New Yorker Cartoonists Remember Gahan Wilson; The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of December 2, 2019; Library Of Congress Interview With Thurber Expert, Michael Rosen; Meet The Artist (1943): William Gropper; The Tilley Watch Online, November 18-22, 2019

New Yorker Cartoonists Remember Gahan Wilson

The  New Yorker cartoonist community is quite small. Our numbers are great enough to field a softball team, but not enough to fill your average sized auditorium.  Whether we knew Gahan well, or very little, or not at all, we know his work, and feel the loss of one of our family.

What follows are a number of Gahan’s colleagues sharing their thoughts on the man and his work.

Edward Koren: Whenever a unique visionary and talented  and irreplaceable artist like Gahan leaves us, we are further diminished in assessing our own lives through his eyes and ears. He was one of the masters of our curious art form, and we all learned from him, as a benchmark of imagination, to follow the example of his path when we showed up at our own work each day .

Christopher Weyant: For my generation of cartoonists, Gahan was our Charles Addams. His dark, macabre, parallel universe seemed much more interesting than the one I occupied growing up in New Jersey. His artistic talent was breathtaking. As a kid, I first discovered Gahan’s cartoons in National Lampoon, and later, Playboy and the New Yorker. Although Gahan is known for his one-panel gags, I was a huge fan of his cartoon strip, “Nuts” that ran in the Lampoon. Growing up, my family moved often. Through all of the moves, one of the few things I held onto was a notebook in which I had pasted all of my favorite cartoons – “Nuts” being my favorite. In that strip, Gahan had somehow captured what it felt like to see the world through a kid’s eyes, or at least, how it looked to me. It had an irreverence and honesty that made me want to be a cartoonist. Years later, getting to know him was a true thrill and we talked about those strips and how much they meant to me. Gahan said that he was that boy in the strip, and joked, “but aren’t we all?” He’ll be missed.

Ellis Rosen: I never met him but I loved his work so much. In 2015 when I decided to draw cartoons I went through all the NYer cartoonists I could find and studied them.  Wilson was the first one I got hooked on. I even foolishly tried to draw like him before quickly realizing that was impossible. I have tons of drawings attempting (and failing) to be as wonderfully textured, studied, playful, and as devious as his were.  In a field full of distinctive voices his must be the most unique.

Robert Leighton: Long before I knew of Gahan’s single-panel work in The New Yorker, let alone Playboy, I loved his endlessly varied work in National Lampoon. In 1973 I encountered “Strange Beliefs of Children,” one of the many pieces he wrote and illustrated for that magazine. I can still remember (no, reverse that—I cannot forget) his illustration for the belief that “Swinging over the bar is to be avoided at all costs for it will turn the swinger inside out.” Think a pink mass of flesh, with ribs and eyeballs, still in the shape of a child, sitting on a playground swing and still clutching the chains with inside-out hands.

Gahan frequently, and masterfully, drew on his inner child. In my few conversations with him, I saw that he’d never lost a childlike awe of the world; even his macabre observations didn’t seem to come from the eyes of a jaded adult but rather reflected a kid’s shock that life is indeed nasty, brutish, and short.

For me, his masterpiece was the sustained comic strip for the Lampoon, “Nuts.” Gahan honestly depicted the way the world confounds and disappoints when you’re a powerless kid: seeing a 3-D movie that’s scarier than you anticipated, visiting a surgical supply store, getting the gift of a pet chameleon that’s dead in the morning. Just like its ostensible model, “Peanuts,” the adults were always off-screen; you never saw them (except their gnarled fingers and unless they were dead).

In 2003 Gahan spoke to Comic Book Artist magazine about how he mined his own life experiences to write Nuts. “The Great Joke in life,” he said, “is that there are no secrets; we all share a common experience.”

He was one of my very favorites. So long, Gahan Wilson.

