The Tilley Watch Online; Photos from the Kovarsky Opening; “Not OK” Cartoonists in Westchester

Among the magazine’s Daily cartoons this week:  Kim Warp’s weary winter weather drawing; Brendan Loper’s tweeter-in-chief cartoon;  Lars Kenseth’s  take on this week’s  unusual White House media moment, and Peter Kuper’s Trumpian map of the world.   

Over on Daily Shouts, these were the contributing New Yorker cartoonists: Ellis Rosen and Liana Finck


Photos From the Kovarsky Opening at The Society of Illustrators

A packed house last night at the Society of Illustrators Opening Reception for Kovarsky’s World: Covers and Cartoons From the New Yorker. Here’s an array of photos (all by Liza Donnelly, with one exception: the photo of Liza Donnelly and her husband– that’s courtesy of Gina Kovarsky)

Above: a wall of Kovarskys.

Below: Anatol Kovarsky’s daughter, Gina, and Mr. Kovarsky’s wife, Lucille Patton; Ellen Lind and John Lind.  Gina Kovarsky and John Lind co-curated the exhibit.

Below: New Yorker cartoonists Sam Gross and Felipe Galindo

Below: New Yorker cartoonists Liza Donnelly and Michael Maslin

Below: Sam Gross and New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein

Below: Writer/illustrator Mo Willems, Columbia University’s Curator for Comics and Cartoons, Karen Green, and John Lind


A closing thought on the exhibit, which runs til March 3 of this year:

This is a terrific show.  The energy bouncing off Mr. Kovarsky’s work on the walls is inspiring.   After looking at all of the covers and drawings I went back and spent more time looking at Mr. Kovarsky’s very first cartoon for the New Yorker.  It was published in the issue of March 1, 1947; here’s how it appeared:

I’ve always had a special affection for first New Yorker drawings.  It is, as they say, a moment.  Every cartoonist remembers the details surrounding their first published drawing. The unspoken mini-drama surrounding the first is that no one knows, of course, whether there’ll be a second (see the Spill‘s One Clubbers on the A-Z).  In Mr. Kovarsky’s case there was a second, and then there were hundreds more — close to 300 in fact. If that wasn’t something impressive in itself, he also contributed 40 covers.  And all this work was done in the relatively short time span of twenty-two years (according to Gina Kovarsky: “In the 1970s, Kovarsky shifted his main focus from cartooning to fine art…”).  It will not come as a surprise to anyone seeing this exhibit how Kovarsky accomplished so much in a mere two decades. It is as if he never set his pen or his brush down for a moment. Kovarsky’s world seemed to be abuzz 24/7. How lucky for us all.   


“Not OK” Cartoonists in Westchester

From Westchester Magazine, January 12, 2018, “You Can Meet New Yorker Cartoonists…”

 Here’s a capsule description from the article:

“Not OK” — Great Cartoons That Weren’t Good Enough is a collection of works by previous New Yorker-published cartoonists that fit exactly that bill. Curated by artist and Brooklynite David Ostow, this series has come to Westchester for a month-long showing following the completion of its original gallery run in Bushwick.








A Special Ink Spill “Kovarsky Wednesday”: Anatol Kovarsky’s Russia

 Since this past Fall, Wednesdays here at the Spill have been referred to as “Kovarsky Wednesdays” as we’ve posted some of the late great artist’s unpublished cartoons and cover art (Mr. Kovarsky’s daughter, Gina refers to them as “sketches and preliminary forms of ideas for covers”).  All of this work is in celebration of Kovarsky’s World: Covers and Cartoons From The New Yorker, an exhibit opening tomorrow at the Society of Illustrators, with a special reception on January 12th.

Though long an admirer of Mr. Kovarsky’s work for The New Yorker, seeing these unpublished pieces over the past few months has deepened my respect for the energy and enthusiasm with which he lived his art. From what I’ve learned of him, from meeting him, reading about him, speaking about him with his family, he was always working.  And what work! The show is a must-see. 

In celebration of tomorrow’s opening, the Kovarsky family has generously provided us with three proposed cover pieces specifically related to Mr. Kovarsky’s Russian heritage. In addition, we are indeed fortunate and thankful that Gina has contributed the following piece, expanding our understanding and appreciation of her father and his beautiful work.

Since 2017 marked the 100-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, I thought I would share a few details about how it affected my father Anatol Kovarsky’s life.  He was born into a prosperous and assimilated Russian-Jewish household in Moscow in 1919.  But the social and political unrest that came in the wake of the Revolution put his family at risk.  His father was arrested by the Soviet secret police and jailed in 1923 or 1924.  When he was released three months later, Anatol’s parents understood that they had to leave home and took him south to Crimea, then onward to Warsaw. They remained in Poland until WWII, when they were once again forced to leave everything behind. (His parents and sister survived the war in France; Anatol was able to leave Europe for the U.S., later joining the army and returning to Europe as a U.S. serviceman.)

