Tom Chitty Talks Implied Noses and Sketch-Burps

The first time you set eyes on a Tom Chitty cartoon there’s no way you’ll not have some kind of reaction. His is not a cookie cutter cartoon style, but something expressly his own.  Like Lars Kenseth, Mr. Chitty has dared to go to some other cartoon dimension — a place with unfamiliar human anatomy.  He and Mr. Kenseth  are cartoon risk-takers.  I’ve been emailing with Mr. Chitty over the winter months, talking about his work, and his life north of the border. Here’s some of what we discussed:

Michael Maslin: The people in your drawings are most unusual. Can you talk about how they came to be? And I tempted to ask (so I will): any particular reason there are no noses?

Tom Chitty: The way my cartoons are drawn today grew out of some advice I got at animation school. My tutor suggested I stop worrying about style, and concentrate more on ideas. So I started working more quickly, scribbling only what was essential to remember a thought. It turns out you don’t necessarily need noses in that context, and you for-sure don’t need Gray’s Anatomy. At a certain point, this way of drawing became normal to me – like handwriting.

My finished New Yorker cartoons are more deliberate than those initial sketch-burps, and my illustrations still more so – but I always start with the loose stuff and keep as much of it as I can.For the record, I describe the noses as ‘implied’, rather than non-existent!

MM: And moving on to another unique Chitty person characteristic: the bowl-legs. Do you have some cowboy in your background? Can you talk about the leg structure?

TC: If you take a look at the drawings I sent you (the ones that have noses), you’ll see that they’ve been drawn into a somewhat pre-defined, rounded-oblong, shape. I drew like this for a while because I read a couple of books about Mayan hieroglyphs and I became briefly (but healthily) obsessed.

Above: Nosed Chitty people

I don’t draw that way so much any longer, but the block-shaped bodies stuck. The legs are positioned quite far apart, it’s true, but I think that’s where they would need to be to hold up such a cumbersome torso. My characters are weird but they fully respect the laws of physics, probably.

No family cowboys that I am aware of, but plenty of odd bods.

MM: I love knowing what influenced cartoonists early on in life. Were you influenced/inspired by television, animated cartoons, comics, something else…a combination of any of those, or none of those?

TC: Asterix books were my first cartoon love, then Calvin and Hobbes (of course). Quentin Blake’s illustrations for Roald Dahl certainly lodged themselves in my brain, and I absorbed a bunch of Moomin that didn’t really understand. I read Dr. Suess’ Did I ever tell you how lucky you are?, over and over. Probably still my favorite book.

I have always been a heavy user of movies, but I’m not sure that was a direct influence on my drawing. I did used to watch Monty Python re-runs with my Dad, whenever they were on, and it’s hard not to be influenced by that, unless you are made of cardboard.

After Python came A bit of Fry and Laurie (Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie’s sketch show), French and Saunders, Blackadder, and anything Armando Iannucci or Steve Coogan were doing.

MM: I confess I did not know, until moments ago when I looked them up, what the Asterix books were/are. Looking at Asterix himself — and stop me if I’m stretching the comparison at all — I can maybe see just a hint of inspiration there for the way you draw legs. Did not expect the brief Mayan hieroglyphics obsession, but that’s why I asked. You just never know what has directly or indirectly been an influence.

 Dr. Suess, Monty Python, Quentin Blake…it’s all beginning to make sense now. Any MAD magazine in your past or present? And what of the New Yorker artists? Anyone, or ones, that were motivators (for lack of a better word)?

TC: It’s very possible I internalized Uderzo’s Asterix legs. It would certainly explain why spindly limbs look quite normal to me.  It’s tough to pick out a particular New Yorker artist, but the first books I bought on this subject were collections by William Steig, and Charles Barsotti. I could tell you I love Roz Chast, but that would be as revelatory as admitting I have eyes. In general, I have favourite cartoons rather than cartoonists – favourite ideas.

A high school friend had a subscription to MAD magazine, so I’d flick through his issues while listening to Nirvana and eating sausages. I don’t know it as well as I would like though. MAD was a bit of a mythical creature in my particular English suburb, as was the New Yorker.

MM: Can you talk a little about how you made your way to the New Yorker. When did you begin thinking it might be worth a try; when did you begin submitting; what was the reaction when you first began showing your work?

