The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker issue of September 25, 2017

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

As this is the Style Issue I decided to tackle the issue while listening to Starring Fred Astaire, a set of songs recorded by Mr. Astaire between 1936 through 1940. What a great photograph. What style. What a great top hat.

And now to the issue:

In the habit of expecting some political commentary on the cover of the new issue, I paused to examine the cover art, wondering if president Trump’s face was hidden in the leaves (ala the hidden Beatles on the Rolling Stones album, Their Satanic Majesties Request cover).  No such luck.

It takes seconds, once past the cover, to get to the very first cartoon.  If it’s a theme issue, there’s an excellent chance the first cartoon will tie-in to the theme. Bingo!  The first drawing,  by Carolita Johnson, whose first New Yorker cartoon appeared in the issue of October 20, 2003, features Elton John-ish stage shoes. As is always the case, my mind associates what I’m seeing with what I’ve previously seen in the New Yorker, and the first thought was this fabulous Steinberg cover from May of  1993: 

 

Flipping through the Goings On About Time (or GOAT) section, page 28 stood out.  Why? It is a page completely devoid of graphics (no illustration, photographs, etc.). The layout is a throwback to what was once common place in the magazine. The only design element is the renovated Rea Irvin nervous horizontal line across the top (“renovated” in that it is slightly less nervous than his original lines).   Beautiful nonetheless. 

We don’t arrive at the next cartoon until page 40, where we’re greeted by Tom Chitty’s frankfurter-ish figures involved in the age-old scenario of a couple arriving at a home,  bringing a bottle of wine. Mr. Chitty’s first New Yorker appearance was in the issue of October 13, 2014. Nice use (essential use!) of the phrase “limited expectations” here. Four pages later is a David Sipress cartoon. I note that Mr. Sipress’s drawing and Mr. Chitty’s drawing share similar standard rectangular space on the lower left of their respective pages. The drawings have just enough breathing room on the page.  Mr. Sipress’s first New Yorker appearance: July 1998. Perhaps Mr. Sipress will someday give us a ten years later sequel to this drawing (it’s about a couple possibly about to explore the idea of whether or not to have children).  I’m curious if they had children and if they did, if it was the right decision for them. 

Eleven pages later we come to a Charlie Hankin courtroom scene (Mr. Hankin’s first New Yorker appearance: August 2013). The drawing is given some nice breathing room at the upper right hand corner of the page.  I love courtroom scenes (Perry Mason, and all that).  The Monday Tilley Watch, as I keep reminding visitors (and myself), is not an overtly critical column. However, with a nod to my friends over at Cartoon Companion, I occasionally find myself wanting to applaud a certain drawing. This week I applaud Mr. Hankin’s drawing. There’s a (James) Thurber, (Charles) Barsotti feel to it — and that is always a very good thing.

Mr. Hankin’s drawing is immediately followed by a BEK drawing (and we’re back to the lower left rectangular space).  I think of every issue of the magazine as having at least one anchor artist, and hopefully three or four. Mr. Kaplan is the definition of an anchor artist. Contributing since 1991, his work does not disappoint.

Three pages later, given a full page, is the now much talked about Hillary Clinton cover that would have been had she, well, you know.  Two pages later, a cartoon by another anchor cartoonist: Roz Chast (first New Yorker cartoon: 1978).  With cargo clothing as Ms. Chast’s focus (remember, this is the style issue) I cannot help but think of the late Leo Cullum’s classic drawing from the issue of August 17, 1998:

 

Sidenote: good spacing (breathing room) for Ms. Chast’s drawing.

