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. 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of October 16, 2017

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

Wowzers! 23 cartoons in this issue, and it’s not even a double issue.

The cover was mentioned here last week.  If you want to read what David Plunkert, the cover artist had to say about his design, go here

Without pausing at the renovated Rea Irvin Talk of The Town masthead (yes, that’s still an “issue” here at the Spill) we move onto the very first cartoon — it appears on page 22.  Bruce Kaplan’s been on a roll these past many weeks, with two covers and weekly appearances.  This makes sense to me, and reminds me of the system once in place at the magazine that kept us in touch with a number of artists over time. In this case, Mr. Kaplan gives us a Kaplanesque restaurant scene with a Kaplanesque caption.  Nice.

Nine pages later, following David Remnick’s “Postscript” about the late Si Newhouse,  we come to a well-placed Mick Stevens caveman drawing. I wonder sometimes if we will ever reach the end of the road, cave people drawings-wise.  Hope not. Imagine how much material has come from so little: cave people, their caves and rocks.  Someone should really do a book of these drawings.  Five pages later we come to a Sara Lautman art museum cartoon.  From a distance (that is, viewing it on a tablet) its use of blocks of black ink resembles an Ariel Molvig drawing. As I’ve mentioned a few times on the Monday Tilley Watch, certain brand new drawings immediately summon up drawings out of the magazine’s deep catalog. I cannot see an art museum cartoon these days without recalling this (captionless) Helen Hokinson classic from the issue of February 6, 1926.

 

Three pages later a gingerbread man-inspired drawing by the one-and-only Danny Shanahan. I’m assuming the carrot cake man’s hair(?) is made of frosting. The world could use more talking cake drawings right about now; Mr. Shanahan is the cartoonist for the job.

Five pages later P.C Vey dips into the literary world as well as the world of apartment plumbing.  Men-in-bathtub drawings always make me think of George Booth’s recurring guy in a claw foot tub (usually viewed from an adjoining room).  Here, Mr. Vey takes us right into the bathroom. I particularly enjoyed the recessed soap tray.  

On the very next page is a Liana Finck drawing.  I needed to reach out to a family member in her mid 20s for help on this one, and here is what she emailed me, cautioning she is not an expert on the subject, having never used the app:

I believe it’s a Tinder thing. I think if you like someone, you swipe right. Then if you match (if they swiped right on you too) you can talk to the person. Some people swipe right for everyone just to increase their chances. I think that’s what she’s commenting on: people frantically, desperately looking for love on their phones to the point that they’re numb to Cupid’s arrows.

Three pages later is a drawing by newbie, Maddie Dai.  This is graphically ala Roz Chast, utilizing a magazine cover as a humor conveyance vehicle. There’s some pointed messaging going on in this cartoon.

On the very next page a drawing by Kate Curtis,  a not-so-newbie relative to Ms. Dai.  There’s some helpful color in this cartoon (pinkish chewing gum).  I’ve spent most of my time on this one trying to understand if the gum was pre-chewed. It looks pre-chewed. I hope it’s not though.

Five pages later, A Will McPhail drawing.  Somewhat atypical for this cartoonist (at least  of his work I’ve seen in the magazine), the drawing is not a close-up of an individual or individuals.  Even enlarging the drawing on my laptop, the mouth of the woman speaking seems a black-hole void. Is that intentional, or smudged ink, or or or…?  Bonus(?) element: a guy with a man-bun.

Three pages later a Zach Kanin drawing.  Having just yesterday driven past and heard some part of a marching band competition in a nearby metropolis, I’m delighted to see this drawing. Kanin cartoon children are always a treat.  On the very next page, a Trevor Spaulding drawing concerning 401(K)s. Interesting drawing style, sort of a mash up of Kim Warp,  Marcellus Hall and Herge (the fellow responsible for Tintin).

Four pages later, Roz Chast gives us a Trumpian geography lesson. This would’ve made for a good New Yorker cover back in late September when the president came up with the nonexistent country, Nambia.

