“The Place Was Especially A Mess After The Weekly Art Meetings”

Posted on 23rd March 2017 in News

 

 

… “The artists, who waited for the verdicts, scrambled for desk space where they could retouch their cartoons and spots according to what Wylie, or Katharine Angell, told them what Ross wanted.”*

 

— So said New Yorker editor and writer Rogers Whitaker to Thurber biographer, Harrison Kinney. He was describing a wonderfully fun and exciting time and place: The New Yorker in its infancy, ninety some years ago.

 

What’s changed since then?  Well, the cartoonists no longer wait in the office to hear the verdict for that week’s submissions (email now alerts them to a sale, and more often, rejection). However, many cartoonists still head to the New Yorker every week to sit across from the cartoon editor. It’s a chance to connect with the editor, to get feedback, to discuss that week’s submissions.  It’s also a chance to socialize with colleagues.  Cartoonists, as has been said many times, are mostly solitary creatures, whiling away at their drawing boards or tablets without the company of other humans.

 

Using the clues of the personalities Mr. Whitaker mentioned we know that the artists (cartoonists for the most part with some cover artists tossed in) began showing up at the New Yorker from the very first days of the magazine. What we don’t know is exactly when the cartoonists began showing up to see the Art Editor — a ritual that began sometime during James Geraghty’s tenure as the magazine’s first Art Editor.

 

Rea Irvin, the New Yorker‘s Art Supervisor did not meet the artists flooding into the office. So who actually saw the artists coming in? It was, in the very beginning, Ross’s secretary, Helen Mears, who was soon fired and replaced by a young man named Philip Wylie. He was the unofficially titled artists “hand-holder” — the link between the editorial staff and the cartoonists.   Most importantly to The New Yorker‘s history, and to its success, Wylie is the person who, while looking through twenty-one year old Peter Arno’s portfolio one day in 1925  happened to spot a drawing Arno hadn’t intended to show: a sketch  of “two old bats about to charge obliviously into a trap — made by the rise of a sidewalk elevator. It [the drawing] greatly amused me.”   The  “two old bats” came to be called The Whoops Sisters, and also came to be credited as very likely rescuing The New Yorker from an early demise.  This moment was one of the so-called “happy accidents” that saved the New Yorker and propelled it forward. And it could have only happened because Arno came into the office and sat down with Wylie.

 

We know that upon James Geraghty’s appointment as Art Editor in 1939 he began working closely with the magazine’s staff cartoonists on Look Day (Tuesdays back then, and for many years after. Wednesdays now).  What has always endeared me to the editor/artist dance at the magazine is that editorial prompts are not directives — they are suggestions.  This practice continued on during Lee Lorenz’s twenty-four years as art editor after he succeeded Geraghty, and it continues right up to today.

 

Mr. Lorenz ran a very tight ship in those twenty-four years; artists had to be invited in to the office on Look Day.  Even some long-time contributors did not receive the coveted invitation.  They had to drop off their work at the receptionist’s glassed-in cubicle at the end of the hallway near the elevators. To be invited back was well-earned. And what you found once you were buzzed through the hallway door and then walked down the dog-legged hallway to the Art Department was a small cream-colored waiting room filled with cartoonists whose names would most likely be as familiar as the names of your family members. Their work, of course, would be familiar as well. The days of artists messing up the office were in the rear view mirror.  Some of the cartoonists actually had “studios” in the building (Charles Addams, Frank Modell, James Stevenson, Edward Koren among them).  Mr. Lorenz had an editorial light touch when working with artists — a shade lighter than Geraghty’s, or so I’ve been told; like Geraghty, Lorenz’s advice was succinct, and spot-on.

 

When Bob Mankoff succeeded Mr. Lorenz, he instituted what he called an “open door” policy,  saying, “I’ll see anyone.”  And in they came. To be sure, it created a different climate in what is called the cartoonists lounge.  Lots of new faces, many unpublished in The New Yorker, or anywhere, mingled with veteran contributors such as Sam Gross, George Booth, and Mort Gerberg. The scene wasn’t messy, as in the old days, but it was lively (they’ve had to be “hushed” on more than one occasion.  Dana Fradon, recalling the pre-Mankoff days, told Ink Spill: “Once, when someone down the hall voiced an official complaint about ‘noise’ coming from the cartoonists waiting room, Ed Fisher and I went out into the hall and sang, in close harmony, ‘The Beer-Barrel Polka’. “Roll out the barrel…”).

 

It was recently announced that a New Yorker editor, Emma Allen would replace Mr. Mankoff in May. A Cartoon Department email soon followed announcing that Mr. Mankoff would not see cartoonists on Look Day in these last weeks of his editorship.  How eerily quiet it will be around the cartoon lounge on Wednesday mornings!  I imagine that come May, the non-existent doors to the cartoon department will swing open again (there are waist-high partitions everywhere now, and just a few doors) and the cartoonists will flood in, as lively and boisterous as they’ve been for over ninety years.

 

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*A Who’s Who of those mentioned above

Emma Allen:  Ms. Allen has worked as an editor of Talk of The Town, a writer, and editor of Daily Shouts, and as of May this year, The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Editor.

Ed Fisher: Mr. Fisher’s first cartoon appeared in The New Yorker October 27, 1951; he went on to contribute over 700 cartoons. He died in 2013.

Dan Fradon:  Mr. Fradon, whose first cartoon appeared in The New Yorker, May 1, 1948,  is the doyen of the magazine’s artists. He has published well over a thousand cartoons in the magazine.

James Geraghty: a former gag-writer, hired in 1939, he became the magazine’s first Art Editor.  Before Geraghty, there was no one single person at the magazine dedicated to overseeing all the art (Harold Ross was the overseer of everything in his magazine).  Ross’s successor, William Shawn said of Geraghty: “Along with Harold Ross…he set set the magazine’s comic art on its course and he helped determine the direction in which the comic art would go and is still going.”  Mr. Geraghty was the art editor from 1939 through 1973. He died in 1983.

