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. 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“All Right — Go Ahead and Look at Your Old Pictures!” — Robert Benchley in His Foreword to The Fourth New Yorker Album

The Fourth New Yorker Album of drawings, published in 1931 by Doubleday Doran, was the fourth Album to appear in four years (the first Album was published in 1928).  Four in four years! The cover, originally a New Yorker cover (for the issue of January 4, 1930 — see directly below) is the handiwork of the one-and-only Rea Irvin, the fellow responsible for Eustace Tilley, as well as the fellow responsible for adapting the typeface now referred to as the Irvin Typeface…and last but not least of all: the fellow who, in his role as the New Yorker‘s art supervisor, “rubbed most of the uncouthness and corn-love out of [Harold] Ross’s mind in the all afternoon Tuesday art conferences…Irvin educated Ross; all afternoon, weekly, for nearly two years.” (according to Philip Wylie, the magazine’s first “bona fide applicant”).

The Foreword, by Robert Benchley is, of course, priceless.  It includes these memorable moments:

 “As a constant though erratic contributor of text matter to the New Yorker and one or two other publications, I feel that I am in a position to state the (to me) distressing fact that the average magazine reader looks only at the drawings.”

“There is something consecutive about the drawings in the New Yorker, like salted almonds. You finish with one and you must go right on to the next just as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Benchley concludes with: “All right — go ahead and look at your old pictures!”

The old pictures — just a year old at most — are fantastic.  The Album leads off with a full page Peter Arno (by now the New Yorker‘s star cartoonist) and ends in what I find to be one of the sweetest final pages in all of the magazine’s Albums.  It’s not a grand exercise in drawing, or a famous drawing or a drawing with a caption that captures the times (it being 1931, there certainly could’ve been a statement made about the Great Depression.  But, ah!  Mr. Irvin’s cover of the overblown rich gent accomplished that).  The final drawing, by Alan Dunn (shown below) is just 2 1/4″ x 3″ (centered on an 8 1/2″x 11″ page):

Placed as the Album’s last drawing I can’t help but think its meant to mean something beyond two little kids sitting on a curb who have just become friends, or as Neil Young sang, “There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.” Perhaps (perhaps!) it was representative of a confident young magazine slyly addressing a loyal readership.

In between Mr. Arno’s drawing on the first page and Mr. Dunn’s drawing on the last page are an abundance of spectacular drawings. And by that I’m not referring to just the drawing —  I mean the whole cartoon: caption + drawing (as well as those gems that work perfectly without a caption). There are of course, some drawings with meanings lost to time, a clunker here and there, and a number that are not politically correct.  But no matter — they are instructive as an unvarnished graphic record of a time, and as a study in the art of the cartoonists themselves: the early Thurber drawings that inspired Dorothy Parker to refer to them as “unbaked cookies”;  Arno’s drawings at the tail end of his Daumier-inspired period, just before he swung into Rouault’s camp;  masterful drawings by, among others, Garrett Price, Ralph Barton, Helen Hokinson, Wallace Morgan, William Steig, Carl Rose, Gardner Rea, and Gluyas Williams (of course!). Below are just a few examples of the art within the Fourth:

 

The back of the Album is a first: an advertisement for another New Yorker publication: The New Yorker Scrapbook, comprised of “text matter” to use Mr. Benchley’s words. Despite the ad exhibiting glimpses of art, there is not a single drawing in the Scrapbook, not even a spot.

 

Perhaps this is as good a time as any in this Sunday series to drag out an essay I wrote back in 2008 (slightly updated this morning), “The Art Meeting: A Potted History.” Many of the albums discussed here, thus far, and those to come, exhibit work chosen under the magazine’s earliest editorial “process” during the magazine’s first 25 years. The format changed in 1952, with William Shawn’s installation as the magazine’s editor.  That model (or at least a version of that model)  is still in place today. Two very different ways of choosing the magazine’s art, both worth examining:

It’s tempting to believe that the structure of The New Yorker’s Art Department arrived fully formed in 1924 when Harold Ross, with his wife Jane Grant began pulling together his dream magazine. But of course, such was not the case.