My father was about 4 or 5 when he and his parents left the Soviet Union, but he remained fluent in Russian until the end of his life and never lost his identification with the Russian part of his heritage.  In the early 1960s, at a time when the Soviet regime had inaugurated a policy of greater openness to the West, my father made several sketches for a proposed New Yorker cover depicting American tourists on Red Square.  The presence of Western tourists in the heart of Moscow would have seemed positively incongruous to him, given how unimaginable that type of travel had been for decades.  History, a supreme ironist, was offering a corrective to misplaced certainties. 

Anatol took heart at the gradual resumption of ordinary tourism after Stalin’s death, regarding this as a positive sign that a new era of peaceful coexistence was at hand.  It meant a great deal to him that he was able to travel to the USSR in 1979, and that on subsequent visits in 1989 and 1990, he could observe first-hand the remarkable changes that led to the regime’s collapse in 1991.  He aptly noted that we were witnessing a “revolving revolution,” but the new banners were advertising Pepsi and McDonald’s instead of calling upon the proletariat to unite. 

In these cover ideas, my father manages to poke fun simultaneously at both the Soviet and the Western (capitalist) ideological orientations.  The sketches comment ironically on the waning relevance of Communist ideals, by minimizing the presence of Communist emblems: in the first sketch, the star above the modern hotel in the background is rendered not in red, but in grey wash to fade into the background.   But the humor also derives from Anatol’s portrayal of the consumption-oriented perspective of the “bourgeois” visitors with their cameras and, in the second sketch, also of the home movie audience.  There are two focal points in the movie: St. Basil’s with its colorful onion domes, and also the woman in the colorful hat.   By providing the woman with her own bright “dome,” my father creates a visual parallel, cueing us to realize that in the husband’s eyes both objects in the viewfinder are of equal importance.  Or is it the American woman’s presence on Red Square that’s the key element, to mark the spot, as if to state, “we were here” and also perhaps, “look at us!”   (What would Dad have made of the ubiquitous selfie?)


Anatol’s earliest memory was of the circus in the resort town of Yalta in Crimea, when he was around the age of 3 or 4.  He remained forever enamored of the circus, to the point where he even had a special pass to sketch the performers and animals up close at the old Madison Square Garden (he remembered once getting too close to a lion and being chased away by the personnel).  During the 1960s, the Moscow Circus was a special favorite of New York audiences, and I remember going with my parents several times. Among my favorite paintings by my father are ones he did of the Russian circus horses and their daredevil riders. 


–Gina Kovarsky

Dec. 30, 2017

(Please note that all work by Mr. Kovarsky posted here on Ink Spill is copyright the Estate of Anatol Kovarsky)  




Must See: George Booth Exhibit at The Society of Illustrators

Here are a bunch of photos taken at last night’s opening reception for The Society of Illustrators exhibit, George Booth: A Cartoonist’s Life, curated by J.J. Sedelmaier

A ton of original George Booth covers and drawings in one place. What more could anyone ask for?  It’s a wonderful show. Go see it.

Above left, Danny Shanahan with Seth Fleishman (and right behind Mr. Fleishman is Stephen Nadler who runs Attempted Bloggery). Photo right: seated, John Cuneo, with the Director of the Society of Illustrators, Anelle Miller. Behind them is Felipe Galindo, and Stephen Nadler speaking with the cartoonist, Marc Bilgrey.

Below: two similar group photos. Can you spot the difference?

Top group photo: Mike Lynch, Michael Maslin, Liza Donnelly, Danny Shanahan, Jane Mattimoe, Felipe Galindo, George Booth, Mort Gerberg, Sam Gross, Ellis Rosen and Hilary Campbell.In the second group photo, Mike Lynch has disappeared and been replaced by John Cuneo, who is between Liza Donnelly and Danny Shanahan).

Below right: Seth Fleishman and the New Yorker‘s cartoon editor, Emma Allen.

Below: animator, Bill Plympton. Right: Eric Lewis

Above left: the show’s curator, J.J. Sedelmaier. Right: the Booth family

Below: Mike Lynch with Gina Kovarsky, daughter of the late very great New Yorker cartoonist and cover artist, Anatol Kovarsky

(photo courtesy of Mike Lynch)

Below: George Booth, with the illustrator,Tom Bloom in the background — he’s the fellow with the beard. (This photo courtesy of Stephen Nadler). 

Above left: Sam Gross.  Above right: Felipe Galindo with Colin Stokes, the New Yorker‘s assistant cartoon editor.

Below: Liza Donnelly, George Booth


–All photos above by Liza Donnelly, except where noted. My thanks to her for being the Spill’s official photographer.  












A Trio of Previously Unseen Kovarskys

Thanks to Gina Kovarsky, I’m pleased to post three of her father’s drawings that surfaced during the ongoing cataloging of  Kovarsky’s extensive body of work.   I profiled the master cartoonist on the New Yorker‘s website several years ago (the link takes you to Bob Mankoff’s blog. Scroll down a bit to get to my entry on Mr. Kovarsky).

Gina reports that her father continues, in his 96th year, to pursue his art. His work first appeared in The New Yorker in March of 1947.


The drawings, from top to bottom: “Elusive Beauty” “Geometric Painting” and “Two Houses”

Elusive BeautyGeometric PaintingTwo Houses