Monday, June 28, 2010


Corel Painter X art software simulates a Bamboo Pen... without the drawbacks of traditional pens, which can clog, spatter, or run dry.

Young Ronald Searle and his friends enlisted in the British Royal Engineers at age 19 during World War II. They were stationed in Singapore when the city was captured by the Japanese in February 1942.

Searle and his friends were taken prisoner and shipped to a dense tropical jungle to build the Burma-Siam railroad. They worked at forced labor in sweltering heat, chopping through miles of dense bamboo forests and hacking a path through granite mountains. On a starvation diet of less than 400 calories per day, plagued by insects and disease, victimized by brutal guards, the prisoners began dying like flies. The guards quickly killed any member of the ragtag group who fell behind. Searle recalled:
My friends and I, we all signed up together. We had grown up together, we went to school together and they all died like that. So few of us came out of it. Basically, all the people we loved and knew and grew up with simply became fertiliser for the nearest bamboo....
Cholera also took a terrible toll on the men, including Searle:
Between bouts of fever I came round one morning to find that the men on each side of me were dead, and as I tried to prop myself up to get away from them, I saw that there was a snake coiled under the bundle on which I had been resting my head.
His captors enforced a harsh discipline. The slightest infraction
meant a thrashing for someone with the ubiquitous bamboo stick - and being beaten with bamboo is like being beaten with an iron bar.
One such beating left Searle temporarily paralyzed. But there were even more insidious uses for bamboo:
Some of our overseers had an extremely primitive sense of humour. During the noon break on the cuttings, they would frequently relieve their boredom by calling us into line before we had barely gobbled down our rice, to watch the torture of one of us picked at random. The unlucky one might be made to hold a heavy rock above his head in the full sun, with a sharpened bamboo stick propped against his back. If he wavered, which he inevitably did, the bamboo spear pierced his skin.

Searle resolved that he was going to draw a record of his ordeal. He obssessively began drawing every day on smuggled scraps of paper.

He later described his sketches as "the graffiti of a condemned man, intending to leave a rough witness of his passing through, but who found himself - to his surprise and delight - among the reprieved." Searle could have been severely punished by the guards for his drawings. He sometimes concealed them by rolling them up inside the ubiquitous bamboo and burying them in the ground.

When the railroad was completed, Searle was among the small percentage of prisoners who survived the jungle. He was shipped back to Changi, a horrifically squalid and overcrowded jail in Singapore.

There, the men continued to starve. Searle was especially taken by a pair of baby kittens at the jail:

Searle fattened them up and on Christmas day, 1944, cooked and ate them.

In August 1945, Searle was released after the war ended and went on to a long, passionate career as a brilliant artist. Thinking back, he said, "Everything goes back to being a prisoner. When I think how fortunate I was to survive that, to lose all one's friends at 19 years old - every day is a treasure. I decided when the war ended that I was going to do something interesting."

Searle, now 90, drew distinctive pictures using an old fashioned bamboo pen.

Corel Painter X art software conveniently provides you with art and passion with none of the mess or drawbacks of a traditional Bamboo Pen... which can clog, spatter, or run dry.

No comments:

Post a Comment