Book Of Interest: I Think, Therefore I Draw

Published a couple of weeks ago, I Think, Therefore I Draw: Understanding Philosophy Through Cartoons (Penguin) includes enough New Yorker cartoons (among a number of non-New Yorker cartoons) to mention here. The New Yorker cartoonists represented (in order of their appearance): Paul Noth, John McNamee, Tom Cheney, Danny Shanahan, P.C. Vey, David Sipress, George Booth, Avi Steinberg, Amy Hwang, Leo Cullum, Mort Gerberg, P.S. Mueller, John Klossner, Aaron Bacall, Sam Gross, “Bud” Handelsman, Lee Lorenz, Michael Maslin, Jack Ziegler, Edward Koren, Matt Diffee, Eric Lewis, Edward Frascino, and Charles Barsotti.

The authors have this (in part) to say in their introduction: “Here, then, is a collection of our favorite philosophical cartoons and our annotations about what they teach us about the Big Questions in philosophy.”

You can sample the text by going to the Amazon listing and clicking on the “Look inside” feature.

 

Barbara Shermund’s Last New Yorker Cartoon

After checking in on today’s Attempted Bloggery post about Barbara Shermund (it features some of Ms. Shermund’s post-New Yorker work — the look she honed in Esquire, among other publications), I began wondering when her style shifted from what it looked like in her peak New Yorker years to the Esquire look.

A quick dig into the New Yorker archives revealed that her Esquire look was barely present as Ms. Shermund’s work ended for the magazine. You can see a little of it developing in the definition of faces, but her command of a scene, of the page, of the drawing is all intact as she ends her run of 600 cartoons (plus 8 covers) with the issue of September 16, 1944. Her last New Yorker cartoon, shown above, may not be the very best example, but it’ll do. 

To refresh my recollection of Shermund’s New Yorker career I turned to the obvious source, Liza Donnelly’s Funny Ladies (Prometheus Books, 2005). It is a must-have New Yorker cartoon history book (and I would say that even if we weren’t husband and wife).  Ms. Donnelly’s section on Ms. Shermund is fascinating reading.  According to Donnelly, Shermund began at the New Yorker doing spot illustrations, but was soon encouraged to “write lines under [her] drawings.” Her first captioned drawing appeared in June of 1925, just five months after the New Yorker began publishing. After a stuttered beginning with her next three drawings (the three appeared over eight months time), her work then exploded in numbers, seemingly appearing every other week and sometimes every week. 600 drawings in less than twenty years is quite a feat — my bad math tells me her work appeared in more than half of all the issues from 1925 through 1944. 

Her style shifted over that time as you’d find with most cartoonists styles. She settled into perfection in the 1930s and 1940s, both in her captions (she wrote all of her own captions for the majority of her New Yorker work — “I used to eat and sleep ideas”) and the drawing itself.

Fascinating to me is her relationship to gag-writing. She is quoted in Donnelly’s book as saying she really wanted help after awhile — “I would beg them to give me an idea once in awhile” —  because of the editorial demand for her work (shades of Peter Arno there).  From the school of careful what you wish for, she had this to say once she began taking ideas from a particular gag-writer:

“Well, my downfall, in respect to ideas — he kept submitting ideas and I thought it was fun not to have to worry about them.”

 In the Fall of 1944, the New Yorker suddenly ceased publishing Shermund’s drawings. Esquire, with its editorial needs so different than the New Yorker‘s  became her main stage.  As Ms. Donnelly notes:

“When [Shermund] got to Esquire, her work became transparently sexual. and her women were transformed to sweet airheads.” 

With Esquire, Shermund’s work morphed in full to the kind of drawing style you see in today’s Attempted Bloggery post.  It would take access to Esquire’s archives to witness the change.  What we see in her last year of New Yorker work are just the faintest hints of what’s to come. 

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A Reminder:  There is currently a Barbara Shermund exhibit up and running at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, “Tell Me A Story Where The Bad Girl Wins: The Life And Art Of Barbara Shermund”Details here!

 

 

 

 

The Tilley Watch; Liza Donnelly’s Veterans Day Animation; Joe Farris’s Soldier’s Sketchbook

The Cover: this week’s cover (titled “Welcome to Congress”) by Barry Blitt was mentioned here last week (it was released early). It received a bit of media attention. One example: this Huffington Post piece. 

The Cartoonists, the Cartoons:

13 cartoons this week.  19 illustrations, with 5 of them full page.

Two items of note in the list of cartoonists: a joint effort by Mick Stevens and Jenny Allen.  And, unless I’m mistaken, Lonnie Millsap is making his debut in the magazine. If that’s accurate (someone please advise if it’s not) he is the 9th new cartoonist this year, and the 21st since Emma Allen was appointed the magazine’s cartoon editor in the Spring of 2017.