Rea Irvin: Mr. Irvin is a huge part of the New Yorker’s DNA as he’s responsible for the New Yorker‘s first cover (featuring the fellow referred to as Eustace Tilley); Mr. Irvin adapted the typeface that we now call the Irvin typeface; he contributed a record number of New Yorker covers, and last but not least, he helped “educate” Harold Ross, art-wise. He died in 1972.

Harrison Kinney: A reporter for The New Yorker from 1949-1954; his massive biography of James Thurber: His Life & Times was published in 1995.

Lee Lorenz: Geraghty’s successor as Art Editor (and later, under Tina Brown’s editorship, as Cartoon Editor).   He began as editor in 1973, handing over the reigns to Bob Mankoff in 1997. Mr. Lorenz is also one of, if not the most prolific New Yorker cartoonists. He is also the author of numerous books about New Yorker cartoonists, including the must-read history, The Art of The New Yorker:1925- 1995.

Bob Mankoff: Mr. Mankoff, also a cartoonist for the magazine, has been its cartoon editor for over nineteen years.  His memoir, How About Never — Is Never Good For You?: My Life In Cartoons was published in 2014.

Helen Mears: Harold Ross’s first secretary and the first person delegated to be a go-between the editorial department and the artists. She was fired by Philip Wylie on orders from Harold Ross. Mr. Wylie then assumed Ms. Mears duties.

Harold Ross: The founder and first editor of The New Yorker. There are three biographies of Mr. Ross. Thomas Kunkel’s biography Genius in Disguise is essential reading. Mr. Ross died in 1951.

William Shawn: Appointed in January of 1952 as Harold Ross’s successor. He remained editor until 1987. He died in 1992.

Rogers E. M. Whitaker: hired in 1926 he headed the checking department and later the make-up department.  Mr. Whitaker went on to become an editor and contributor to the New Yorker, working under various names:  “E.M. Frimbo”  (“The World’s Greatest Railroad Buff”) for pieces chronicling his journeys on the nations railways; “J.W.L.” for his pieces about Ivy League football; “The Old Curmudgeon” when he wrote for The Talk of The Town.   Mr. Whitaker died in 1981.

Katharine White: Hired in August of 1925, Ms. White (then Angell) was the magazine’s first Fiction Editor.  According to the New York Times: she…”exerted a profoundly creative influence on contemporary American literature…having transformed The New Yorker from a humor magazine into the purveyor of much of the best writing in the country.” Before James Geraghty consolidated the Art Department, the art was under the umbrella of the Fiction Department.  Lee Lorenz has written of her that “she was a powerful voice in the selection of the magazine’s art.” She died in 1977.  Linda Davis’s biography, Onward & Upward: A Biography of Katharine S. White is essential reading.

Philip Wylie: “The New Yorker‘s first bona fide applicant” was the magazine’s second artist hand holder.  He attended hundreds of the magazine’s first art meetings.  His short stint at The New Yorker was followed by a long and successful career as a writer including the best-selling Generation of Vipers.  He died in 1971

 

 

Swann’s Ad with Addams “Z” Subway Car; Cartoon Companion Rates the Latest New Yorker Cartoons; Book of Interest: Shannon Wheeler’s “Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump”

Posted on 16th March 2017 in News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was pleased and surprised to come across this full page Swann ad in today’s New York Times (the special “F” section devoted to Museums).  The Addams drawing, included in an upcoming auction, originally appeared in The New Yorker October 1, 1979. That issue, to me, is memorable. For starters the cover, by R.O. Blechman,  is one of my all-time favorite New Yorker covers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The roster of cartoonists in the issue included some heavy hitters from the magazine’s golden age, including George Price (whose drawing in the issue is three-quarters of a page), William Steig, Addams of course, and James Stevenson (represented by a full page drawing).  Also in the issue are some of James Geraghty’s best additions from his later years manning the art editor’s desk: Lee Lorenz, Warren Miller, Edward Koren, Robert Weber, and J.B. Handelsman.  And there are a number of the new kids brought in by Geraghty’s successor, Lee Lorenz: Arnie Levin, Jack Ziegler, Bob Mankoff, Roz Chast and yours truly (another reason the issue was memorable for me: it contained my first sequential drawing).

Looking through the issue at the cartoons one can’t help but notice how the  cartoons sit in a wide variety of space. Price’s three-quarters page, Stevenson’s beautiful full page, my own multi-panel spread bleeding onto a second page, Ziegler’s drawing (the first of two Zieglers in the issue) in an upright rectangle surrounded on three sides by text; Mankoff’s drawing and Arnie Levin’s as well as Addams’s allowed to spread across the width of the page. Weber’s gorgeous drawing run large, and  set so perfectly on the page. What’s even more remarkable about this issue is that it wasn’t unusual — this is what was normal in that time.

 

Here’s what the Addams drawing looked like in that issue:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The only blog offering a critical take on each week’s New Yorker cartoons returns with a look at  cavemen pondering their wardrobe, a drafty Hades, a King’s best friend, King Kong’s mom & pop, and 8 more.   Read it here.

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Coming from Top Shelf Productions this summer, Shannon Wheeler’s Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump.

From the publisher:

Acclaimed cartoonist Shannon Wheeler (The New Yorker, God Is Disappointed in You, Too Much Coffee Man) transforms Donald Trump’s most revealing tweets into razor-sharp cartoons, offering a subversive and illuminating insight into the mind of the most divisive political figure of our time. Whether you love him or hate him, this take on Trump will help you come to grips with the man and his ideas thanks to Wheeler’s signature mix of slapstick and sophistication.

Details here.

Emma Allen To Succeed New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff

Posted on 2nd March 2017 in News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a memo to all New Yorker Cartoonists this afternoon, the magazine’s editor, David Remnick announced that  Emma Allen, a New Yorker editor will succeed Bob Mankoff as cartoon editor in two months time.

In part, the memo reads:

The person I’ve chosen to be the next cartoon editor is Emma Allen, who has worked in recent years an editor of The Talk of the Town, a writer, and the driving force behind Daily Shouts, which is one of the best features of newyorker.com. Unlike Bob and Lee, she is not a cartoonist, but then neither was James Geraghty, who did the job before Lee. (Hell, William Shawn was not a writer, either, and he wasn’t too bad in the editing department.) Emma has a terrific eye for talent, knows the history of cartooning deeply, and is an immensely energetic and intelligent and sympathetic editor. She will work with Colin Stokes on selecting cartoons, running the caption contest, and creating a bigger digital footprint for cartoons. I am quite sure that we have only just begun to figure out new ways to explore and exploit digital technologies as a way to distribute your work to more and new readers. All of this is intended to stake out a healthy future for cartoons at The New Yorker.