A Tom Toro Frankenstein-related kitty drawing is next. As with all of Mr. Toro’s drawings, we get more than our money’s worth in the detail department.  Two Frankenstein-ish drawings in two weeks (Liana Finck’s drawing of last week had some  Frankensteinian elements) — we must be getting close to Halloween. Two pages later, a drawing I momentarily mistook (again, while looking at the small screen of my handheld tablet) for a Charles Addams drawing.  But it’s an illustration by Bill Bragg, not an Addams cartoon. It would’ve been quite a shock had it been a full page cartoon. As mentioned here from time-to-time, full page single panel cartoons are rarities in The New Yorker. 

Speaking of rarities, the very next cartoon is a duo effort: Emily Flake and Rob Kutner. Here’s a Spill post from 2013 about collaborating cartoonists. This cartoon, based on one of the classic scenes in the film, Casablanca, was also the subject of a Bob Eckstein cartoon not too long ago (November 30, 2015, to be precise):

Perhaps Casablanca airport farewell scenes will take the place of desert island cartoons.  Nah…

Two pages following the collaborative effort is a drawing by Frank Cotham. A sparser look than usual for Mr. Cotham, but the subject matter is as Cothamy as you can get.  As much as I love his horses I think I love the little hut in the background even more.

Two pages later, a cartoonist making his debut in The New Yorker (if I’m wrong about this, someone please advise).  Joseph Dottino delivers a prayer at bedtime cartoon;  a seldom seen scene (seldom anymore that is.  They were once nearly as plentiful as talking parrot drawings).   Again, my thoughts go to several from the archives, but I’ll mention just one, by one of the masters, Dana Fradon (from the issue of September 23, 2002).

 

Opposite Mr. Dottino’s drawing is a beautifully placed John O’Brien cartoon. Mr. O’Brien is the magazine’s contemporary master of caption-less drawings.  This time round though,  he provides a caption (in a speech balloon).  As I’ve said in almost every one of these Monday posts, I try to stay away from heaping praise on any one drawing, but I can’t resist applauding this particular drawing (there are a few others in this issue as well, but once I begin applauding this one and that one, or holding my applause for that one or this one, I’m well into Cartoon Companion territory).

Following Mr. O’Brien’s drawing is another reliable cartoonist scenario: human evolution. This one’s from J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein). I’m a big fan of evolution drawings having returned to the standard human evolution graphic (seen below) a number of times.

Five pages later, yet another brand new cartoonist (again, if I’m wrong, someone please let me know).  Sophia Wiedeman debuts with a drawing of a person experiencing a mole or crumb moment.   Five pages later, Robert Leighton has us in space. The floating woman astronaut is close to Thurber-like. Thurber-like is always a very good thing. Three pages later, is a William Haefeli  drawing, the polar opposite of Thurber’s minimalism.  Mr. Haefeli’s caption reminds me of Kevin Bacon’s line in the Chisholm Trail scene in Diner: “You ever get the feeling there’s something going on we don’t know about.”

Three pages later work by yet another newbie.  Teresa Burns Parkhurst brings us a touch of Fall with a farm stand-like setting featuring apples.  A nicely placed drawing. 

And lastly in the issue (not counting the contest drawings on the last page) is a Harry Bliss drawing incorporating Sherlock Holmes, Watson, and a missing, or misplaced  illegal substance.

–See you next week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of October 2, 2017

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

October already? Well yes — that’s the way it is on magazine covers.  Always one week ahead of reality (or if it’s a monthly, one month ahead of reality). The cover of this weeks issue, graphically speaking, reminded me of Gretchen Dow Simpson’s work (she did 58 covers for the New Yorker ). A number of Ms. Simpson’s  covers involved stairs, and all the wonderful shadows and angles associated with stairs. She did one New York City stoop cover as well (it was this cover that came to mind when I first saw the latest one by Kadir Nelson. Like Mr. Nelson’s,  Ms. Simpson’s cover has a somber cast of its own. 

