A Roomful of Cartoonists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As anyone could guess, a home inhabited by two cartoonists is bound to have a lot of cartoons around. Not just our own, but cartoons from our New Yorker family; cartoonists we’ve only known by their work, cartoonists we’ve just met, and cartoonists we’ve known for a very long time.  With the exception of our own work, our walls are covered with framed drawings by all the above, from an unpublished drawing by the relatively new New Yorker contributor, Charlie Hankin (a drawing of a clam on a lawn next to a sign that reads “Beware of Clam”  —  it cracks me up every time I look at it) to Alice Harvey‘s first captioned New Yorker drawing, published in October of 1925.

 

 

 

 

In the photo at the top of this post, from top left, clock-wise, is a New Yorker drawing by Robert Weber, a Gardner Rea drawing, one by Jack Ziegler, and an oddity: a group drawing by Mick Stevens, Mr. Ziegler, Roz Chast and Liza Donnelly.

The Ziegler solo drawing, The Jungle Never Sleeps, hangs closest to my work room doorway; it appeared in The New Yorker as a half-page, July 28, 1980.  It’s just one drawing in a career populated with many many funny and beautiful drawings, but, jeez, what a drawing.  Needless to say, the idea is gold, and funny as hell. Jack went perfectly heavy on the speech balloons. The single line of smoke drifting  up from the campfire changes from a black line to negative space and back to a black line as it moves through the silhouetted jungle to the grey sky.  You can tell he was totally involved in working that out. The fellow who’s come out of the beautifully drawn tent is perfection.  As Jack said to me in an interview last Fall: “…it’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw so that they can give us something pleasant and fun to look at.”  Well said, well done.

   

New Yorker Cartoons of the Year 2016 Index

new-yorker-best-cartoons-of-the-year-2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Ink Spill tradition continues with the posting of an Index for the Cartoons of the Year bookazine.   Why an Index you might ask.  Mostly because I always enjoyed seeing them in the magazine’s hardcover anthologies (the New Yorker‘s Cartoon Albums) and missed having an Index for these yearly bookazines (they started in 2010). I wouldn’t read too too much into the numbers of drawings you see listed for each cartoonist, but the Index itself is a reasonably good snapshot of the New Yorker‘s somewhat boisterous stable of cartoonists in these last few years.

You’ll see that few of the entries have a “(cc)” beside certain page numbers.  The “cc” refers to the Caption Contest.  So those particular drawings appeared on the magazine’s back page.  You might notice that there’s an asterisk next to Julia Wertz’s name.  That’s because her name does not appear on the list of contributing cartoonists found on page 4 of the bookazine. She is, however, included on the Contributors page (p.2).

And here you go:

_____________________________________________________________

 

Darrin Bell   62

Harry Bliss 5, 12, 15, 45, 53, 57, 60, 77, 115, 142 (cc)

David Borchart 12

Pat Byrnes 32

Roz Chast 7, 55, 75-76, 89, 117, 138

Tom Cheney 9, 48

Tom Chitty 29

Frank Cotham 30, 34

Michael Crawford 78, 96, 133

Joe Dator 46, 120, 134, 139(cc)

Drew Dernavich 60, 90, 117

Matthew Diffee 138

Liza Donnelly  28

J. C. Duffy 59

Bob Eckstein 70, 102

Liana Finck 13, 37-40, 55, 95, 137

Emily Flake 26, 28, 87, 121

Seth Fleishman 79, 80

Alex Gregory 70, 124

Sam Gross 135

William Haefeli 22, 122

Kaamran Hafeez 74, 94, 123

Tim Hamilton 93

Charlie Hankin 6, 25, 36, 56, 88

Amy Hwang 21, 51, 54

Carolita Johnson 136

Zachary Kanin 11, 27, 59, 69, 93, 140(cc)

Bruce Eric Kaplan 14, 25, 67, 91, 123,

Farley Katz 11, 15, 24

Jason Adam Katzenstein 10, 13, 57, 62, 136

John Klossner 91

Edward Koren 8

Ken Krimstein 19, 82

Peter Kuper 17

Amy Kurzweil 122, 124

Robert Leighton 53, 72, 98, 101, 102, 104

Christian Lowe 78

Robert Mankoff 35, 119

Michael Maslin 80, 132

William McPhail 23, 42, 45, 63, 81, 98, 141(cc)

Paul Noth 61, 65, 71, 73, 74, 79, 83, 85, 92, 97, 135

John O’Brien 44

Drew Panckeri  88

Jason Patterson  86, 133

Victoria Roberts  120

Dan Roe  14

Benjamin Schwartz  13, 33, 56, 64, 83, 84, 101, 116

Danny Shanahan  8, 9, 23, 64, 141 (cc)

Michael Shaw  67

David Sipress 10, 24, 33, 52, 58, 66, 71, 116, 119, 134

Barbara Smaller  19, 22, 27, 30, 36, 54, 94, 118

Trevor Spaulding  43, 85

Edward Steed  16, 34, 43, 44, 49, 68, 86, 99, 103, 105-114

Avi Steinberg  96, 99

Mick Stevens  6, 47, 52, 86, 89, 103

Matthew Stiles Davis 18

Mark Thompson  61

Tom Toro 16, 21, 46, 48, 50, 69, 82, 104

P.C. Vey 31, 35, 90, 95, 137, 140(cc)

Liam Walsh 18, 41, 47, 49, 50, 84

Kim Warp 7

Julia Wertz * 125-131

Christopher Weyant  31, 42

Shannon Wheeler  73

Gahan Wilson  20

Jack Ziegler  63, 66, 100

_____________________________________________________

The Ink Spill Jack Ziegler Interview

jack-ziegler-1985

Jack Ziegler, recently referred to on this site as the Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists, has been contributing to the magazine since February of  1974.