Ms. Allen will be the third person in the magazine’s history in charge of editing its cartoons (Rea Irvin, who helped the magazine’s founder develop the New Yorker’s cartoon culture, was considered the art supervisor).  James Geraghty,  hired in 1939, was the first official cartoon editor (his title was Art Editor).  Lee Lorenz succeeded Mr. Geraghty in 1973 and held that position (as Art Editor from 1973 -1993 and then as cartoon editor from 1993-1997) until Mr. Mankoff was appointed in ’97.

Update: In a statement released to the press, Mr. Mankoff had this to say:

“My greatest gratitude goes to the cartoonists. I know how much easier it is to pick a good cartoon than do one, much less the many thousands they have done and will continue to do,” Mankoff said. “And, continue they will, with Emma Allen who now takes over this most iconic of all New Yorker features. I wish her and them the best of luck. And me, too—I’ve got to find that old cartoon pen of mine.” 

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The filmmaker Sally Williams has been hard at work on her documentary about James Stevenson. Here’s a brief clip from the film.

Link here for even more on Sally Williams

Link here to see some of Mr. Stevenson’s New Yorker work

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Being Eustace Tilley; Roger Angell Remembers James Stevenson; Oscar Time! Liza Donnelly Back on the Red Carpet Live Drawing the Oscars, Drooker’s Oscar Cover, Eckstein’s Oscar Wielding Eustace

Posted on 25th February 2017 in News

 

 

Eustace Tilley is of course a fictional character — commonly referred to as The New Yorker‘s mascot.  There is a suggested backstory to Tilley himself in Lee Lorenz’s Art of The New Yorker: 1925-1995; there are best guesses elsewhere as to why Rea Irvin (see below) decided to submit the cover to Harold Ross to adorn Ross’s inaugural issue and there are probably just as many best guesses as to why Ross chose to use Irvin’s submission.

Following the advent of the New Yorker, it didn’t take long for a Tilley stand-in to show up; a New Yorker in-house publication featured Harold Ross as Tilley and Alexander Woollcott as the butterfly hovering at Tilley’s eye-level.  Over the years there have been innumerable parody New Yorkers (Ink Spill has a selection here).  But how many real people, after Harold Ross, have stood in for Tilley on a New Yorker cover or on another magazine’s cover.

If you search online you’ll see perhaps hundreds of Tilley stand-ins, some on the cover of The New Yorker itself, many submitted to the New Yorker as part of a contest, many just for personal amusement (Tilley as Disney’s Goofy, or Mad’s Alfred E. Neuman, Dr. Seuss’s Cat In The Hat, etc., etc.)    But here I’m concentrating on published covers featuring real people (and one real dog) as Tilley.   I’ve found just a few (please let me know of others that fit this category…update: my thanks to Attempted Bloggery for reminding me about the Eustace Clinton/Obama cover ):

 

First the real deal: Rea Irvin’s classic cover:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Yorker‘s in-house issue featuring Harold Ross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renata Adler as Tilley on Manhattan, Inc. November 1986

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York magazine, July 20, 1992,  with Tina Brown as Tilley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Yorker’s 75th anniversary issue, February 21, 2000, with a William Wegman dog as Tilley (and one of his dogs standing in for the butterfly)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Eustace Tillarobama” (credited to Rea Irvin and Seth) February 11, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that brings us to the March 6, 2017  The New Yorker, with Barry Blitt’s  “Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley” and Donald J. Trump as the butterfly

Image result for eustace tilley putin

 

Rea Irvin’s entry on Ink Spill‘s “New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z”:

Rea Irvin  (pictured above. Self portrait above from Meet the Artist) *Born, San Francisco, 1881; died in the Virgin Islands,1972. Irvin was the cover artist for the New Yorker’s first issue, February 21, 1925.  He was the magazine’s  first art editor, holding the position from 1925 until 1939 when James Geraghty assumed the title. Irvin became art director and remained in that position until William Shawn succeeded Harold Ross. Irvin’s last original work for the magazine was the magazine’s cover of July 12, 1958. The February 21, 1925 Eustace Tilley cover had been reproduced every year on the magazine’s anniversary until 1994, when R. Crumb’s Tilley-inspired cover appeared. Tilley has since reappeared, with other artists substituting from time-to-time.

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…From the New Yorker‘s Culture Desk, February 25, 2017, “Looking At The Field” Roger Angell on James Stevenson’s art and writing.

photo: Mr. Stevenson in Westport, Connecticut in 2015

 

 

 

 

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Oscar Time!

…Liza Donnelly has been out in Hollywood all week drawing  the scene as the Academy Awards prepares for its big night. Following her historic appearance last year as the first ever cartoonist live drawing on the Red Carpet, she will be back again tomorrow night drawing the stars and the hooplah.

Check out her drawings @lizadonnelly  and  @CBSThisMorning

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The New Yorker’s  Oscar cover, February 27, 2017 by Eric Drooker (titled “#OscarsNotSoWhite”)

 

 

 

 

 

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…I’ll wrap up this post appropriately enough with Bob Eckstein’s Eustace holding an Oscar. Be sure to follow Mr. Ecksteins coverage of the big event on newyorker.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee Lorenz On James Stevenson; Cartoon Companion Rates the Latest New Yorker Cartoons

Posted on 24th February 2017 in News

“Postscript: James Stevenson”

James Stevenson is remembered by the great cartoonist  Lee Lorenz  who, as The New Yorker‘s  Art Editor guided the magazine’s Art Department (that included the cartoons and the covers) from 1973 through 1993, and then served as Cartoon Editor from 1993 through 1997.  Mr. Lorenz was Mr. Stevenson’s editor from 1973 through 1993.