I note while zooming though the Goings On About Town the ad for Spielberg (“Direct From the Heart”) — he looks a little like John Lennon there, specifically the photo of Mr. Lennon taken outside Mr. Lennon’s New York City Bank Street address.

Spielberg and Mr. Lennon (with stethoscope):

Okay, now in to the issue and onto the cartoons. The first, on page 20, is by Barbara Smaller, who began contributing to the New Yorker in 1996.  An excellent sizing of Ms. Smaller’s drawing — we can really see her work here. It’s funny, but with this kind of space, her work makes me think somewhat of the late great Robert Weber’s. Perhaps it’s the caption, or tone of the caption — very Webery (Webbery?). Google search Robert Weber New Yorker images and you’ll get an eyeful. I’d direct you to a Weber collection but, sigh, there never was one (some day I hope!).   

Four pages later is a mob drawing by relative newbie, Christian Lowe (first New Yorker appearance: February 2016).  Again, nice placement on the page. The caption forced me to visualize cinematic baseball bat moments involving mobsters.  Did Robert De Niro’s  Al Capone do a bat flip in that memorable scene from The Untouchables?  Nope. 

Four pages later a rapunzel drawing by J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein).  Mr. Katzenstein (first New Yorker drawing: 2014) manages, in a two-part drawing no less, and using barely any of Rapunzel’s tower or hair, to succinctly convey an idea. Most cartoonists would show the whole tower and all the hair, as well as the sun, and Icarus. In this case, not necessary. J.A.K.’s drawing is immediately followed by a two page color spread by Roz Chast (her work began appearing in the magazine in 1978). An incident taken from a day in Ms. Chast’s life, involving a knife.  Three pages later a  drawing by  — I believe! — a brand new newbie, Jon Adams.  The drawing features a burning bed that is in no way connected to the 1984 Farrah Fawcett film, The Burning Bed.  

Two pages later, an Avi Steinberg drawing set in one of a cartoonist’s best friend scenarios: the doctor’s office.  I toyed with the idea that the caption should read “Just as I suspected. This thing makes everything louder” instead of the published “Just as I suspected. These things make everything louder” —  it’s the kind of brow furrowing decision-making that makes this cartoon biz so darn demanding.

Four pages later, the distinctive work of Lars Kenseth (first New Yorker cartoon: 2016).  Sharks! I wish we could see a Kenseth shark some day.  In this case the fins suffice. The fellow in the foreground is holding a small piece of wood.  I appreciate the care Mr. Kenseth has taken drawing that little piece of wood — the detail makes me laugh. 

After another four pages is a well placed Paul Noth drawing incorporating a wee bit of color.  Mr. Noth’s first drawing appeared in The New Yorker in 2004.  Like Mr. Steinberg’s doctor’s office, the wise man on the mountaintop is also a favorite of New Yorker cartoonists (I’ve done a number of both, and will continue to do more — they’re like potato chips: you can’t stop at one, or even a dozen).  On the very next page is a Farley Katz drawing.  Mr. Katz, like Mr. Kenseth, has a truly distinctive style.  You know it’s his work before you’ve had time to even wonder whose work it is (if that makes sense). There are certain cartoonists whose every drawing is akin to coming upon a blind curve — you have absolutely no idea what you are about to see. This is a very very good thing. In this latest drawing, there’s shopping action that (for me anyway) recalls the game show Supermarket Sweep. Again, Mr. Katz does not fail to deliver something unusual. 

