The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of August 20, 2018

Seems like a long long time since there was a Monday Tilley Watch (it wasn’t really that long; must’ve been the endless Summer days making the stretch seem more stretched out).  The cover of the new issue is messagey — you can read what the cover artist, R. Kikuo Johnson, had in mind here.

Worth noting there’s gender equality, cartoonist numbers-wise, in this issue.  Also of note, and maybe this was purely expectation on my part of a barrel full of cartoons greeting us this week: there are but nine single panel cartoons in the issue (there’s a full page drawing provided by Roz Chast).  

This will be the last week I note the number of illustrations appearing vs the number of cartoons as it seems to be the norm now that illustrations outnumber cartoons, both in actual number and in space given in the magazine’s pages.  

Also ending this week, I will no longer mention that Rea Irvin’s iconic masthead is missing. I will however, continue to post his masthead (on Mondays) until I’m told by someone with clout to cease. 

One cartoon in this issue has caused me to continue thinking about it longer than I would usually think about a specific cartoon. That’s either a good thing, or a bad thing.  In this case it’s a good thing.  The P.C. Vey drawing (on page 22) of a couple in a kitchen alongside a loose change machine made me think of Charles Addams’ work (always a pleasant diversion). It’s in the Addams mode, yet it’s also very much in the Vey mode. My thinking is that Addams might’ve handled it in some other way — perhaps the machine would’ve been out on the street(?). Perhaps the cup holders would’ve been less economically well-off(?). This splendid drawing has done its job just the way it is, but it also allows for some fun cartoon speculation.  It deserves a round of Spill applause.  

   

And here’s Rea Irvin’s iconic masthead, not for the last time. Read about it here:

Note: for the next week or so the Spill will appear irregularly.  It’ll be back on track by the beginning of September.

Personal History: Tearsheets

Quite a while ago (decades, in fact) I began collecting tearsheets of my New Yorker work (and back then, tearsheets from other publications that would have me). The New Yorker drawings  were kept in the black 3-ring binders you see above (non-New Yorker work was placed in 10″ x 13″ envelopes).  The binders seemed like a great idea, as the only record keeping I knew of were the black books the New Yorker kept (and keep) of everyone’s work. Here’s a shot of my black book (book-ended by some recognizable names) in the New Yorker‘s library. 

For a very long time this household received two copies of each issue, making it easy to rip out my work (and/or my wife, Liza Donnelly’s work) from issues and save the other issue.  This practice went on until the early 2000s when I decided that the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank was, in effect, doing my work for me by running a well-organized easily searchable database.  While it wasn’t ever a complete picture (a hundred or more of my drawings never made it into their database), it was a good source.  Along with that was the publication of several databases: The Complete New Yorker‘s 8 discs, and The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker‘s 2 discs (just 1 disc in a later edition).

As all the work, up that time, was right there, all printable, it seemed silly to continue ripping out pages from the print magazine. The Complete New Yorker‘s discs covered February of 1925 through February of 2005 — with a promise to continue updating the work; The Complete Cartoons covered 1925 thru 2004.

Now some ten years after abandoning the tearsheet practice (the last tearsheet in my black volumes shown above is dated October 20, 2008), I regret not continuing.  There is currently no reliable contemporary archive online or on disc. The magazine’s online search function (available to subscribers) is inadequate.

I’d hoped that any forthcoming celebration of the magazine’s cartoons for The New Yorker‘s 100th birthday in 2025 might update the cartoon database. Heck, update the database for the entire magazine. If you own the aforementioned 8 discs from the Complete New Yorker, you’ll eventually discover that the discs will not work with modern computer systems. Luckily I have an ancient  iBook around and use that to search the database. 

So far, there is no mention in any of the promotional text accompanying the upcoming New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons that it includes a database — its interests seem to be fashioned around cartoon “tropes” — but we’ll see.

Interesting then that it’s back to where it started here: with collecting hard copies.  In my case, I held on to a large number of back issues of the magazine, but not enough issues to fill in these past 8 years. In the last year I’ve started ripping out tearsheets, but they’ve yet to be placed in the binders.  The chronologist in me wants to pick up where I left off, in 2008, and move forward. 

Perhaps I should’ve known better.  Having a binder in front of you, with everything in chronological order is the best way to go. I’ve used these binders as reminders of certain moments tied-in to the drawings (if there was something memorable to record). Here’s an example: a drawing published March 16, 1987.  As you see in the note attached, the drawing includes a nod to William Shawn. 

 

 

 

The Tilley Watch Online: June 11-16, 2018; More Arthur Getz (at The Hotchkiss Library of Sharon)

Yet another Trumpian week for the Daily Cartoon. 

