The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of October 2, 2017

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

October already? Well yes — that’s the way it is on magazine covers.  Always one week ahead of reality (or if it’s a monthly, one month ahead of reality). The cover of this weeks issue, graphically speaking, reminded me of Gretchen Dow Simpson’s work (she did 58 covers for the New Yorker ). A number of Ms. Simpson’s  covers involved stairs, and all the wonderful shadows and angles associated with stairs. She did one New York City stoop cover as well (it was this cover that came to mind when I first saw the latest one by Kadir Nelson. Like Mr. Nelson’s,  Ms. Simpson’s cover has a somber cast of its own. 

I note while zooming though the Goings On About Town the ad for Spielberg (“Direct From the Heart”) — he looks a little like John Lennon there, specifically the photo of Mr. Lennon taken outside Mr. Lennon’s New York City Bank Street address.

Spielberg and Mr. Lennon (with stethoscope):

Okay, now in to the issue and onto the cartoons. The first, on page 20, is by Barbara Smaller, who began contributing to the New Yorker in 1996.  An excellent sizing of Ms. Smaller’s drawing — we can really see her work here. It’s funny, but with this kind of space, her work makes me think somewhat of the late great Robert Weber’s. Perhaps it’s the caption, or tone of the caption — very Webery (Webbery?). Google search Robert Weber New Yorker images and you’ll get an eyeful. I’d direct you to a Weber collection but, sigh, there never was one (some day I hope!).   

Four pages later is a mob drawing by relative newbie, Christian Lowe (first New Yorker appearance: February 2016).  Again, nice placement on the page. The caption forced me to visualize cinematic baseball bat moments involving mobsters.  Did Robert De Niro’s  Al Capone do a bat flip in that memorable scene from The Untouchables?  Nope. 

Four pages later a rapunzel drawing by J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein).  Mr. Katzenstein (first New Yorker drawing: 2014) manages, in a two-part drawing no less, and using barely any of Rapunzel’s tower or hair, to succinctly convey an idea. Most cartoonists would show the whole tower and all the hair, as well as the sun, and Icarus. In this case, not necessary. J.A.K.’s drawing is immediately followed by a two page color spread by Roz Chast (her work began appearing in the magazine in 1978). An incident taken from a day in Ms. Chast’s life, involving a knife.  Three pages later a  drawing by  — I believe! — a brand new newbie, Jon Adams.  The drawing features a burning bed that is in no way connected to the 1984 Farrah Fawcett film, The Burning Bed.  

Two pages later, an Avi Steinberg drawing set in one of a cartoonist’s best friend scenarios: the doctor’s office.  I toyed with the idea that the caption should read “Just as I suspected. This thing makes everything louder” instead of the published “Just as I suspected. These things make everything louder” —  it’s the kind of brow furrowing decision-making that makes this cartoon biz so darn demanding.

Four pages later, the distinctive work of Lars Kenseth (first New Yorker cartoon: 2016).  Sharks! I wish we could see a Kenseth shark some day.  In this case the fins suffice. The fellow in the foreground is holding a small piece of wood.  I appreciate the care Mr. Kenseth has taken drawing that little piece of wood — the detail makes me laugh. 

After another four pages is a well placed Paul Noth drawing incorporating a wee bit of color.  Mr. Noth’s first drawing appeared in The New Yorker in 2004.  Like Mr. Steinberg’s doctor’s office, the wise man on the mountaintop is also a favorite of New Yorker cartoonists (I’ve done a number of both, and will continue to do more — they’re like potato chips: you can’t stop at one, or even a dozen).  On the very next page is a Farley Katz drawing.  Mr. Katz, like Mr. Kenseth, has a truly distinctive style.  You know it’s his work before you’ve had time to even wonder whose work it is (if that makes sense). There are certain cartoonists whose every drawing is akin to coming upon a blind curve — you have absolutely no idea what you are about to see. This is a very very good thing. In this latest drawing, there’s shopping action that (for me anyway) recalls the game show Supermarket Sweep. Again, Mr. Katz does not fail to deliver something unusual. 

A Tom Chitty drawing follows Mr. Katz. Talk about your distinctive styling. This is a three parter, with the third part using a party punch bowl, something not seen in New Yorker cartoons very often. If there’s been a punch bowl in recent times, I can’t recall it. Please correct me if I’m mistaken. The first Chitty New Yorker drawing appeared in 2014.  Three pages later, Emily Flake mashes pirates with ‘splaining. I’m curious as to where this  pirate get-together takes place. It looks kind of like a lodge, or a finished basement.  Ms. Flake’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 2008. On the very next page is a BEK (Bruce Eric Kaplan) drawing.  Another distinctive stylist with the added bonus of some of the best written captions the magazine publishes. They just flow.  Mr. Kaplan’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 1991. 