Joe Dator: The impossibly great cartoonist Gahan Wilson left us last week. Long before I ever ventured into the New Yorker, I grew up reading his cartoons in Playboy and the National Lampoon. I met Gahan many times at the New Yorker’s old Times Square office, and he was always very kind to me, regarding me as a peer, though he was a towering giant. One time I was coming out of the cartoon editor’s office after a particularly good meeting, and, seeing Gahan was waiting to go after me, I said “Good luck.” As if he needed any of that from me!

Peter Kuper: I can’t begin to express the impact Gahan’s work had on me. My mind exploded the first time I saw his art in a collection from Playboy — long before I was legally allowed to get the magazine. Playboy published it, but the cover image was the opposite of sexy (and the woman at the drugstore counter allowed me to buy it without embarrassment). It was a soldier standing in the middle of an apocalyptic battlefield, with the caption, “I think I won!”

Images like this formed my idea of what a gag cartoon could be. Chas Addams on LSD! He brought a unique vision to everything he drew. His work got in my blood stream and changed my world view. I return to his books again and again to be reminded of the possibilities of this form: humor with a gut punch. Horror that brings peels of laughter.

I feel honored to have crossed paths with him and more honored that he acquiesced to write the introduction to my book Speechless back in 2000. He is a giant of cartooning and may his beanstalk ever grow in all of us.

 

Ken Krimstein: Before I moved back to the Chicago area from New York City, I used to run into Gahan in the waiting room at The New Yorker. When I told him I was moving to Evanston he would recount stories of his childhood there, and his days at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, seeing Basil Rathbone almost fly off the “L” train, and more. I reached out to Lisa Wainwright, then head of the School of Art Institute where I was teaching, and suggested they give Gahan an honorary degree. She was more than thrilled. When I asked Gahan if he’d be interested, he said, “I love honors,” or something like that. Anyhow, a few months later, there he was, on the stage at Millennium Park, dressed in full regalia — cap and gown —  as the President of the School, Walter Massey, placed a gigantic medallion around his neck and shook his hand. Gahan then turned to the audience, grabbed one end of the silk ribbon holding the medallion and hoisted it over his right shoulder, canting his head to the left, lolling out his tongue, bulging his eyes, and transforming a solemn moment into a priceless Gahan gag. The crowd loved it. 

Liza Donnelly: Gahan and I would run into each other from time to time in the offices of The New Yorker. He was a sweet gentleman — our interactions were lovely; I always enjoyed talking to him. Gahan did not seem totally at ease with chit-chat, but he was good at it, peppering what he said with humorous anecdotes and oddities. We would laugh at the absurdity of it all. Once for a public event, I was tasked with putting together and moderating a panel of cartoonists, and I invited Gahan to be on the panel. He clearly loved cartooning, as witnessed by the stories he told.  While in one sense it’s clear that Gahan’s work is uniquely Gahan, I never ever saw in him any of the macabre one often sees in his cartoons. In the actual person that I knew I only experienced kindness.

Mick Stevens: I only met the man once or twice, but I’ve been seeing his work since I was a baby cartoonist. He and his work were very lovable and inspiring.

Felipe Galindo: I first saw Gahan’s cartoons in my native Mexico, when I was a teenager. I found a book of his cartoons for Playboy and what struck me was that they were not about sex or women, but rather they featured ordinary characters whose lives had taken a surreal or ghoulish turn.
After I moved to New York, I met Gahan at The New Yorker cartoonists lounge while we waited to show our cartoons to the editor. He was gentle, smart and kind, always with a smile on his face.
We developed a “weekly” friendship and shared stories at our cartoonist lunch at Pergola’s.
Once, he invited me to an exhibit of German art from the Weimar era at the Metropolitan Museum; we both loved art and had a great conversation while contemplating the paintings.
Years later, he kindly wrote a quote to be published in my cartoon book, I will always treasure his generosity.
His work was sweet and grim, his cartoons and illustrations were always fun and fresh, and his captions were almost poetic. His National Lampoon’s Nuts strip was a gem.
A priceless piece of advice he gave me (and I guess many others) was to be patient. Cartooning is like fishing he said, let small ideas go, and focus on catching the big ones.
Gracias y adiós, amigo Gahan!