A Tom Chitty drawing follows Mr. Katz. Talk about your distinctive styling. This is a three parter, with the third part using a party punch bowl, something not seen in New Yorker cartoons very often. If there’s been a punch bowl in recent times, I can’t recall it. Please correct me if I’m mistaken. The first Chitty New Yorker drawing appeared in 2014.  Three pages later, Emily Flake mashes pirates with ‘splaining. I’m curious as to where this  pirate get-together takes place. It looks kind of like a lodge, or a finished basement.  Ms. Flake’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 2008. On the very next page is a BEK (Bruce Eric Kaplan) drawing.  Another distinctive stylist with the added bonus of some of the best written captions the magazine publishes. They just flow.  Mr. Kaplan’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 1991. 

Eight pages later, the final drawing of the issue (not counting the Caption Contest drawings) and it’s by newbie, Teresa Burns Parkhurst. Technically not Ms. Parkhurst’s first appearance in the magazine — she was part of last week’s caption contest.  Another cartoonist’s chestnut scenario: the boardroom.  This time the focus is on the always awkward situation of whether or not to tell someone they’ve some foreign body (food, usually) stuck on their face. 

And that is that. See you next Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of September 18, 2017

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

 Visitors to the Spill (and social media) have already had the weekend to digest the cover of the latest issue — it features the looming top-noggin of North Korea’s leader. The cover artist, Eric Drooker told Michael Cavna in a Washington Post piece: “I came up with the concept for next week’s New Yorker cover when I realized how little I know about Kim Jong Un. He’s an enigma. Who knows what goes on under the hood?…All we can see is the tip of the iceberg — an incomplete picture.” Fair enough.

Before getting to the cartoons this week, and instead of zipping through the GOAT (Goings On About town ) section, I’d like to mention a couple of non-cartoon graphics that made me pause, for better or worse:  a painting on page 6 by the artist Brian Calvin and a (colorized?) photograph on page 12. I won’t say which made me pause for the better or which  made me pause for the worse; the Monday Tilley Watch is not my soap box — it’s the curb I sit on while watching a parade go by.  

Now on to the cartoons. It doesn’t take long to reach David Borchart’s C.S. Lewis flavored drawing (If I’m wrong about this, someone please speak up). (Above: an illustration from the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Mr. Borchart, who has been contributing to the magazine since September of 2007, uses one of the most reliable tools in the cartoonist’s kit: a mash-up of fantasy and the all too real. As with every new cartoon I come across I automatically recall some previous cartoon with a similar stand-out characteristic — in this case the unicorn. I cannot see a drawing of a unicorn and not picture this classic Charles Addams drawing. It appeared in The New Yorker, March 10, 1956.

Four pages later is a subway drawing by  J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein — his first New Yorker cartoon appeared in November of 2014. It’s not my imagination, the magazine has run a goodly number of New York City subway drawings in the past few months (I’m not going to go back and count them. Trust me). It has dawned on me this very second that I could probably summon up a Charles Addams classic drawing somehow related to every cartoon in this issue.  In this case, Addams had a number of subway classics (here’s one). But enough of that game. 

Seven pages later is a Joe Dator bar scene. Mr. Dator’s first New Yorker appearance was in August of 2006. It’s always a gift when the cartoon gods hand a cartoonist a one-word switcheroo to make for a successful caption: in this case using “stopping” instead of “starting.” Fun sidebar: Mr. Dator has a podcast,  Songs You’re Sick Of.

A Roz Chast three panel drawing is next (her first cartoon appeared in 1978).  I like that Ms. Chast has ventured out of what we’ve (perhaps?) come to think of as a Chastian living room setting. We get to see a kitchen and foyer.  I’d love even more of a tour around her cartoon environment.  For instance: let’s see the basement…or the attic  (It’s possible we’ve already seen these spaces… Ms. Chast has published well over a thousand cartoons in the magazine).

Ten pages later, after a long piece about North Korea, is a Stephen King-ish  Will McPhail drawing. I have great sympathy for Mr. McPhail’s cartoon pinata in this cartoon. I’m resisting the  temptation here to recall one of many many Charles Addams’ drawings featuring mischievous children (or a mischievous child). I think I can safely say that none of Mr. Addams’ cartoon children ever threatened to harm a cartoon pinata.  (Mr. McPhail’s first New Yorker cartoon: December of 2014).