What we know for certain is that once the first issue was out, Ross and several of his newly hired employees began meeting every Tuesday afternoon to discuss the incoming art submissions. The very first art meetings consisted of Ross, his Art Director, Rea Irvin, Ross’s secretary, Helen Mears, and Philip Wylie, the magazine’s first utility man. In no short order, Ralph Ingersoll, hired in June of ’25 joined the art meeting, and later still, Katharine White (then Katharine Angell), hired in August of ’25, began sitting in.

From James Thurber’s account in The Years With Ross we get a good idea of what took place at the meeting, which began right after lunch and ended at 6 pm:

In the center of a long table in the art meeting room a drawing board was set up to display the week’s submissions…Ross sat on the edge of a chair several feet away from the table, leaning forward, the fingers of his left hand spread upon his chest, his right hand holding a white knitting needle which he used for a pointer…Ross rarely laughed outright at anything. His face would light up, or his torso would undergo a spasm of amusement, but he was not at the art meeting for pleasure.

William Maxwell, who joined The New Yorker’s staff in 1936, told the Paris Review in its Fall 1982 issue:

Occasionally Mrs. White would say that the picture might be saved if it had a better caption, and it would be returned to the artist or sent to E. B. White, who was a whiz at this… Rea Irvin smoked a cigar and was interested only when a drawing by Gluyas Williams appeared on the stand.

And from Dale Kramer’s Ross and The New Yorker:

When a picture amused him Irvin’s eyes brightened, he chuckled, and often, because none of the others understood art techniques, gave a little lecture. There would be a discussion and a decision. If the decision was to buy, a price was settled on. When a picture failed by a narrow margin the artist was given a chance to make changes and resubmit it. Irvin suggested improvements that might be made, and Wylie passed them on to the artists.

In a letter to Thurber biographer, Harrison Kinney, Rogers Whitaker, a New Yorker contributor from 1926 – 1981, described the scene in the magazine’s offices once the art meeting ended:

The place was especially a mess after the weekly art meeting. The artists, who waited for the verdicts, scrambled for desk space where they could retouch their cartoons and spots according to what Wylie, or Katharine Angell, told them Ross wanted done.

Wylie was one of many artist “hand-holders” – the bridge between the editors and the artists. Some others who held this position were Thurber (briefly, in 1927), Wolcott Gibbs, Scudder Middleton, and William Maxwell. According to Maxwell, Katharine White’s hand-holding duties were eventually narrowed to just Hokinson and Peter Arno, the magazine’s prized artists.

Lee Lorenz wrote in his Art of The New Yorker that, in the earliest years, the look of the magazine:

had been accomplished without either an art editor in the usual sense or the support of anything one could reasonably call an art department.

That changed in 1939 when former gagman, James Geraghty was hired. As with so much distant New Yorker history, there’s some fuzziness concerning exactly what Geraghty was hired to do. Geraghty, in his unpublished memoir, wrote that he took the job “without any inkling” of what was required of him. There’ve been suggestions in numerous accounts of New Yorker history, that Geraghty was hired as yet another in the lengthening line of artist hand-holders, in this case, succeeding William Maxwell, who was increasingly pre-occupied with his own writing as well as his editorial duties under Katharine White.

Geraghty, in his memoir, recalled his first art meeting and the awkwardness of sitting next to Rea Irvin: two men seemingly sharing one (as yet unofficial, unnamed) position: Art Editor. While E.B. White and others continued to “tinker” with captions, Geraghty began spending one day a week working exclusively on captions. He also adopted the idea that he was the Artists’ “representative” at meetings, following Ross’s assurance that Geraghty was being paid “to keep the damned artists happy.”

With these new components, the art meeting committee model stayed in place until the death of Ross in December of 1951. When William Shawn officially succeeded Ross in January of 1952, he pared the meeting to two participants: Shawn, and Geraghty.

With Geraghty’s retirement in 1973, and Lee Lorenz’s appointment as Art Editor, the art meetings continued with Lorenz and Shawn. Shawn’s successor, Robert Gottlieb and then Tina Brown, subdivided the Art Department, creating a Cartoon Editor, an Art Editor (for covers) and an Illustration Editor. Lorenz, who was in the midst of these modern day changes, lays them out in detail in his Art of The New Yorker.

