Why not think about blue skies and pyramids and Steinberg on this blizzardy day in the Northeast. I took a look at Stephen Nadler’s Attempted Bloggery site this morning, scrolled through the Steinberg pyramid series he’s been focusing on and immediately thought of the cover of Steinberg’s 1973 collection, The Inspector. Somewhat similar sky, rubber stamps, clouds, colors found on his pyramid series. The only thing missing from The Inspector cover is a Steinberg pyramid. To see a bunch of those head on over to Mr. Nadler’s ever-fascinating site.
This being a Monday, the Monday Tilley Watch would normally be here, but last week’s issue was a double — we won’t see a new issue until next Monday. So here’s an addendum to yesterday’s post (about the magazine’s 60th anniversary album): A Cartoon Sampler, published in 1985 (wow, what a celebratory mood the magazine was in). Samplers were not new then, but they have somewhat fizzled out since. I believe this Sampler would’ve been offered to new subscribers (a lot of, if not most of, other samplers were themed, and sent out as advertising incentives).
Sitting above an Eldon Dedini drawing on the very first page is this intro:
Almost 50 pages, this isn’t a cheap-o toss-away booklet, but something savable — it tucks nicely into the 1975-1985 Album. The cartoons, all on reasonably good paper stock, are usually placed one a page with just a couple of exceptions. There’s even a double page spread of Steinberg’s drawings (“Women”). The cartoonists are represented in a fine balance, from George Price, the elder (in terms of years at the magazine; his first New Yorker appearance was in 1929) to newbie, Richard Cline, who was first published in the New Yorker in 1981.
A sample from the Sampler: work by Robert Weber (the full page) and on the opposite page, Roz Chast, and Edward Koren:
The back cover:
With the publication of The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985, the word “Cartoon” makes its second appearance on an Album cover and in an Album title (the first was on the cover of The Album of Sports and Games: Cartoons of Three Decades). The magazine’s 60th anniversary not only saw this anthology published, but the magazine’s fans were treated to a fabulous show of cartoons and covers, curated by Barbara Nicholls, a former art assistant to James Geraghty (Ms. Nicholls went on to establish a gallery representing many of the New Yorker’s artists).
Mounted at the New York Public Library, this was the show for anyone who loved the magazine’s art. Following its run in New York, the exhibit went on the road across the country, and across the big pond. Here’s the brochure:
But now back to the anthology. You can see by the cover that the design is solidly in the school of the understated. The is no introduction within, no foreword, no dedication. Compare the cover to the cover of the 90th Anniversary Book of Cartoons (the Spill will eventually get to that on another Sunday) — you’ll see how graphic decision-making has changed.
The 1975- 1985 Album leads off with a spectacular full page drawing by Robert Weber, and it ends with a full page Charles Addams drawing. In between you’ll find a rich array of the grand masters of the form: Steig, Steinberg, George Price, Dana Fradon, Warren Miller, Frank Modell, the aforementioned Weber and Addams, Henry Martin, Booth, Koren, Ed Arno ( but not Peter Arno, who had passed away in 1968), Whitney Darrow, Jr., James Stevenson, Ed Fisher…the list couldn’t go on and on — it was, after all, finite, but you get the idea. Also in the Album, a new wave of cartoonists, including Mick Stevens, Leo Cullum, Liza Donnelly, the two Roz’s: Zanengo and Chast, Tom Cheney, Michael Crawford, Richard Cline, Bill Woodman, Peter Steiner, and Mike Twohy, among others (including yours truly). Jack Ziegler, who I’ve dubbed “The Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists” was a late entry in the 1925-1975 Album (his first New Yorker cartoon was published in 1974. He’s represented in the 1925-1975 Album by one cartoon). Here, in the 1975-1985 Album his genius is on full display.
This Album would be the last published during William Shawn’s editorship. The next Album would not appear until the year 2000, the magazine’s 75th anniversary (in between was Lee Lorenz’s Art of The New Yorker: 1925- 1995).
Below: the back cover of the The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985:
And the inside flap copy:
Here’s a quartet of Steinberg ads (the second Steinberg set in this series), all courtesy of Warren Bernard, cartoon collector extraordinaire.
Not surprisingly, three of these ads are from when Steinberg was just beginning his New Yorker run (he began contributing in 1941). The first shown here though is from 1966. It could easily have run in The New Yorker as a drawing (oh, let’s face it: any of these would’ve worked as stand alone New Yorker art). Schweppes ad: 1950; H&G: 1948; Comptometer: 1945
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).
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!