A Price Playbill; Ziegler’s Letterman Appearance; A Couple of Hokinson Dachshunds

A Price Playbill

Without generous donors, the Spill‘s archives would be so much poorer.  Here’s the latest addition: a Playbill with cover art by the great George Price. Stalag 17 premiered at the 48th St. Theatre in May of 1951.  Mr. Price’s work, as a spot artist, premiered in The New Yorker in 1929. In his book, The Art of The New Yorker: 1925-1995, Lee Lorenz, the magazine’s former Art/Cartoon editor (who called Price one of the magazine’s great stylists, along with Helen Hokinson, Peter Arno, William Steig, and James Thurber) described Price’s transition from spot artist to cartoonist:

 After purchasing a few spot drawings from Price, Katharine White invited him in for an interview. She encouraged him to try his hand at cartooning. George was reluctant at first.  He was not an idea person. Mrs. White promised to supply him with gag writers, and on this condition George was persuaded  to begin submitting to the magazine.

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Ziegler’s Letterman Appearance

I’ve linked to this video before, but just happened to see it again last night.  Broadcast June 20, 1983, here’s the late very great Jack Ziegler’s Late Night with David Letterman appearance.  See it here.

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A Couple of Hokinson Dachshunds

I didn’t know that dachshunds were at one time called “liberty hounds” — did you?  Read more  here on Attempted Bloggery about a 1947 Helen Hokinson drawing featuring two of them.

 

 

 

“A Search For Work ‘Funny, Beautiful, and True'”

In its final issue of 1992 the New Yorker published a remarkable piece, “Remembering Mr. Shawn”; thirty-three contributors recalling the late editor of the New Yorker who had passed away earlier in the month (one of them, Edward Koren, provided a drawing). I’ve read and re-read the piece a number of times and always come away with something by one of the contributors I’d missed before. But one recollection stuck from my first reading. Lee Lorenz, who served as Art Editor of the magazine from 1973 through 1997 (his title morphed to Cartoon Editor in the last five years of that span) wrote, in part, of his weekly art meetings with Mr. Shawn:

In a letter he [Shawn] wrote to me after he left the magazine he referred to these meetings as a search for work that was ‘funny, beautiful, and true.’ By “true” he meant not just true in its perception of the human condition but true to each artist’s vision.

I think Mr. Lorenz framed it perfectly.  When I think of “the New Yorker cartoon” as a distinct subset of American cartooning, and why it’s recognized as such, it’s due to the magazine’s long history of supporting its cartoonists and their work.

Of course there is and always has been disagreement over what is funny, and what is beautiful (and lately, more than ever, what is true).  For the four decades I’ve contributed to the New Yorker I’ve heard it said, at times, all along the way, that the cartoons aren’t as funny, or aren’t as good, as they used to be. I heard it said in the late 1970s, when I began contributing, and I hear it today.  Here’s a snippet from an article that popped up in my Google search just the other week:

Is the New Yorker magazine on the skids, or is it my brain that has lost whatever sharpness it may have had? I re-subscribed to the magazine a few months ago, and I seem to have detected a lower quality in its cartoons, which have always been its main attraction for persons of questionable intelligence, such as me.

What quality is, is also, of course, debatable. For every person who finds a particular New Yorker cartoon awful there’s another who finds it a work of genius (want to see for yourself? Go to the comments under any New Yorker cartoon posted on the magazine’s Facebook page).

Overlooked in all this public qualifying of what is funny, beautiful and true is the simple transaction between the artists and their editors: cartoonists do what we do as well as we can do it and send it to the magazine — the editors buy it or they don’t. The beauty of the New Yorker cartoon world is that cartoonists draw what they want. They are not assigned ideas by the editors. This total freedom allows the readership to see the work the cartoonists believe is funny, beautiful and true (i.e., their vision). It’s the not-so-secret formula for the now 93 year old success of the New Yorker cartoon.

Above: The inaugural issue of The New Yorker, cover by Rea Irvin; William Shawn, the magazine’s second editor; Lee Lorenz.  Photograph of Mr. Shawn by James Stevenson.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of June 25, 2018; A Few Images Posted from the Upcoming New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons

Noted that this week’s cover (above right) is by Harry Bliss, one of the New Yorker‘s cartoonists.  Noted because the majority of the magazine’s covers were once handled by its cartoonists (somewhat more than 60% a year by my iffy calculations). The number of cartoonists contributing covers these days can be counted on one hand: Mr. Bliss, Roz Chast, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Danny Shanahan, and George Booth.