 

More Stevenson:

…from the Greenwich Times, February 21, 2017,  “James Stevenson, New Yorker Cartoonist, Cos Cob Resident, Dies”

…from The New York Times, February 24, 2017, “James Stevenson, Ex-New Yorker illustrator, Dies at 87” *

*If only someone at The New York Times could change “Ex-New Yorker Illustrator” to “New Yorker Cartoonist” — Mr. Stevenson was first and foremost a New Yorker cartoonist.

UPDATE: The online headline for Mr. Stevenson’s New York Times obit has just been changed to read “New Yorker Cartoonist” …thank you, NYTs!

…Special Note: Attempted Bloggery has been featuring art by Mr. Stevenson all week.  Check it out!

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The latest Cartoon Companion is posted. The two anonymous critics take a close look at the cartoons appearing in the issue of February 27th.  A new rating system is in effect.

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Newest Addition to Ink Spill’s Library: Comically Correct

Posted on 29th November 2016 in News

comically-correct-new-yorker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of Danny Shanahan, this promotional booklet (offered with new New Yorker subscriptions?) from 1995 has been added to Ink Spill‘s Library. Of the many promo booklets produced by The New Yorker I’d never seen this one until today. Shown are the cover, the introductory page and the list of cartoonists whose work is within (yes, Bruce Eric Kaplan’s middle name is spelled wrong).

intro-comically-correct-edtcartoonists-comically-correct

Updike & Roth (John & Arnold)…and Henry Bech

Posted on 6th November 2016 in News

“All cartoonists are geniuses, but Arnold Roth is especially so. The first time I saw a Roth drawing, I was zapped…A superabundant creative spirit surges through a Roth drawing like electricity; the lines sizzle.”

— From John Updike’s introduction  to Poor Arnold’s Almanac (Fantagraphic Books, 1998).

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I’ve been running into Arnold Roth at cartoonist gatherings for about forty years, but it wasn’t until the other day that I heard him mention the covers he created for John Updike’s trio of Bech books, Bech: A Book (published in 1970), Bech Is Back (1982) and Bech at Bay (1998). We continued the subject a few days later over the telephone. Mr. Roth was in his Manhattan studio.

Michael Maslin: Did you ever meet Updike?

Arnold Roth: Yes, we were at  a party on Madison Avenue before they put up all the high rises, and we were on the roof; there are still a few left here and there, with the chimneys. I was up there because I was smoking — which I still do.  Caroline, my wife, appeared with him and he said he was very glad to meet me — I was astonished.

And then, one year we invited him to the National Cartoonists Society Christmas party.  He sat at the president’s table with Mel Lazarus  [creator of the comic strips ‘Momma’ and ‘Miss Peach’]. But I did get to chat with him and I met his wife. But mostly it was done through letters and [laughs] very quick phone calls.

In addition to the three covers I did, I did various other drawings for him…two or three personal Christmas cards.  I was also involved in those very small printings with hand set type…monographs. I did additional drawings for them. I did send him all the original drawings [of the Bech covers] and he was very nice and gracious and accepted them.

[Updike mentions these drawings by Mr. Roth in his Introduction to The World of William Steig, edited by Lee Lorenz. In a list of original art he owned, Mr. Updike wrote: “The originals of watercolors Arnold Roth painted for the jackets of my three books about Henry Bech, also three terrific  ink sketches of Bech that Roth just jotted down, the way you and I would make a quick grocery list.” Also in Mr. Updike’s collection: a Thurber drawing, a Steig drawing, an Arthur Getz New Yorker cover and a caricature by David Levine.  “All of these artworks,” Updike wrote, “cheer me up.”]

AR: One of the monographs reprinted a portion of the Beck book when he goes to Europe for the first time.   I did at least four additional drawings and maybe more.  He sent me a note and he said make sure you draw the four women.  Which I did.   He called me up afterward  and he  said, “I can’t believe it.  You drew all those women perfectly. They are exactly those women.  I don’t know how you do it.”  And I said, “Well, I read your descriptions.” [laughs]

MM: Isn’t that what was partly so attractive about his writing.  Those descriptions really sucked you in.

AR: Absolutely.  It was like watching a movie, every scene raced through that little camera in your brain.

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AR: I tell this story sometimes, like when I give talks in art schools, because people ask about those covers. We lived in Princeton then.  It was a Friday evening. I had my studio in my house, naturally.   The phone rang and it was woman who said, “I’m an art director with Knopf. John Updike has instructed us that he wants you to do a cover for a book that will be coming out, Bech a Book.”  I was honored. We put it in action — I sent him a bunch of drawings — some of them ran on the cover flaps.  About 11 years later,  again — I got a call,  and she said, “We have another Bech book.” [Bech Is Back] So same thing, I did the jacket. Thirteen years after that, the phone rings, the same conversation. I raced down to the kitchen where Caroline was making dinner, and said, “Hey — I have a steady gig.”

MM: I love the progression of the covers — the way he loses his hair.

AR: Well he does age in the stories.  I thought they were wonderful stories.

MM: That first cover, Bech A Book,  was pretty surreal.That figure looks like a thumb or something.

AR: I think there are woman’s faces in the hair if I remember.  I just sent him a collection of drawings.  I don’t like to do sketches.  Because to me it becomes redundant and I feel why not make up a new one. In my hands it would invariably would stiffen up — it’s already been seen and blah blah. On that first book jacket he ran some of the sketches — I just sent him 15 or 20 drawings of Bech, and I said, “Is this okay for what I’m reading?  I think it’s a guy that would look like this.”   He loved them all and asked if they could use the other ones, and I said sure.

The second cover,  I had huge breasts pointed up on the bird, and he asked me  if I could take them down a little. Which I did.  He and I had invented breast reduction.

MM: On the last cover I looked for women, but I didn’t see any.

AR: Because he’s old. I think what I did  — I wouldn’t bet on this — on the last one, I might’ve sent 2 or 3 variations. Usually I didn’t do the finished drawing.  You know — if you like it, send it back and I’ll paint it. But I’m pretty sure I just did finished drawings for that last one and that was the one he chose.

MM: Did you base your drawing of Bech on any one person, or combination of persons — or was he conjured straight out of your imagination?