Now in 2016 he is solidly in the K Crowd — meaning he’s published well over a thousand cartoons and one cover in The New Yorker (we’ll get to the cover later).  Considering that Jack has been the subject of former New Yorker Art Editor, Lee Lorenz’s The Essential Jack Ziegler and more recently as one of Richard Gehr’s subjects in I Only Read It For the Cartoons, I thought it would be interesting to talk about things that, for the most part, weren’t brought up in those books. I highly recommend seeking out both those titles for a full account of Jack’s personal and public shenanigans over the years.

This is Part 1 of my interview with Jack. Later in the week I’ll post Part 2, where we discuss a number of Jack’s favorite drawings, and a number of my favorite Ziegler drawings.

__________________________________________________________________________

 

I’d heard from Jack years ago that he was a CBS page during the Beatles historic Ed Sullivan debut, but what I didn’t know was that he also paged for the Jackie Gleason and Garry Moore shows. It seemed the perfect place to begin our interview.

MM: So, this inquiring mind wants to know: did you get to meet  “The Great One” (Jackie Gleason) when you were a page at CBS?

JZ: I never got to meet Gleason.  He wasn’t around all that much and when he was in the studio he was referred to as “God.”  I think we taped the show on Tuesday nights & he wouldn’t show up till sometime that afternoon so that he could watch the dress rehearsal.  That was apparently all he needed to absorb everything he needed to do onstage.  Barney Martin, who eventually played Jerry’s father on Seinfeld, was his stand-in.  It was a fat guy to fat guy transference.

As a page, or glorified usher, I did get to watch all the tapings from Studio 50, now the Ed Sullivan Theatre, at Broadway & 53rd in NYC, from the audience until the Gleason Show moved – lock, stock & barrel – to Miami.

[In Gehr’s book, Jack mentions an elevator ride with Jackie O.  I wanted details]

MM: What about the elevator ride with Jackie O.  Just the two of you?

JZ: I had sold my second book, Filthy Little Things, to Doubleday – and Jackie Kennedy happened to snag a job there around that time as an editor.  I had just dropped off a bunch of drawings for the book and then took the elevator down.  The car stopped at another floor and she got on and it was just the two of us, sans Secret Service escorts.  Then we rode that baby down another couple of floors before she hopped off, exhausted but elated (they tell me), and I stayed on till I hit the street, at which point I had a chance to exhale.

MM: Do you remember the first time walking into the New Yorker’s art department [the magazine’s offices were then located at 25 West 43rd St]  What was that like for you? Who’d you meet?

JZ:  It was a Wednesday in November of 1973.  There was to be an annual Cartoonists Guild meeting & cocktail party later and I was wearing a sports coat and a heavy sweater so that I wouldn’t have to deal with an overcoat later.  I thought I was just going to drop off my usual batch, but there was a note from Lee Lorenz included in my returns asking me to come back to chat about one of my drawings.  Oh, boy!  Natasha the receptionist opened the gates and pointed me in the direction of the Inner Sanctum.

new-yorker-hallway-25-west-43rd-st-ldLeft: the New Yorker‘s Inner Sanctum at 25 West 43rd St.

It was a warmer than usual Nov. day and I was starting to perspire in my excessive outfit.  The first person I saw in the office was Henry Martin, whom I’d already met at True magazine while on rounds.  Sam Gross was there, too; I’d met him a few weeks back at National Lampoon.  I was then introduced to the other people who were there: Dana Fradon, Donald Reilly & Charlie Sauers.  By the time I got to sit down with Lee, the perspiration had turned to flop sweat.  Lee asked if I was OK as he handed me my first OK.  Then he gave me a little pep talk and basically just said to make the drawing a little bit better.  I was a wreck, but in a good way.  When I got back down to earth, i.e., 43rd St., I headed for the nearest pay phone to break the good news to my wife.

MM:  How aware were you of the work of veteran New Yorker cartoonists who were around when you began at the magazine…for example: Frank Modell, Warren Miller, Dana Fradon, Charles Saxon, Mischa Richter and on and on.

JZ: I knew of them all.  When I was a kid, my parents subscribed to a lot of magazines, but not the New Yorker.  Fortunately, a friend of mine’s parents did, so from the late ‘40s, early ‘50s, I was a big fan.  Some neighbors down the block had a copy of the New Yorker 25th Anniversary Album, with which I was fascinated.

nyer-25th-anniversary-album  Every time I went over there, I’d head for a quiet corner with that book.  One day I asked if I could borrow it & the owner said if I could find it, I could have it.  I interpreted “have” as “keep.”  I still “have” it.  After that, I started buying the mag on my own.

MM: Let’s talk about your one and only (as of this week, anyway) New Yorker cover.  Curious as to why there wasn’t a bushel basket full of more Ziegler covers following that one.  You obviously submitted more.   Did more sell that didn’t run?

jack-ziegler-nyer-cover

JZ:  Selling that cover was very encouraging, and i submitted a lot of them, but that was the only one that got bought until 1991, when I sold a fall-themed cover.  They weren’t able to run it that year because all the fall slots had been taken, so it got pushed back to ’92.  Then editor Robert Gottlieb left and Tina Brown took over and killed everything that was scheduled to run.  It was the beginning of The Tina Years.  So – that was that.  It did eventually run inside as a full-color full-pager with the title, Fall Sweeps.  Oh, well.  But I’d love the chance to redo that one cover – ya know, just to make it right.

MM: What about the cover would you change?

JZ: I like the guy.  The bricks should’ve started higher, instead of going all the way down to the sidewalk.  I had to take 3 stabs at the sandwich board before Lee was satisfied and you can almost see that it’s pasted on.  The final (sandwich board) came out OK, though.

MM: I’m going to ask you the same question I asked Woodman [Bill Woodman, who was the subject of an Ink Spill interview in September of this year]: when you began at the New Yorker were you aware your work was quite different than what the magazine had been publishing in its previous fifty years? (Ed Koren, who preceded you in the magazine by  a dozen years would be an exception).