Update: Rea Irvin’s iconic Talk masthead is still a-missin (you can read about it here). This is what it looks like:

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And:

here’s Liza Donnelly’s Veterans Day animation for CBS News .

…this is a good day to recall A Soldier’s Sketchbook by the late New Yorker cartoonist Joe Farris.  Published in 2011 by National Geographic, the book is available online at the usual places. 

Here’s the Booklist review:

“Farris, best known postwar as a cartoonist for the New Yorker, offers this evocative memoir-album, with a scrapbook graphic design. Replete with faux-yellowed pages, it chronicles his tour of duty using his contemporary illustrations, his letters to his Connecticut family, and present-day reflections on the attitudes and fears of his innocent 19-year-old self. With meticulous National Geographic maps tracking his regiment’s advance through France and Germany, Ferris’ is an honestly written, visually captivating volume and a superb addition to the genre of WWII artwork.”

 

Drawings That Went Nowhere

 I thought it might make for a nice end of week break to look at some drawings of mine from this past week that went nowhere. Every cartoonist works on drawings that go nowhere. We do it every day of every week.  It’s how we get to the drawings that do work.

Initially, with each of these shown, I had some hope they’d go someplace — it’s how every drawing begins for me — with some hope, and a lot of curiosity. I think I had in mind some vague memory of the acrobats who performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought, to have a cat involved in that kind of showbiz routine?  The drawing above was fun to do, but I realized, as I was drawing the cactus plants, that it wasn’t a drawing I wanted to spend any more time on.  Usually I recognize within a few moments after the initial drawing (or caption, if the caption starts things off), whether I want to move along with that particular idea. Often that drawing dies right then and there (it’s put in my “collection” of all the other work that hasn’t worked over the years. Why I save these is a mystery to me).

The only one of these four that went beyond what you see here is the one below of the octopus being sworn in. I was briefly amused by the idea of the octopus not having a designated right hand to raise while being sworn in. Still, with a few attempts at an improved drawing (the bailiff has two neckties, with one floating off on its own), and a caption around that idea, it didn’t feel like it was going anywhere (and it wasn’t).

The drawing below is a good example of an idea based on the thinnest sliver of an idea: what would/could happen if the 3 Pigs sat down with the 3 Stooges (the soldier off to the left had nothing to do with this idea). Again, as with the cat drawing above, my curiosity waned.  As I wrote “oink oink oink” above the first pig, I realized that this was as amused as I was going to be with this situation;  there was nothing else left here of interest, so I moved on.

Below is a drawing of the sort I did in high school and college. As I drew the little guy coming out of top of the bust, the drawing seemed creepy, so I abandoned it.

So there’s a sampler of what happens on the way to a coming up with a drawing that does work — the kind that ends up being finished and submitted to The New Yorker. The ones that don’t work vastly outnumber the ones that do. And of the ones that do work — that I think work — the number of those rejected vastly outnumber the ones accepted.  Nutty right? But that’s the life.

Sidenote: these four drawings might seem to say that the drawing comes first (for me) when coming up with ideas. That’s not the case.  Words are probably the better instigators of ideas. More frequently than the drawings or words leading to an idea are just vague impulses not yet on paper that suddenly suggest I draw whatever. That’s where the fun begins.

The Tilley Watch Online, November 5-9, 2018; Site Of Interest: A New Yorker State Of Mind; Short Interview Of Interest: Art Spiegelman

The emphasis was, of course(!), on the political this week, with at least half of the Daily Cartoons specifically Trump-centered (Farley Katz‘s Amazon drawing referencing hometown baseball and  “Midnight Cowboy” (?) was an exception).  The other contributing New Yorker cartoonists were Ellis Rosen, Kim Warp, Lars Kenseth, Brendan Loper, and Mort Gerberg.

Over on Daily Shouts, Olivia de Recat and Tom Chitty were the contributing New Yorker cartoonists (Ms. de Recat twice).

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Site Of Interest: A New Yorker State Of Mind

The always entertaining and enlightening A New Yorker State Of Mind: Reading Every Issue Of The New Yorker looks at the issue of October 26, 1929 (with Theodore Haupt’s beautiful cover). Key quote from this post:

Although two months remained in the decade, the New Yorker of the Roaring Twenties effectively ended with this issue, just days before a massive market crash sent the nation spiraling into the Great Depression.

Read here

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Short Interview Of Interest: Art Spiegelman

From the University of Southern California’s Daily Trojan, November 9, 2018, “Art Spiegelman on comic-book stardom and the responsibility of today’s artists”