P.C. Vey Talks about Walking a Cat on a Leash, The Spatial Dynamics of Cubicles, Meeting Ziegler, Stevens and Mankoff, and a Bunch of Other Stuff

 

 

 

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The world of P.C. Vey (the “C” is for Christopher) was introduced to The New Yorker’s readership November 22, 1993 with the publication of the drawing below: 

 

 Vey

 

 

 

 The drawing set the stage for what was to come.  Vey people, either male or female seem flounder-ish.His people are Manet-like crepes floating over a backdrop.His washes are as flawless as his captions. He uses language as a banana peel. For example: a Vey drawing hanging in this house shows a couple of businessmen leaving a restaurant, going over their check; one man says to the other:

“You’re right — they did charge you for the Heimlich maneuver.”

heimlich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first met Peter in the small coffee shop on the ground floor of the building at 25 West 43rd Street that housed The New Yorker. At the time he resembled a version of a young Roy Orbison – dressed all in black, with jet black hair.  He brought an edge to the tweedy crowd that gathered upstairs on the 20th floor in the magazine’s Art Department. 

 Peter’s work has become a steady presence at the magazine in the 20 years he’s been contributing. He kindly agreed to add his voice to this continuing Ink Spill series. 

Michael Maslin: Peter, let’s go back to 1993 for a moment—hope you don’t mind.  I remember speaking with you when your first drawing appeared in the magazine and you told me that the one that appeared was not actually the first one you sold.  What was that all about?  And did that first sold drawing eventually appear?

Peter Vey: I think I might have been referring to ideas The New Yorker bought from me for Charles Addams. That was in the early 80s.  The Yugoslavia cartoon to the best of my memory, was the first drawing they bought and published.

MM: So you’re a member of the Charles Addams Gagman Club, which includes Jack Ziegler, Leo Cullum, Mick Stevens, Peter Steiner, Frank Modell, myself, and a number of others.  Which ideas of yours did he do?

PV: One had the title HOT TUB SABBATH with three witches in the cauldron having a time of it. The only other one I remember was a business man with a briefcase standing in front of an opening elevator opening onto another elevator opening onto another elevator etc.

MM: Some cartoonists work changes over time, but your drawings –– as long as I’ve seen your work, it’s always looked as it does now — I can’t remember an early Vey period.  What did your drawings look like when you were say, 15?

PV: When I was a teenager my drawings were much more complicated, even ornate.  I filled up as much space as possible with as many lines as I had the energy and stamina to draw.  Which was quite a bit.  An infatuation with the black and white work of Virgil Finlay, Aubrey Beardsley and Peter Max had a lot to do with it.

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MM: I admit not knowing Virgil Finlay’s name/work, so I looked him up  Where were you seeing his work when you were a teenager?

PV: I saw his illustrations in science fiction and fantasy magazines [a Finlay illustration to the left]. I used to read a lot of them when I was a teenager. In fact, I read a lot of science fiction up until a few years ago. I especially like Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, J. G. Ballard and Robert Sheckley. Incidentally some of those magazines had cartoons. I remember one of them had a full page Gahan Wilson cartoon every month.

MM:Many cartoonists construct captions that are inherently amusing, some bounce the caption off the drawing, or use the drawing itself as the caption – in your case I often feel ambushed – in the best sense – by your captions. Do you know you’re ambushing us when you write these captions?

PV: I kind of think of it as stopping the thought process or creating a mind freeze by taking an inexplicable or unexpected or unanticipatedturn in a direction that nobody, including myself, was prepared to go.

MM: How did you end up at The New Yorker?  –and please don’t say you went up 6th avenue and made a right on 43rd Street.  What led up to your first sale?

PV: Actually I went up 5th Avenue and made a left.  I started submitting in 1978. I didn’t sell the first drawing till ’93, between ‘93 and ‘97 three or four more. It wasn’t until Bob [Mankoff, the magazine’s current  cartoon editor] became cartoon editor that I started selling regularly. In those days I did a lot cartoons and illustrations for many magazines and newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The first gag I ever sold was to Saturday Review in 1979. While waiting for the elevator at the Saturday Review offices I met Bob [Mankoff], Jack [Ziegler] and Mick [Stevens] and they invited me to the Wednesday cartoon lunch. The rest is history.