On the very next page is a Liana Finck drawing (first New Yorker drawing: 2013). The subject is one of those “head-in-the-hole” props you see at carnivals.  Here’s an example I lifted off of (out of?) the internet:

Ms. Finck’s drawing has a decidedly Charles Addams quality to it (I was wondering if we could get through today’s Monday Tilley Watch without mentioning Addams).  I like that Ms. Finck’s cartoon camera has a strap. Three pages later is a well-placed Emily Flake drawing (first New Yorker drawing: 2008).  I’ve never used Uber or their app-minded competition (cabs I have used), but I gather what’s happenin’ here. I wonder if the clown is a reference to the current clown film (It) scaring the pants off of everyone, or is it just a generic scary clown thing. 

Turning the page we have a cartoon by newbie, Curtis Edwards. I spent time examining the “vintage” clothing in this drawing, it being the Style Issue and all.  Note to myself: E.T. looks kind’ve like a turtle. I will remember that next time I’m drawing a turtle, or E.T..  On the opposite page from Mr. Edward’s drawing is a Will McPhail cartoon (first New Yorker appearance: 2014). Mr. McPhail’s is a romance tinged football drawing. Again, my mental library of imagery takes me immediately to this 2003 New Yorker cover  by Harry Bliss:

Next up is a hot air balloon drawing by Ed Steed (first New Yorker cartoon: 2013). I know zero about hot air balloons — was only up in one once.   I’m deeply sorry the  bearded passenger had to toss his musical instrument out of the balloon’s passenger basket.  My first thought — a typical cartoonist’s mash-up thought —  was that I would’ve tossed the actual speech balloon, say perhaps in the vicinity of where a caption would ordinarily go, thus saving a perfectly good cartoon accordion, but hey, I wasn’t there — it wasn’t my call.

Fifteen pages later we come to a domestic bean-centered P. C. Vey drawing, nicely placed. Mr. Vey’s been contributing to the magazine since 1993.  I hate to admit it, and I don’t like recalling it, but I’ve seen even bigger cans of beans than the one Mr. Vey’s cartoon character is eating from. Five pages later is a Sara Lautman energetic carnival drawing.  Her first New Yorker cartoon appeared in March of last year.  The way Ms. Lautman uses the word “things” — it’s printed as “Thiiiings”  — makes the word vibrate.  

And that is that until next Monday. By the way, I have not abandoned my campaign to encourage the return of Rea Irvin’s long running iconic masthead to the Talk of The Town.  I leave you with a common chant of wisdom, commonly heard on sports fields:

“Don’t mess, don’t mess with the best…”

Here’s the best:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books of Interest: The New Yorker Bon Appetit!, Thurber’s Favole Per Il Nostro Tempo, Steinberg’s Passaporto and The New Yorker Book of Katzen Cartoons

I occasionally travel the world without leaving my desk.  In this case a search of New Yorker cartoons on France’s Amazon site turned up this curiosity. Lookin’ sharp, Eustace!

There are plenty of variations on standard New Yorker cartoon collections (many with different covers designs). I wondered what a Thurber  title would look like in Italian and found  Thurber’s Fables For Our Time.

Sometimes, it’s just the translated title that catches my eye, such as the German cover for The New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons. (hey, who doesn’t like katzen?).

A later edition (in Italian) of Steinberg’s Passport with an eye-catching cover: Passaporto.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Part 4: Steinberg; Liza Donnelly Live-Draws The Late Show with Stephen Colbert; Rejected New Yorker Covers by Whittington, Higgins; Video: New York City in the 1920s

Steinberg did ad work?  You bet.  As with William Steig, a Steinberg Part 2 will be posted at some later time. 

Warren Bernard,  Executive Director of SPX, is the one responsible for researching & gathering all these images. My thanks to Warren for allowing them to appear here.

Here are the dates for these ads:  Emerson, 1948; House & Garden, 1955; Morton International, 1966; Jones & Lamson, 1946

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Steinberg’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:

 

 

 

 

 

Saul Steinberg  (above) Born, June 15, 1914, Ramnic-Sarat, Rumania. Died in 1999. New Yorker work: 1941 – (The New Yorker publishes his work posthumously). Steinberg is one of the giants of The New Yorker.  Go here to visit the saulsteinbergfoundation where you’ll find  much essential information and examples of his work.