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The Cover: An arty cover.  Here’s a Q&A with Kadir Nelson, the artist.

The Cartoonists:

The Cartoons: you can see a slideshow of the latest cartoons here (scroll down a bit).

Noted: the lead cartoon is by Gahan Wilson, his passing mentioned on the Contributors page.

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The Tis A Pity Department:

The above classic design by Rea Irvin disappeared in the Spring of 2017, replaced by…gasp!… a redraw.  Read about it here

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Library Of Congress Interview Of Interest: Thurber Expert, Michael Rosen

From The Library of Congress, November 22, 2019,  “‘Humor At First Sight’ as James Thurber’s Art is celebrated for his 125th birthday”

— this interview with Michael Rosen, who has edited a number of Thurber-centric books including the latest, A Mile and A Half of Lines: The Art Of James Thurber Thurber *

*full disclosure: both my wife, Liza Donnelly, and I contributed to the book.

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Meet The Artist (1943): William Gropper

Another in a series of self portraits of New Yorker artists included in the Meet The Artist catalog published by the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in 1943.

Mr. Gropper’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z. The small red top-hatted icon beside his bolded name indicates that  Mr. Gropper is a member of the Spill‘s One Club, meaning he had but one cartoon published in The New Yorker during his lifetime:

William Gropper (Self portrait from The Business of Cartooning, 1939) Born, December 3, 1897, NYC. Died, January 6, 1977, Manhasset, NY. 1 drawing, April 11, 1942. Quote:”I owe a great deal to the east side of New York. I was hit on the head with a rock in a gangfight…that’s how I became an artist.” [Quote from catalogue, Meet the Artist, 1943]. For a brief bio of Gropper “the workingman’s protector” visit: http://specialcollections.wichita.edu/

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The Tilley Watch Online, November 18-22, 2019

A delayed end of week listing of New Yorker artists who contributed to newyorker.com, including The Daily Cartoon and/or Daily Shouts

The Daily Cartoon: J.A.K., Brendan Loper, Lila Ash, Sara Lautman, and Robert Leighton.

Daily Shouts: Julia Wertz, Jeremy Nguyen, Emily Flake (with Marissa Maciel), and Olivia de Recat (with Julia Edelman).

All of the above, and more, can be found here.

Barry Blitt’s Kvetchbook.

and a Postscript: The Beautifully Macabre Cartoons Of Gahan Wilson.

 

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of November 11, 2019

The Cover: Bruce McCall returns with a cut-away cover. I can’t think of a New Yorker cut-away drawing without thinking of this Charles Addams classic from April 28, 1951 (found on the left, mid-way down the link page). 

The Cartoonists:

Some random thoughts on some of the cartoons in this week’s issue:

…as a P.S. Mueller fan, and as someone who loves cowboy drawings, it was a blast coming upon his drawing on page 75….

…there are two cartoons in the issue as a result of team work: one by Kamraan Haffeez and Al Batt, the other by Corey Pandolf and Craig Baldo…

… work appears by two of the three New Yorker cartoonists who’ve been published in The New Yorker longer than any of the other active contributors*: Edward Koren and George Booth. Edward Koren’s first New Yorker cartoon was published May 26, 1962. Mr. Booth’s first New Yorker drawing was published in the issue of June 14, 1969. *Mort Gerberg is second — his first drawing appeared in April of 1965. It should be noted that Sam Gross is hot on Mr. Booth’s heels — his first New Yorker drawing appeared August 23, 1969, two months after Mr. Booth’s first.