MM:  Not long ago, you told me that the cartoon collection, The World of George Price was meaningful to you. Price I can see some of Price’s geometry in  your style, but not in an obvious way [to the left: an example of Price’s work].  Meaning that your lines aren’t Sempe-like, but more straight-edged.  Am I totally off on this?

PV: No, you’re not off.  I use the lines to divide the space. I enjoy a pleasing arrangement of space, a balance. Not particularly well balanced but balance that’s interesting, the line just happens, depending on the age and or deterioration of the pen nib.

MM: For many years, up until very recently, I was unable to sell a bar drawing to the magazine. It wasn’t a goal or anything, but it did seem kind’ve odd I couldn’t break through. Is there a cartoon staple that’s so far eluded an OK for you?    

PV: The desert island cartoon. I did hundreds of them, whole batches of them and not one was bought. A lot of those were eventually sold to other markets but most were never seen again.

MM: Is there a typical day of work for you?  Do you tend to follow a –  I hate using this word – routine?

PV: After getting up and making coffee I walk four feet to the computer to check the emails.  When I’m sure I don’t have any I walk a different four feet to the work table where I drink more coffee.  I put a lot of graphite on a lot of paper getting no place. So I get more coffee.

After a while I have a bunch of half done drawings of people in various situations so I start having conversations with them or they have conversations with each other, I’m never sure which. Sometimes I’ll start adding objects or people that don’t seem to belong like a caveman or a toaster. When somebody says something funny I think I have a gag.

MM: When I see you at events, we often end up talking about music rather than cartoons.  Does music play a part in your work day?

PV: I use music as background noise to distract myself so all those “great ideas” can sneak past the forebrain. I start off with Mozart and end up with Sun Ra and Bill Dixon.

MM: Without counting them, I feel as if a good number of your drawings concern business people.  If we were allowed to see your weekly batches, would the batches contain a large percentage of business drawings, or are what we’re seeing in the magazine just happenstance due to editing? (i.e., they just happen to buy a lot of business cartoons when the batches actually contain a wide variety of subjects).

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PV: I do do a lot of business cartoons. I enjoy the spatial dynamics of cubicles and hallways. No really, most of the cartoons I do aren’t really about business. They just happen to be people in an office situationalthough, I suppose, some of them are about business but only because when I start to draw some guy, a lot of times I put a tie on him which suggests to me that he’s probably in an office setting. So I draw an office around him along with other people in work attire. Then the conversation tends to be about the office stuff, which, if things go according to plan, is funny.

MM: You seem such a creature of New York City.  Whether that’s true or not, do you feel as if the city has crept into your cartoon being? 

PV: Oddly enough we did move to Brimfield, Massachusetts more or less for about a year. We lived in the middle of the woods and I took the cat out for walks on a leash. (The life expectancy for an outdoor cat who came from an apartment in the city was about three and a half minutes.) I did a fair number of leash jokes sometimes with trees in the background but the leashes were always attached to dogs and the trees were in a small plot of land surrounded by concrete. So to answer your question, I don’t know.

MM: What’s it like walking a cat on a leash?

PV: At first it was scary. He really didn’t like it. But then after a while he seemed to get used to it or maybe he was ignoring it, becoming very interested in chewing on plants and rubbing against the earth. One day he was so happy to be out there he plopped himself down on the dirt and gravel of the driveway and rolled around basking in the sun. Suddenly the harness gave way but he didn’t even notice. I was terrified he’d see his chance and run away into the mouth of a coyote or a fisher cat. But he stayed right there while I fastened the strap again. I was always concerned that one of the neighbors might see me and use it as a constant source of amusement.

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MM: I wonder: Do you imagine you’d be the same cartoonist if you lived in, oh, I don’t know… Indiana?

PV: Most of the cartoons I do aren’t necessarily about New York but they do take place in New York. If I draw a living room the building outside the window could be the building outside the window of my living room. But then the building across the street was torn down a few years ago and the building that replaced it looks nothing like a building I’d like to draw, so I don’t.