Today, the Shawn model Art Meeting continues, with the current editor, David Remnick looking through the pile of drawings the current cartoon editor, Emma Allen, has distilled from the mountain submitted to the magazine. The cartoonists no longer wait outside the Art Meeting’s door for the verdict on their work, but I assure you: wherever they are on a Friday afternoon (when the artists are notified if they’ve sold a drawing): they’re waiting.

— originally posted, February 18, 2012

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of December 11, 2017; Event of Note: “How To Read Nancy” Authors at The Society of Illustrators; A “More Spills” Correction Re: Jack Ziegler

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

Up above, in red, I use the word “meandering”; after this morning’s look- through of the new issue  I double-checked my usage.  “Aimless” is a good part of the definition (as I sensed when I first used the word “meandering” to describe the Tilley Watch) — as in “aimlessly moving through” something or someplace.  Aimlessly wandering through is exactly what the Monday Tilley Watch is all about.  It’s not a critique of the cartoons (or drawings as traditionalists refer to them), although there’s sometimes a critical ‘tude lurking within the paragraphs.

I wander through each issue as I might wander through a bakery or book store, appreciating this or that and ignoring that or this.  You never know as you pass by books or baked goods what might attract you — plenty of it is just a blur.   And so it was with this new issue. This is a different Monday Tilley Watch because I’m not going to go drawing by drawing, I’m only going to mention a few things I saw that attracted me.  Just like at a bakery, these are the things I might think about for a  while once I’ve walked out of the store. For instance, I’m still thinking about these cookies I saw yesterday in our local supermarket’s bakery:

And now on to the issue: first, the “spot drawings”;  I’ve not mentioned spots much, if at all.  They tell a story (a modern thing: they didn’t through most of the magazine’s history) but admittedly I don’t follow the stories they tell.  I look at them as I page through the magazine and if they’re pleasing I note that they are. I find this issue’s spot drawings exceptionally pleasing (again, I didn’t follow the story being told).  But story or no story, they’re lovely. The spot artist is Clo’e Floirat

Also of note are Tom Bachtell‘s Talk of the Town drawings.  I’ve mentioned him before, and with good reason.  His work is a welcome modern tradition.

Among this weeks cartoonists is Jon Adams who(m?) I owe an apology to.  I noted last week that he was making his debut (with the Michelin Man drawing).  Wrong. He made his debut this Fall in the October 2nd issue of The New Yorker.  In the Spill‘s ongoing count of Emma Allen’s newbies (Ms. Allen is the magazine’s cartoon editor) Mr. Adams is one of 8 cartoonists introduced in 8 months.  Slightly keeping ahead of the average of one newbie a month, there are two debuts in this issue:  Mary Lawton and Maggie Mull, who are  Ms. Allen’s 9th and 10th new cartoonists. (sorry, I cannot find a website for either cartoonist. Please let me know if either or both have one).  If 10 sounds like a lot of new creative blood we should remember that her predecessor introduced approximately 130 cartoonists. 

Here for the record are this week’s cartoonists:

Ps:  what I wish I did see as I looked through the issue is Rea Irvin’s classic masthead for The Talk of The Town (shown below). Alas, it’s been shuffled off to Buffalo, or wherever classic mastheads are shuffled off to. 

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Event of Note: How To Read Nancy Authors at The Society of Illustrators

Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden join Columbia’s Karen Green at The Society.  Details here!

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A More Spills Correction

My colleague,  Joe Dator has Tweeted a correction to the  Jack Ziegler drawing mentioned here yesterday.

Here’s Mr. Dator’s Tweet:

 

 

 

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 Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of November 27, 2017

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

I’ve spent a little time this morning looking through New Yorker Thanksgiving covers over the years. My all-time favorite — it’s the only cover I ever detached from the magazine (for shame!) so I could hang it on the wall — was Steinberg’s from 1976 (the same year he produced the now iconic so-called view from New York cover). His Thanksgiving cover, to my way of thinking, was and is the New Yorker cover at its best (not including Rea Irvin’s very first cover) — and I believe it was Steinberg at his best.  Disagree with me if you’d like, but you’ll never change my mind.

There have been many other great New Yorker  Thanksgiving covers, so very many.  I saw some beauties this morning  by George Booth, one by Anatol Kovarsky, Arnie Levin, Peter Arno, Frank Modell(!), James Stevenson, CEM (Charles E. Martin), William Steig…and on and on.  Gems all. Someone should do a book of them.