The participating cartoonists:  Danny Shanahan, one of the magazine’s modern masters, appeared twice in the week, with his second a nod to the climbing racoon we all fell in love with; Lars Kenseth, whose one-of-a-kind drawings also appeared twice (neither was a racoon drawing, unfortunately), and Lisa Rothstein, possibly making her Daily debut (someone please advise if this is incorrect).

And the Daily Shouts contributing New Yorker cartoonists were Tom Chitty Jeremy Nguyen with David Ostow, Liana Finck, and honorary New Yorker cartoonist, Colin Stokes (he’s the magazine’s assistant cartoon editor, and… he’s co-written a published New Yorker cartoon or two).

You can see all of the above work, and more, here.

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More Arthur Getz

I recently drove over to Sharon, Connecticut to catch the Arthur Getz exhibit at the Hotchkiss Library of Sharon. It runs til the end of this month, so hurry and go before it’s gone! One of the New Yorker‘s great cartoonists, Peter Steiner, joined me to tour the art on the walls, including the original art for the terrific cover shown above. This is a large piece (my guess is it’s about a yard tall), graphically powerful as a cover and even more so when you’re up close to the original (it’s currently hanging along a staircase). There are a number of other originals like it (in the wow category), but also a good number of small pieces (many “killed” covers) as well as some pastoral watercolors. Many of the pieces are for sale. A portfolio of work sits in one of the rooms — you can breeze through and pick up the original art for as close a look as you want.

Getz’s New Yorker work really shines through in this show. Mr. Steiner and I spent some time gazing at them, marveling at Getz’s ability to grasp the big picture so beautifully. I’m reluctant to label any specific period of The New Yorker as golden or aluminum or silver, or whatever, but as Mr. Getz’s career spanned 50 years (1938-1988)  his work certainly was being published during the magazine’s so-called Golden Age.

As mentioned on the Spill not long ago there’s a companion exhibit at the nearby Moviehouse in Millerton (NY) featuring much more of Getz’s New Yorker work. You really need to see that too (it runs through the end of August).

50 Years Ago This Week: Peter Arno’s Last New Yorker Cartoon

Every so often the Spill likes to take a look at the last cartoon published by one of the magazine’s artists. This week it’s a drawing by Peter Arno — the cartoonist the New Yorker‘s Roger Angell called “the magazine’s first genius.”  I won’t go on and on here about why Arno is one of the magazine’s greatest — some say the greatest of the magazine’s artists, but if you want more on the subject there is a biography of him floating around (forgive me for lifting the bolded passage below from the aforementioned biography). 

(Above: Arno’s drawing as it appeared in the issue)

Sometime in the fall of 1967, Arno finished working on a full-page drawing of Pan blowing on his pipes as he frolicked through a glade.  In the forefront of the picture is a young, well-endowed woman, who says to him, “Oh, grow up!”  Brendan Gill [in his wonderful book, Here At The New Yorker] described the drawing this way:

“…in content and composition it was a characteristic piece of work…the drawing is a matter of some forty or fifty bold strokes of black against white, bound together by a gray wash; it has been built up as solidly as a fortress, though built in fun, and its dominant note is one of youthful zest.  Nobody could ever tell that it was the work of an aging man, let alone a dying one.”

“Oh, grow up!” wasn’t the last Arno published by the New Yorker.  His last cover appeared the following June, and the magazine has, from time-to-time brought out one of his older covers or drawings. But it was certainly the last published in his lifetime. The drawing appeared in the anniversary issue, dated February 24th, 1968. It would’ve been out on the newsstands a week earlier, the week of February 18.  Arno died on February 22. 

If you have access to the New Yorker‘s digital edition or happen to have a print copy, it’s certainly worth a visit to this issue — it’s a gem.  Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley is, of course, on the cover (and Mr. Irvin’s classic masthead for the Talk of The Town is in its place). The issue’s cartoons are by some of the greatest names on the magazine’s roster of artists (the magazine had a history of making sure the anniversary issue was loaded up with a good number of its big guns. In my Arno research I came across a note to Arno from the New Yorker‘s founder and first editor, Harold Ross expressing concern he (Ross) did not have a Arno drawing available for the upcoming anniversary issue). 

In this issue you’ll find terrific cartoons by Robert Weber, Alan Dunn, George Price, James Stevenson, William Steig, Steinberg, Richard Decker, Warren Miller, Frank Modell, Syd Hoff, Charles Addams, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Lee Lorenz, Mischa Richter, and Barney Tobey. (At this particular time the magazine’s stable of cartoonists was all male. Mary Petty’s piece appeared in 1966, and Nurit Karlin’s work did not begin appearing until 1974).

Next week, the Spill will return with its usual Monday Tilley Watch.   

 

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.