The First New Yorker Cartoon Issue…and the Last

From 1997 through 2012, the New Yorker published a “Cartoon Issue”; that there was a special issue wasn’t news — the magazine had started publishing them in its new era of ownership under Conde Nast (purists might argue that the issue of August 31, 1946 was the magazine’s first special issue. Beyond the Goings On About Town section, the entire issue was devoted to John Hersey’s Hiroshima. There were no cartoons, and no illustrations — just spot drawings).  The first Cartoon Issue came in the year of more change: the cartoon editorship passed from Lee Lorenz, who had held that position for 24 years, to one of the magazine’s cartoonists, Bob Mankoff, who had been contributing to the magazine for 20. [The Spill will take a look at the How and Why of that change in editorship in a future post].

The very first Cartoon Issue, dated December 15, 1997 was a celebratory explosion of the magazine’s signature art.  From the fold-out cover collage to the wonderful Jack Ziegler cartoon, “No comment” appearing where the “Comment” section would normally appear, it set the bar very high.  Also in this issue, the three section (originally planned as two section)  fold-out photograph of cartoonists taken by the acclaimed Arnold Newman, the mini bios of each cartoonist in the issue, Roger Angell’s Onward and Upward With the Arts piece (“Congratulations! It’s a baby”), Roz Chast’s graphic ode to Charles Addams, a double page photograph of George Price, a special feature by Richard Cline, Lee Lorenz’s “Cover Stories” …and more. 

In that first issue, the cartoons nearly took over the magazine. The majority of the pieces on the Table of Contents were cartoon-themed; 51 cartoonists were given brief bios.  In  the last Cartoon Issue,  28 cartoonists contributed and the issue’s special cartoon features were bundled together in the middle of the book, from page 60 to 76, with a smattering of single panel cartoons (16 cartoons to be exact) 5 multi-page spreads and 2 full page spreads, one of which, Joe Dator’s, “How We Do It: A Week In the Life of a New Yorker Cartoonist” is a classic piece of work.   As I wrote in 2012 when the issue appeared, “this Cartoon Issue veers from its predecessors in that its cover, cartoons and cartoon spreads are predominantly politically themed.”  

 Although all of the Cartoon Issues had elements that were exciting and fun — for instance, the Charles Barsotti cover on the second Cartoon Issue in 1998, and covers by New Yorker cartoonists such as George Booth, Ms. Chast, Harry Bliss, Edward Koren, Bruce Eric Kaplan, etc. —  that first Cartoon Issue, with its electric zeitgeist, remained the one to beat.  By October of 2011, when I mentioned to Jack Ziegler that the latest Cartoon Issue was probably due any week, he responded to me (via email) that it was “the moment we all dread.” By that time, the so-called “bookazine” Cartoons of The Year had already appeared and would shortly supplant the Cartoon Issue. On June 13, 2013, the magazine’s cartoonists received an email from the cartoon editor saying: “there definitely is not going to be a cartoon issue this year.” And that, as they say, was that.

(Below: the last Cartoon Issue, cover by Roz Chast)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Bystander #7 On Its Way!; More Spills…Ken Krimstein’s New Book; New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons Cover (Cont’d)

Hungry for comic humor?  American Bystander, now up to its 7th number, will do it for you. 

  Here are just some of the contributors in this issue : Charles Barsotti, R.O. Blechman (who’s provided the cover for #7), Harry Bliss, George Booth, M.K. Brown, Roz Chast, Tom Chitty, Randall Enos, Drew Friedman, Rick Geary, Sam Gross, Tom Hachtman, John Jonik, Lars Kenseth, Stephen Kroninger, Peter Kuper, Sara Lautman, Stan Mack, Brian McConnachie, P.S. Mueller, Mimi Pond, Mike Sacks, Maria Scrivan, Rich Sparks, Ed Subitzky, Shannon Wheeler, P.C.Vey, and Jack Ziegler.

Think they don’t make magazines like this anymore?…well actually, they do.  

  Go here to find out how you can get hold of American Bystander  #7.

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Krimstein’s New Book…Here’s New Yorker cartoonist Ken Krimstein holding a galley of his forthcoming graphic biography, The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth.  Photos by Alex Sinclair. The book is due this September, published by Bloomsbury. Mr. Krimstein’s previous book was Kvetch As Kvetch Can. More info here on the publisher’s website.