AR: I would have had in mind any description of Bech’s features mentioned in the text but I made up what you see in the drawings.  All based on any of the descriptive bits and my “feeling” for how such a guy might look. How others react to him, his own considerations of his general appearance, etc.. No Laurence Olivier he. But not Stan Laurel, either. 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Robert Weber 1924 – 2016: An Ink Spill Appreciation

Posted on 2nd November 2016 in News

The great cartoonist Robert Weber, a major contributor to the New Yorker for 43 years, has passed away at age 92.  Mr. Weber began his New Yorker career in 1962 and went on to contribute nearly 1500 cartoons and 11 covers. The cartoonist Jack Ziegler, a New Yorker colleague, had this to say about Mr. Weber: “One of the all-time New Yorker greats.  Gorgeous drawings.  Beautiful settings.  Elegant. ” In a telephone interview, another New Yorker colleague, George Booth, said this about Mr. Weber: “He was an outstanding artist and a keen cartoonist.  He was top of the pile.”

   

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Born April 22, 1924, in Los Angeles, Mr. Weber was perhaps one of the most unassuming cartoonists  in a sea of unassuming cartoonists at the magazine.  Although he is solidly in the top tier of most published New Yorker cartoonists, with his work in  numerous New Yorker anthologies, he never published a collection of his own work. He told Lee Lorenz (who succeeded James Geraghty,  Mr. Weber’s first Art editor at The New Yorker)  that he “wasn’t interested” in having a collection. His low profile belied the work he delivered to the magazine: assured drawings, sometimes on a grand scale, usually, but not always focused on Manhattanites and  suburban dwellers  as far north as  Westport, Connecticut. His style was bold and exceptionally focused. Yet he managed to convey an irresistible fluency.   Weber’s people stood tall (or especially squat if they were children). His captions — his writing — in true New Yorker cartoon fashion, always delivered the unexpected punch, never disappointing.

He seemed to arrive graphically fully formed at The New Yorker (his first drawing appears below). His drawings featured well-defined characters imbedded within an exuberantly sketched environment, whether it was a parking garage or the Manhattan skyline. Like fellow New Yorker artists  Charles Saxon and Peter Arno, he handled the full page with ease.  In a letter to me in 2000, discussing Arno, he wrote: “I don’t think I ever consciously tried to emulate him, although I’ve learned  a lot from his superb sense of composition and drama. He had a marvelous ability to simplify. He never permitted anything extraneous, and he developed a powerful style unlike anyone else.”  Of course, he could have been talking about himself.

robert-weber-1st-nyer-drawing-july-14-1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides Jack Ziegler and George Booth, Edward Koren, Liza Donnelly, Peter Steiner, Mort Gerberg, David Sipress , Felipe Galindo and Dana Fradon weighed in on Mr. Weber. Jack Ziegler’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 1974, George Booth’s in 1969, Edward Koren’s in 1962, Liza Donnelly’s in 1982,  Peter Steiner’s in 1979, Mort Gerberg’s in 1965, David Sipress’s in 1998, Felipe Galindo’s in 2002, and  Dana Fradon’s in 1948. 

