The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of November 20, 2017

The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.

Wow, three weeks in row without a political cover. This latest cover, of two children chalking out a hopscotch pattern on the ground, has a title, as have all covers since Tina Brown instituted the practice. I’ve always wondered why it’s necessary to title a cover.  Shouldn’t the piece tell you everything you need to know all by its lonesome? A graphic island unto itself? In this case, the title is “Coding 101”; many folks (or at least I) never would’ve caught the reference to coding on the hopscotch pattern.  Honestly, all I saw was kids doing a kid-like thing.  I initially thought: how wonderfully simple (too simple it turns out).  Never having played hopscotch, you could’ve fooled me — and it did — that this cover had an underlying meaning. For the record, I do have one connection to the game: I did a hopscotch drawing back in 1989. No coding appears in the drawing.

After a quick trip through Goings On About Town (or GOAT) we arrive at the Christoph Neimann Talk of the Town Masthead. Notice how I’m no longer referring to it as the Rea Irvin Talk of The Town Masthead. Mr. Irvin created the masthead and it stayed in place, with a few tweaks along the way (made by Mr. Irvin) for 92 years,  This past Spring Mr. Niemann was commissioned to redraw the masthead. Absolutely no knock against his work, but the original really never should’ve been replaced.

Here’s Mr. Irvin’s classic:

Now on to the cartoons and cartoonists.  The first cartoon in the issue is by J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein). The drawing depends on understanding the caption’s reference to the Large Hadron Collider.  I remember when the collider was all over the news years ago (2008 specifically).  Seeing it referred to here in this drawing I immediately thought there was some collider news event I’d recently missed. A quick search didn’t turn up anything exciting in the news (exciting, that is, to this non-scientific mind). What I did see on Wikipedia is how darn huge the collider is (they don’t call it “large”  fer nuthin’).

Mr. Katzenstein’s drawing — how he drew the collider — made me think of a great Jack Ziegler drawing involving something we tend to think of as small (plumbing pipes).  Unlike Mr. Katzenstein’s collider, Mr. Ziegler went to town in the juxtaposition department, making the small humongous; Mr. Katzenstein made the humongous small-er.  I’m  showing Mr. Ziegler’s here as it appeared on the page in the issue of March 3, 1980. It’s a thing of beauty. While working I often keep in mind this quote from Mr. Ziegler: “…it’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw so that they can give us something pleasant and fun to look at.”

Six pages later, a Hitchcockian-flavored drawing from Julia Suits. Who can forget this Tippi Hedren moment from Hitchcock’s The Birds? Ms. Suits cartoon adds poppy seeds, and voila!

On the facing page is a Frank Cotham cave man drawing. Similar to his drawing last week in mashing very old (last week medieval and contemporary times) with now.  Here it’s mashing very very very old with now. The cartoon is placed/spaced well on the page.

Ten pages later a drawing by newbie Alice Cheng (her first appearance was this past February), who has employed a semi-forgotten go-to situation: house mice.  This is a Charles Addams moment (bringing in a crime scene with police and the media). Nicely done.  Four pages later a cowboy campfire drawing by Zach Kanin.  I’ll take a cowboy and campfire drawing any day of the week — love them.  Here, Mr. Kanin seems to channel the wonderful wackiness of  the aforementioned Mr. Ziegler. 

And speaking of semi-little-used go-to situations, the very next drawing (by Amy Kurzweil) gives us signs in a store front window. Store front windows with signs once appeared regularly in The New Yorker (I did my share as did many colleagues).

On the very next page is a well placed Roz Chast drawing.  Anxiety in an airplane.  You can just imagine, but you don’t have to, of course. Ten pages later an Ed Steed strip-like drawing along the bottom of the page.  Larkness visible.

Seven pages later, a Charlie Hankin drawing based on the  famous story of Icarus. It never seems to turn out well for poor Icarus. I like Mr. Hankin’s take on the the myth.

Three pages later is the New Yorker (print) debut for Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell; a more than meets the eye drawing.  Good wording. Another three pages brings us to a drawing by William Haefeli. It can be said of a number of New Yorker cartoonists that their work is instantly recognizable (think BEK).  Mr. Haefeli’s work is solidly in that category. The caption for this drawing is priceless. The drawing, as was Ms. Cambell’s, is well placed on the page.