Link here to see Mr. Krimstein’s work.

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The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons Cover (Cont’d)…

I’m fascinated by the “journey” sometimes taken by a new book’s cover as it is listed online (my fascination probably began with the posting of a dummy cover for my Peter Arno book). 

The upcoming heavyweight New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons cover went from its initial listing (“No Image Available”) to a dummy cover (in black) to the finished cover (in red), then back to its dummy cover, and now (at least on Amazon) back to “No Image Available”… like so:

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Chitty Talks Implied Noses and Sketch-Burps

The first time you set eyes on a Tom Chitty cartoon there’s no way you’ll not have some kind of reaction. His is not a cookie cutter cartoon style, but something expressly his own.  Like Lars Kenseth, Mr. Chitty has dared to go to some other cartoon dimension — a place with unfamiliar human anatomy.  He and Mr. Kenseth  are cartoon risk-takers.  I’ve been emailing with Mr. Chitty over the winter months, talking about his work, and his life north of the border. Here’s some of what we discussed:

Michael Maslin: The people in your drawings are most unusual. Can you talk about how they came to be? And I tempted to ask (so I will): any particular reason there are no noses?

Tom Chitty: The way my cartoons are drawn today grew out of some advice I got at animation school. My tutor suggested I stop worrying about style, and concentrate more on ideas. So I started working more quickly, scribbling only what was essential to remember a thought. It turns out you don’t necessarily need noses in that context, and you for-sure don’t need Gray’s Anatomy. At a certain point, this way of drawing became normal to me – like handwriting.

My finished New Yorker cartoons are more deliberate than those initial sketch-burps, and my illustrations still more so – but I always start with the loose stuff and keep as much of it as I can.For the record, I describe the noses as ‘implied’, rather than non-existent!

MM: And moving on to another unique Chitty person characteristic: the bowl-legs. Do you have some cowboy in your background? Can you talk about the leg structure?

TC: If you take a look at the drawings I sent you (the ones that have noses), you’ll see that they’ve been drawn into a somewhat pre-defined, rounded-oblong, shape. I drew like this for a while because I read a couple of books about Mayan hieroglyphs and I became briefly (but healthily) obsessed.

Above: Nosed Chitty people

I don’t draw that way so much any longer, but the block-shaped bodies stuck. The legs are positioned quite far apart, it’s true, but I think that’s where they would need to be to hold up such a cumbersome torso. My characters are weird but they fully respect the laws of physics, probably.

No family cowboys that I am aware of, but plenty of odd bods.

MM: I love knowing what influenced cartoonists early on in life. Were you influenced/inspired by television, animated cartoons, comics, something else…a combination of any of those, or none of those?

TC: Asterix books were my first cartoon love, then Calvin and Hobbes (of course). Quentin Blake’s illustrations for Roald Dahl certainly lodged themselves in my brain, and I absorbed a bunch of Moomin that didn’t really understand. I read Dr. Suess’ Did I ever tell you how lucky you are?, over and over. Probably still my favorite book.

I have always been a heavy user of movies, but I’m not sure that was a direct influence on my drawing. I did used to watch Monty Python re-runs with my Dad, whenever they were on, and it’s hard not to be influenced by that, unless you are made of cardboard.

After Python came A bit of Fry and Laurie (Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie’s sketch show), French and Saunders, Blackadder, and anything Armando Iannucci or Steve Coogan were doing.

MM: I confess I did not know, until moments ago when I looked them up, what the Asterix books were/are. Looking at Asterix himself — and stop me if I’m stretching the comparison at all — I can maybe see just a hint of inspiration there for the way you draw legs. Did not expect the brief Mayan hieroglyphics obsession, but that’s why I asked. You just never know what has directly or indirectly been an influence.

 Dr. Suess, Monty Python, Quentin Blake…it’s all beginning to make sense now. Any MAD magazine in your past or present? And what of the New Yorker artists? Anyone, or ones, that were motivators (for lack of a better word)?

TC: It’s very possible I internalized Uderzo’s Asterix legs. It would certainly explain why spindly limbs look quite normal to me.  It’s tough to pick out a particular New Yorker artist, but the first books I bought on this subject were collections by William Steig, and Charles Barsotti. I could tell you I love Roz Chast, but that would be as revelatory as admitting I have eyes. In general, I have favourite cartoons rather than cartoonists – favourite ideas.