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Liza Donnelly Live Draws The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

CBS News Resident Cartoonist, Liza Donnelly, visited the Ed Sullivan Theater  (yeah yeah yeah!) the other day to draw The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Here’s an article on The Huffington Post about her visit.  And go here to see more of her Late Show drawings and read what she had to say about the experience.

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Rejected New Yorker Covers by Whittington, Higgins

Stephen Nadler’s Attempted Bloggery continues its look at proposed (and ultimately rejected) New Yorker covers. 

In the past few days we’ve seen this one by Donald Higgins, and in AB’s latest post, one by Larry Whittington. See and read all about them here.

 

 

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Video: New York City in the 1920s

If you have twelve minutes to spare, here’s a fun video of  New York City in the 1920s from Hey New York State. The screen grab shows Peter Arno tussling Alexander Woollcott’s hair (you can see that that happens at the 11:34 mark — it’s very brief). Other highlights: George Gershwin rehearsing, Chaplin playing piano, Fanny Brice singing (the video is mostly silent, but Ms. Brice is heard), some waterfront footage and Manhattan street scenes galore…check it out here. 

50 Years Ago This Week…In The New Yorker

A Summer of Love issue of The New Yorker begins with Peter Arno’s 98th cover for the magazine (out of 101). Arno’s color palette in his last years had turned (mostly) brighter, his composition (mostly) a little more casual. This cover is an excellent example.

Within the magazine we find an array of graphically balanced cartoons appearing on the pages in a variety of sizes: a half-page Warren Miller drawing; a wonderful Steig drawing of a King –the drawing sits at the bottom of the page, surrounded on three sides by text; a perfectly-sized classic beauty from Ronald Searle (shown below); a  Modell drawing, done in his trademark casual style, sits across from a (typically) densely drawn Alan Dunn cartoon;  an easy on the eyes Stevenson drawing of two witches settling in to watch Julia Child is placed across from a Steinberg drawing of the eye of providence (that pyramid with the eye that’s on the backside of the U.S. dollar bill).  Unlike Stevenson’s drawing, which you pause to look at, enjoy and then move on, you feel as if you should pull up a chair and get out a magnifying glass for the Steinberg illustration. It’s time to inspect.

A few pages later on in the issue I was surprised to come across a 5 part Stan Hunt drawing. Did he do a lot of these? I don’t remember seeing one before (it’s a question to be answered another time).  The Hunt is followed by a nearly full-page  Everett Opie cartoon and then a masterful Saxon drawing (also almost a full page).

The last drawing of the issue is by the wonderful Henry Martin. Like Steig’s King drawing, it appears at the bottom of the page surrounded on three sides by text. There’s plenty of white space around the business man noticing a sign in a window, “Data Processed While U Wait” — the man’s right leg and his briefcase are allowed to drift off towards the edge of the page itself — a cartoonist’s work beautifully handled by the New Yorker‘s long-time layout person, Carmine Peppe, who, according to Brendan Gill, “would properly set off whatever we published.”

 

A Couple of Visual Primers: Thurber & Steinberg

Here are two Pinterest  destinations that are a fun way to start off this shortened work week.  During my usual morning Google search I came across “131 Best Images about Saul Steinberg”  and thought it funny that the page was “131 best images”  — “131” seemed very Steinbergian.  Also found:  “Best 25+ James Thurber Ideas” — surely Mr. Thurber had at least as many best ideas as Steinberg.  Oh well.

I really liked scrolling through these pages — they’re a quick way to brush up on, or be reinvigorated by, the fabulous graphic worlds of Steinberg and Thurber, while getting a sense of their iconic styles all across the graphic board: New Yorker cartoons (drawings), covers, book jackets, advertisements. And, bonus:  there are photographs as well. 

 

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