JZ: I had no inkling of that.  I knew that I felt that I wasn’t quite seeing the type of cartoons I wanted to see in the magazine.  They were good cartoons, but too many of them weren’t making me laugh the way they had when I was a kid.  I wanted to do drawings that were funny to me, & not necessarily to anyone else.  I was out to please myself, so I never asked: Is this a New Yorker cartoon?  Who knows?  Is this a Jack Ziegler cartoon?  Yep.

MM: I remember the first time I saw you in person – it was an enormous book fair in midtown Manhattan, circa 1979.  That cartoon anthology Animals Animals, Animals had just been published and you were on a panel with Sam Gross out there on the street (West 50 something) in front of a large crowd.  Were you comfortable being in the spotlight?

JZ: It was probably either Doubleday or Rizzoli – also could have been part of NY Book Fair that year.  Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin were also there signing books, but hadn’t appeared yet.  I kept telling people that we had them both tied up in the basement & they wouldn’t be set free until the cartoonists had sold a certain number of books.  Oddly, some people were there to buy the Gordon/Kanin book and got pissed off.  So far as spotlight goes, I was never uncomfortable.  When I was a page at CBS we used to have to be front and center to give various little speeches and instructions to our captive audiences.  I was uncomfortable with that for awhile, but quickly got over it and began to tell them silly, made-up stuff, as well as the crucial info.  When you’re signing a lot of books for a crowd and the books are being passed around from cartoonist to cartoonist, the time goes fast and you start doing riffs on the little drawings that the other cartoonists have done before the book got to you.  It was fun.

mankoff-stevens-cline-ziegler-donnelly-1984Left: Bob Mankoff, Mick Stevens, Richard Cline, Jack Ziegler, Liza Donnelly. New York, 1984.

MM: The next time I saw you was in early 1985, at The New Yorker.  William Shawn had called in a bunch of cartoonists to talk about the impending sale of the magazine to Advance Publications. Besides us “kids” sitting on a table along the back wall, I only remember Steig and Barney Tobey. What do you remember from that somewhat historic meeting?  Besides Lee Lorenz, and the aforementioned Steig and Tobey, what cartoonists do you remember being in the room? And…what do you remember how you felt being there with Shawn, in that crowd?  Had you met Shawn before?

JZ:  I had met (or rather, seen) Shawn before, usually exiting or entering his elevator and sometimes in the hallway (rare).  He gave another speech to the assembled troops several years prior to Advance’s acquisition.  It was probably late ‘70s, when a group of New Yorker employees were attempting to unionize the workers.  The unionization never happened, but as a result, we were promised health insurance and a pension plan.  Not a bad outcome at all.
I sort of remember the Advance meeting being in Lee’s office, but that’s probably incorrect – there were a lot of people there.  I noted it in my desk diary as Black Wednesday, 2/13/85.  Other than those you mentioned, also present were gagwriter and sometime cartoonist Richard McCallister, cover artist Gretchen Dow Simpson, Charles Addams, George Price, Frank Modell, Joe Farris, Roz Chast, Al Ross, Ed Frascino, George Booth, Ed Fisher, Bud Handelsman, Arnie Levin, Henry Martin, Bob Mankoff, you, and I.  I was quite impressed with Shawn’s lucid presentation of the complicated takeover process.

MM: It’s risky talking about current New Yorker cartoonists, unless you’re all nicey-nice, so I’d like to ask you to comment, however briefly you’d like, about some of our departed colleagues. Either comment on their work, or them personally, if you knew them.
> Richard McCallister
> Charles Saxon
> Steig
> Charles Barsotti
> Al Ross
> Chon Day
> William Hamilton
> George Price

JZ:  When I first moved to New Milford, CT, in 1975 I used to mail in New Yorker finishes from the local PO.  One day there was a gentleman in front of me who was also holding a manila envelope addressed to Lee Lorenz.  I tapped him on the shoulder and introduced myself, told him that he had to be either Richard McCallister or Stan Hunt (I knew that he, too, lived in the area, but had never met him).  It was McCallister.  We – my wife and I – became friends with him and his wife Alice and would occasionally socialize, at which times I would pump him with questions about the magazine and his (kind of) partnership with Peter Arno, for whom he supplied a buttload of ideas.

Bill Steig also lived in the area, about 20 miles north of us in Kent, CT.  We used to meet up by happenstance in various restaurants and would join each others’ table for the meal.  Bill was always saying that no matter how old they get, he still always worried about his kids. One day I mentioned that I would occasionally send in some resubmissions to fill out the batch if it was a particularly dry week.  He was amazed.  “You mean you can do that?,” he said.  I was stunned that in all his years with the New Yorker it had never occurred to him to do that.

I had communicated with Charley Barsotti for years prior to my moving to Lawrence, KS.  He was living only about 40 miles away in Kansas City, so it was only natural that we get together for lots of lunches & dinners – and we did that a lot, until he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and then died about a year later.  The last time I saw him was for a sun-filled patio dinner at Axois, a great restaurant a block from his house.  He was frail that evening, but still full of spunk, and I’ve never seen a nattier couple.  In comparison, I looked like a dropout in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.  He wanted a side of potatoes with his meal, but his wife Rae told him they weren’t part of his strict diet.  He just looked at her and ordered the potatoes anyway.  He, as always, just wanted to have a good time.  He died about 2 weeks later.  And, no, it wasn’t the damn potatoes.

I still get together with Rae for the occasional meal and we talk about Charley and all the amazing work he left behind.

I would see Al Ross only occasionally at the magazine and he was always friendly and jovial.  I would see both Hamilton and Saxon at the mag, but they seemed more remote.  I never met Chon Day and only had a glimpse of Price once at the aforementioned Shawn meeting.

MM: Lee Lorenz brought you into the magazine. What was it like working with him? Did he just kind of let you do your thing once you began or was he working closely with you — a combination, perhaps?