Nine pages later is a Tom Chitty drawing of robots (they appear to be sitting at the same coffee shop table as J.A.K. s collider couple, although the seats are different).  The little flower at the heart of this drawing reminds me (exactly in its look) of a battery-powered plastic flower in a plastic pot my mother gave to me. When you turn it on the flower rotates and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” starts playing. Would these robots have a real flower or a mechanical flower?

The last drawing in the issue is by Sara Lautman.  Oddly/coincidentally, the drawing incorporates a round-top table (just like Mr. Chitty’s drawing and Mr. Katzenstein’s). But the focus here is on the genie that’s appeared, and his up-dated wisdom (do genies dispense wisdom? Sure, why not). He appears to be drawn in the Disney Robin Williams genie mold more than the Barbara Eden look (below: Disney’s genie on the left, Lautman’s in the center, Barbara Eden’s genie, far right ):

 

— See you next Monday.

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

80 Years Ago: The 1937 New Yorker Album; Booth on CBS Sunday Morning

Here’s an early New Yorker oddity in the line of the Albums published.  It’s the first published for a specific year.  There were later annual Albums  (1940, 1942, and much much later 2007, 2008, and 2009).  Curious that, for the first time there is no foreword.  Perhaps the editors thought they’d take a break after the highly interesting double foreword to The Seventh New Yorker Album, published in 1936 . We’ll get that on another Sunday.

The cover of the 1936 collection, by William Crawford Galbraith, originally appeared on the December 14, 1935 issue of the New Yorker.

So what do you see inside the annual? Within the first two pages is a full page Peter Arno drawing, and a Thurber and a Charles Addams.  Addams’ signature is somewhat different than the one we’ve all become accustomed to (his long New Yorker run was in its infancy in the mid-1930s). But even this early he was already a star.  One of his drawings appears, alone, on the back cover.

Below: early Addams signature.  Below below: later.

By the mid-to-late 1930s The New Yorker ‘s stable of artists  was now into its Golden era. There are two drawings in this volume which have gone on to be reproduced numerous times.  I hesitate to say they are as “famous” as Addams’ skier or Peter Steiner‘s “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog”  but they have had some extra attention over the years since first published in the New Yorker. The first is Peter Arno’s “Come along. We’re going down to the Trans-Lux and hiss Roosevelt” and the second is Thurber’s “It’s a naive domestic Burgandy without any breeding, but I think you’ll be amused by its presumption.”

They are surrounded, as usual for this time period, by gorgeous funny drawings aplenty, including a double page spread by Carl Rose titled A Caravan of California Millionaires, Fleeing Eastward From the State Income Tax, Encamps For the Night in Hostile Wisconsin Territory

and another by Rea Irvin, Our Own Previews of Hollywood Attractions.

I reproduce them here, poorly (sorry), just to give you an idea of how terrific they look on the page. 

Here’s the list of those in the Album. Interesting that the “Spot” artists are finally set-off from the pack:

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Booth on CBS Sunday Morning

CBS has posted their segment on George Booth. See it here!

 

George Booth on CBS Sunday Morning; John Held’s 1927 Cover; More Spills: Lars Kenseth, Tom Toro

The one-and-only George Booth, whose life work, as regular visitors to the Spill know, is currently being celebrated at The Society of Illustrators, will be featured in a CBS “Sunday Morning” segment this weekend.  Info here.

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Attempted Bloggery continues to find fun stuff.  Today it’s a John Held, Jr cover for a 1927 Yale- Princeton Football game.

Below is a snippet.  To see it all, go here.

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Lars Kenseth has joined Darlycagle.com.

Tom Toro has announced that his work is now available on Artsugar.

Latest New Yorker Cartoons Rated; Pat Byrnes’ Daily Experience; Ware, Karasik, Kuper, Burns, Feiffer at Comic Arts Brooklyn

Latest New Yorker Cartoons Rated

The Cartoon Companion boys, “Max” and “Simon” are back with their takes on the newest New Yorker cartoons, including a family outing turned sadly serious, Jesus and doughnuts, a nightmarish hairbrush, and some outta this world heels.  Read it all here. 

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Pat Byrnes’ Daily Experience

Here’s the link to Pat Byrnes’ cover story on the July-August 2017 National Cartoonists Society Newsletter, The Cartoon!st.

— my thanks to Frank Pauer for bringing this to my attention.