Eight pages later, the final drawing of the issue (not counting the Caption Contest drawings) and it’s by newbie, Teresa Burns Parkhurst. Technically not Ms. Parkhurst’s first appearance in the magazine — she was part of last week’s caption contest.  Another cartoonist’s chestnut scenario: the boardroom.  This time the focus is on the always awkward situation of whether or not to tell someone they’ve some foreign body (food, usually) stuck on their face. 

And that is that. See you next Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures At An Exhibition: Not Ok

Here’s a great photo taken last night at the Not Ok group show (recently profiled in The New York Times). 

Front row:
Ellis Rosen, Brendon Loper, Jeremy Nguyen, Lars Kenseth, Amy Kurzweil

Back Row: Sam Marlow, Mitra Farmand, Maggie Larson, David Ostow, Jason Adam Katzenstein, Drew Panckeri, Colin Tom

Below: a miscellany from the exhibit (group photo above courtesy of Jeremy Nguyen. All other photos courtesy of Elizabeth Dickson).  My thanks to Ms. Dickson, Lars Kenseth, Mr. Nguyen, and Mitra Farmand for their assistance.

 

 

Event of Interest: Not OK: Great Cartoons That Weren’t Good Enough; Cartoon Companion’s Latest Ratings; Next Week’s New Yorker Cover Revealed

Event of Interest: Not OK: Great Cartoons That Weren’t Good Enough

What fun!  An exhibit of cartoons that did not make the cut at The New Yorker. Many of the contributing artists are newbies at the magazine, either in the print version and/or on the magazine’s website.

“Not OK” refers to the two letters every New Yorker cartoonist (and every prospective New Yorker cartoonist) longs to see in her or his inbox at week’s end in an email from the New Yorker‘s cartoon editor: OK (or sometimes: O.K.).  An OKed cartoon is a drawing that has been bought by The New Yorker. The Not OK show is comprised of selected drawings submitted to the magazine but not bought. 

Here’s a list of the participants:

Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, Mitra Farmand, Jason Adam Katzenstein, Lars Kenseth, Amy Kurzweil, Maggie Larson, Sharon Isadora Levy, Brendan Loper, Sam Marlow, Jeremy Nguyen, David Ostow, Drew Panckeri, Ellis Rosen, Julia Suits, Colin Tom

For more info on these artists please consult the Spill’s A-Z or the personal websites of each cartoonist.

Day, time  & place:

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Cartoon Companion’s Latest Ratings

The CC boys are back (sans Mystery Cartoonist!) with a look at this week’s cartoons. I particularly enjoyed their dissection of Jeremy Nguyen’s Picasso cartoon.  Go here to see what they have to say about that drawing and all the others in the issue.

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Next Week’s New Yorker Cover Revealed

It’s become somewhat routine these days for the New Yorker to allow us a look at the upcoming issue’s cover, most especially if the cover is tied-in to current events. Here’s the cover artist, Eric Drooker, talking (very briefly)  about his cover for the September 18th issue. And here’s Mr. Drooker talking about it a little more to The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna.

Monday/Tuesday Tilley Watch

And now for Part 2 of the Monday Tilley Watch…

Continuing on:  a cat and twister drawing by Julia Suits  — who could ask for more. Ms. Suits first New  Yorker cartoon appeared in 2006. On the very next page, a cartoon, with a slip of color, by  P.S. Mueller (first New Yorker cartoon, 1998). Mr. Mueller specializes in what is sometimes referred to as “off-the-wall” humor. His work is well off the wall — the cartoon community is all the better for it.  A few pages beyond his cartoon is work by a relatively new contributor, Kendra Allenby, whose first drawing appeared in the New Yorker in August of 2016.  I see a hint — just a hint — of John Held, Jr.’s flapper drawings in this particular cartoon: the roundish heads — the angular bodies.