JZ: My first meeting with Lee was when he invited me back into his office to “discuss” one of my drawings.  That was a big deal, a life-changing deal.  He gave me a few hints, very loose, very casual, about how to approach the finish.  I think I did 3 versions before it looked right to him.  After that, I sold sporadically for about 6 months before they started buying on a fairly regular basis.

Below: Mr. Ziegler’s first New Yorker drawing, published February 11, 1974

jack-ziegler-1st-new-yorker-drawing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do remember having a hard time for some reason drawing older people – I was in my early thirties at the time and I guess I just couldn’t identify.  After several attempts with one idea, Lee gave up on me and had Whitney Darrow, Jr. do the finish. But I’ve come a long way now and drawing old codgers these days comes naturally.

“Hole: The Original Soundtrack” was a 3-page, 8-picture absurdist spread that the New Yorker bought.  Lee had spread out all the drawings on the floor of his office and we were crawling around among them trying to figure out various sizings.  Lee turned to me and mentioned what a ridiculous way this was for two grown men to be earning a living.  And it was.  He was serious about cartoons and great fun to work with.

MM: I know Charles Addams did at least two of your ideas. [Nevermore and the little mail truck…is that right?]  Were there more — and were there ideas given to anyone else other than the Whitney Darrow you mentioned?

JZ: Nope, that’s it.  Only those 3 – and they all looked great.  I couldn’t have done them better myself – I mean, the Darrow drawing I couldn’t do at all – his version is lovely.

whitney-darrow-idea-by-zieglerLeft: drawing by Whitney Darrow, idea by Jack Ziegler

MM: What did you think of Addams’ versions of your ideas?

JZ: Addams’ Nevermore drawing has a layout that closely follows my original (as I remember it – of course, I never saw it again) – there wasn’t anything much different you could have done with it.  His mail truck version is more elaborate and detailed and far, far better than mine.

MM: You began at the New Yorker with Shawn and you’ve seen Bob Gottlieb, Tina Brown and now David Remnick move into the big chair.  Have any of these changes meant some kind of change for you, your work?

JZ:  There’s always a worry when a new editor takes over, but I never had any major problems with any of them.  I didn’t have to make any adjustments, with the exception of the Gottlieb years.  For some reason, Bob G. didn’t like white space in drawings, so every square centimeter had to be filled with something, sometimes to the detriment of the drawing.  The words in a balloon caption had to rub up against the sides of that balloon.  No air allowed.  Seemed silly to me and the drawings of almost everyone suffered.

Tina Brown was different.  She was an anything-goes girl, the nuttier, the edgier, & sometimes the sexier the drawing, the better.  I submitted a rather rude cartoon, “I just did a huge one in my diaper,” a drawing for the hell of it that I knew the New Yorker would never buy.  But, to my surprise, Tina did and it made me very happy.  I love it when a surprise like that happens.

ziegler-huge-one-in

MM: So what’s the thrill, some forty-three years since you began at the magazine: is it that moment an idea works for you, the drawing itself, selling the drawing, seeing it published in The New Yorker?

JZ:  It’s always a blast when you come up with an idea that you know no one has ever come up with before.  Also, it’s fun just thumbing through a stack of old drawings and coming across something that you’ve totally forgotten about and it makes you laugh out loud.

Selling a drawing is always nice for the bottom line, but the choices of what gets bought are almost invariably a surprise.  Personal favorites rarely get chosen.  Sometimes the worst idea in the batch is bought – and then, once it’s published, it turns out to be a huge hit.  Seeing anything of one’s own in the magazine is always a thrill, no matter how many times it happens – especially if it’s sized correctly.  Judging the value of one’s own work has always been impossible.  And I’ll always have certain favorites among my thousands of children, no matter how crappy everyone else thinks they are.

MM: Not long ago someone asked me how I could come up with ideas without getting out in the world. Do you think it’s necessary to “get out in the world” for your work?

JZ: You certainly have to have some background of having been out in the world, but as far as a day-to-day thing, nah.  I have very little live contact during the week, except for dog walks and buying the newspaper.  I rely on the blank piece of paper on my clipboard to reveal the secrets within.  I had normal jobs and contacts for my ten years between college and cartooning, so I was aware of the ins and outs of daily workplace socializing, so I rely on those not-so-fond memories to get me through the batch.

MM: I know you read everyday before you begin working on drawings.  Does the reading actually translate into drawings or is it something that, let’s say, exercises the brain?

JZ: It’s more a case of getting the brain moving in the morning.  Sometimes ideas spring from that, but mostly not.  After reading, I check out the New York Times, just the first page of each section, to see if anything leaps out at me.  With all the budget cuts and downsizing of that paper over the past few years, there’s far less there, so that formerly useful tool has become kinda useless.  But I still look, just in case.  I rarely get to delve into the interior until lunchtime.

MM: Is there a certain cartoon scenario that your happiest working on/workin in? (marital situations, barbeques, the old west, business people, etc) or are you happiest with whatever you’re working on at the moment?

JZ: Whatever I’m working on at the moment, whatever ideas pop into my head, no matter the genre.  I do like drawing cowboys on horses and almost anything to do with the “Wild West,” however.  Whenever I’m stuck I invariably start drawing guys on horses, and ninety per cent of the time that leads somewhere.

MM:  I love your  drawing of the cowboy kissing the gal while covering his horse’s eyes.  It’s one of those not laugh out loud drawings (although it could be), but some other kind of humor.

j-ziegler-aug-19-1991

JZ: I really like that one too.  My memory of it is that it’s something that emerged totally out of a doodle that I just kept adding things to, including the frame.

MM: I’m not one for dissecting what’s successful, but I think of that as a very successful drawing, an evergreen. Any comment on that drawing, or evergreen drawings in general (as in: do you prefer them to topical drawings?). 

JZ:  I do like drawings where there really isn’t any joke — or kicker, as Sam Gross would say. The cannon in the bushes is like that.  I’m sure a lot of people scratched their heads over that one, but it’s just a cannon poking out of some suburban bushes and that’s all it is. There can be many interpretations.  It amuses me and I have no idea why. I far prefer these types of drawings to topical.  They have a longer shelf life, at least in my own mind.

jz-cannon

MM: The New Yorker‘s current cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff memorably said, “It’s the think, not the ink.”  Agree, disagree?