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Ware, Karasik, Kuper, Burns, Feiffer at Comic Arts Brooklyn

It’s happening tomorrow!   See all the info here.

 

Photos of Interest: George Booth Event at the Society of Illustrators; Interview of Interest: Tom Toro; Lecture of Interest: Karasik & Newgarden; Brendan Loper’s Town Square; Book of Interest: Peter Kuper

Photos of Interest: George Booth Event at The Society of Illustrators

As visitors to this site know, there’s an exhibit of work by George Booth at The Society of Illustrators. The show is a real treat.  Last night Mr. Booth was on stage in front of a packed house, telling stories and answering questions. Here are some photos, courtesy of Liza Donnelly.

Above, left – right: George Booth; Jeremy Nguyen (hat, green glasses), David Borchart (green sweater); Bob Eckstein (with pen & paper).

Below,  left – right: Seth Fleishman (back to camera), Drew Dernavich, Corey Pandolph; Sam Gross, Maria Scrivan.

Below: the scene at The Society.  On stage: Sarah Booth, George Booth, and J.J. Sedelmaier, who curated the exhibit.

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Interview of Interest: Tom Toro

From Fiction Writers Review, November 7, 2017, “Setting the Tone: An Interview with Tom Toro”

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Lecture of Interest: Karasik & Newgarden

___________________________________________________________________________________  Brendan Loper’s Town Square

From the Lititiz Record Express,  November 8, 2017,  “Drawing attention to Lititiz: New Yorker cartoon causes mixed reactions”— this piece on a recent New Yorker “Daily” cartoon by Brendan Loper

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Book of Interest: Peter Kuper

Coming in June, 2018 from University Press of Mississippi, Conversations: Peter Kuper (Conversations With Comic Artists Series).

From the publisher:

Along with two dozen images, this volume features ten lively, informative interviews with Kuper. The book also includes a quartet of revealing interviews with underground comix legends R. Crumb and Vaughn Bodé, Mad magazine publisher William Gaines, and Jack Kirby, co-creator of mainstream superheroes from the Avengers to the Fantastic Four. These were conducted by Kuper and fellow artist Seth Tobocman in the early 1970s, when they were teenagers. 

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The Spill Talks Mirror Balls and Tracking Porcupines with Seth Fleishman

I took notice when Seth Fleishman’s first cartoon, uniformed cows standing over a table,  appeared in the New Yorker in the issue of April 4, 2016 (it appears below).  Sometimes a new cartoonist’s work (the drawing itself and/or the caption) will appear slightly awkward (my first New Yorker drawing fits both those categories), but Mr. Fleishman’s work seemed like it was already there, as if he’d been around for awhile.  Further Fleishman appearances in the magazine only confirmed that feeling.

So who is this guy?  He told me recently that he’s been asked several times by colleagues, “Where did you come from?”  The answer is that he was born and bred in north-western New Jersey, and by age 14 aspired to be, in his words, “either a musician, a cartoonist, or an impressionist.” Music won out for awhile.  In 2011 he launched GratefulGuitarLessons.com and three years later wrote and produced “I Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore” by the Snake Oil Willie Band. The song peaked at #2 on the Billboard Comedy chart. But before all that he submitted one batch of drawings to The New Yorker in 1994 (a drawing from that batch appears below).  None were accepted. He did not submit again until 2014.

 

In January of 2016 he sold his first drawing to the New Yorker (more on that later) and has been submitting ever since.  If you head over to the New Yorker‘s Cartoon Bank, you’ll find he has been published two dozen times as of now, an excellent batting average. I finally met Mr. Fleishman at the big George Booth opening at the Society of Illustrators, and while we chatted it occurred to me that further discussion (via email) should be Spilled.  And so…

 

Michael Maslin: I know you were too young to have frequented Studio 54, but looking at your New Yorker work, two of the two dozen published thus far are “Saturday Night Fever” related. Is there something you’d like to share with us, vis a vie your interest in  mirror balls, disco, and/or Tony Manero (John Travolta’s character in the film)?

Seth Fleishman: What a fun opening question! I love classic disco and R&B from the 70s. I love the Bee Gees. I love Barry White. When they bought the first one, I still had more disco ball ideas in me, so I submitted more. When they bought the second one, I figured I’d just keep going until they stopped buying them. There actually is a third one, but it hasn’t run yet, and it’s my favorite one of the trilogy. Hopefully it runs at some point. I confess I sent a few more after that, but sanity prevailed. I got no more OKs on the subject, and moved on. That’s why there are editors.