TC: It wasn’t until I moved to Canada, (in 2009) that I was regularly exposed to the New Yorker. In the U.K. I’d use Private Eye to suck in cartoons – not least because the New Yorker was not well distributed (for obvious reasons).

In Toronto the magazine is easy to get hold of, and so I got to know it. It’s also pretty easy to get to New York City from here – I can go twice a year, instead of twice in my lifetime. That really helped. The idea of submitting started to feel reasonable – plus friends and family were telling me I should (even after they had seen my drawings).

So, I bought a pile of books about New Yorker cartoons and cartoonists, and once I’d read them, I reached out for some guidance on the submission process. Matt Diffee gave me some great advice, that seemed to boil down to this: at the start it’s really about figuring out how you can deliver a batch of ideas every week (forever). If you can do that, you’ll certainly get better at cartooning, and you might have a shot at getting published.

Above: Tom Chitty’s first New Yorker cartoon

I started submitting in the summer of 2014 and I got my first O.K. later that year. The first reaction I endured to that particular cartoon [published October 13, 2014] was a comment on the New Yorker‘s Facebook page. It was words to the effect of, “this drawing is so ugly”. After a little soul wringing, I managed to take that as a compliment.

MMThe Facebook commenter (“this drawing is so ugly”) probably did you a favor by offering up a quick immersion into the kind of stuff one needs to ignore to carry on. Are your days filled with drawing cartoons; are you involved in other projects; do you take time off for very un-cartoony things?

TC: At various times I am also an animator and illustrator – when something juicy comes up – but, most of my working life is spent making cartoons and art prints. I draw neighborhood scenes, mainly of Toronto right now, and also houses on commission – usually that’s an old family home, or in celebration of a new one.

I have always wanted to be a cartoonist, but I probably wanted to be a footballer even more than that (soccer player, for my American friends). I never really imagined that would happen, of course, but I do still spend more time playing and watching sport than is sensible. Here is some ridiculous evidence if you want it.

My one-year-old son is the main distraction right now though. Even football has taken a back seat to that little maniac – though, the cartooning brain is never truly off is it? Every experience has the potential to become a silly drawing.

MMWhat is the cartoonist community like in Toronto? Do you ever run into Seth?

TC: Toronto is a great place to be for cartoons and graphic arts in general. It’s the fourth largest city in North America, so you’d expect that, I suppose – but despite it’s size its still very neighborhoody and I think that helps develop communities of all kinds.

The Ontario College of Art and Design is based right next to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which itself runs cartooning workshops. O.C.A.D. has some headline graduates in this field like Michael Cho and Gary Taxali. There’s also Sheridan College, a little out of the City. It’s known for exporting graduates to Pixar, among other things.

The Beguilling is the comic book store I prod people towards when they visit. It serves as something of a cartoonist hub in my experience – it’s run by the same people who organize the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

There are some very interesting Canadian magazines based here, like Broken Pencil, which showcases indy publications and zines, and Taddle Creek, which is a broad literary mag (including comics) and, like the New Yorker, it features illustrations on the cover.

I haven’t met Seth, but I did say hello to Chester Brown at T.C.A.F. once, so that’s close.

Above: Mr. Chitty with Mr. Dator, in Toronto, July 3, 2017

I also intentionally bumped into Joe Dator here last year, while he was visiting. He told me that Alice Cheng lives in Toronto too. So, if you’re reading this Alice, let’s grab a coffee! She definitely isn’t reading this.

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of January 29, 2018

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

Always a pleasure to see a colleague’s work pop up as a New Yorker cover as I open up the digital edition early Monday morning. We (“we” meaning the New Yorker‘s contributing cartoonists) used to be responsible (my unofficial estimate) for 60% of the covers during the year. Since Tina Brown’s era it’s somewhere around 1% to 5%. Roz Chast, Bruce Kaplan, Danny Shanahan, Harry Bliss, and George Booth would be the five percent. In 2017, just Ms. Chast’s and Mr. Kaplan’s work appeared on the cover.  In 2016, it was just Mr. Shanahan’s; in 2015 just Mr. Bliss’s work appeared on the cover — well, you get the idea). This one by Ms. Chast is graphically eye-catching.  It was ever-so-slightly difficult to appreciate on the tablet, so it was off to the laptop for a bigger image. I think the cover perfectly captures some people’s notion  (or reality) of January in New York City. The scarf knitted, then lost days later on the train, is shown on the magazine’s strap (the traditional vertical border running on the left side of the magazine’s covers) — it’s a nice touch.