JZ: Agree.  But it’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw so that they can give us something pleasant and fun to look at.

 

(Photo of Jack Ziegler at the very top of the piece, taken in 1985;  photo of the New Yorker‘s Inner Sanctum, taken in 1991: both courtesy of Liza Donnelly)

A Jack Ziegler selected bibliography:

ziegler4ziegler5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hamburger Madness  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.

Filthy Little Things    Dolphin, 1981.

Marital Blitz   Warner, 1987.

Celebrity Cartoons of the Rich and Famous   Warner, 1987.

Worst Case Scenarios    Fireside, 1990.

The Essential Jack Ziegler (Edited by Lee Lorenz)  Workman Publishing, 2000.

How’s the Squid?   Harry N. Abrams, 2004.

Olive or Twist? Harry N. Abrams, 2004.

ziegler11

ziegler13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gil Roth’s Virtual Memories Ink Spill Podcast

gil-roth-in-our-kitchen-sept-2016From the Department of Self-Promotion:

Gil Roth (shown standing in our kitchen last week) has an awful lot of cartoonists on his podcast,Virtual Memories. He visited recently to tape two more (with Liza Donnelly and myself).  The interview with Ms. Donnelly will show up a few Tuesdays from now, but in the meantime you can hear Gil grill me here.

New Yorker Cartoonists Remember Michael Crawford

This has been an unusually tough year within this peculiar family — this family of New Yorker cartoonists. Within seven months our ranks have been thinned by four:  Frank Modell, William Hamilton, Anatol Kovarsky and now, this past week, Michael Crawford. Michael is remembered below by some of his  cartoonist colleagues. My thanks to all for their contributions.

Note: Link here to Mr. Crawford’s New York Times obit...and here for The New Yorker‘s

 

Drew Dernavich:

crawford card

I made this for Crawford hoping to give it to him this week, but it was not meant to be. It was the only thing I could think of to do. I tried to capture his somewhat bonkers art aesthetic, which I liked a lot, and I thought it might bring a smile to his face.

Take some pitches” is a piece of baseball chatter (which is somewhat amusing in the context of recreational softball, which made it funny, and of course he knew that) which Michael frequently repeated during the New Yorker softball games, which was one place where he really enjoyed himself.

 

Joe Dator:

Mr. Crawford had an absurd space-cadet sense of humor that I always admired. One of his cartoons I’ll never forget was a man walking down the street wearing a  t-shirt that said “Not A Fan Of My Ex Wife’s New Boyfriend”. It’s a simple enough joke but when you look under the hood there’s a lot going on. His logic trail must have been “t-shirts … people wear t-shirts to show what they are a fan of … other people use the passive aggressive term ‘not a fan’ … a person could wear a ‘not a fan’ t-shirt”.

It takes a very supple mind to make those kinds of mental leaps, but that’s pretty much the meaning of creativity. I always think about that cartoon and Michael’s inspiring mental acrobatics.
On a more personal note, it meant a great deal to me that I once surprised him with an off-the-cuff joke. He asked me if a marker I was using was indelible, and I said “I’ve never known it to del” and he looked at me the way you’d look at a cat that suddenly opened a can of food by itself. It has always made me feel good to remember the moment when I must have gotten within hailing distance of his unique wavelength.
Jack Ziegler:
 When visiting at Casa Crawford in Newtown, MA, sometime in the early eighties, my kids would disappear downstairs with his kids into the basement where Michael kept all sorts of found objects in boxes: old castoff bits of wood, metal, office supplies, packaging, nuts and bolts, etc.  It was a workshop dedicated to fun creativity.  I still have the piece that my daughter Jessica created down there, a combined facial portrait of my then wife & me glued down on a slab of wood, she sporting hair curlers made of wine corks and me with a beard of paper clips, both of us with a cigarette butt drooping from our single mouth.  It hangs in my living room and you can’t miss it as you come through the front door.  I always remember that visit each time I walk past it.  Now it’s a treasured Michael Memento.
Ziegler Maslin Crawford Anne[photo: In Boston, 1993 for the opening of Lines of the Times: 50 Years of Great American Cartoons at the Art Institute of Boston. Left to right: Jack Ziegler, Michael Maslin, Michael Crawford, and Anne Hall (now Anne Hall Elser), Lee Lorenz’s long-time Art Assistant  at The New Yorker. Ms. Elser’s wonderful photographs of New Yorker cartoonists, including one of Mr. Crawford in a rowboat,  can be found here].
Liza Donnelly:
I’ve  always thought that The New Yorker is a place for cartoonists who are artists.  That sounds snooty, but it’s not meant to be. People for whom drawing is their medium, but who also love to make people laugh. People who sometimes have ideas that are not just about the laugh and want to express them in a drawing.   This was the work of Michael Crawford. He made us laugh in his cartoons, but they were also little paintings that we just enjoyed looking at. He also created paintings and they were the flip of his drawings. Sometimes his paintings made us laugh.   I loved Crawford’s work, and his embodiment of all this as a person. He was a unique mixture of funny and serious, here and there, present and not present.  He was always kind and generous to me when I saw him, smiling and laughing as if to say, “isn’t this life just nuts?”  He will be sorely missed in the world, but his work remains and it will continue to make us very happy.
Robert Leighton:
The thing that stood out to me about Crawford’s cartoons was the way he depicted married life. There were no thrown toasters in his cartoons. The couples always seemed to be pre- or post-coital. (Often with equipment.) They seemed playful, happy and fulfilled. I’d like to think that this reflected the satisfaction he found in his own life.
Corey Pandolph:

I’ll never forget Michael’s advice and support when I sold my first cartoon to the New Yorker. We were walking to our regular bar after softball and he explained his view of the never-ending grind that is New Yorker cartooning, and how he had batches of cartoons all ready to go in PDF form, in case he needed to send something in last minute. I remember thinking that’s a smart idea and then I remember thinking how surreal it was that I just played softball with Michael Crawford and now he’s giving me cartoon advice at Broadway and 103rd Street.