The change came, as so many changes did, with the arrival of Tina Brown as editor in 1992.  At a meeting of cartoonists called by Ms. Brown just before she took the reigns as editor of The New Yorker, a bunch of us sat around a large table in an upstairs conference room at the fabled Algonquin. Arriving late (Amtrak issues), I sat next to then art editor Lee Lorenz and asked him what I’d missed.  He leaned over and whispered, “She’s going to bring in a lot of illustrators.” He then added something else, which you’ll have to wait to read in my memoir.

Some of Mr. Bliss’s cover has that Hitchcockian “Rear Window” feel to it; the structure of the cartoon (using balconies) has been put to good use by a few cartoonists over the years. Here’s an example that readily came to mind: a Liza Donnelly drawing that appeared in the January 20, 2014 New Yorker:

To read what Mr. Bliss had to say about his cover, go to this mini-interview here on  newyorker.com.

From the Depart of Just Sayin’:  The number of illustrations in this issue outweigh (in space) the number of cartoons appearing.  Sixteen illustrations (not including Tom Bachtell’s wonderful drawings that are laced through the Talk of The Town). Three of the sixteen are full page. Seventeen cartoons this week, one a full page by Liana Finck

The sizing of cartoons in this issue is generally very good. Most every drawing  gets some breathing room (just one is shoe-horned into a tight space).  

Three drawings noted: Ben Schwartzs bargain hunter’s mounted big game is fun. Charles Addams had a field day with this scenario throughout his spectacular New Yorker run.  Here’s one example .

Love Edward Koren‘s restaurant drawing. Some New Yorker drawings are referred to as evergreens — they always work, no matter the year, the trends, the political landscape, the whatever. Mr. Koren’s drawing is an evergreen.

The Spill‘s candidate for New Yorker drawing of the year (thus far) is Joe Dator‘s Abe Lincoln cartoon. (You can find it here on the magazine’s slideshow of the current issue’s cartoons. It’s number 13.)  When Harold Ross, the New Yorker‘s founder and first editor was asked why his magazine did not run color cartoons his response was, “What’s so funny about red?”* Mr. Dator’s drawing is a perfect example of what is funny about pink and orange, and yellow, and green and purple.

Spill round of applause for the above drawings.

*The New Yorker did run one color drawing in Ross’s time, Rea Irvin’s two page color spread, The Maharajah of Puttyput Receives a Christmas Necktie From the Queen. It was in the issue of December 12, 1925.

Still missing: Rea Irvin’s iconic Talk of The Town masthead. Here’s a Spill piece about its disappearance and replacement.

This is what the real thing looks like:

 

 — See you next week

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A Few Images Posted From the Upcoming New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons

The above from the publisher’s website. Well it’s not much, but it’s better than nuthin’.  I could only get the middle image to open up for a better view. Will post more when there’s more to post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of June 18, 1984

As mentioned here last week, it’s double issue time again. We’re halfway though it now ; only a week til the new issue (dated June 18, 2018) appears online early Monday morning. Just for fun I thought I’d go back to another June 18th issue — the one from 1984. 

Here’s the cover, by Susan Davis, who contributed fifteen covers to the magazine from 1983 – 1992.

 

And here are the cartoonists in that issue:

A number of New Yorker cartoon gods in that lineup. And, as you might expect, some cartoonists  contributing to the magazine then who still contribute now. On the downside, a number of colleagues who’ve passed on: George Price, James Stevenson, William Steig, Stan Hunt, J. B. Handelsman, Steinberg, Bernie Schoenbaum, Frank Modell, Barney Tobey, Ed Arno, Mischa Richter, Ed Fisher, Eldon Dedini, and Robert Weber.

A quick tour through the issue: Ed Frascino has a very funny cartoon name-checking Indiana Jones; Lee Lorenz ( the art editor at the time) puts the word “glitz” to excellent use; a half page George Price cartoon centered on the Year of the Rat; a beautiful full page Saxon drawing about the Museum of Modern Art; a four part Stevenson spread across two pages. He animates television antenna; a titled Steig: “Eastbound Traffic.” Great drawing!;  Stan Hunt’s drawing is one of those cartoons that could’ve run anytime in the previous thirty years (previous to 1984, that is) — a boiler plate kind of cartoon; “Bud” Handelsman gives us a heaven-based piece; a Roz Chast drawing split into four boxes. It could’ve run this year; an Ed Koren drawing that just is so like butter — drawing and caption;  Steinberg provides an illustration for a Profile piece by E.J. Kahn, Jr.; opposite Steinberg is a Bernie Schoenbaum cocktail party drawing — a scenario employed by nearly every cartoonist back then; a Frank Modell drawing with his signature people — love his grumpy husband; an Arnie Levin caterpillar/butterfly drawing — that that loose Levin line is so great; a Barney Tobey drawing set in another favorite situation: the boardroom; a great Warren Miller drawing:

