Personal History: Going To The Window

From 1976 through early 1980 (when I moved out of Manhattan) I made a weekly trip via subway  from my apartment on West 11th Street in Greenwich Village to the New Yorker‘s offices on 25 West 43rd Street.  After a week of working mostly alone at home it was my one big foray into the real world.

Stepping from the 42nd Street subway at Bryant Park, I’d jaywalk across 42nd Street to get to the W.R.Grace building. Its north/south block-wide lobby allowed access to 43rd Street, almost directly across the street from 25 West 43rd.

After pushing through the revolving doors at 25 West 43rd Street, and following an elevator ride to the 18th floor, I’d arrive at my destination: a window.  I’d slip a 10″ x 13″ grey envelope of new drawings through the slot at the base of what appeared to be very thick glass. Behind the glass sat a receptionist. She’d take the new envelope and pass me an envelope of my work submitted (and rejected) the week before. Then I’d get back on the elevator to the main lobby, and retrace my steps home. In all of those years I never spoke to the receptionist (nor she to me), nor did I run into anyone in the hallway (I did however share a down elevator ride with Charles Addams. We didn’t speak).

The window reception was one of many of the magazine’s oddities left behind when the magazine moved south across the street in 1991.  

Below: the window.

 

 

 

A Foot of Rejected Cartoons

Rejection is a New Yorker cartoonist’s constant companion. We are rejected every single week we submit work to the magazine (I’ve heard tales of contributors selling up to a half-dozen drawings out of one batch, but I’ve yet to hear of a contributor selling their entire batch.  Please advise if that’s ever happened).  Example: I submit cartoons weekly to the magazine (there is no set number despite the myth you may have heard that we must, or have to send ten a week).  If I’m very very lucky, one of the submitted cartoons will be accepted. The rest, the rejects, are then added to a pile in my work room. In the photo above is the pile that’s accumulated over the past year or so. Eventually I’ll move that pile to storage where it will join its rejected friends from years/decades past. 

Some time ago — fifteen or twenty years? —  I made a stab at organizing my rejects.  I bought plastic bins that held file folders.  I labeled the folders “Dogs” “Cats” “Police” “Food” “Knights” etc., etc.. This organization came in handy when someone would ask for submissions for a collection of drawings about dogs or cats or food or whatever. As the era of themed cartoon collections cooled, I found though that it was wasted time organizing for the possibility of a request for themed cartoons. So that organizing effort ended (although the plastic bins with their folders still exist).

Many cartoonists take their rejected work and try to find a home for it elsewhere. I know of at least one cartoonist who is very successful doing just that. I used to submit rejects to other magazines back when there were a good number of publications using cartoons. Below is a page out of a ledger I briefly kept in 1977.  I quickly realized keeping track of stuff wasn’t my thing.  You see on the page below across the top of the ledger the magazines I was submitting to the summer of that year — the summer when I broke into the New Yorker:  The New Yorker, Esquire,The Saturday Evening Post, Changing Times, Quest, Dawn Dusk, Playboy, Medical Economics, New Woman, and The Ladies Home Journal. Judging my from my entries I wasn’t doing very well until August of 1977, when the New Yorker bought “Nothing will ever happen to you” — after that things started to improve (with the exceptions of The Ladies Home Journal and Medical Economics — nothing of mine ever “clicked” for them).

Over time, the number of publications using cartoons has dwindled.  Most of the action these days is online, where the pay is little-to-none.  “None” is usually disguised as “exposure” as in “we don’t pay, but your work will get plenty of exposure.”

So what to do with these weekly rejected drawings.  Over the years I’d sometimes come across one that seemed it needed a second chance, and so off it went to the New Yorker.  Sometimes a resub (as they are called by cartoonists) is accepted, and published.  I once was even asked to send in resubs. It was around the time my wife and I were expecting our first child. My then editor, Lee Lorenz  sent me a letter saying something to the effect of: “Please send in a bunch of resubs — I know you’re going to be busy for awhile.”  There have even been weeks I resubmitted a drawing that had just been rejected. My personal favorite rejected cartoon is the one below.  I did the unthinkable: convinced of its merit, I stubbornly resubmitted it the very next week after it was rejected. It was accepted (and published December 21, 1998). Hey, you never know.

Mostly though the second chance for a resub (my resubs, not other cartoonists) is its last chance — and that’s okay.  I’ve always felt these rejects were necessary to do to get to the drawing that makes it through to being accepted and published. The rejects are invaluable steps to the printed page.  I’ve realized in the past few years that I rarely, if ever, send in resubs anymore. Emma Allen, the New Yorker‘s current cartoon editor has yet to see one of my drawings submitted twice. There’s no grand plan here — it’s just how it’s working out.

Personal History: First Book

Pardon this little trip down memory lane.

  In 1975 I printed this first book of mine on a creaky noisy offset press in the basement of the Print Shop at The University of Connecticut in Storrs (the Print Shop, a little paradise on campus, is no more, torn down and replaced — a la Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” —  by a parking lot).