A high school friend had a subscription to MAD magazine, so I’d flick through his issues while listening to Nirvana and eating sausages. I don’t know it as well as I would like though. MAD was a bit of a mythical creature in my particular English suburb, as was the New Yorker.

MM: Can you talk a little about how you made your way to the New Yorker. When did you begin thinking it might be worth a try; when did you begin submitting; what was the reaction when you first began showing your work?

TC: It wasn’t until I moved to Canada, (in 2009) that I was regularly exposed to the New Yorker. In the U.K. I’d use Private Eye to suck in cartoons – not least because the New Yorker was not well distributed (for obvious reasons).

In Toronto the magazine is easy to get hold of, and so I got to know it. It’s also pretty easy to get to New York City from here – I can go twice a year, instead of twice in my lifetime. That really helped. The idea of submitting started to feel reasonable – plus friends and family were telling me I should (even after they had seen my drawings).

So, I bought a pile of books about New Yorker cartoons and cartoonists, and once I’d read them, I reached out for some guidance on the submission process. Matt Diffee gave me some great advice, that seemed to boil down to this: at the start it’s really about figuring out how you can deliver a batch of ideas every week (forever). If you can do that, you’ll certainly get better at cartooning, and you might have a shot at getting published.

Above: Tom Chitty’s first New Yorker cartoon

I started submitting in the summer of 2014 and I got my first O.K. later that year. The first reaction I endured to that particular cartoon [published October 13, 2014] was a comment on the New Yorker‘s Facebook page. It was words to the effect of, “this drawing is so ugly”. After a little soul wringing, I managed to take that as a compliment.

MMThe Facebook commenter (“this drawing is so ugly”) probably did you a favor by offering up a quick immersion into the kind of stuff one needs to ignore to carry on. Are your days filled with drawing cartoons; are you involved in other projects; do you take time off for very un-cartoony things?

TC: At various times I am also an animator and illustrator – when something juicy comes up – but, most of my working life is spent making cartoons and art prints. I draw neighborhood scenes, mainly of Toronto right now, and also houses on commission – usually that’s an old family home, or in celebration of a new one.

I have always wanted to be a cartoonist, but I probably wanted to be a footballer even more than that (soccer player, for my American friends). I never really imagined that would happen, of course, but I do still spend more time playing and watching sport than is sensible. Here is some ridiculous evidence if you want it.

My one-year-old son is the main distraction right now though. Even football has taken a back seat to that little maniac – though, the cartooning brain is never truly off is it? Every experience has the potential to become a silly drawing.

MMWhat is the cartoonist community like in Toronto? Do you ever run into Seth?

TC: Toronto is a great place to be for cartoons and graphic arts in general. It’s the fourth largest city in North America, so you’d expect that, I suppose – but despite it’s size its still very neighborhoody and I think that helps develop communities of all kinds.

The Ontario College of Art and Design is based right next to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which itself runs cartooning workshops. O.C.A.D. has some headline graduates in this field like Michael Cho and Gary Taxali. There’s also Sheridan College, a little out of the City. It’s known for exporting graduates to Pixar, among other things.

The Beguilling is the comic book store I prod people towards when they visit. It serves as something of a cartoonist hub in my experience – it’s run by the same people who organize the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

There are some very interesting Canadian magazines based here, like Broken Pencil, which showcases indy publications and zines, and Taddle Creek, which is a broad literary mag (including comics) and, like the New Yorker, it features illustrations on the cover.

I haven’t met Seth, but I did say hello to Chester Brown at T.C.A.F. once, so that’s close.

Above: Mr. Chitty with Mr. Dator, in Toronto, July 3, 2017

I also intentionally bumped into Joe Dator here last year, while he was visiting. He told me that Alice Cheng lives in Toronto too. So, if you’re reading this Alice, let’s grab a coffee! She definitely isn’t reading this.