Edward Koren
I did know Bob in the 70’s and 80’s–but never well. I saw him fleetingly during those days ,when Geraghty was the ringmaster for his “talent”, (as we humble laborers in the arts are referred to now,)  and presided over the  fabled Tuesday and Wednesday lunches. Like many New Yorker artists then who lived in an isolated diaspora (as, increasingly,now), those lunches provided the week’s social capital. And Bob would train in from Connecticut to show his work and then proceed , with the rest of the crew to the Blue Ribbon or the Lobster for drinks and grub and talk.–and then the train.I remember him as  sweet, shy and a wryly funny guy. Generous and amiable and, to me, appreciative and encouraging. Qualities in his work, too, as manifested in the lead drawing in the New Yorker Album, 1975-1985. It is  one of his hallmark masterworks, a commanding, full page drawing of New York’s towers , executed in Bob’s masterful  signature style– , nervous charcoal accretions of marks subtly toned and colored in black and white . The  point of view he chooses– from out in the river looking at the waterfront as if he were in a low riding boat–gives the skyscrapers an overwhelming presence in the drawing. And into this stage set, he draws, on an exaggerated , foreshortened pier, a  tiny couple and their bicycles, sharply accented by a white space he’s carved out of the grey buildings. They have taken a pause in their ride, and  she is lounging on the pier, while he is sitting on its edge, turning to her–the body language saying what he is articulating:” The thing I like about New York, Claudia, is you.”
A quiet, deeply understood , sweetly funny masterpiece—Bob  himself.
Liza Donnelly
When talking about New Yorker cartoons, and I am asked whose work I love, I always mention Bob Weber’s work. His cartoons personally speak to me in a way that is hard to describe. But I can point to the following: his line work is masterful. Weber drew in charcoal, and any artist knows how difficult that is. He once told me that he began with a blank sheet of paper and drew from the left side to the right to complete the drawing without it getting smudged. In other words, he had the image in his head and just proceeded to put it on paper.  Weber’s people are lovable in how they look and often what they say. In one drawing, he has a gorgeous drawing of NYC filling the page, skyscrapers and all;  in the foreground are two tiny figures, a man and a woman sitting on the edge of the dock. The man says, “The thing I like about New York, Claudia, is you.” Another one I love is a living room scene: man and child are about to play ball and we see a sad little dog in the corner. The woman says to the man,  “Sweetheart, could you maybe include the dog?”
Weber’s captions were always perfectly crafted to work in concert with his beautiful drawings. His cartoons are not always sweet, but they have a gentle tone to them that I liked, and they were true to Weber’s voice. Bob Weber was not unlike his drawings: tall, thin and classy; when I would run into him, he didn’t use many words, and he seemed to chose his words carefully. He was always kind to me when we would meet at parties and in The New Yorker office waiting to see the editor. If I complimented his work, he would almost dismiss it with a thank you and lowered head, as if to say I was being silly.  I will miss his quiet presence and his wonderful cartoons.
Peter Steiner
Robert Weber was, to my mind, one of the New Yorker‘s greatest artists, which (again to my mind) means they showed both exquisite draftsmanship and marvelous humor.  His gorgeous, lush drawings made you smile even before you read the caption which made you smile all over again.  His art was to combine insight into our foibles with generosity and genuine affection.  His cartoons always left me amazed.  Once at a New Yorker Christmas party I went up to him to tell him just that.  He was a shy and modest man, and  seemed mostly embarrassed by my naked admiration.  I always regretted embarrassing him.  Still, if I could, I’d do it again.
Mort Gerberg
I always thought that Bob Weber’s drawings, besides being among the most sensitive and artful among the thousands that appeared in The New Yorker, were also truly unique.
Bob drew directly, with ulta-soft, difficult-to-find Swiss charcoal sticks that were extremely responsive to his delicate touch.  He usually worked on smooth ledger paper, producing fuzzy strokes that could smudge effortlessly, to form lush, flat grays.
In fact, the soft charcoal smeared so easily that Bob would often draw his characters and backgrounds from top to bottom, starting on the left and then drawing vertical areas, moving right across the sheet, completing the picture in one sweep, to avoid re-touching any part of it.
Then he’d spray the drawing with fixative, to give it permanence. He wore a surgical mask when he sprayed and would go outside or open a window, to avoid inhaling fixative fumes.
I never knew anyone else who drew that way. And, the drawings gave his cartoons an air of innocence that made them quietly hilarious.
Also, somehow it seemed that Bob’s drawing style reflected his personality.  Soft-spoken, sensitive, generous.
I met him for the first time (he was wearing his wearing his surgical mask) at an advertising agency, where he was subletting workspace for his freelance advertising illustrations, and I was just starting to think seriously about cartooning.  I was awed. He was approachable and happy to share advice about this quirky profession, and always, in the years following, easy to talk to, and helpful in so many ways, both personal and professional.
And I still feel especially grateful and honored for his contributions to my collection, “Last Laughs.” It contains eight Weber cartoons.  Unique, classic art.  Unique, classic person.
David Sipress
I was saddened to hear that one of my cartoon heroes, Bob Weber, had died recently, at the age of ninety-two. Bob’s gorgeous, unfettered, sublimely assured drawings graced the pages of The New Yorker for more than forty years. Bob’s great talent was his ability to create convincing, knowable, complex, fully formed characters in his cartoons, and to do it with a few deft strokes of his charcoal pencil.( To read more of David’s piece link here on newyorker.com)
 Felipe Galindo
I had the honor of meeting Bob Weber at the Cartoon Lounge at the The New Yorker offices in Times Square. Very tall, quiet and an affable person. We spoke about traveling to the other side of the world (me to Bali, Thailand & Cambodia and his wife to the same places plus Myanmar). When one day I showed him my cartoons, he said: “Oh, your work might not be suitable for this magazine, you are too nice, too kind!” I took it as a compliment and as a warning as well! I consider him a fine artist who liked to draw cartoons. His style was sketchy yet elegant, balanced and bold and representative of a particular era, a classic. I also shared lunch with him and other cartoonists at Pergola’s, our regular joint to vent. I was also amazed at his resilience to continue working, despite having wrist and hand problems. He would show up quite often.
I was surprised that he stopped going to the office after one of his cartoons was criticized in the letters section for making fun of of a Polish name, the letter coming from the Polish ambassador. I think that cartoon was the last he ever published in the magazine. A casualty of the PC era? Perhaps. Or perhaps he couldn’t care less. In any case, Bob Weber knew he was already a legend.
Dana Fradon
Although I shared a New York apartment with the Webers for a couple of years — I had it on weekdays and he and his wife had it on weekends — we never really became close friends. My only thoughts about him are that I greatly admired his work. He was an exceptionally good artist and ‘idea’ man. I envied his ability to create his ideas while expending, perhaps, one-tenth the time and energy I had to spend on mine. I own several of his originals and I treasure them.
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   (photo of Robert Weber, taken on an Amtrak train heading to Washington, D.C., mid 1980s.  Courtesy of Liza Donnelly)
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More Weber (I’ll continue to add Bob Weber obits, tributes, etc. as they come in): link here to the New York Times obit; here for a newyorker.com post, and here for a ComicsDC  post.

Blitt’s 100th

Posted on 24th October 2016 in News

blitt-cover-100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not all New Yorker cartoonists are New Yorker cover artists, and not all New Yorker cover artists are cartoonists. Once upon a time there was plenty of cross-pollination;  these days, in a movement begun in Tina Brown’s era the numbers are few (Bruce Eric Kaplan, Danny Shanahan, Sempe, Roz Chast, Barry Blitt, and Harry Bliss are the most contemporary cross-overs that come to mind).*  Barry Blitt is the most visible cover artist in that crowd, celebrating his 100th cover with the publication of this week’s issue.

*Before Ms. Brown became editor of the New Yorker the covers and cartoons were the responsibility of one department, and one editor (at the time the Art editor was Lee Lorenz). Ms. Brown, in a departure from a 67 year old New Yorker tradition,  divided the Art department, creating a Cartoon editor position (held by Mr. Lorenz) and an Art editor position (filled by the newly hired Francoise Mouly).

For those who like numbers, the New Yorker  artist with the most covers is Rea Irvin, with 240.  Mr. Irvin, a cartoonist as well as a cover artist,  is the fellow who gave us Eustace Tilley and so much much more.

 

The Ink Spill Jack Ziegler Interview, Pt. 2

Posted on 13th October 2016 in News

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In Part 1 of my interview with Jack Ziegler he mentioned having a few certain favorite drawings among [his] “children.” I asked him to name several for us to discuss over the phone. I also picked out a handful of my Ziegler favorites to discuss. As Jack said he’d like to be surprised, I had a number of other drawings in mind to bring up. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation, recorded less than a week ago.

 

MM: Let’s talk hamburgers.

 

JZ: Ok, why not.

 

MM: What is it about hamburgers?

 

JZ: There’s something funny about hamburgers. Hamburgers, toasters. parking meters…

 

MM: …Mr. Coffees…

 

JZ: I was thinking at one point of just doing a book about hamburgers, but I thought it might get a little tired.

 

MM: Well, I don’t know…right now I’m looking at the drawing on the back cover of Hamburger Madness.

hamburger-madness-back-cover-drawing

JZ: That was done especially for the book.