 Somewhere Above the Jugglers And Dogs might have been my senior project — or it may have just been something I wanted to do for fun. I’m fairly certain the hat on the cover is some kind of tribute to the hat on the ground in Thurber’s classic drawing, “What have you done with Dr. Millmoss?” — the drawing I place highest on a pedestal.  

After printing all the pages (enough for 50 copies of the book) I drove them to be bound at a printing plant in Hartford (each copy has three staples covered by protective black cloth). I remember showing the completed work to a dear friend who promptly told me he hated the title. Everyone’s a critic.

By the time I put this together I’d already been submitting work to the New Yorker for three or four years; all of it rejected by the magazine’s legendary art editor, James Geraghty. I can’t blame him one bit.  Here’s one of the drawings, Tom Inventing Spit. Not exactly the kind of thing the New Yorker was publishing in 1975 (in hindsight, I wish I’d called the book Tom Inventing Spit). 

 In the next two years, post-college, I honed the kind of work I’d included in this book and collected even more of it in another self-published book, 115 Drawings. By the time 115 Drawings was produced in early 1977, I’d abandoned drawings like this and moved on to dutifully submitting work edging closer to single panel cartoons. By then Lee Lorenz, who succeeded Geraghty, was routinely rejecting my New Yorker submissions.  He finally caved in mid-1977 when the magazine bought an idea of mine (drawn up by the great Whitney Darrow, Jr., and published in the New Yorker, December 26, 1977). As far as the New Yorker’s concerned, my words came first.

   

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch (Part 1)

Double issues (as we’ve just experienced) have a way of creating the impression it’s been ages since the last new issue. So, yay, finally: the late August New Yorker (dated, for the record:  August 21, 2017). There are a lot of cartoons in this issue, so the Monday Tilley Watch will be broken up into two parts. I’ll post the second half in a few days…possibly tomorrow (a Tuesday Tilley Watch?)

The cover, by Adrian Tomine, is certainly summery (and a sort of summary of some summers). 

Skipping through the front of the magazine (this is, after all, a look at the drawings in the issue) I pause to note that Rea Irvin’s classic Talk of the Town masthead is still on holiday (wishful thinking that it might’ve returned!).  Now on to the cartoons:

The first, Mr. Tator Tot, is descended from the world of Mr. Potato Head and is pure Danny Shanahan.  I can see these being sold in nice little packages wherever toys are sold (with a warning that they should be kept out of the hands of small children).  As a side note, when Mr. Shanahan was discussing this drawing with me not long ago we went off into a brief recounting of the various potato-related drawings we’d both done.  Someone should do a New Yorker book of potato cartoons.  The next drawing (I’ll shorthand it as “hip disease”)  is by Jason Adam Katzenstein, who is closing in on his third anniversary of appearing in The New Yorker. I’m a big fan of doctor office drawings. The eye chart in this one really caught my…eye (sorry). I’d say someone should do a book of New Yorker doctor cartoons, but it’s been done, and done well. 

A few pages later we come to a summertime baseball in the park drawing by yours truly. For those who keep track of things, this is my second major appliance-related drawing in the magazine (there was at least one cartoon of mine featuring a small appliance (a blender) back in the 1980s).  Seven pages later we come to a Tom Toro desert island drawing (Mr. Toro was profiled here on the Spill not long ago, talking about his new book Tiny Hands, among other things). The desert island fellow, judging by his look, has somehow managed to survive on the island for a very long time. Good for you, island guy. I’m a little worried about the cruise ship being so close to shore, but then remind myself that this is a cartoon. (fyi: Mr. Toro’s been contributing to The New Yorker since 2010).  Next up is a drawing by newish-comer, Kate Curtis (she’s been contributing to the magazine for about a year-and-a-half).  I love set piece cartoons (folks sitting at a dining room table or a kitchen table, people in bed or sitting on living room sofas, etc.). Challenging, and so much fun when they work out well, as this one has. Several pages later is another newcomer, Maddie Dai (Her first New Yorker cartoon appeared this past June).  A hopscotch drawing! We don’t see many of those.  This one has a Charles Addams-ish flavor to it.  And speaking of Mr. Addams, who did a number of wonderful gingerbread house drawings in his time, our next drawing, by Liana Finck, is of a house made of kale.  Worth noting here: as has been the case for at least the past five issues of the magazine, the placement and sizing of most drawings has been splendid. (Ms. Finck’s first cartoon appeared in The New Yorker, February 2013). The next drawing, by Sara Lautman (first cartoon in The New Yorker: March, 2016) is a blast of color…and madras (!) — making for an exciting visual. A few pages later, and again, well-placed and sized, is an Ed Steed cartoon. Love the child-like house on the horizon. Mr. Steed’s first appearance in the magazine: March 2013. There’s a Sketchbook by Will McPhail a few pages following Mr. Steed’s drawing.  The use of the Sketchbook — and I could be very wrong — goes back to the Tina Brown era. Next up is a drawing by Emily Flake (like Mr. Toro, she was the subject of a piece on The Spill not long ago). Ms. Flake has been contributing to the magazine since September of 2008. This is a set piece drawing, with a lot of emotion.

Part 2 of The Monday Tilley Watch coming later this week…