Revisiting: The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection

If you liked the cover of the New Yorker‘s very first Cartoon Issue (published in 1997) you might like the cover of The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection (published in 2000).  Why? Because all of the cartoon grabs on the 75th Collection cover were on the cover of the Cartoon Issue. Now that’s not a bad thing; any cover with Thurber, Hokinson, Steig, Peter Arno, Barsotti, Gross, George Price, Gluyas Williams, Booth, and Leo Cullum, to name but a few, cannot possibly be a bad thing. I do remember being surprised, when first seeing the 75th Collection cover that these same drawings were recycled.

What was not on the Cartoon Issue cover but on the Anniversary Collection cover is one of Mike Witte‘s takes on Eustace Tilley (there’s another on the back cover).  Mr. Witte had become the go-to illustrator/cartoonist for updated Tilleys, with his work appearing on those numerous small New Yorker Book of __ (Cat, Dog, Doctor, etc., etc) Cartoons collections. 

Here’s the Cartoon Issue if you wish to hunt down the images appearing on both covers:

But back to the 75th Anniversary cover.  Strange, I know, but it has always reminded me somewhat of the package design for Stella D’oro cookies.

 

 Inside the collection (the cartoon collection, not the cookie collection) is an odd dedication. Odd in that it is a dedication from the magazine to the magazine itself: To the constant commitment of The New Yorker to this ridiculous and sublime art form.  That’s followed by a jokey Introduction, after which we finally get to the meat & potatoes.  Once to the cartoons, you’ll find they appear on “good” paper so you can enjoy the work without seeing a shadow of the cartoon on the following page. I’ve always been grateful that there is an Index provided as there is no chronological order to the work (there’s a Ziegler on page 2 and a Thurber on page 275). Though all the New Yorker albums shape history to some degree by including more or less of certain artists, in this volume the unbalance is noticeable. Or maybe not so noticeable if this was the first collection you ever picked up.  What I mean is this: for an anthology covering 75 years, a number of the most published cartoonists are represented by just one or two cartoons.  Examples:

Otto Soglow (published over 800 times): 1  cartoon

Carl Rose (over 500 times): 1

Perry Barlow (approx. 1,400 times): 1 cartoon

Alan Dunn, one of the most prolific New Yorker cartoonists of all time (close to 2,000 cartoons published): 2 cartoons

 In just four years, we would have the mother of all New Yorker collections: The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker.  Its Index shows a re-balance with all of the above cartoonists mentioned appearing far more than once or twice (in a closing aside, I should mention that this year we will apparently see the mother of the mother of all New Yorker collections, The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, which somehow includes 4,000 cartoons (for comparison, The 75th Anniversary Collection has 707 cartoons). 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

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 September 25, 2017

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

As this is the Style Issue I decided to tackle the issue while listening to Starring Fred Astaire, a set of songs recorded by Mr. Astaire between 1936 through 1940. What a great photograph. What style. What a great top hat.

And now to the issue:

In the habit of expecting some political commentary on the cover of the new issue, I paused to examine the cover art, wondering if president Trump’s face was hidden in the leaves (ala the hidden Beatles on the Rolling Stones album, Their Satanic Majesties Request cover).  No such luck.

It takes seconds, once past the cover, to get to the very first cartoon.  If it’s a theme issue, there’s an excellent chance the first cartoon will tie-in to the theme. Bingo!  The first drawing,  by Carolita Johnson, whose first New Yorker cartoon appeared in the issue of October 20, 2003, features Elton John-ish stage shoes. As is always the case, my mind associates what I’m seeing with what I’ve previously seen in the New Yorker, and the first thought was this fabulous Steinberg cover from May of  1993: 

 

Flipping through the Goings On About Time (or GOAT) section, page 28 stood out.  Why? It is a page completely devoid of graphics (no illustration, photographs, etc.). The layout is a throwback to what was once common place in the magazine. The only design element is the renovated Rea Irvin nervous horizontal line across the top (“renovated” in that it is slightly less nervous than his original lines).   Beautiful nonetheless. 

We don’t arrive at the next cartoon until page 40, where we’re greeted by Tom Chitty’s frankfurter-ish figures involved in the age-old scenario of a couple arriving at a home,  bringing a bottle of wine. Mr. Chitty’s first New Yorker appearance was in the issue of October 13, 2014. Nice use (essential use!) of the phrase “limited expectations” here. Four pages later is a David Sipress cartoon. I note that Mr. Sipress’s drawing and Mr. Chitty’s drawing share similar standard rectangular space on the lower left of their respective pages. The drawings have just enough breathing room on the page.  Mr. Sipress’s first New Yorker appearance: July 1998. Perhaps Mr. Sipress will someday give us a ten years later sequel to this drawing (it’s about a couple possibly about to explore the idea of whether or not to have children).  I’m curious if they had children and if they did, if it was the right decision for them. 