…the way Karen Sneider drew the two characters in her fun cartoon (p.80) vaguely reminds me of Chon Day’s work. Mr. Day’s style seemed to me a way more organized and orderly version of Thurber’s. Mr. Day did wonders with a simple line, and an occasional layer of faint wash.

…really like the pay-off of Amy Hwang’s caption in her drawing (on page 61).

…congrats to all the runners in yesterday’s NYC Marathon, including our very own Liza Donnelly    who ran the big race for the very first time (her “Was Married” drawing appears on page 78).

The Rea Irvin Missing (and Missed) Talk Masthead Watch

The above jewel has been missing from The New Yorker since the Spring of 2017. Read about it here.

 

 

 

Obscure Gluyas Williams From Bloom’s Vault; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon; A Cartoon Excerpt From “Everyone’s A Critic” On Lit Hub

Obscure Gluyas Williams From Bloom’s Vault

Tom Bloom, who has graciously provided these images from his collection, tells the Spill that the below were “produced as samples for a paper mill c. 1950 or so…the artwork still looks quite crisp (as usual). Each one opens up like a booklet and then again as a broadside presenting examples of printing, paper, technological selections promoting their “Workbook.”

Here’s Gluyas (pronounced Glue-yaz) Williams entry on the Spill‘s  A-Z:

Gluyas Williams  Born, San Francisco, 1888. Died, Boston, Mass., 1982. One of the pillars of Harold Ross’s stable of artists, and one of Ross’s favorite cartoonists. His beautiful full page drawings were a regular feature in the magazine. Mr. Williams illustrated a number of Robert Benchley’s collections, providing the cover art as well as illustrations. New Yorker work: March 13, 1926 – Aug 25, 1951. Key collections: The Gluyas Williams Book ( Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1929), The Gluyas Williams Gallery (Harper, 1956). Website: http://www.gluyaswilliams.com/

Further reading on Mr. Williams, link here to Edward Sorel’s 1984 American Heritage piece, “The World Of Gluyas Williams”

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Spooky NYC Real Estate by Lila Ash, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2018.  Visit her website here.

 

 

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A Cartoon Excerpt From “Everyone’s A Critic” On Lit Hub

From Literary Hub, October 24, 2019, “Six Cartoonists On Critical Failure, One Panel At A Time”

— the selection includes work from Barbara Smaller, Mick Stevens, Edward Koren, William Haefeli, and this one from P.C. Vey.

“My wife! My best friend! Advance uncorrected galleys of my new book!”

 

 

 

 

Five Days Til “A New Yorker Cartoonists’ Tribute To James Thurber” At The Society Of Illustrators; The Tilley Watch Online: The Week Of October 14-18, 2019

At The Society of Illustrators this coming Friday, October 25th, New Yorker cartoonists Liza Donnelly, Danny Shanahan, and Michael Maslin will join Thurber expert Michael J. Rosen in celebrating The Art of James Thurber.  All the info here.

Thurber’s entry on The Spill‘s A-Z:

James Thurber Born, Columbus, Ohio, December 8, 1894. Died 1961, New York City. New Yorker work: 1927 -1961, with several pieces run posthumously.  According to the New Yorker’s legendary editor, William Shawn, “In the early days, a small company of writers, artists, and editors — E.B. White, James Thurber, Peter Arno, and Katharine White among them — did more to make the magazine what it is than can be measured.”  

Key cartoon collection: The Seal in the Bedroom and Other Predicaments (Harper & Bros., 1932). Key anthology (writings & drawings): The Thurber Carnival (Harper & Row, 1945). There have been a number of Thurber biographies. Burton Bernstein’s Thurber (Dodd, Mead, 1975) and Harrison Kinney’s James Thurber: His Life and Times (Henry Holt & Co., 1995)  are essential. A short bio appears on the Thurber House website: http://www.thurberhouse.org/about-james-thurber/

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An end of the week listing of New Yorker cartoonist online contributors

The Daily Cartoon: Maddie Dai, Joe Dator, Teresa Burns Parkhurst, Peter Kuper, and Tom Toro.