This Monday Tilley Watch will be a little different than the ones that have come before. For most, this is a busy week, with a lot of rushing around.  I actually saw people rushing around while I was in a grocery store yesterday.  In that spirit (of rushing) I’m going to mention just five drawings in this new issue (there are 19, with a full page “Comic Strip” by Edward Steed making the total 20). For more on the others I suggest visiting the Cartoon Companion at week’s end [to those who have asked if the Spill is affiliated with the Companion, the answer is nay.  We’re in touch, but their numbered opinions are strictly their own]

And now on to the five:  the first is BEK’s (Bruce Eric Kaplan) drawing (it’s on page 39).  Wonderful caption, perfectly capturing the mood (for many) of the times.  Four pages later, on page 42, a terrific commuter drawing by David Sipress.  Mr. Sipress delivers a drawing that lives up to Peter Arno’s high-bar one-two punch test.  On the opposite page another winner by Liana Finck. She has a knack for taking us away in fairy tale situations. Moving on to page 76, a cartoon by the ever-reliable Paul Noth.  I love that Mr. Noth has put so much into his Thanksgiving football drawing.  Opposite the Noth cartoon, a feast for the eyes: an Edward Koren drawing. Mr. Koren is our longest active contributing artist, having first published in the New Yorker in 1962. 

The “mix” of these drawings is what has always been one of my favorite parts of that first look through every issue of the magazine. Great writing, combined with interesting, oft-times exceptional drawing.

Final notes: Regular Monday Tilley Watch readers perhaps have grown weary of my unrelenting campaign to bring back the Rea Irvin Talk of The Town masthead to the magazine.  Sorry to disappoint, but here it is again:

 To me, removing Mr. Irvin’s creation from the magazine is akin to removing the top of the Chrysler building and replacing it with the top of Philadelphia’s One Liberty Place :

Further note:  debut appearances in this week’s issue by Emma Hunsinger and Sofia Warren, bring the number of new cartoonists introduced under Emma Allen’s cartoon editorship to seven — an average of one new cartoonist a month (Ms. Allen began editing the cartoons this past May).  

 

80 Years Ago: The 1937 New Yorker Album; Booth on CBS Sunday Morning

Here’s an early New Yorker oddity in the line of the Albums published.  It’s the first published for a specific year.  There were later annual Albums  (1940, 1942, and much much later 2007, 2008, and 2009).  Curious that, for the first time there is no foreword.  Perhaps the editors thought they’d take a break after the highly interesting double foreword to The Seventh New Yorker Album, published in 1936 . We’ll get that on another Sunday.

The cover of the 1936 collection, by William Crawford Galbraith, originally appeared on the December 14, 1935 issue of the New Yorker.

So what do you see inside the annual? Within the first two pages is a full page Peter Arno drawing, and a Thurber and a Charles Addams.  Addams’ signature is somewhat different than the one we’ve all become accustomed to (his long New Yorker run was in its infancy in the mid-1930s). But even this early he was already a star.  One of his drawings appears, alone, on the back cover.

Below: early Addams signature.  Below below: later.

By the mid-to-late 1930s The New Yorker ‘s stable of artists  was now into its Golden era. There are two drawings in this volume which have gone on to be reproduced numerous times.  I hesitate to say they are as “famous” as Addams’ skier or Peter Steiner‘s “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog”  but they have had some extra attention over the years since first published in the New Yorker. The first is Peter Arno’s “Come along. We’re going down to the Trans-Lux and hiss Roosevelt” and the second is Thurber’s “It’s a naive domestic Burgandy without any breeding, but I think you’ll be amused by its presumption.”

They are surrounded, as usual for this time period, by gorgeous funny drawings aplenty, including a double page spread by Carl Rose titled A Caravan of California Millionaires, Fleeing Eastward From the State Income Tax, Encamps For the Night in Hostile Wisconsin Territory

and another by Rea Irvin, Our Own Previews of Hollywood Attractions.

I reproduce them here, poorly (sorry), just to give you an idea of how terrific they look on the page. 

Here’s the list of those in the Album. Interesting that the “Spot” artists are finally set-off from the pack:

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Booth on CBS Sunday Morning

CBS has posted their segment on George Booth. See it here!