The Far Side of Art

By February 18th, 2017 Books


Photoshopped picture I created for a Far Side tribute contest many moons ago. Based on the Far Side cartoon Instant Katz.

Why the Far Side was as big an influence on my art as Picasso…

I studied seven years to get my Masters in Fine Art.

Were comic strips ever heralded as the pinnacle of creative study?

Nope. Not even a footnote.

But I’m prepared to commit art world hearsay and declare Gary Larson as one of the biggest influences on my art.

And I know I’m not the only one.

Rare Gary Larson Interview

20/20 features Gary Larson way back in 1986.

Gary Larson & Me

When I was in my first year of art college I mastered being a Pretentious Art Student long before I mastered any kind of creative abilities.

I was reading Nietzsche, watching Peter Greenaway films and listening to Spacemen 3 records.

But I was also laughing a lot at friends copies of The Far Side Gallery books.

I loved how science and animals co-habited our human world to highlight the absurdities and subtleties of our ‘civilised’ lives.


The Complete Far Side

Every Far Side cartoon every syndicated (over 4,000!) in a two volume set that weighs more than your bookshelf.

Rather than shy away from the big questions of life Larson often galloped towards them (I imagine him riding sidesaddle on a cow) as he knew some of the biggest laughs lay on profound ground.

Larson made the big stuff accessible, relatable and incredibly funny by taking a sideways view of the world.

If dogs drove cars – of course they’d drive with their heads sticking out the windows.

Larson’s askew view on the world presents such versions of the world with perfect comic clarity.

Gary Larson’s frequent use of animals to shine a light on our odd little human preoccupations while we spin through a gigantic universe really stuck with me.

One step removed is often an easier way in for us to laugh at (and occasionally) wonder at the human condition.

An idea not lost on another artist of my generation.

The Far Side of David Shrigley

David Shrigley - I'm-Dead

David Shrigley – I’m Dead

From the Brain Activity show at The Hayward Gallery, London.

It’s hard to imagine the art of David Shrigley existing in a world without Gary Larson.

Shrigley himself is a former cartoonist for the Guardian’s Weekend magazine and his art seems to share a Far Side view of the world.

I went to see Shrigley’s first major show in London a couple of years ago. The Brain Activity show at the Hayward Gallery was a joy to engage with.

I enjoyed the show for exactly the same reasons I enjoyed the Far Side all those years ago.

It made me laugh out loud. It made me think about some of life’s bigger questions.

It made me want to get back to the studio myself.

David Shrigley – Brain Activity

Exhibition Trailer from the Hayward Gallery exhibition.

Even though David Shrigley was nominated for the 2013 Turner Prize he’s not always readily embraced by the art world.

Too cartoony. Too funny. Too easy.

Yet I saw so many smiling and mesmerised faces walking around Shrigley’s show that there was no doubt his art was connecting with people in wonderful ways.

Walking around the exhibition I saw…

A routine shopping list carved into a tombstone.

A bell that says ‘Not to be rung until Jesus returns’.

A stuffed squirrel carries its head under its arm.

All Shrigley pieces. Yet each could easily be re-imagined as Far Side cartoons.

Funny that Shrigley says in the interview above that he doesn’t think his work is that funny.

In the 1986 interview with Gary Larson (further up the page) Larson too hesitates as to whether it’s important that his audience finds his work funny before admitting that the first thing he wants to do is to satisfy himself and do something that makes him laugh.

I think both interviews show their creative impulse isn’t so different.

The Complete Far Side

If you’re not so familiar with the Far Side books then this complete Far side collection is the definitive compilation of Gary Larson cartoonery.

Every single Far Side cartoon ever published is in this two volume behemoth.

Go treat yourself.


The Complete Far Side

Every Far Side cartoon every syndicated in two volumes. Heavier than a wet wooly mammoth.


If you were wondering why I didn’t include any Far Side cartoons in this article then you might want to read this plea from Gary Larson about using his work online.