Books by Peter Vey include Cats Are People Too, How to  Be Your Cat’s Best Friend, If Cats Could Talk, and Bad Business: A Rescue Package for the Recession-Weary

His work has appeared in numerous cartoon anthologies and in publications including Barron’sThe Harvard Business Review, National Lampoon, PlayboyThe Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times

To see P.C. Vey’s New Yorker work  click here.

To visit P.C. Vey’s website, click here.

 

Cartoon Bibles, Pt.2

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Welcome to Part 2 of Cartoon Bibles. Part one appears at The New Yorker’s website, NewYorker.com. Click here to go there.

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When I asked my colleagues to name their Cartoon Bible they  generously and enthusiastically replied. There were so many responses they all couldn’t fit on the magazine’s blog.  So, as a bonus, you can read the bulk of them here.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 Bruce Eric Kaplan (BEK)

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with all the New Yorker cartoon collections in my local library.  I took out all of them over and over again.   The one that meant the most to me and still does is “My Crowd” by Charles Addams.

My Crowd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack Ziegler

I don’t know that I have a cartoon bible, but seeing “Turk,” a B. Kliban spread that appeared in the old National Lampoon really turned me on.  It subsequently appeared in his collection Whack Your Porcupine, from 1977. 

Kliban

Mysterious, funny, & mysteriously funny.  Also R. Crumb’s Head Comix, from 1968.  That one opened the door to all sorts of possibilities.  But the most important thing about both these guys is that they made me laugh out loud.

 

 

 

 

 

Felipe Galindo (Feggo)

Andre Francois’ books “The Tattooed Sailor” and “Half-Naked Knight”: they’re my Old and New Testament.

Francoise

He worked captionless and exploiting the human drama with gusto! I later learned he was from Rumania, as Steinberg, and his real name was Andre Farkas!  He was a regular New Yorker contributor, mostly with his covers. A great artist in many ways as he did paintings and sculptures as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farley Katz

One of my favorites is “Amphigorey” by Edward Gorey. It’s dark and weird and taught me at a young age to never talk to strangers.

Amphigorey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liza Donnelly

The book that changed my life was James Thurber’s The Thurber Carnival.

Thurber  Home sick from school one day at age 7, my mother handed me the book and some paper and a pencil. I began tracing, and soon thereafter developed my own style and never looked back.  There are many cartoonists that influenced me along the way, however: Crockett Johnson, Charles Schulz, Dr. Seuss, Saul Steinberg, William Steig,  Sempe.  But another cartoon book does stand out in my mind.  Not long after I sold my first cartoon to The New Yorker,  I discovered Jack Ziegler’s Hamburger Madness.  I knew Jack by then, and was fascinated by his work.  I would study Hamburger Madness over and over –it showed me what a cartoon could be.  It showed me the old rules were not necessarily necessary. Jack’s cartoons opened my eyes to a different approach to humor, he showed me the wonderful world of whacky.

 

 

 

 

Kim Warp

I would have to go with a cartoon collection from around the 40’s, Colliers Collects Its Wits, which I discovered on my parent’s bookshelf when I was just old enough to read.

Colliers

It was filled with work by ‘New Yorker’ cartoonists and my first introduction to artists like Charles Addams and Whitney Darrow,  Jr..  Love at first sight. The book also included a section of bios and self-caricatures by the cartoonists, including some women. I had somehow had gotten the impression from 1960s TV that women could only be mothers, nurses, secretaries or teachers, so I kind of loved that too.  A few years ago this book walked away at a school talk I was giving, I can only hope it’s inspiring a new cartoonist. These days I’m always looking for books that talk about cartooning in a way I hadn’t thought about, the last one that blew my mind was Aesthetics by Ivan Brunetti. In terms of having a ‘Bible’ I try to read all points of view on cartooning and on religion for that matter.  As an aside, my husband just pointed out a cobweb in my studio window so guess I’m still carrying a little Charles Addams with me.

 

 

David Borchart

I started thinking of myself as a cartoonist pretty early on — maybe second grade or so. That, combined with my family’s penchant for garage sales, meant that by age twelve I had a lot of yellowing old cartoon collections up in my room. “The Half-Naked Knight” (Andre Francois) and “Ho Ho Hoffnung” (Gerard Hoffnung) were near the top of the stack, but the one I kept going back to (and still do) was “This Petty Pace” by Mary Petty (intro by James Thurber).