Daily Shouts: Eugenia Viti, and (cover artist) Jenny Kroik.

Also:

Barry Blitt’s  Kvetchbook…

and a Postscript by Edward Koren on the late Dana Fradon.

New York Times Dana Fradon Obit; New Books!; New Yorker Cover Artist Roxie Munro Remembers Dana Fradon; Edward Koren On Dana Fradon; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon; Today’s Daily Shouts…By Jenny Kroik

The New York Times Dana Fradon Obit

Here’s Richard Sandomir’s New York Times obit for Dana Fradon, who passed away last week at the age of 97.

Shown above, left to right: New Yorker artist Charles Saxon, New Yorker art editor (from 1939 – 1973) James Geraghty, New Yorker artist Dana Fradon, and New Yorker artist,Whitney Darrow, Jr.

–photo: Sarah Geraghty Herndon

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Here are three books of note out soon (one’s out today).

 

 

Emily Flake’s That Was Awkward: The Art and Etiquette of the Awkward Hug (Viking) is out this very day. Ms. Flake has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2008.  Link here to her website.

 

 

Next week (Tuesday, October 25th)  Everyone’s A Critic  (Princeton Architectural Press) a cartoon anthology that includes contributions by 35 New Yorker cartoonists.  The book is the second in a series edited by Bob Eckstein who has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2007.

 

 

On November 5th , Peter Kuper’s Heart Of Darkness is out from W.W. Norton & Co.. Link here to Mr. Kuper’s website. He has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2011.

 

 

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New Yorker Cover Artist Roxie Munro Remembers Dana Fradon

Roxie Munro, who began contributing covers to The New Yorker with the issue of November 9, 1981  has posted the following piece on Facebook about her late colleague and friend, The New Yorker artist Dana Fradon.

My comments on dear friend Dana Fradon’s passing:

Very very sad about Dana. He was a great friend. A wonderfully talented artist and cartoonist. Satirical, ironic, and very quick – at Tuesday lunches after New Yorker submissions, anything in the service of a witty line, even if it meant sharp jabs at friends. All of which were forgiven in awe of the smart retort. Probably the first very very politically liberal person I met. Super original cartoons on many subjects, including political Washington. We shared house rentals a couple times w/fellow New Yorker artists on Cape Cod; spent weeks traveling in the UK, Paris, and the Dordogne (with some great adventures); hung out on weekends in his classic farmhouse in Newtown, CT (he made a great stew with all sorts of meats, and a really good scallop fettuccine); and part of a summer in Lake Como, Italy, at an artist’s workshop. He did two VERY cool children’s books on medieval knights with my publisher. Dana was an original. He was from a rough and tumble area of Chicago, and served in WW II. His like will not be seen again.

Lots of the guys had quirky “issues” with each other. But they all were brothers, in the difficult business of selling cartoons. And, interestingly, they were NOT male chauvinist pigs, at least not to me. They were respectful of women artists, and supportive, and treated us as equals, though we weren’t; that generation of cartoonists were unique artists and very well-read, smart (mostly) men – Ed Fisher, Donald Reilly, Lee Lorenz, Booth, Addams, Hamilton, Chuck Saxon, Modell, Weber, Richter, Meyer, Ross, Tobey, Henry Martin, Dedini, Drucker, Miller, Farris, Mirachi, Frascino (and later, Levin, Gross, Ziegler, Stevens, Cline, Steiner, Koren, and others). What a group of wonderful talented characters!

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Edward Koren On Dana Fradon

From newyorker.com, The Timeless Cartoons Of Dana Fradon, by long-time contributor, Edward Koren.

 

 

 

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Peter Kuper does the honors. (See above for more on Mr. Kuper).

 

Today’s Daily Shouts

“The N.Y.C. Bridal Struggle” but cover artist, Jenny Kroik.