MM: When we first spoke you mentioned that Charles Barsotti came to mind as one New Yorker artist who, let’s say, was of importance to you before you became familiar with other New Yorker cartoonists.   Am I remembering that right? If not, please clarify.  What I’m getting around to is the question you mentioned you’ve heard before: “Where did you come from (artistically)?”  Can you talk a little about early influences (comics, cartoons, or whatever)?

SF: I was familiar with New Yorker cartoons at an early age. My mother turned me on to Booth, Thurber, Addams, plus Ronald Searle and others. I also liked the Sunday newspaper comics — Peanuts, Hagar The Horrible, Beetle Bailey, Ziggy, etc.

When I took on New Yorker cartooning, I didn’t want to be influenced. I wanted my own voice.  Bruce Eric Kaplan was an inspiration in that regard — the boldness in the originality of his visual style. The closest I came to falling under anyone’s spell was Charles Barsotti. No one would say my stuff looks like Barsotti, but there were things I saw in his work that appealed to me. It’s all so charming.

After I found my style, I began to notice and learn from cartoonists with whom I felt a connection — Otto Soglow, Chon Day, Mischa Richter, Bob Mankoff, Arnie Levin, to name a few.  I also like a lot of European cartoonists: Sempe, Bosc, Jules Stauber, Miroslav Bartak,  Pawel Kuczynski, as well as Argentinian cartoonist Guillermo Mordillo.  I’m a blind fool with broken hands compared to all of those names, but I drew inspiration from them all.

MM: As mentioned in my intro, music has loomed large in your life. I’ve found that there are at minimum, two camps of cartoonists: one camp listens to music while they work on their drawings, and the other doesn’t (a third camp blends silence with music, and a fourth camp listens to the radio…there are probably a hundred other camps).  Which camp are you in, if you are in one, and if you do listen to music while working on your batch, can you name names, or types of music you listen to.

 SF: When working on ideas, silence. When drawing, music. If not music, silence. Mostly Italian Baroque and Italian Renaissance instrumental music. Vivaldi, Marcello, Manfredini, Capirola (lute), Dalza (lute), Biber. Some Spanish Baroque vihuela music. Occasionally some Chinese guzheng. If it has words, it’s in a language I don’t speak. Russian Sacred Music, for example. There is a set called The Divine Wisdom of St. Sofia by The Choir of the Suzdal Holy Virgin’s Protecting Veil that is incredibly beautiful. 

MM: Wow. I was expecting maybe the Grateful Dead.  Interesting that if you listen to music with words, it’s in a language you don’t speak.  Is that because you don’t want to get caught up in lyrics? Or something else?

SF: Words are distracting, but if sung in a foreign language, they are effectively instrumental. Just sounds. I do love the Grateful Dead– ‘Dark Star’ is not totally out of the question. But doing all those video lessons, dissecting, demystifying, and explaining their music in granular detail has changed my relationship with them as a listener. Maybe that’s the price I pay. I love the work, but I can’t really listen to them as a regular civilian anymore. And anyway, I truly fell in love with Vivaldi once I heard his music performed by Rachel Podger. That led me into early Venetian music in general, and that’s a rabbit hole from which I have yet to emerge. I also play renaissance lute. 

MM: Looking at your work, it’s clear you’re happiest working caption-less. Are you thinking caption-less when you work, or is that just how the work turns out more often than not?

 SF: As a general rule, the less I say the better. In the words of the Psalmist, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”  Also, the people I draw don’t have mouths. They don’t even have chins or jaws. So it’s virtually impossible for them to say anything.  Seriously, the captionless stuff is what got the OKs. It came as a very pleasant surprise to me. I am happiest working captionless. It’s perfect. I give all the credit to Bob Mankoff. He just kept picking the captionless stuff, and a certain type at that. I learned who I am as a cartoonist by the selections he made. It is a particular way of thinking. It’s all visual. It’s a certain way of associating. And I love it.