Petty Place.

The drawings fascinated me — I didn’t realize until much later how funny the cartoons were. I promised the book (first edition, some foxing on the edges) that if I started selling to the New Yorker I would take it in to look around, and two years ago I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carolita Johnson

I can’t think of any other bible for me than Little Nemo’s Adventures in Slumberland, though they are completely unrelated to The New Yorker or my style.

Nemo

I suppose I am more interested in seeing stuff that I can’t do, that I could never do, that I’m incapable of because of temperament, time, and artistic ability (I’m terrible at perspective! I can marvel at McCay’s perspective all day long, and have). Also, his subject matter is inspiring: socially conscious, ironic, fantastic, surreal. One of my favorite “episodes” is the one where everyone has to pay for the use of words, and only the rich can express themselves. And I do have the entire New Yorker cartoon library at the magazine to peruse when the librarians are in a good mood and are happy to let me browse. In those cases, Helen Hokinson is a favorite because she’s so subtle.

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Eckstein

Gahan Wilson’s I Paint What I See is my Bible.

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It was my first introduction to gag cartoons and created some of the best memories of my life–of my younger brother and I laughing together until we cry or have something shoot out of our noses. We were around twelve but the book still makes me laugh today. (I think I’ll bring it out for Christmas when I visit his family.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. Mueller

Predictably, I have a number of New Yorker cartoon collections on hand at all times, whether I’m hard at it here in my studio or off duty and hang gliding with wolves.  The cornerstone, of course, is that monster collection that Bob Mankoff put together in 2004.

NYer Complete

I think of material from the Ross years as The Old Testament, populated by the likes of Sts. Peter (Arno), James (Thurber), George (Price), etc. I should stop here before the analogy cops impound my hang glider.

I take some small comfort upon encountering the occasional artist of yore who drew as badly as I draw today, and I marvel at the once-common practice of assigning written gags to artists, or that whole business of cartoonists, nameless here, who purchased ideas from writers or other cartoonists. But I also take far greater comfort in the discovery and rediscovery of, say, a perfect timeless silent by Chon Day, Otto Soglow, or the current reigning master John O’Brien. In my case a cartoonist’s Bible has less to do with any single influence and more to do with the possibility of a brand new hang glider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Robert Leighton

I had three books of the Cartoon Bible. My Matthew, Mark and Luke were the paperback reprints of the first Mad comics: The Mad Reader, Mad Strikes Back and, in particular, Inside Mad.

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The first of these had “Starchie,” which to me, at about age ten, might as well have been pornography–my eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Mad Strikes Back had the parody of my favorite comic strip, “Pogo,” and Inside Mad had that great “Mickey Rodent.”  Each of these comic strip parodies were dead-on copies of the original, while at the same time filled with all that Bill Elder and Wally Wood “chicken fat” in the background.

 

 

 

With these perfect models as inspiration, I grew up trying to ape every cartoonist I admired. (It took a long time before I knew that there were different brushes and pens behind these various styles.) I can’t put a number on how many times I’ve read through these books, but they are still as funny and subversive as they were, what, sixty years ago?

 

 

Michael Shaw

My cartoon bible is one I reach for in the darker moments when the muses have departed to party with Zach Kanin in the city. Turning to “Amphigory” by Edward Gorey never fails to re-ignite my spleen.

Amphigorey

How can you not be inspired by lines that read like scripture….”E is for Earnest who choked on a peach. F is for Fanny sucked dry by a leech.” Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Steiner

I guess my cartoon Bible would have to be Steig’s The Lonely Ones. 

Steig lonely ones

It was published in 1942 and somehow found it’s way into our home.  I came upon it when I was six or seven and was immediately taken by it.  Many of the images are still burned into my brain.  It was, I’m guessing, my first introduction to cartoons that were more than jokes.  I started making cartoons not long after that.

Thomas Cheney

My Cartoon Bible was actually a carefully selected stack of New Yorkers, National Lampoons, and MAD magazines that ended up being about 3 feet high. 