Eleven pages later we come to a Charlie Hankin courtroom scene (Mr. Hankin’s first New Yorker appearance: August 2013). The drawing is given some nice breathing room at the upper right hand corner of the page.  I love courtroom scenes (Perry Mason, and all that).  The Monday Tilley Watch, as I keep reminding visitors (and myself), is not an overtly critical column. However, with a nod to my friends over at Cartoon Companion, I occasionally find myself wanting to applaud a certain drawing. This week I applaud Mr. Hankin’s drawing. There’s a (James) Thurber, (Charles) Barsotti feel to it — and that is always a very good thing.

Mr. Hankin’s drawing is immediately followed by a BEK drawing (and we’re back to the lower left rectangular space).  I think of every issue of the magazine as having at least one anchor artist, and hopefully three or four. Mr. Kaplan is the definition of an anchor artist. Contributing since 1991, his work does not disappoint.

Three pages later, given a full page, is the now much talked about Hillary Clinton cover that would have been had she, well, you know.  Two pages later, a cartoon by another anchor cartoonist: Roz Chast (first New Yorker cartoon: 1978).  With cargo clothing as Ms. Chast’s focus (remember, this is the style issue) I cannot help but think of the late Leo Cullum’s classic drawing from the issue of August 17, 1998:

 

Sidenote: good spacing (breathing room) for Ms. Chast’s drawing.

On the very next page is a Liana Finck drawing (first New Yorker drawing: 2013). The subject is one of those “head-in-the-hole” props you see at carnivals.  Here’s an example I lifted off of (out of?) the internet:

Ms. Finck’s drawing has a decidedly Charles Addams quality to it (I was wondering if we could get through today’s Monday Tilley Watch without mentioning Addams).  I like that Ms. Finck’s cartoon camera has a strap. Three pages later is a well-placed Emily Flake drawing (first New Yorker drawing: 2008).  I’ve never used Uber or their app-minded competition (cabs I have used), but I gather what’s happenin’ here. I wonder if the clown is a reference to the current clown film (It) scaring the pants off of everyone, or is it just a generic scary clown thing. 

Turning the page we have a cartoon by newbie, Curtis Edwards. I spent time examining the “vintage” clothing in this drawing, it being the Style Issue and all.  Note to myself: E.T. looks kind’ve like a turtle. I will remember that next time I’m drawing a turtle, or E.T..  On the opposite page from Mr. Edward’s drawing is a Will McPhail cartoon (first New Yorker appearance: 2014). Mr. McPhail’s is a romance tinged football drawing. Again, my mental library of imagery takes me immediately to this 2003 New Yorker cover  by Harry Bliss:

Next up is a hot air balloon drawing by Ed Steed (first New Yorker cartoon: 2013). I know zero about hot air balloons — was only up in one once.   I’m deeply sorry the  bearded passenger had to toss his musical instrument out of the balloon’s passenger basket.  My first thought — a typical cartoonist’s mash-up thought —  was that I would’ve tossed the actual speech balloon, say perhaps in the vicinity of where a caption would ordinarily go, thus saving a perfectly good cartoon accordion, but hey, I wasn’t there — it wasn’t my call.

Fifteen pages later we come to a domestic bean-centered P. C. Vey drawing, nicely placed. Mr. Vey’s been contributing to the magazine since 1993.  I hate to admit it, and I don’t like recalling it, but I’ve seen even bigger cans of beans than the one Mr. Vey’s cartoon character is eating from. Five pages later is a Sara Lautman energetic carnival drawing.  Her first New Yorker cartoon appeared in March of last year.  The way Ms. Lautman uses the word “things” — it’s printed as “Thiiiings”  — makes the word vibrate.  

And that is that until next Monday. By the way, I have not abandoned my campaign to encourage the return of Rea Irvin’s long running iconic masthead to the Talk of The Town.  I leave you with a common chant of wisdom, commonly heard on sports fields:

“Don’t mess, don’t mess with the best…”

Here’s the best: