The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker (Double) Issue of December 18th & 25th, 2017

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

By now, observant social media types (and/or Spill visitors) have had four days to digest the latest issue’s cover.  Our current President as Scrooge, and in the background, one of his former associates singing, like a canary(?). As this is a double issue we’ll have to wait til Christmas morning for a new issue. Bah! Humbug!

True story:  Yesterday late afternoon I was in our local grocery store — the sole customer in the yogurt, cheese, butter section of a very long aisle.  I was looking to buy cheese sticks (some people call it string cheese). As I haven’t shopped for cheese sticks in a very long time, I needed to pause in front of what seemed like too many choices. Looking back on it now, I suppose I was momentarily in my own cheese stick bubble, unaware of anything or anyone else.

I’d finally given up trying to make the “right” choice and was leaning in to grab a package of sticks off the wall display when suddenly a black shape appeared directly in front of my face, blocking my vision. I grasped, rather quickly, that the black shape was the sleeve of a winter coat.  The rest of the coat belonged to a fellow customer who, unbeknownst to me, had been in the aisle waiting patiently for me to choose a cheese. Her patience having run out, she made a move deep into my “personal space” throwing her arm across my face to grab her cheese sticks of choice.  Startled by the sudden turn out the lights moment, I drew back, and turned to see a smiling face. I smiled too, then I laughed. Then she laughed too.

In many ways this is the experience I hope for when I take a first look at the cartoons in every new issue of the New Yorker. The very best moments are those that take me completely by surprise, then make me laugh. Peter Arno likened the surprise moment to a “one-two” punch: looking at the drawing, then reading the caption. When the two work perfectly together: Pow!   Sometimes it’s much much less than a pow — it’s an “ow” (sorry!). Usually though, cartoons (the drawing itself, or the caption) work somewhere between the extremes of “pow” and “ow.”

This week’s issue contains several fun moments (and a few ‘Pows”). I’m going to cite those particular drawings in an informal list, rather than mentioning each and every drawing in the issue.

  The first drawing in the issue, placed at the close of the Table of Contents just below the list of Artists (placing cartoons there is a Tina Brown era confection) is by Edward Koren. Mr. Koren’s expertise is on full display here. Part of enjoying a drawing, at least for me, is the feeling that the cartoonist was enjoying him or herself while drawing.  This is a beautiful drawing — an excellent way to lead off the issue.

David Sipress‘s drawing, on page 49, has a terrific caption right out of the Charles Saxon, George Booth mold.  Mr. Sipress has delivered a poetic and funny twist for a moment many have experienced.  

P.C. Vey‘s drawing on page 62. Not too many dry cleaner drawings in the New Yorker‘s 92 years. This is quite simply a funny drawing. The word “slob” in the caption delivers the “pow!”

Kim Warp‘s prison escape drawing (p. 67) is fun. I love the effort put into this drawing.  A funny moment:  the caption was at first not in sight (i.e., cut off) when I saw this drawing on my tablet.   I thought the drawing worked captionless (the idea that one of the escaping convicts is videoing his co-escapee being caught coming out of the hole in the ground).

Maggie Larson‘s captionless drawing on page 78. A situation plenty of folks can relate to.  Visually (graphically) it reminded me of this great Otto Soglow drawing from the issue of May 7, 1932:

Joe Dator‘s drawing on page 80.  The caped eye-patched fellow speaking is so interesting, as is the scenario Mr. Dator has drawn. I like being sucked in to a cartoonist’s world.

William Haefeli‘s lovely Christmas morning drawing (p.87). Another drawing, like Mr. Sipress’s that many can relate to. 

Liana Fincks drawing (p. 88).  This one needed to be seen on my laptop as the words were tough to see on the tablet. But worth switching devices for. A fun drawing. 

Thomas Cheney‘s drawing (p. 96).  An evergreen drawing.  If I was handing out ribbons like they do over on the Cartoon Companion, I’d be handing out a ribbon: the caption provided a “pow!”

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Notes:

  • Sadly, Rea Irvin’s Talk of the Town masthead (below) has yet to return.  Fingers crossed that someday it does.

  • A follow-up to one of last week’s newbie cartoonists, Mary Lawton. Ms. Lawton has informed the Spill that she submitted to the magazine for 30 years before seeing her first drawing published in its print edition. I believe that that is the longest effort on record (submitting before publication, not just submitting).
  • In this week’s issue, another newbie: Pia Guerra. If you’re keeping track, that makes 11 new cartoonists in Emma Allen’s first 8 months as cartoon editor.

— see you here Christmas day (or possibly, Boxing Day), for the issue of January 1, 2018. 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty in Pink: The New Yorker’s 25th Anniversary Album; More Spills: Moore Tweets Out a Ziegler… More Soglow

Judging by what I’ve noticed over many years of visiting used book stores, The New Yorker 25th Anniversary Album must have been the most popular in the series of their cartoon anthologies. This is the one you’re likely to find if you find any at all. Bonus: it’s easily found online for just a few bucks. The Album sports a series of firsts on the cover: the first time a monochrome Eustace Tilley appeared on an Album (the next time he would appear this close to so much solid color was on the magazine’s 60th Anniversary issue.  Then editor, Tina Brown presented Eustace surrounded by, um, gold). 

The 25th Album was the first to reproduce a number of full cartoons on the cover (minus the captions, which due to the size of each cartoon shown, would’ve been virtually impossible to read without a magnifying glass. The exception is John Held, Jr.’s work where the text is within the piece).  And it was the first to be divided into sections: The Late Twenties, The Early Thirties, The Late Thirties, The Early Forties, and The Late Forties.

All the big names are here, of course, and so are some of the most memorable cartoons in the magazine’s history, including Thurber’s Seal in the Bedroom, Addams’ skier, and Arno’s “Well, back to the old drawing board.”  This is the Album for anyone who has heard about the New Yorker‘s Golden Age, and wants to know what all the fuss was about.

The design of the book is excellent, with paper of good quality, allowing for Gluyas Williams’ masterpieces, run full page, to glow.  Arno’s brushstrokes look as if he just swept them across the page fifteen minutes ago. On the pages where a number of cartoons appear, the layout is handled with great care, never too busy; each page was obviously fussed over by someone (or someones) who knew what they were doing. Just look at the graphic balancing act directly below:

The contributors are a Who’s Who of the magazine’s pantheon of great artists, including the founders, and the ones who showed up while Harold Ross was still messing around with the ingredients.  Steig’s Small Fry are here, as is Soglow’s Little King.  Helen Hokinson’s Club Ladies are generously presented, as are spreads by Rea Irvin, and and and…gee willikers, so much more (to see more scroll down to the back cover’s list of artists).  This is one of the very best Albums of cartoons the magazine ever produced (as another 67 years have passed since its publication it shares the top shelf with a few others). 

The flap text (above) reminds us that the cartoons are a record of the times. I’ll go along with that. As the magazine moves closer to its 100th year it’s essential for the cartoons to change with the times and reflect the times. I expect that the Introduction to The New Yorker’s 100th Anniversary Album will express something close to that sentiment, if not exactly that.

If you’ve read Genius In Disguise, Thomas Kunkel’s great biography of Harold Ross, you might remember that book’s prologue has a wonderful section devoted to the party at the Ritz-Carleton celebrating the New Yorker‘s 25th Anniversary. It was a party, wrote Kunkel, “celebrating accomplishment, about creating something of enduring importance.”  

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Michael Moore Tweeted out a drawing this morning by the late Jack Ziegler that’s right on the money (so to speak):

— My thanks to Bruce Eric Kaplan for bringing this to the Spill’s attention.

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…A lot More Soglow

Attempted Bloggery has posted a cart full of rare Otto Soglow drawings (some of them are what used to be referred to as “naughty” — nowadays we’d call them not-PC. ) 

 

 

The Latest New Yorker Cartoons Rated; Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Pt. 25: Peter Arno, Pt. 2; An Otto Soglow Wartime Original; Applause Applause! Julia Wertz

The Latest New Yorker Cartoons Rated

And they’re off! “Max” & “Simon” dive into the latest New Yorker cartoons, apprising and rating as they go.  I noticed a lot of “4”s handed out this time around (and one “6” — the tippy-top number of their system).

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Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Pt. 25: Peter Arno, Pt. 2

We continue the ad series with Peter Arno’s second solo appearance (his was the first in the series. Arno always needs to be first).  My thanks, as usual, to Warren Bernard for all of his work and generosity in sharing these pieces with the Spill folk.   What is shown here, according to Mr. Bernard, is promo work for newspapers. As you can see, the drawings contain clues. The reader is supposed to put 2 and 2 together to come up with a proper name. In the first drawing the reader sees “All Benny” and comes up with “Albany”…and so on.   Someone has helpfully provided the solution below each drawing. We don’t have dates for these pieces but judging by the style and signature, I’d place the work somewhere in the very early 1930s. If someone can be more precise, please advise.

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More Soglow from Attempted Bloggery

Otto Soglow’s name continues to pop up here on the Spill, and that’s mostly due to Stephen Nadler’s wonderful site, Attempted Bloggery wherein he presents scans of original art, explores auctioned cartoon pieces, and shows us off-the-beaten-path New Yorker cartoon materials, among other fun stuff. Here’s yet another recent Soglow post from Mr. Nadler (a portion of the drawing he’s focused on is shown above). 

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Applause, Applause!

The New York Times has named Julia Wertz’s Tenements,Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City (Black Dog & Leventhal) as one of its 100 Notable Books of 2017.  The Spill heartily congratulates Ms. Wertz. 

 

 

Just Opened! Library of Congress Exhibit “Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists; Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Pt. 24: Otto Soglow’s Pudding Drawings; More Spills: Weyant and Twohy

Library of Congress Exhibit: Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists

From the LOC’s press release:

Original works by women cartoonists and illustrators are featured in a new exhibition opening at the Library of Congress on Nov. 18. Spanning the late 1800s to the present, “Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists” brings to light remarkable but little-known contributions made by North American women to these art forms.

Among the artists represented are New Yorker contributors Roberta MacDonald, Helen Hokinson, Liza Donnelly, Peggy Bacon, Roz Chast, and Anita Kunz.

Details here.

Above: March 1920 Vanity Fair cover by Anne Harriet Fish.

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Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Pt. 24: Otto Soglow’s Pudding Drawings.

Here are three Royal Pudding ads by the great Otto Soglow.  All feature his iconic “Little King”;  for those wanting more Soglow I suggest finding a copy of the fab Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow & The Little King,  edited by Dean Mullaney (IDW, 2012). I’ve shown the cover below the ads.

All these pudding ads ran in 1955.  As has been the case with a very large percentage of the Spill’New Yorker ads series, my thanks go to Warren Bernard for his generosity.

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Two books of note.  One out in January and one not out for awhile. Both for kids.

Christopher Weyant has illustrated Laura Gehl’s My Pillow Keeps Moving (Viking Books for Young Readers).  Due in mid January 2018.

Mike Twohy‘s Stop! Go! Yes, No!: A Story of Opposites (Balzer & Bray) due in August of 2018.   Cover art not yet available

 

 

 

Smilby Cartoons Auctioned; New Yorker cartoon editor (and associate cartoon editor) Sing; Soglow Covers Judge

Smilby Cartoons Auctioned

From the Rugby & Letterworth Observer, November 17, 2017 “Rugby Cartoonist’s Playboy Art Raises Eyebrows at Auction”  — this piece on auctioned work by the late cartoonist Francis Wilford-Smith, known professionally as Smilby. His work appeared in the New Yorker from 1962 through 1971.

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New Yorker cartoon editor (and associate cartoon editor) Sing

In this week’s episode of  “Cartoons, Etc.” there’s singing.  See it here. (on the left is Emma Allen, the magazine’s cartoon editor, and on the right, Colin Stokes, the  associate cartoon editor).

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Soglow Covers Judge

More fun stuff over on Attempted Bloggery.  See the great Otto (“Little King”) Soglow’s color work on the cover of Judge here.

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.