NY-albums

They were issues which I felt showed some of the best work by the best cartoonists currently in the business, and I regularly consulted it to keep myself apprised as to where cartooning was going, or, where it could potentially go.  I reluctantly disposed of it before moving to Hawaii in order to conserve space in our shipping container.  Big mistake.  There were many gems in there that I will never see again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Schwartz

I feel like this is cheating for some reason, but mine would be the Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker. 

NYer Complete

I received it as a holiday present several years back, and it’s become a true gift that keeps on giving–I discover new gems each time I flip through it.  When I first decided to submit to the magazine, I tried to use this collection not just as a bible, but as a textbook, too.  I thought maybe I could reverse-engineer the secret formula to successful New Yorker cartoons if I studied them hard enough.  No such luck, but I did inadvertently uncover the secret formula for Coca-cola and the recipe for the Colonel’s chicken in the process, so it wasn’t a total loss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Klossner

As a teenager, I was given two cartoon collections – “Cartoons Even We Wouldn’t Dare Print” from the National Lampoon (edited by Sam Gross) and “Now Look What You’ve Done” by Lee Lorenz.

Cartoons We Dare

Lorenz(Interestingly, these were given at the same time by different people. Kind of like the cartoon angel and cartoon devil perched on my shoulder.) While I wouldn’t exactly give these Bible status, as my list of influential cartoon publications is disgustingly long, these were my first exposure to single panel gags, and the wide range of possibilities the medium could cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ward Sutton

I’m not sure I’d classify this as my “Cartoon Bible,” but I think it gets to the idea that you are talking about.

Being the native Minnesotan that I am, I drew much inspiration as a kid from a local, Minneapolis cartoonist: Richard Guindon.

Guin

He created regular, usually single panel cartoons for the Minneapolis Tribune (which later became the Minneapolis Star-Tribune). His cartoons were very insightful towards the mannerisms and quirks of Minnesotans, and his drawing had a unique style that captivated me. I still go back to those cartoons and read them and get so much out of them.

As far as I know, he never had any cartoons appear in the New Yorker, but his use of the cartoon format to comment on Minnesota life is parallel to the way cartoonists comment on New York in the New Yorker.

There are three Guindon books that I know of and own, and I cherish them. Part of the appeal for me is that they reflect so much of the Minnesota experience from the 1970s and early 80s. The early years seem most about deconstructing the experience of living in the Twin Cities as a young adult. By his later Minnesota years, Guindon verged into weirder territory, almost “Far Side” in a way. I loved it all.

Suddenly sometime in the early 80s, Guindon left Minnesota and moved to Detroit. If memory serves, the Star-Tribune kept running his cartoons for awhile, but it wasn’t the same anymore. He wasn’t Minnesota’s cartoonist anymore and his work didn’t reflect our world.

I lost track of him after that. I met a guy who said he’d known Guindon (or his father had known him) and I always meant to try to track him down, but have not done so. Maybe this blog exercise will inspire me now …

 

 

Marisa Marchetto

When I was eight years old my parents took my brother and I on a family vacation that wasn’t the usual Port-O-Call Hotel in Ocean City NJ. (I’m from said state.) We went to Bermuda, to the Lantana Resort. It was pink and green and beautiful, but our room was really tiny and my mother asked the owner of the resort for something bigger for her, my dad, brother and I. The resort owner said there was nothing else available except a pink elephant of a house on the fringe of the resort. So, we took it. Me, armed with my sketchpad filled with my drawings of women wearing wonderful shoes I’ve drawn since I was three (my mother was the shoe designer Delman, I was inspired by her) surveyed the house. On its walls were these wonderful drawings with captions below them! It was my eureka moment: I could give voice to the women I was drawing.

“Marisa, this was James Thurber’s house. These are his cartoons.”

I studied every framed cartoon, looking at the walls as if I was in the hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

That night, I fell asleep at 4 in the morning reading everything James Thurber: The New Yorker, his books, The White Deer, and the one book I fell in love with that would become my cartoon bible: THURBER CARNIVAL.

Thurber

I woke a couple hours later, at six in the morning with the sensation of things crawling all over me. My bed was infested with red ants. It was then that I was bitten by the cartoonist bug. And I’ve loved James Thurber ever since.

This story is 100% true.