I’ll never forget the button down shirt and red jeans he wore while diving head first into home plate.

I’ll never forget his birthday party at Fanelli’s and getting tipsy with Drew Dernavich.

I’ll never forget his little red digital camera and how quickly he could get a hipshot of a play, the bench or the team on the sly.

I’ll never forget his paintings he would post on social media. The US maps were my favorite.

I’ll never forget the white shirt he wore one of the last games of the season – It was clearly homemade with a sharpie and read simply “take some pitches”. No one really noticed it, but I did and I can still hear him yelling it to me nearly every time I was at the plate.

I’ll never forget to take some pitches.

Peter Steiner:
When Michael Crawford died, we lost an interesting and gifted artist. He did paintings and cartoons, and his works in both genres were substantial and of a piece. You could recognize his distinctive style in both kinds of work.
 On the occasion of the deaths of Frank Modell and Anatol Kovarsky, Bob Mankoff, the New Yorker cartoon editor wrote Ars longa, vita brevis. For cartoonists, especially long-lived ones like Frank Modell, who died two weeks ago, at the age of ninety-eight, or Anatol Kovarsky, who passed away last week, at ninety-seven, it’s often the other way around. That just comes with the territory. The job of the cartoonist is to connect with your time, for a time, not for all time.”
I think Mankoff is wrong about this.  Cartoons are more than current jokes with a picture attached, or at least they should be.  And while it is true that many, even most, gags grow stale with the times, the best ones don’t.  And when the drawing is interesting and masterful, it lives on and on even as the joke grows stale, just as any interesting painting or drawing or etching does, even though its topic may no longer be “relevant.”  It’s true that very few cartoons rise to that level, but I think good cartoonists aspire to that with each cartoon they make.  That aspiration was true of Crawford’s work whether he was painting or writing/drawing a cartoon.  And sometimes he hit the mark.
Mick Stevens:
I love Michael’s work. He was among the first NYer cartoonists I met when I moved to New York City. I remember him taking a photo of a few of us, all but one relative newcomers to the NYer then, in the anteroom just outside Lee Lorenz’s office. If I recall correctly after all this time, he set up the camera to shoot on a delay, giving him time to join us in the picture. The result is a photo of Jack Ziegler, Sam Gross, myself, Bob Mankoff, (long before Bob became the cartoon editor of the magazine), and Roz Chast. Michael is seen behind us, his smiling face just visible and slightly ghost-like. It seems to me he was always a little shy, always a bit on the periphery, and I only got a few chances to hang out with him over the years, but it was always a quality experience when I did. Michael lived in his own world more than some of us do, I think, and would drop into our worlds only for brief visits. In my experience, he never stuck around long enough.
Mick Steven's Crawford group photo
Tom Toro:
I have a pet theory that if all of the captions from Michael Crawford’s cartoons were put together it would create the great post-modern American novel.  He was certainly one of the cleverest humor writers to ever grace The New Yorker’s pages – sharp, off-beat, always surprising – and yet what was it that he wrote, exactly?  Not gags per se.  Not zingers.  His wit didn’t lean on outlandishness, his jokes weren’t quirky just because.  What he produced were pure Crawfordisms.  They come across as wiser than typical cartoon punchlines, somehow hinting at deeper experiences best left unspoken, like comments that tipsy adults let slip when they think the kids are asleep.  A Crawford one-liner leaves us giddy and curious.  My reaction to his work typically swings during the span of a moment from “I don’t get it” to “It gets me better than I get myself.”  As with the passing of any true original, Crawford cannot be replaced.  Let’s not even try.
Mort Gerberg:

While Michael Crawford was well-known as a wonderful cartoonist by a vast number of people, I’d guess that relatively few thought of him as a “sports guy” who was a terrific softball player.

But that’s the first association I have when I think about Michael, since he and I, beyond being cartooning colleagues, were, more importantly, teammates for over 20 years on the usually- hapless New Yorker softball team. So, in a season of about 10 games, we might have played ball together 200 times.

It’s said that shared adversity often brings people close together, and so, because the New Yorker softball team lost far more often than it won, Michael and I bonded and fretted more about our softball game than striving for OKs [an “OK” is the New Yorker‘s terminology for a bought cartoon] .

The team has been an odd assemblage that shows up in Central Park every Tuesday at 7pm in the summer months.  It’s been made up of two distinct groups: the first, very large, composed of maybe two-dozen Twenty-Something writers, fact-checkers, etc., full of enthusiasm and team spirit, many of whom, however, possessing little knowledge of the rules of the game or an ability to run, throw or hit a ball with a bat; and the second group, much smaller, comprising “the old guys,” meaning anybody over 30, who knew the game and could play it pretty well.

Michael was in the second group, along with myself, occasionally other “oldies” like Mark Singer and Rick Hertzberg and some other editors, and I guess I could safely say that until the last four or so years, Michael was an anchor of the team.

For one thing, he was a regular.  He hated missing a game and he was  missed when he did.  A passionate, baseball fan, he knew everything about the game, so he was a valuable tactician, as well as a sure-handed fielder and a dependable, long-ball hitter who would deliver a big hit to drive in a run in clutch situations.

On and off the field, he served as a coach and leader to those (and there were many) who were coming out to play for the first time.  As soon as he arrived at the field, he’d start warmups, play catch, or start batting practice.  And when the game started, he’d  stay involved in it, even when we’d find ourselves on the short end of a 19-2 score after only two innings.

But Michael made it fun.  When our less-proficient teammates would make errors in the field or strike out at the plate, Michael would still shout encouragement, cheering us all on.  Sure, he wanted to win the game, but, he would remind me, when I got upset over all the messing up, it still was just a game.

Because often 25 people came out to play 10 positions, the coach would rotate players from inning to inning so everyone got a chance to play, but Michael was always the reliable, sure-handed first baseman. Until recently, when I’ve been pitching,  I usually played second base, which meant that sometimes, after I fielded a ground ball, my throw to first might have been off line, but Michael would  grab it for the out.  If a batter hit a spinning pop fly between first and second base, I’d usually defer to Michael’s shout, “I got it!” because I felt that he would be less likely to muff the catch. And if Michael remembered an opposing batter’s previous hit, he might position our players to afford us a better defense.

Michael’s softball presence even extended outside himself.  I remember that after he’d been playing for a few years, Michael’s grown son and daughter showed up at the games — not just to watch Dad but to play themselves.  Not surprisingly, both were solid, in the field and at bat.  It was also not a surprise, after some more years, that Carolita [Johnson] also came to play.  Of course, being the free spirit she is, she participated in her own way, showing up on occasions after a photo shoot, wearing heels, and going out to play right field barefoot …very well.

It occurs to me now, that when Michael was at the softball game, he was totally in the moment, which, when I think about it, did not always seem the case.  Off the field he seemed different.  When I’d see him at normal social situations, like cartoonist gatherings, or on look days at the magazine, Michael might be operating on his own private wave length, there but, you know, not there.  But on the ball field, Michael was always present with everyone else around him.  Talking it up at first base, digging in at the plate, shouting encouragement to runners or batters if he was coaching at first or third.  And, if he wasn’t “playing” in those roles, he would be roaming around the field taking photographs.  Photos of the action.  Photos of us playing.  Photos of us  just hanging out.  Baseball photos, probably thousands of them, many of which probably wound up in his paintings and cartoons.  A seamless blending of two of Michael’s greatest passions — baseball and art.

So, a salute to a teammate, and a remembrance of a Most Valuable Player.

opening day 2014[Mr. Crawford, far left, with members of The New Yorker‘s softball team, celebrating an opening day victory]

New York Times on The American Bystander & The Neu Jorker

18fdac44003742b2d8945d6027284ce9_originalHere’s the New York Times weighing in on the second issue of The American Bystander as well as another publication orbiting around The New Yorker, The Neu Jorker.

The late Charles Barsotti’s work can be found sprinkled throughout the Bystander as well as on its cover (and what a cover!). Also in the issue are a number of New Yorker cartoonists including Jack Ziegler, Liza Donnelly, Roz Chast, Ken Krimstein, Farley Katz, Peter Kuper, Mick Stevens, Shannon Wheeler, P.S. Mueller and Tom Toro.

Mick Stevens Pencilled

Mick Stevenstumblr_inline_o9fzp3rl351sj0qh6_500

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mick Stevens is  next in a very long line of New Yorker cartoonists sharing their tools of the trade on Jane Mattimoe’s wonderful blog, A Case For Pencils.

See it here.

[above & below: Mr. Stevens, and his very first New Yorker cartoon, published December 17, 1979]

Peter Steiner: The Ink Spill Interview

PS selfpor w:camera

I first met Peter Steiner in 1984 at an impromptu party thrown the night of The New Yorker’s annual anniversary bash (at the Pierre on the corner of 5th Avenue at 59th Street). Following the festivities in the hotel’s grand ballroom, a bunch of cartoonists made their way west to the other side of Central Park to a much smaller space: Liza Donnelly’s apartment on 79th Street. Roz Chast and her husband, New Yorker writer, Bill Franzen were there as was Richard Cline —  I believe Mick Stevens was there as well. Jack Ziegler was certainly there (he and I left the apartment at some point on a beer run, walking up to a bodega on Columbus Avenue). And Peter Steiner was there. His incisive wit was immediately evident as was his ability to stray from cartoon-talk. Less than a decade later he would go on to make New Yorker cartoon history by  authoring On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” — the most reprinted drawing in the magazine’s history. And about a decade after that he began to carve out another career, as a novelist. This was a rare pursuit for a New Yorker cartoonist.  We’ve had just a few outside-of-the-box colleagues (James Thurber of course, and the late William Hamilton was a playwright as well as a novelist.  Lou Myers did a fair share of non-cartoon writing as well).

I spoke with Peter this past week, thinking it was a perfect time to catch up with him as he ventures afield again, this time as a graphic novelist, with the publication of An Atheist in Heaven.

 

Michael Maslin: Let’s begin with the present. We’ll eventually work our way around to the past. Your fifth novel, The Capitalist was published this past February, and you’ve followed it three months later with An Atheist in Heaven. Is this an unusually productive period for you, or is this your norm?

 

Peter Steiner: Well, it actually seems like a more productive period than it was.  I finished writing The Capitalist a couple of years ago, then there was the final editing process, then it sat for a good year and half at the publisher (St. Martin’s Press) before it finally came out.  So, a while after I was finished with the book, I came on the idea of an Atheist in Heaven and started drawing.  That was in the spring of 2014.  It took me about a year to do. It’s pretty much a coincidence that they came out so close together.

 

Q: It’s not easy — nor necessary really — to pigeonhole you as a writer, a cartoonist, a painter, an editorial cartoonist, a graphic novelist (now with An Atheist in Heaven). Are any of those callings greater to you than the others or are they all relatively equal. Do you wake up each morning and think, today I’m painting? Or today I’m writing? Or today I’m working on a drawing? Where does the day’s direction come from?

 

Atheist

A:  I tend to work in one medium or another—painting, writing—for long periods.  So when I’m working on a novel, I’m not painting.  And usually I won’t paint until I’ve finished the novel.  And likewise when I’m painting, I keep painting until I feel the urge to move back to writing. That can last a year or longer.  When I’ve tried to write in the middle of painting  it throws me off, and visa versa. Cartoons, being a smaller medium (in time, not in importance), get sprinkled about as the spirit moves me.  The year I was working on An Atheist in Heaven came after the writing of The Capitalist.  And now I’m looking forward to starting to paint again. 