On the very next page is a Farley Katz drawing.  Mr. Katz began contributing to the magazine in 2007.  Mr. Katz is firmly in the P.S. Mueller school of off the wall, but in this particular case, not too far off.  I love storefront cartoons (Roz Chast has done a bunch); I’m happy to see this row of shops show up.  Just three pages later is a Lars Kenseth drawing based on what must be one of the longest running ads on tv. Here Mr. Kenseth dispenses somewhat with his usual roll-on deodorant style  depiction of people (he was the subject of a Spill piece just the other day), and gives us something close to realistic (with some Mr. Potato Head or bobble-head proportions).  Next up: a cutting edge-ish (another reminder: “cutting edge” usage courtesy of the Tina Brown era) Tom Chitty drawing.  Mr. Chitty’s work first appeared in the New Yorker in 2014. No one draws like Mr. Chitty. It’s beginning to seem like this issue is loaded with off-the-wallers.  How fun. 

On the very next page after Mr. Chitty’s drawing is the minimalist work of Bruce Eric Kaplan (BEK). I have to admit — and I don’t like admitting it because I don’t want to drag in the laugh-o-meter to these Monday Tilley Watches (rating the drawings falls in the jurisdiction of Cartoon Companion)but I did laugh out loud at this drawing. The drawing’s a perfect example of less is more. For the record: Mr. Kaplan’s first drawing appeared in the magazine in 1991.

Next up, a little touch of Hemingway from Paul Noth (first New Yorker drawing: 2004). As I mentioned when I began posting the Monday Tilley Watch, one of the things I look for while browsing through each new issue is whether someone has already done a drawing in the ballpark of something I’ve just submitted to the magazine or have yet to submit.  Here Mr. Noth uses the word (and the dish) “casserole” which happens to be central to a drawing I’d planned on submitting next week.  So my casserole drawing will now cool its heels for several months before it’s sent downtown to 1 World Trade Center (where the New Yorker’s offices are located). This juggling of what cartoon to send and when to send it or whether not to send it is about as complicated as this cartoonist life gets.

The final drawing of the issue (not counting those on the last page belonging to the caption contest) belongs to Vermonter,  Harry Bliss.  It’s a drawing thematically tied to the issue’s cover: summertime concerns.  As a footnote (related to Mr. Bliss’s drawing) the news that possum eat ticks has swept the upstate community where I live. The possum’s status has risen dramatically.

…see you next week.

 

 

 

Checking In: Lars Kenseth Talks About “Deodorant People” and His First New Yorker Cartoon

I won’t lie to you Spill visitors, the first time I saw a Lars Kenseth drawing in the New Yorker, I was both baffled and intrigued. No one draws like Mr. Kenseth. He is one of the newest of the newest wave of cartoonists who have broken into and onto the pages of Harold Ross’s now 92 year old weekly. Mr. Kenseth’s first drawing appeared last Fall and those that have followed have not lost their peculiarity. That’s a good thing.

Happily, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Kenseth this past Spring when he was east.  Meeting him was in a weird way like meeting his cartoon world; cartoonists who seem like their worlds fascinate me (two of the New Yorker cartoonists he mentioned in our discussion qualify as perfect examples: Sam Gross and Charles Addams). 

With the recent publication of another Kenseth cartoon in the New Yorker it seemed like a good time to check in with him…

Michael MaslinAccording to your website bio you are a very very busy cartoonist.  So, what are you up to these days? 
 
Lars Kenseth: The project that’s giving me the most stress dreams right now is an animated show I created for Adult Swim called Chuck Deuce. It’s about this sketchy, burnout surfer from Santa Cruz who is terrorized by a bevy of weird, pervasive hallucinations. We did a pilot and it’s about to go into “testing” which means they’re going to screen it for a roomful of people in Union, New Jersey who will then decide if I should be on the TV. Fingers crossed.
 
At the same time, I’m trying to sell four other TV projects and a movie. The thing about Hollywood is… nothing is real. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told something is a sure thing only to see it fall apart. Which is why I’m always working on new material. The upside is I’m usually employed. The downside is I’m more panic attack than man. But that’s just great cartoon material.
 
On the cartoon side, I’m doing my batches every week and trying to get better. And I’m investigating other outlets to sell to — the rejects. They just hang around the house all day doing nothing. Meanwhile I’m out there busting my butt. I’ll tell ya…
 
I’ve also started writing short comedy pieces, a la Shouts & Murmurs. I’ve always loved short form stuff like that. I’m a HUGE Jack Handey fan. Anyway, it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. And I just sold one to The American Bystander! That was exciting. I love that magazine.
 
MM: You’re a west coaster, and you’re also involved in television.  Do you ever interact with other west coast New Yorker cartoonist / television colleagues such as Alex Gregory,  Bruce Kaplan, and Zach Kanin?
 