On the very next page is a thief-in-a-in-home drawing by newcomer Maddie Dai. As mentioned earlier in this post and previous posts, I try hard to keep subjectivity in check  in the Monday Tilley Watch, but this drawing gets a check plus. Can’t wait to see what the Cartoon Companion boys say about it later this week (their stock-in-trade is cartoon dissection and evaluation).  Ms. Dai’s first New Yorker appearance was this past June.

Three pages later is a BEK (Bruce Eric Kaplan) drawing.  Signature style, signature caption. Mr. Kaplan’s first drawing appeared in 1991.  Six pages later, an Emily Flake drawing, sort of in the area of Mr. Borchart’s: a mash-up of contemporary technology (texting) and slowing-moving-out-the-door lingo: actually hanging up a phone (and slowly-moving-out-the-door actual activity of hanging up a phone).  Ms. Flake’s first drawing appeared in September of 2008. Five pages later, a drawing by Barbara Smaller.  Like Mr. Kaplan: signature style, signature caption. Here Ms. Smaller avoids  the cartoonist’s go-to shrink’s divan for the patient and opts for a sofa.

 

Three pages later is the last drawing in the issue (not counting the Caption Contest drawings), and it’s by the ever reliable Paul Noth (in earlier years such cartoonists as James Stevenson, Frank Modell, and Donald Reilly were among the magazine’s sturdy cartoon oaks (seemingly) effortlessly providing us with good work week after week after week (after year after year after year).  Mr. Noth began at the New Yorker thirteen years ago.

See you next Monday.

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker, Sept. 4, 2017: The Television Issue

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

I can think of no better way to kick-off The New Yorker’s very first “Television Issue” than with a cover by Bruce Eric Kaplan who is in the New Yorker/Television Hall of Fame because he wrote the famous and exceptionally funny Seinfeld episode “The Cartoon”;  Mr. Kaplan has television creds to spare — he was a producer for “Girls” and “Six Feet Under”… learn more here. Wearing one of his other  hats — that of New Yorker cartoonist, he’s been contributing his boxed-in world to the magazine since 1991. Here’s Mr. Kaplan talking about this week’s cover.

No disrespect to the front of the book, but as our concern here is cartoons, we need to zip through GOAT (Goings On About Town) and get right to the cartoons…but first: a brief stop at The Talk of The Town. For those new to this site, let me explain: I’m trying to will the long-standing Rea Irvin masthead back home.  This is the one that greeted New Yorker readers every week beginning in the issue of January 26, 1926 through to this past issue of May 15, 2017.  It was replaced in the issue of May 22, 2017 by a revamped version. My potted history of Mr. Irvin’s masthead can be found here on an earlier Spill post where you’ll see all the incarnations of the masthead.

Okay, with that out of my system (til next week?), off to the cartoons. 

Last Monday I mentioned that that week’s first cartoon didn’t appear until page 45; this week’s first cartoon appears on page 22 — my gut tells me that this is in the range of the norm for first cartoons. The first cartoon (hey, it’s a Bruce Eric Kaplan-esque boxed-in drawing) is by T.S. McCoy, whose first New Yorker appearance seems to have been in the issue of August 15, 2014.  I say “seems” because I cannot locate any info on this artist on the Cartoon Bank site, nor in the database (someone please contact me and set me straight if I’m wrong). The subject of McCoy’s drawing is therapy, with the help of buffalo. From the number of Youtube videos showing people getting too close to buffalo, I’d suggest sticking with dogs, rabbits, birds, horses, cats, etc., as therapy pals. [Update: T.S. McCoy has reached out to the Spill, and confirmed that the Aug.15, 2014 drawing was this artist’s first appearance in The New Yorker.  I’ve added McCoy to the Spill’s A-Z under the cartoonist’s preferred moniker: The Surreal McCoy]