Moving into the magazine I noted an attractive snippet of a Grant Snider drawing from a Daily Shouts piece. The blues reminded me of William Steig’s blues he used in a great number of his children’s books.

Oh, here’s a thought: why not reinstate Rea Irvin’s iconic Talk of The Town masthead in the magazine’s 93rd anniversary issue — just a few issues away. How great would that be! Mr. Irvin’s is directly below, with the re-do directly below it. 

To read more on the Mr. Irvin’s gem and its replacement, check out this Spill piece

Now on to the magazine’s cartoons. The first, by Amy Kurzweil, appears on page 19. A somewhat dark (yet not-so-dark!) take on flight delays.  I’m guessing many would enjoy a bonus three hours of life.  Nice handling of the plane out on the tarmac. Eleven pages later, the aforementioned Bruce Kaplan has a couple of kitties chatting in a living room.  As one who came later to cat appreciation, I appreciate the sentiment of the drawing, as well (as usual) as the drawing itself.

Noted along the way from Ms. Kurzweil’s drawing to Mr. Kaplan’s: Rui Ruireiro’s spot drawings making good use of yellow.  I see the predominant use of yellow in the New Yorker (especially if it involves a yellow cab, such as on page 28) and I’m immediately reminded of Steinberg’s masterful use of it on a cover back in 1979:

Four pages following Mr. Kaplan’s kitties, a wonderful Edward Koren drawing (wait, is there any other kind?). As with the last number of Koren cartoons published this one is given ample space to breathe on the page. Textbook placement. 

On the very next page a drawing by a relative newcomer, Pia Guerra. Who knew guessing weights at a carnival could lead to violence.  By the look of the weight guesser he has yet to be pummeled.  

Three pages later, a rather large funnel, or, ah, tunnel, drawing by Colin Tom (sorry, no website for Mr. Tom, that i know of. Please advise). I kind’ve wish this wasn’t in a boxy border (it’s obvious by now — maybe?– that I believe New Yorker cartoons thrive in a roomy habitat). On the very next page, an Amy Hwang drawing with a terrific caption.  I was about to note that this was a cat-free Hwang drawing when I spied a framed kitty on the cubicle wall.

The cartoons keep-a-comin in this issue: two more on the next two pages. The first by David Sipress and and the next by Paul Noth. Mr. Sipress’s recalls David Letterman’s, “I do and do and do for you kids — and this is what I get.” Mr. Noth’s refers to one of my favorite scenarios: the old women who lives in a shoe. In this case she’s spending some down time at a bar. I must say that the self-proclaimed old woman in Mr. Noth’s drawing appears quite young.  Perhaps she’s just starting out in life, in the shoe? Ten pages later a subway drawing couched as a personal hygiene drawing by Carolita Johnson. Clipping one’s nails while riding the subway seems risky. 

On the very next page, a Joe Dator drawing that set-off the Spill‘s applause meter. I’m leaving the applause meter out for Tom Chitty‘s drawing five pages later. 

Another five pages later, a Mick Stevens doctor’s office. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out  if what appears to be a jar of rubber glue on the front right of the desk is in fact a jar of rubber glue.  Four pages later a Frank Cotham drawing in a very familiar Frank Cotham scenario. On the very next page, the last drawing of the issue, not counting the caption contest: a charming charming Liana Finck drawing. I don’t know why, but I wanted the Earl of Sandwich to be the one asking the other guy the question. The cartoonist’s fuss-o-meter never rests.   









Vintage Steig; A Richard Decker Self Portrait & One More Kovarsky!

Vintage Steig

From Mike Lynch’s blog, courtesy of Dick Buchanan’s treasure trove of cartoon art, “William Steig Gag Cartoons 1946 – 1965” — see them all here.  (above: from Look magazine, February 17, 1959).


A Richard Decker Self Portrait and One More Kovarsky!

