing as a method of explaining things I feared. It was about exorcising my fears, getting rid of things that really worried me because I was a lonely child being in bed most of the time. No one came to play with me, the bed ridden child so it was quite an isolating, isolated childhood. My brother wasnít born until I was seven so I think in many ways that had an effect on me. My education was very scattered and I began work in a commercial art studio. My father worked in a bank and wanted me to work in a bank too. But I couldnít stand that. Then I started sending cartoons around to newspapers which gave me much better pay and it developed from there.
3AM:So there was no formal art training?
GS:Well, I did actually go to the Royal College for two weeks. I just wanted to know if they would accept me and when they accepted me I left. I just wanted the accolade. Before that I did a little bit at St Martins, a little bit at The London School of Printing, but mostly I was self taught.
3AM:So do you see yourself as an artist?
GS:Yes. I donít mind being called a cartoonist but I do a lot of other things. I do a lot of theatrical work, a lot of film work, I do a lot of sculpture, a lot of stuff other than the stuff that people know me for in newspapers which is of course my drawings.
3AM:You use pictures and your art to express yourself but not words. Is this because you distrust words?
GS:No, its just that I have a talent for doing that. Iíd far rather draw something than write it. Itís more immediate. In a newspaper you can get a cartoon very, very quickly whereas youíd have to read a whole article to get the same amount of information.
3AM:So what about your point of view? When we look at your images they can be quite horrible. Where is all that horror coming from?
GS:I guess itís hard to say exactly. You know, itís in your genes, and the horrible childhood I had and I just want to express the truth. Certainly when I was working in the commercial art studio I felt that I was telling lies there. Advertising is lies. Iím not wanting to sound pompous but I am trying to get to the truth and thatís what I see as being the truth. And Iím lucky enough to do that, you know, I can be rude to the King or whatever.
3AM:So who are your heroes?
GS:Steve Bell, Mac in the Telegraph, but then if I really want to suss things then I look back to people like Goya, Daumier, Rembrandt, Bacon, Ronald Searle, Disney. They all have an influence on my work in strange ways.
Gerald Scarfe, who recently created the characters for Disney's animated motion-picture Hercules, designed the sets and costumes for L.A. Opera's original 1993 production of The Magic Flute. L.A. Weekly wrote, "The fantasy was delicious: the stage-filling serpent of the first scene, the adorable creatures that attended to Tamino's flute, the hilarious Monostatos get-upÖ" Scarfe is famous for his satire in countless cartoons and illustrations for publications ranging from Time magazine, Punch, and Private Eye to the London Sunday Times. He also designed and directed the animated sequences in the film Pink Floyd: The Wall, and directed the film Scarfe by Scarfe. In 1989, Los Angeles audiences first saw his stage work with the L.A. Opera debut of Orpheus in the Underworld, a production from English National Opera. Gerald Scarfe will design the sets and costumes for the world premiere opera Fantastic Mr. Fox by Tobias Picker, based on the Roald Dahl story. The new opera will be produced in December as part of L.A. Opera's 1998-99 season.