 

MM: Lee Lorenz’s Essential Jack Ziegler has a hamburger drawing on the cover.

 

JZ: Yeah…that’s true.

 

MM: You’re like Mr. Hamburger, or something.

 

JZ: I guess. People always used to connect me with toasters, but after all these years the hamburgers are starting to shine through.

 

MM: That’s funny, because before I started looking through the collections of your drawings, that’s what I thought of: toasters. I thought: I’m gonna have you talk about toasters.

 

JZ: I still do some toasters. I like those old 1930s toasters.

 

MM: I looked at one of your latest drawings in the New Yorker… the airplane. The airplane itself – is that sort’ve based on…

 

[laughter]

ziegler-big-plane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JZ: it’s not based on any experience of mine. If you’re drawing a regular airplane there’s nothing amusing about it. So you try to just make it a little bit nicer.

MM: It’s a grand airplane.

JZ: It looks like a big cargo plane that’s designed to carry tanks and villages.

MM: I love the way you draw trucks, such as the one in this drawing. Is this truck an amalgam?

JZ: It’s not based on any real truck. Nothing I draw is based on anything real. Even when I’m drawing an elephant, it’s certainly not anywhere near a real elephant. I like them with shorter legs and fatter than they really are.

MM: So you’re suggesting it’s an improvement?

JZ: Yes –it’s an improvement.

MM: I also like the little guy in the plane window, He looks a bit woeful.

JZ: I always like to put in an onlooker.

MM: That’s a good title for a book for you.

JZ: Onlookers Anonymous

MM: I like these vista or panoramic drawings you do, like the Where the Great Wall Ends, the Empire State Building, Pipeline TV, Great Moments from the Silver Screen. This might sound like a stretch, but the Silver Screen drawing looks a little like Steinberg to me.

 

ziegler-silver-screen

 

JZ: Yeah, I guess. This was a drawing that never appeared anywhere but in this book [Hamburger Madness]. I like to get drawings out that I particularly like, that nobody else likes.

 

MM: All these drawings we’re looking at elicited a laugh beyond my brain, if you know what I mean. There’s a drawing right across from Silver Screen in Hamburger Madness — a guy in a phone booth saying Hare Krishna…very funny.

ziegler-krishna

JZ: They’re essentially really stupid drawings. Y’know, drawings for dopes. Stuff that strikes me funny, a lot of the times for absolutely no reason at all. There’s just something there that’s funny, and I don’t know why. This Hare Krishna one is hardly even a joke, but it is. There’s definitely something wrong with me.

MM: Lucky for all of us.

MM: I love the pencil sharpeners with the pencil stub [“Had enough?”]

JZ: A drawing like that is from a doodle. I just started drawing the pencil sharpener that used to be on my desk. I started drawing several of them and they looked like they were looking at something. I had to put something there they were looking at, so I went with the logical.

MM: You feel sorry for the little pencil?

ziegler-sharpeners-2

 

JZ: Yeah, it does look kind of pathetic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MM: The drawing Hamburger Madness itself I identify with you a lot, back in the early 70s – the quintessential Jack Ziegler drawing.

 

ziegler-hamburger-madnessJZ: When the New Yorker bought it they didn’t run it for the longest time and I knew I wanted to use that title [for the book] so I had to kind of pressure Lee [Lorenz] to get that drawing in the mag before this thing got published. He was great about it, and within a couple of weeks it appeared.

 

MM: Tell me again – maybe I read it in Lee’s book [The Essential Jack Ziegler] or somewhere – that you created this idea of the box around the drawing?

 

JZ: No, I don’t think so. Kliban was doing stuff sorta but not quite like this. Almost all of his drawings were in boxes. And a lot of times there’d be a title usually up at the top, almost like a panel newspaper cartoon.

I don’t think anybody at the New Yorker was doing it. Right from the beginning I was doing drawings like that, a lot of times they weren’t boxed-in though. Eventually I realized they’d be more attractive and logical if there was box around the whole thing.

MM: The drawing with hooty owl took me by surprise, and that’s what you want right?

ziegler-hooty-hoot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 JZ: That’s exactly what you want. I would think you’d want that of all cartoons as you turn the page — that there’s a surprise.

MM: What about the Electrolux vacuum cleaner that’s in the sea. That’s kind of out there.

JZ: Another unpublished drawing as I recall.

MM: Love the drawing. I don’t expect you’d remember where it came from?

JZ: I’ve done a lot of drawings about Moby Dick, y’know. I’m sure this came from a doodle. I Probably drew the vacuum cleaner in the ocean first.

MM: You would agree that this one is fairly on the spectrum of crazy.

JZ: It’s unorthodox

[laughter]

ziegler-vacuum-cleaner

MM: Let’s talk about “Damn it, man, do I look like I have any yellow ochre?” Another one of those panoramic, sort of vista drawings.

ochre-2

 

 

JZ: Yeah, right. I wanted to make it look like a painting by one of the Impressionists. Based on those lines of trees, those tall trees. It might be from a little after I was in France that one time in 2000. There was a New Yorker gig on the QEII and a bunch of us went over and we were drawing for the passengers and the folks in steerage. It was fun –they brought us to England, and then we went over to France and stayed there for awhile. It was so great. We visited Givenchy, Monet’s hometown. Really inspirational to look around there. You couldn’t help but want to be a painter when you looked at the color and the way things were set up.

MM: A beautiful drawing. You got the little car in there.

JZ: Well he had to get there, right?

[laughter]

MM: True, true. Very practical.

MM: A number of your drawings have a far eastern influence. 30 Sumos Over Tokyo for instance.

hibachi-2

JZ: I think that was done after Sunrise on Mount Hibachi. I like looking at Japanese prints. Those woodblock prints.

MM: The clouds [in the Hibachi] drawing are great.

JZ: That’s the way the Japanese did the clouds in those days. Very organized.

MM: Bud Handelsman did a bunch of Japanese influenced New Yorker covers…

JZ: Yeah, Japanese type things. I don’t remember why.

MM: And Anatol Kovarsky with his Greek urns. Something for others to think about, I suppose. Interesting how a select few got into these different…

JZ: You have these peripheral interests in things and they kind of pop up every once in awhile when you’re doodling.