 

Q: Looking at the self-portrait series of paintings on your website I see seeds of the kind of drawing that fill An Atheist in Heaven. By that I mean the work seems to be cinematic. The question is: are you finding that your recent cartoons are at all influenced by the drawings in the book, i.e., are you drawing differently?

 

A:  I hadn’t thought of the interplay of painting and cartoons.  I’ve always tried to make my cartoons cinematic, if you want to call it that.  I like interesting settings with particular details, odd angles and dramatic lighting.  Since doing cartoons on my blog I’ve started using pencil for both shading and color, and that continued into my drawing of Atheist. Pencil is more painterly than water color washes; you get more texture sort of like brush strokes in a painting.  And doing color, you can mix color or lay down layers of color on top of one another with exciting effect.

 

Q: Without going into the Atheist story line too much, I have to say it pulled me in right away and then felt carried along quickly on a great ride. Is that was it was like writing it? Was it an express train kind of experience for you?

 

A:  I wrote the text for Atheist very quickly, over the course of a couple of days, without doing any drawings at all or knowing what the drawings were going to be like.  Then I set to work on the drawings, page by page without having any plan or sense how it would develop.  I drew entire pages, rather than individual panels that would need fitting together.  I had no plan, not even from one page to the next.  I drew with ink and, at the beginning, on various kinds of paper.  I also tried out different color methods.  The drawings were rough and a little crude; so was the script.  I wanted it to look handmade and unrefined.  I decided to leave some corrections visible.  The main character evolved as I went along, developing more specific facial and body features.  And the various settings evolved too, becoming more and more involved.  And, yes, it was an express train kind of experience that carried me along.  I tried to keep struggle out of it and just enjoy the experience.  And in that regard, at least, I succeeded.

 

Q: Let’s rewind a good deal to the period just before you began trying to get your drawings into the New Yorker. When was that and what were you doing at that point in your life?

page from Atheist

[Left: a page from An Atheist in Heaven]

 

A:  I sold my first cartoon to the New Yorker in 1979.  (I know that because I looked it up; I’m not good at remembering dates.)  I was living in Watkinsville, Georgia at the time and had moved there from Pennsylvania the year before.  I had just given up my professorship at Dickinson College in order to be an artist full time.  We had bought our first home, a big rambling farm house with a wonderful if delapidated barn and a lovely grove of huge pecan trees.  I was painting seriously and was submitting cartoons every week to the New Yorker.  I had been since leaving teaching, maybe even before leaving teaching.  (Again, I can’t remember exactly.)  I was drawing cartoons for the local paper, a weekly called the Oconee Enterprise for $25 each. I had sold some cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post and the Saturday Review, but the New Yorker was the big prize I was aiming for, and when I hit the bulls eye I was elated.

 

Q: Can you describe your entry into the New Yorker, both the first cartoon published, and the first time (or first few times) you traveled to Manhattan and visited the offices. Did you meet with Lee Lorenz [the magazine’s Art Editor at the time] right away; did you meet other cartoonists at the office?

 

Steiner 1st july 9 '79[left: Peter Steiner’s first New Yorker drawing, in the issue of July 9, 1979]

 

A: When I was 25 or so (about 1965), headed for grad school and about to be married, I was in New York on my way to Maine, and I stopped at the New Yorker with about 75 or eighty roughs. I had been getting cartoons in various small publications, but didn’t think of cartooning as a career or even a job. Of course there was a woman guarding the door who told me I couldn’t see the editor—was that still Geraghty? [James Geraghty was Lorenz’s predecessor as Art Editor, in that position from 1939 through 1974], but I could leave them for him to look at and pick them up the next week.  I was only there for a day, so, for whatever reason I decided not to leave them.  Who knows how it could have changed my life if I had left them.  The next time I was there was fifteen years later–1979 or 80 with at least one sale under my belt—A Swiss guy with an Alpenhorn, and some cows saying to him, “For heaven’s sake, we’re right here.”  I did meet Lee Lorenz then.  I was very reverent and awed by the whole New Yorker thing, and being let in was like arriving at Mecca.  I would come back every few months—I was living in Georgia, and over those first few times met lots of cartoonists.  I mostly remember those older cartoonists who were nice to me–Arthur Getz, Joe Mirachi, Sam Gross.  Of course I met Jack Ziegler, Mick Stevens, Bob Mankoff, Roz Chast, and then we all went for lunch at the worst restaurants in the neighborhood.  I don’t remember whether you and I met there or not [see the introduction above].

Q: I believe I’ve heard you mention (in interviews, or perhaps in earlier conversations with me) that there are certain New Yorker cartoonists that you consider (my word) exceptional. Can you mention a few, and briefly tell us why they stand out so for you?

A:  When I think of “exceptional” cartoonists, I mean my favorites, those whose work would lift my spirits.  And most of my favorites are the beautiful drawers—Gluyas Williams; Helen Hokinson; Arno, of course; Steinberg; Addams; Charles Saxon; Bob Weber; Booth.  I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten to mention.  Their drawings are lovely to look at, each in its own way.

Q: Before I let you return to your painting, writing, and drawing, do you foresee more written work in the Atheist in Heaven vein (i.e., text and graphics)?  I’m hoping you say ‘yes’.

A:  I don’t have another drawn book in mind, but it was so interesting and amusing doing an Atheist in Heaven that I can’t imagine not doing it again.  I’ll let you know when I start something.

 

To see more of Peter Steiner’s drawings and  paintings, including more self-portraits like the one at the top of this piece, visit his website: plsteiner.com

To read more about his latest book, An Atheist in Heaven, go here.

Besides An Atheist in Heaven, Mr. Steiner has published five novels of a series, the latest being The Capitalist. In 1994 he published a collection of cartoons, I Didn’t Bite the Man, I Bit the Office.

Peter's Capitalist STEINER1photo-9