Roger Law was born on 6 September 1941 in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, the son of a builder. He attended Littleport Secondary Modern School, but left at fourteen to go to the Cambridge School of Art - where he was taught by Paul Hogarth and met Peter Fluck. In 1959 he was expelled.
With his future wife, quilt designer Deirdre Amsden, Law art-edited six issues of Granta and became an active CND campaigner, designing posters and pamphlets for the cause. He then moved to London, where he produced illustrations for Queen, and was resident artist for Peter Cook's Establishment Club, designing weekly fourteen-foot murals. In 1962 he also began contributing to the recently-created Private Eye, and collaborated with Cook to produce the strip "Almost the End" for the Observer. Law's work also appeared in Town, Topic, Sunday Times, Nova, Men Only, and Ink. As he later recalled, "I was quite prolific, doing cartoons and illustrations for newspapers and magazines. I wasn't loaded but had enough to get drunk and look after my family."
Law became discontented at the Observer, and in 1966 moved to the Sunday Times, along with the magazine designer Dave King and the photographer Don McCullin. He was hired as an illustrator, working both for the Sunday Times Magazine and for the newspaper, where he drew court scenes. He also began creating Plasticine caricature models for Nova, which in 1967 won him a Designers' & Art Directors' Association Silver Award. In the same year he co-designed record covers for Track Records, including the famous deodorant and baked beans cover of "The Who Sell Out", and the cover for Hendrix's "Axis Bold as Love", which was inspired by Hindu art and became a bestselling poster.
Law then went to the United States, where in 1967 he was artist-in-residence at Reed College, Portland, Oregon, and produced his first puppet film. In 1969 he moved to New York and worked for Bush Bins Studio, Esquire and other publications. Law returned to London in 1970 to be Features Editor of the Sunday Times Magazine, but in 1976 left to work freelance with Peter Fluck and the photographer John Lawrence, producing three-dimensional satirical models from a Cambridge workshop. The "Luck & Flaw" partnership began with three-dimensional caricatures for the New York Times in 1976, followed by National Lampoon, Sunday Times Magazine, Economist, Men Only, Marxism Today, Der Spiegel, Panorama (Holland), Stern and Time. They also produced Thatcher teapots, and huge carnival heads of Hitler and others for an Anti-Nazi League rally.
In 1981 it was suggested that Fluck and Law should produce a satirical puppet series for Central Television. The show, originally titled "Rubber News", reached the screen as Spitting Image, produced by John Lloyd and directed by former Muppet Show director Philip Casson. The pilot was screened in June 1983, and was a great success, leading to a series entitled "Spitting Image". As Law recalled, "we had a team who were much better caricaturists than Peter or me": "My role was running the workshop and making the puppets. Peter and I wanted to do nothing but political satire, which didn't go down too well, but John [Lloyd, the director] brought in very quick sketches - maybe 30 sketches in 30 minutes - and a lot of that was spread out over sport and the media. That made it really take off."
The audience for Spitting Image rose from an initial five million to a peak of over twelve million in 1985. By 1986 Spitting Image Productions - Fluck and Law's production company - had an annual turnover of £2 million, and built itself a new workshop in London's Canary Wharf at a cost of almost £500,000. Law remained in charge of the workshop, which he described as "the first hi-tech caricature sweatshop in history." The political element in Spitting Image was still important. "At first we were stupid enough to think we were going to make a difference with our humour", Law recalled, "but I don't think, in retrospect, that it did make a difference. It was hugely successful, but probably more as a safety valve than anything else."
The Conservative Party was in power during the whole of Spitting Image's run. "We had a terrible time making Mrs Thatcher", Law acknowledged in 1986: "After about ten attempts it got to be like writer's block. The trouble is that she really looks like any housewife you might find in Sainsbury's. In the end we made one of what she's like rather than what she looks like." The Thatcher puppet went through several transformations before finally being dropped as a regular character in April 1991. As Law observed, "we tried all sorts of things with her puppet": "By the end, we had it in a straightjacket, with flashing eyes."
By 1994 the audience for Spitting Image had fallen below eight million, and it was wound down over two years. It finally ended in February 1996, Law observing that "the royals out-satired us; they made us redundant." As he added, "it's a pity that we never got around to having a Labour government." Spitting Image Productions was closed down the following year, and Law recalled that he "went off to Australia for a year and two months and lived like a student on £9,000 a year": "I went to the National School of Art as a kind of artist in residence."
Law cites his influences as George Grosz and the artists of L'Assiette au Beurre. He has lectured at the RCA, the Central School of Art, and Hornsey College of Art. In 1983 he won the Society of Illustrators' Award for Consistent Excellence, and in 1998, with Peter Fluck, received the Cartoon Art Trust Lifetime Achievement Award.
- CSCC Archive, cutting from Sunday Times Magazine, "Making Faces" (n.d.).
- Lewis Chester "Spit and Polish", Sunday Times Magazine, 14 September 1986, pp.55-6.
- Edward Wech "Thatcher Goes into the Bin", Sunday Times, 14 April 1991.
- "Spit Ends" Radio Times, 17-23 February 1996, p.8.
- Lesley Garner, "Why the Spitting Image man hates those puppets", Evening Standard, 30 June 2000, p.36.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), pp.137-8.
- Yvonne Swann "Rubber Soul: From Spitting Image to Bondi Pavilion", The Mirror, 31 March 2005, pp.56-7.