LK: I haven’t met Alex or Bruce yet. Although I would love to, I’m a giant fan of them both. I’ve met Zach Kanin once – very nice guy and also insanely busy out here. And I know Sam Marlow’s out here, too – I need to reach out to him. Sam, if you’re reading this, drop me a line.
 
Matt Diffee and I are great friends and we see each other often. We are both members of The Order Of Cornelius (the NCS – L.A. Chapter) where we do secret handshakes and wear plaid and talk about cartoons. It’s fun! Matt was a huge help as I was shaping my drawing style.
 
MMYou have one of the most unusual styles of all contemporary New Yorker cartoonists. Can you talk about your style.
 
LK: Can I just say, I LOVE hearing people try to describe the characters I draw. I’ve heard everything from deodorant roll-on people to egg people to blobs to Weebles to gel caps to jellybeans to lozenges – it’s like the way every clan of survivors in The Walking Dead has a different name for “zombies”.
 
Ever since I was a kid I’d always drawn friendly looking characters, it’s what I like to do, but when I started working in TV animation that clean, big eyed look really snaked more and more into my drawings – because if I wanted to sell an animated show it would have to look like what’s on TV. When I finally got the courage to start submitting to The New Yorker, I knew I had to switch up my style. Matt Diffee put me through a kind of cartoon boot camp – feeding me different reference material. Weird Iranian cartoons, 18th century French doodles, etc. I just took it all in and started grinding away on a new style. I started drawing these strange little characters – my lumpy guys, I called them. They were squat, blobby characters with long pointy noses, bags under their eyes and I was using a rough, glitchy line quality. I thought I found something kind of interesting.
 
Eventually I flew out to New York to meet Bob [Mankoff, the New Yorker’s cartoon editor from August 1996 – April of 2017], introduce myself and get some face-to-face feedback on my stuff. Bob liked my jokes, but he HATED my style. It was the pointy noses that really did it.
“You need to get rid of that…” he searched for a descriptor, “aviary proboscis.” I’ll never forget that – so funny. And such a Bob Mankoff thing to say. Bob was sympathetic, “I’m sure you’ve been drawing this way your whole life.” I laughed, “More like three weeks.” 
I left that initial meeting unsure of where I stood. All I knew was my style wasn’t there yet. To quote Peter Arno, “Well, back to the old drawing board.”
 
When I got back to L.A. I took a hard look at my cartoons. The thing that I realized was these characters I was drawing weren’t me. They were mean and tired looking. It didn’t fit with my jokes or my personality. What I did like was the line quality. So I kept that. But from there I went friendlier, softer and pulled back on all the extremes. And that was that. After a month I’d rehabilitated my style to something that, thankfully, has found favor at the magazine… or at least enough favor to get the occasional OK. And I love it.
 
MMI think you may have made New Yorker cartoon history by including the words “New Yorker Cartoon” within the cartoon itself, and (unless I’m wrong), it was your first New Yorker cartoon.  Can you talk about that cartoon, and about that “first” moment?  Every cartoonist remembers that moment of the first OK.  Can you share your memory? 
 
LK: What a delightful shock that was, haha. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. As far as that first cartoon goes – I can’t believe I even sold that one. The whole “creepy clown” phenomenon was so odd – and not “New Yorker” at all. But, it’s a therapist’s office scene, so that’s the tether I suppose. It’s fitting that was my first one because some of my favorite New Yorker cartoons marry the surreal with the everyday. I’m reminded of that Charles Addams cartoon where a security guard locks eyes with a minotaur in the center of a labyrinthine museum. I need to sell a minotaur cartoon.
 
I got the OK on a Friday in late October of last year. I was eating fancy burgers in this Hollywood gastropub with a friend of mine. We were wrapping up dinner and about to walk over to The Wiltern to see a heavy metal concert. I was at the urinal checking my phone – because I’m classy – and saw I got an e-mail from Bob. And there it was in the subject line, “OK”. Everything after that is a blur – really hope I zipped up before I ran out of the bathroom to tell my buddy and call my wife and parents. My mom never swears but when I told her she was talking to a New Yorker cartoonist, she came close, “Shut the front door!!” 
For a kid whose father started feeding him Charles Addams and Sam Gross cartoons at a frightfully young age, this was a landmark moment.
 
Note: I asked Mr. Kenseth if he wouldn’t mind drawing a deodorant guy for the Spill.  He happily obliged and sent what he called “a little self portrait” — it appears at the very top of the post.