 Following Mr. Miller’s cartoon is an Ed Arno drawing — that fine controlled line of his! Immediately identifiable; a Mischa Richter dog at a desk drawing; Ed Fisher gives us a weather bureau drawing with lots of fun detail; Eldon Dedini’s cartoon of two guys at a bar with a caption that could run today:Everything’s a trap if you’re not careful.”;  next up, a cartoon that made me laugh out loud, by the great cartoonist, Robert Weber:

Next, a beautiful Sempe drawing (is there any other kind?); and last, a Sidney Harris restaurant drawing. Mr. Harris’s style is his and his alone: an angular line that appears to almost spin out of control, but never does.

So, there it is. A cartoon feast in mid-June, thirty-four years ago. 

 

     

A Foot of Rejected Cartoons

Rejection is a New Yorker cartoonist’s constant companion. We are rejected every single week we submit work to the magazine (I’ve heard tales of contributors selling up to a half-dozen drawings out of one batch, but I’ve yet to hear of a contributor selling their entire batch.  Please advise if that’s ever happened).  Example: I submit cartoons weekly to the magazine (there is no set number despite the myth you may have heard that we must, or have to send ten a week).  If I’m very very lucky, one of the submitted cartoons will be accepted. The rest, the rejects, are then added to a pile in my work room. In the photo above is the pile that’s accumulated over the past year or so. Eventually I’ll move that pile to storage where it will join its rejected friends from years/decades past. 

Some time ago — fifteen or twenty years? —  I made a stab at organizing my rejects.  I bought plastic bins that held file folders.  I labeled the folders “Dogs” “Cats” “Police” “Food” “Knights” etc., etc.. This organization came in handy when someone would ask for submissions for a collection of drawings about dogs or cats or food or whatever. As the era of themed cartoon collections cooled, I found though that it was wasted time organizing for the possibility of a request for themed cartoons. So that organizing effort ended (although the plastic bins with their folders still exist).

Many cartoonists take their rejected work and try to find a home for it elsewhere. I know of at least one cartoonist who is very successful doing just that. I used to submit rejects to other magazines back when there were a good number of publications using cartoons. Below is a page out of a ledger I briefly kept in 1977.  I quickly realized keeping track of stuff wasn’t my thing.  You see on the page below across the top of the ledger the magazines I was submitting to the summer of that year — the summer when I broke into the New Yorker:  The New Yorker, Esquire,The Saturday Evening Post, Changing Times, Quest, Dawn Dusk, Playboy, Medical Economics, New Woman, and The Ladies Home Journal. Judging my from my entries I wasn’t doing very well until August of 1977, when the New Yorker bought “Nothing will ever happen to you” — after that things started to improve (with the exceptions of The Ladies Home Journal and Medical Economics — nothing of mine ever “clicked” for them).

Over time, the number of publications using cartoons has dwindled.  Most of the action these days is online, where the pay is little-to-none.  “None” is usually disguised as “exposure” as in “we don’t pay, but your work will get plenty of exposure.”

So what to do with these weekly rejected drawings.  Over the years I’d sometimes come across one that seemed it needed a second chance, and so off it went to the New Yorker.  Sometimes a resub (as they are called by cartoonists) is accepted, and published.  I once was even asked to send in resubs. It was around the time my wife and I were expecting our first child. My then editor, Lee Lorenz  sent me a letter saying something to the effect of: “Please send in a bunch of resubs — I know you’re going to be busy for awhile.”  There have even been weeks I resubmitted a drawing that had just been rejected. My personal favorite rejected cartoon is the one below.  I did the unthinkable: convinced of its merit, I stubbornly resubmitted it the very next week after it was rejected. It was accepted (and published December 21, 1998). Hey, you never know.

Mostly though the second chance for a resub (my resubs, not other cartoonists) is its last chance — and that’s okay.  I’ve always felt these rejects were necessary to do to get to the drawing that makes it through to being accepted and published. The rejects are invaluable steps to the printed page.  I’ve realized in the past few years that I rarely, if ever, send in resubs anymore. Emma Allen, the New Yorker‘s current cartoon editor has yet to see one of my drawings submitted twice. There’s no grand plan here — it’s just how it’s working out.