MM: Not many of our colleagues have pursued captionless work. In modern times, John O’Brien, of course, and Nurit Karlin, Steinberg…and earlier, Otto Soglow and Sam Cobean among not too many others.  So you’re working captionless and graphically you’re using areas of black ink like nobody’s business. I’m thinking specifically of the vampire with a flashlight. Here the area of black ink is essential.  Anything you want to say about this drawing?  

SF: It was my first OK. I hadn’t yet figured out how important black was going to be for me when I drew it. About half of that batch still had greys. In some strange way, this cartoon was, if you’ll pardon the pun, a beacon for me. It heralded the importance of black. It was my first lesson learned from getting an OK. It was actually a revelation, and I committed to black then and there.

When people think of the classic New Yorker cartoon style, maybe they imagine rich, grey washes. But there have always been black and white practitioners, some of whom I’ve already mentioned — Barsotti, BEK, Soglow, etc. I think it works well for those who fall on the more abstract, iconographic end of the drawing spectrum. There are a few other things I hadn’t figured out yet that make the drawing less than ideal, but it was my first sale so who cares? 

  MM:Emily Flake told the Spill she bakes pies and has spent time at a firing range.  Is there something in your week that takes you outside of your work space? Something away from thinking about cartoons/music?

SF: Here’s something interesting — my wife Cheryl and I are fairly adept at porcupine tracking. They are present in our area, and we go out on weekends looking for them, and we often find them. If I had a spirit animal, it would be the porcupine. 

Below: The cartoonist and his wife tracking porcupines

During the week, my only purely social interaction is a weekly breakfast at the Branchville Grille with a regular group of friends. Branchville is a sleepy little town. One of our group is a beautiful 85-year-old gentleman named Sandy, who was a corpsman in the Marine Corps in Korea. It’s really something to be around special people like that. Other than that, during the week it’s work, work, work.

MM: And once you’ve tracked the porcupines, then what?

SF: Cheryl is a nature photographer, so she’ll take pictures [an example is below]. Other than that, we just observe and spend a little time with them. I’m not ashamed to say Cheryl and I both consider porcupines and many other creatures to be our friends. As far as we’re concerned, when we’re out in the woods or wetlands, we’re spending time with friends.

MM: If there’s a typical beginning to your work day (work on drawings that is) what is that day like? (Jack Ziegler told me he would begin his work day by sitting with the New York Times, then head off to his drawing board.  Danny Shanahan mostly begins by writing ideas down. Others just start drawing).  

SF:I work on ideas in the early morning, while my mind is still groggy. If the ideas are flowing, I keep at it until it peters out. If nothing’s shaking, I don’t press it. I give it a little time, then move on. I’m not constantly thinking about ideas. I used to do that, but I don’t anymore. Once the coffee has kicked in, I can start drawing.

MM: Your work is also appearing in Esquire these days. And, unless I’m mistaken, it utilizes color.   Is working for Esquire different than working for The New Yorker?  

SF: It’s very different. Esquire is filled with graphic design. Using color helps the drawings pop in that environment. It also fits the vibrant spirit of the magazine. Esquire has a distinct aesthetic. I try to visually and topically compliment that. Three of my cartoons appear per issue (monthly), linked by a theme, under the heading “Spot On by Seth Fleishman.” The November issue was “Spot On: Cinema.”  Each cartoon was a riff on a classic cinematic moment. That adds a layer of difficulty for me creatively, but it’s a fun challenge.

Below: a recent Fleishman Esquire cartoon

MM: Many cartoonists have something else going on with their work besides submitting to The New Yorker and whatever other publications they contribute to.  Some do children’s books, or they work on graphic novels, or mass media projects (television)… anything like that going on with you? 

SF: Not at the moment. Which is fine! I have plenty to do.

— I asked Mr. Fleishman if he would send an example of what his work looks like before it’s in the finished state you see published, and he sent this delightful sketch.

MM: Even more than mirror balls, I see that chickens show up a lot in your New Yorker drawings. Care to comment? 

SF: I have a simple rule: when in doubt, draw chickens. I’m typically an idea-first guy, but I’ll use other methods if necessary. One such method is to just start drawing without thinking. Trouble is, when I do that, nine times out of ten I draw a chicken! I’ve had many, many chicken drawings rejected. I don’t care. Have some more chickens! 

I live in a somewhat rural area. We still have working farms around here. I relate to animals. Chickens are humble, awkward looking little creatures. They have a certain charm to them. They are easy to draw. Who can explain it? I just like chickens.