MM: The cowboy thing. We both have that in common. Why are they so fun, cowboys?

JZ: They’re just fun to draw. It’s an American icon. Everybody loves cowboys. Every guy wants at some point to be a cowboy, or have been a cowboy or hang out with cowboys. When you live out here [Kansas] you can drive up to Montana and see them all over the place.

munch-munch-munch

MM: Munch Munch Munch was another that took me by surprise. I just thought he was munching. I just realized the double meaning today.

JZ: Really? Well you have to look very closely. I’ve done a whole bunch of drawings about Munch – it’s an image everyone knows. It’s like Moby Dick if you want to refer to a book, you almost always go to Moby Dick.

MM: Here’s another far eastern themed drawing: Fleetwood Mac. I’ve always loved it because I never understood Fleetwood Mac.

JZ: This was a much earlier Fleetwood Mac I was referring to, around the time they got mega platinum. I just needed the name of a band there.

MM: You just imagined this scene?

fleetwood-mac

JZ: Yeah, right. Almost everything I do is as far as the scene background settings – it’s all made up.

MM: What are those little things off to the left on the bottom.

JZ: Oh those are just little houses down the hill. What did you think they were?

[laughter]

MM: Structures of some kind – I just wanted to be sure.

 

MM: About the burger hut franchise. I like it when you…draw.

jack-ziegler-the-burger-hut-franchise-decides-to-add-sesame-seeds-men-hammer-seeds-o-new-yorker-cartoon

JZ: I like doing a city-scape like that, as it were — a street scene. It just adds so much to it I think.

MM: Yeah, well context, of course. Although I guess you didn’t have to have those great buildings there but…

JZ: No, I didn’t but it just works so much better that way. It’s funnier I think.

MM: And that guy, who’s paused, almost paused, stopping and looking back at the work being done.

JZ: My onlooker!

[laughter]

MM: I found myself doing this today while working on a drawing — I kept drawing behind the main thing, adding buildings, rooftops. Is that what happened here?

JZ: It probably did. You know that giant duck on Long Island. You think about selling various things out of various houses… those wiener houses. I just kept drawing buildings in the background until it looked right, until I didn’t think it needed anymore.

MM: It looks like it could actually be a thing.

JZ: I know –you drive in, you drive out.

MM: It’s all very believable. These guys could be adding sesame seeds — not real sesame seeds. It could happen.

JZ: It probably did happen. I’m sure it has, somewhere.

[laughter]

MM: The cashews drawing: pretty wild drawing.

jz-spray-cashews

 

JZ: I just love the way the cashews are coming out of that spray can.

MM: It in a way reminds me of early underground stuff. It has that freaky quality to it.

MM: And First marriage?

JZ: It’s a standard set-up. I thought it’s just a funny thing for the new husband to say.

MM: I’m looking at the details, the guy taking the photo, the stained glass. When you’re drawing these things are you slightly laughing out loud, amused?

jz-first-marriageJZ: When I get the original idea yeah, I’m amused. I like that line. I’m not particularly amused when I’m drawing finishes.

MM: That’s why I don’t draw finishes. Does it happen with you – it happens with me all the time — that you come up with a drawing you really like but know the caption you come up with that moment is terrible, so you wait on it?

JZ: That’s true. That happens to me a lot. Well, not a lot, but occasionally.   I have a drawing I think is really nice but I don’t have an idea to go with it. And then I hang onto to it until something eventually comes to me.

MM: I can sit here and try to come up with something, and nothing. It happened yesterday. I did a drawing I liked, but there wasn’t a caption. And then this morning, I was in the motion of sitting down to look at that drawing and the right caption came to me.

JZ: Yeah, never throw those drawings out. The last drawing I sold The New Yorker was of a cat and dog looking at each other. I didn’t have any real caption. I put it away for a week and I got the proper caption.

MM: The Olympic guy. It’s a different kind of drawing. The guy’s in a little vestibule…

 

olympic-torch-guy

JZ: A little alleyway off the street.

MM: Very little.

JZ: Yes, very little. Very tiny.

MM: Could be a niche.

JZ: Could be a niche. What the hell is that?

MM: How about the doggy in the window drawing. You do a lot of bar drawings.

 

JZ: Well, I’m a bar guy. I’m always drawing from the bartender’s point of view.

doggie-in-the-window

MM: There’s a quote that keeps popping up in interviews with you: “I just want to do funny drawings.”

JZ: When I say funny drawings, I mean funny to me. A lot of my drawings are funny to me but definitely not funny to anyone else. But I always hope that if it’s gonna appeal to me it could possibly appeal to others as well.

MM: What you’re saying is fundamentally the way I operate. I’m trying to please my own sense of humor. Several people over the years have said to me, “I wonder what Lee Lorenz finds funny,” or “I wonder what Bob [Mankoff] finds funny,” or “what does [David] Remnick find funny,” and I always say to them, don’t think like that.

JZ: You can’t — you have to just really think about yourself; whenever I do drawings I never think about the New Yorker – I’m just trying to come up with drawings that I like.

MM: That’s the key to success.

JZ: That’s what I tell all the new kids.

MM: One more hamburger drawing: the big hamburger on the beach. Wondering if this is a Gulliver’s Travels thing?

JZ: Yes, Gulliver’s Travels. It has no meaning.

MM: So that’s his hamburger that’s arrived in the little people’s land?

JZ: Your guess is as good as mine.

big-hamburger-on-the-beach

 

 

 

 

(Photo of Jack Ziegler edging closer to Lake Erie, Windsor, Ontario, c.2008,  courtesy of Mr. Ziegler. Photo by Kelli Ziegler)

Jack Ziegler’s favorites among his children:

Sunrise on Mt. Hibachi – New Yorker May 7, 1984

Spray Cashews – New Yorker November 19, 2001

“…yellow ochre…” New Yorker November 11, 2004

“…bitchin’ set of wheels…” New Yorker  June 30, 2008…shown in Part 1 of the interview

“First marriage?” New Yorker  July 20, 2009

Cannon in bushes  New Yorker  February 9, 2015…shown in Part 1 of the interview