And speaking of Dick Buchanan, an interesting tear sheet containing a Richard Decker self portrait is the subject of today’s Attempted Bloggery post.  See it here (a portion shown above). And while there scroll down to see an auctioned  Anatol Kovarsky drawing, along with commentary by Mr. Kovarsky’s daughter.

Further info__________________________________

Richard Decker’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Richard Decker (pictured above) Born, Philadelphia, Penn. May 6, 1907. Died, November 1, 1988. New Yorker work, 1931 – 1969, over 900 drawings, and four covers.


Anatol Kovarsky’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Anatol Kovarsky (photo above, NYC, 2013. By Liza Donnelly) Born, Moscow. Died, June 1, 2016, NYC. Collection: Kovarsky’s World (Knopf, 1956) NYer work: 1947 -1969. Link to Ink Spill’s  2013 piece, “Anatol Kovarsky at 94: Still Drawing After All These Years”


William Steig’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

William Steig (photo above) Born in Brooklyn, NY, Nov. 14, 1907, died in Boston, Mass., Oct. 3, 2003. In a New Yorker career that lasted well over half a century and a publishing history that contains more than a cart load of books, both children’s and otherwise, it’s impossible to sum up Steig’s influence here on Ink Spill. He was among the giants of the New Yorker cartoon world, along with James Thurber, Saul Steinberg, Charles Addams, Helen Hokinson and Peter Arno. Lee Lorenz’s World of William Steig (Artisan, 1998) is an excellent way to begin exploring Steig’s life and work. New Yorker work: 1930 -2003.



Revisiting: The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection

If you liked the cover of the New Yorker‘s very first Cartoon Issue (published in 1997) you might like the cover of The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection (published in 2000).  Why? Because all of the cartoon grabs on the 75th Collection cover were on the cover of the Cartoon Issue. Now that’s not a bad thing; any cover with Thurber, Hokinson, Steig, Peter Arno, Barsotti, Gross, George Price, Gluyas Williams, Booth, and Leo Cullum, to name but a few, cannot possibly be a bad thing. I do remember being surprised, when first seeing the 75th Collection cover that these same drawings were recycled.

What was not on the Cartoon Issue cover but on the Anniversary Collection cover is one of Mike Witte‘s takes on Eustace Tilley (there’s another on the back cover).  Mr. Witte had become the go-to illustrator/cartoonist for updated Tilleys, with his work appearing on those numerous small New Yorker Book of __ (Cat, Dog, Doctor, etc., etc) Cartoons collections. 

Here’s the Cartoon Issue if you wish to hunt down the images appearing on both covers:

But back to the 75th Anniversary cover.  Strange, I know, but it has always reminded me somewhat of the package design for Stella D’oro cookies.


 Inside the collection (the cartoon collection, not the cookie collection) is an odd dedication. Odd in that it is a dedication from the magazine to the magazine itself: To the constant commitment of The New Yorker to this ridiculous and sublime art form.  That’s followed by a jokey Introduction, after which we finally get to the meat & potatoes.  Once to the cartoons, you’ll find they appear on “good” paper so you can enjoy the work without seeing a shadow of the cartoon on the following page. I’ve always been grateful that there is an Index provided as there is no chronological order to the work (there’s a Ziegler on page 2 and a Thurber on page 275). Though all the New Yorker albums shape history to some degree by including more or less of certain artists, in this volume the unbalance is noticeable. Or maybe not so noticeable if this was the first collection you ever picked up.  What I mean is this: for an anthology covering 75 years, a number of the most published cartoonists are represented by just one or two cartoons.  Examples:

Otto Soglow (published over 800 times): 1  cartoon

Carl Rose (over 500 times): 1

Perry Barlow (approx. 1,400 times): 1 cartoon

Alan Dunn, one of the most prolific New Yorker cartoonists of all time (close to 2,000 cartoons published): 2 cartoons

 In just four years, we would have the mother of all New Yorker collections: The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker.  Its Index shows a re-balance with all of the above cartoonists mentioned appearing far more than once or twice (in a closing aside, I should mention that this year we will apparently see the mother of the mother of all New Yorker collections, The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, which somehow includes 4,000 cartoons (for comparison, The 75th Anniversary Collection has 707 cartoons). 








The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975 – 1985

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:



“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