Five pages later we come to a title drawing  — that is, a drawing without a caption, but with the essential wording appearing above — or sometimes below — the drawing. In this case the title reads: The Annual Hamptons End of Summer Back-To-Wall Street Tie Fly. It’s by David Sipress, whose first New Yorker drawing appeared in 1998. I like the action of the blowing-in-the-wind neckties — very beachy. Unsure if this drawing was referencing a real Hamptons tradition I asked Mr. Sipress about it this morning. He said in an email:  “Not a real thing. In fact it’s one of those ridiculous, totally silly and meaningless ideas that begin as a drawing that I find funny and then the words pop into my head. A frisson of disdain for both Wall Street and the Hamptons is in there somewhere as well.”

Three pages later a full page Roz Chast drawing (in color).  Ms. Chast has, appropriately enough, a television themed drawing, “The Seven Ages of Me and TV” (for those who were reading the New Yorker pre-Cartoon Caption Contest you might remember there was a period when the back page was dedicated to full page color drawings by Ms. Chast).  Ms. Chast’s first New Yorker drawing appeared in 1978.

Four pages later, a Will McPhail cartoon.  At first glance, I thought the magazine had erred and rerun a McPhail drawing from May of this year. The drawing from the May issue is on the left, the current issue’s drawing is on the right:

 

But no, they’re two different drawings. Perhaps the woman splayed out on a chair will become a sort of (George) Boothian man in the bath tub thing for Mr. McPhail. Mr. McPhail’s first New Yorker appearance: December 22, 2014.

On the very next page is a Peter Kuper cartoon. Mr,. Kuper’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared June 6, 2011. I’m a fan of cops & robbers cartoons (no cops in this drawing, fyi). A number of colleagues have spent time graphically visiting the criminal underworld.  When the subject comes up nowadays, I’m reminded of the late Michael Crawford’s paintings.  

Five pages later, a restaurant scene courtesy of Avi Steinberg (note: if a cartoonist does not have a website I will link you to the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank site where filling in the search box and clicking on “Search” will take you to some of the artist’s work.  Here’s the CB link). Avi Steinberg’s first cartoon appeared in the issue of 2012.  About five pages later is a talking magic bean genie cartoon by Farley Katz,  one of the off-the-wall specialists in the New Yorker’s stable.   Not sure I’ve ever seen a talking magic bean genie drawing before.  I’m intrigued by the level of the woman’s head as it relates to the counter-top. Did she drop to the floor after the bean began to float and speak, then slowly rise up to counter level see what the heck was going on? I’m a fan of cartoon back stories. 

Eight pages later is a Liana Finck drawing (first New Yorker appearance: February 13, 2015. CB link here). Ms. Finck’s style is immediately and welcomingly identifiable — an achievement not to be pooh-poohed in this age of a gazillion styles. Five pages later is a subway themed drawing by Carolita Johnson (first New Yorker drawing: 2003). I am reminded of an exhibit some years ago of New Yorker subway drawings. Here’s a quick read about it.

Next up, a generously placed Ed Steed drawing (CB link here).  The second of Mr. Steed’s drawings in a row featuring a large rectangle.  In this case we’re looking out onto a field that’s sporting a huge ping pong paddle and a ping pong ball. There’s a heavy military presence in this drawing: the trucks on the field, the uniform of the fellow speaking, the matching outfits of three figures, the map on the table — the sign reading “Top Secret” strangely placed on the inside of the room, instead of outside where you’d expect it.  But why split hairs? And then there’s the guy wearing the hood and athletic footwear. I guess I shouldn’t ask why there’s only one paddle and only one (potential) ponger or player, or whatever. Mr. Steed’s first New Yorker appearance: March 4, 2013.

Sixteen pages until the next cartoon. There’s a television-themed photo essay in-between.  One of the photos is of Pete Holmes, who touched down, briefly, in the New Yorker, between 2006 through 2008, with three cartoons. Following the photos is a witch drawing by J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein). His first drawing appeared in the issue of November 17, 2014. Those are some happy/scary creatures bubbling up from the big pot. Mr. Katzenstein’s drawing reminds me ever-so-slightly of how the late great Donald Reilly handled witch drawings.  Here’s one of Mr. Reilly’s from October 17, 1988:

Six pages later, a socks and Spielberg drawing by relative newcomer, Maggie Larson (first New Yorker appearance in the double issue dated July 10/17, 2017).  As this is the last drawing in this televIsion issue (not counting the Caption Contest drawings on the last page) I thought it appropriate to return to Jerry Seinfeld and his classic sock routine.

 — See you next Monday

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday/Tuesday Tilley Watch

And now for Part 2 of the Monday Tilley Watch…

Continuing on:  a cat and twister drawing by Julia Suits  — who could ask for more. Ms. Suits first New  Yorker cartoon appeared in 2006. On the very next page, a cartoon, with a slip of color, by  P.S. Mueller (first New Yorker cartoon, 1998). Mr. Mueller specializes in what is sometimes referred to as “off-the-wall” humor. His work is well off the wall — the cartoon community is all the better for it.  A few pages beyond his cartoon is work by a relatively new contributor, Kendra Allenby, whose first drawing appeared in the New Yorker in August of 2016.  I see a hint — just a hint — of John Held, Jr.’s flapper drawings in this particular cartoon: the roundish heads — the angular bodies.

On the very next page is a Farley Katz drawing.  Mr. Katz began contributing to the magazine in 2007.  Mr. Katz is firmly in the P.S. Mueller school of off the wall, but in this particular case, not too far off.  I love storefront cartoons (Roz Chast has done a bunch); I’m happy to see this row of shops show up.  Just three pages later is a Lars Kenseth drawing based on what must be one of the longest running ads on tv. Here Mr. Kenseth dispenses somewhat with his usual roll-on deodorant style  depiction of people (he was the subject of a Spill piece just the other day), and gives us something close to realistic (with some Mr. Potato Head or bobble-head proportions).  Next up: a cutting edge-ish (another reminder: “cutting edge” usage courtesy of the Tina Brown era) Tom Chitty drawing.  Mr. Chitty’s work first appeared in the New Yorker in 2014. No one draws like Mr. Chitty. It’s beginning to seem like this issue is loaded with off-the-wallers.  How fun. 

On the very next page after Mr. Chitty’s drawing is the minimalist work of Bruce Eric Kaplan (BEK). I have to admit — and I don’t like admitting it because I don’t want to drag in the laugh-o-meter to these Monday Tilley Watches (rating the drawings falls in the jurisdiction of Cartoon Companion)but I did laugh out loud at this drawing. The drawing’s a perfect example of less is more. For the record: Mr. Kaplan’s first drawing appeared in the magazine in 1991.

Next up, a little touch of Hemingway from Paul Noth (first New Yorker drawing: 2004). As I mentioned when I began posting the Monday Tilley Watch, one of the things I look for while browsing through each new issue is whether someone has already done a drawing in the ballpark of something I’ve just submitted to the magazine or have yet to submit.  Here Mr. Noth uses the word (and the dish) “casserole” which happens to be central to a drawing I’d planned on submitting next week.  So my casserole drawing will now cool its heels for several months before it’s sent downtown to 1 World Trade Center (where the New Yorker’s offices are located). This juggling of what cartoon to send and when to send it or whether not to send it is about as complicated as this cartoonist life gets.

The final drawing of the issue (not counting those on the last page belonging to the caption contest) belongs to Vermonter,  Harry Bliss.  It’s a drawing thematically tied to the issue’s cover: summertime concerns.  As a footnote (related to Mr. Bliss’s drawing) the news that possum eat ticks has swept the upstate community where I live. The possum’s status has risen dramatically.

…see you next week.