 

 

Ken Krimstein

Well, there are bibles and there are bibles. I have a bunch, and I tend to prescribe them to myself when I’m feeling stuck, or blah, or just want to be amused in a certain way. “Oh, I need a dose of Kliban’s “Two Guys Fooling Around With The Moon,” today,” or, “Look at the crap you’re drawing, take two Sempe’s and call me in the morning!”

But to find the real, true scripture, I have to ask myself, what tome invokes such awe, such power, I can only unveil, reveal its majesty in LIMITED doses? Which scripture so overwhelms that it fairly glows, kind of like that thing at the end of the Steven Spielberg movie with Harrison Ford and the Nazis? And then, the answer becomes clear.

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“Monster Rally,” by Charles Addams, Simon and Schuster, 1950. This wrapped copy is so sacred I dare only open it once, at the most twice, a year. But why? Here are three reasons. 1) It’s the book that got me into wanting to be a cartoonist, and not just the MAD magazine kind. My pal Scott Daube’s dad had it on his shelf — I don’t remember any other books from any adults book shelves — and every time I went to Scott’s to play, I shot straight to book and pored over its drawings, page by page. Slowly. Only after an hour or so of this could we play with Matchbox cars. 2) Just looking at it now, I can see why it appealed — it’s a kid’s book about adults. Or is it an adult’s book about kids? Everybody was just doing such horrible things to each other, in beautiful black and white paintings! So knowing, so grim, so funny. 3) I still can’t flip through it all in one sitting. It is just too awesome, in the true, non-slacker usage of the word. It invokes awe, and then some. Or, put another way, each page, each drawing, each gag is like getting hit upside the head — but in the most delightful, albeit humbling fashion. By the time I hit the cartoon of the husband being berated by his harridan wife for even botching his own suicide, (“For heaven’s sake, can’t you do anything right?,” page 36) I am out of breath, panting, begging surrender. If I can power on, I often find it impossible to carry on past page 48, the forlorn editor of Boy’s Life preparing to off himself with a slingshot. (Understand, I was an avid reader of Boy’s Life at the time I saw this, and next to seeing R. Crumb Comix on the bus to camp, this was as close to making sense of Boy Scouts as I could ever hope for.) So I still cherish this tome. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to bring it down from its altar — well, up from its bookshelf, and wash myself in its twisted, healing waters.

Andy Friedman

For me it’s William Steig’s “The Lonely Ones.”

Steig lonely ones 

As a visual artist, cartoonist, and musician, the book gave me the idea that a song could be a drawing.  I like to think of William Steig with his ink pen and poetic reflections about life as that of a country blues singer with a shaky voice and an acoustic guitar.  In each drawing, Steig expresses a universal truth.  He embraces the art of subtlety to get his message across, and he does so with simple, direct, and honest strokes.  It takes the combination of the drawings, which play the part of the guitar, coupled with the captions, which represent the lyrics, to make it happen.  Neither the pictures or the captions could stand alone.  They could, but they wouldn’t mean the same thing as they do when they work together, and wouldn’t be the visual song that they become when they do.  It is that aspect of these particular drawings that I have found to be the most inspiring, and which have led me to create visual art, cartoons, and music that attempts to do the same thing, which is why I consider it a Bible.  As a side note, and apropos to portraying Steig as a genuine country blueser, it is interesting to consider the fact that he sold his first cartoon to the magazine in 1930, about six years before Robert Johnson, “The King of The Delta Blues Singers,” made his first recordings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Corey Pandolph

Anything by Elmore Leonard.

elmore

Yes, I know he’s not a cartoonist. No, I’m not drunk.  I love character development through dialogue. When I was drawing daily cartoon strips, I was always trying to pepper in subtle jokes based on the idea of the reader already knowing the characters so well.  Elmore Leonard was the king of conjuring the most comfortable and familiar characters from thin air. Better than The Bible, even.

 

 

Michael Crawford

‘All in Line’ was my book of genesis.

Steinberg : All in Line

My dad brought it home one day when I was 7 or 8 and it started me drawing immediately. William Steig’s ‘Male/Female’ became my new testament from the getgo. sly, loose, elegant, erotic, funny.

 

 

Liam Walsh

I probably resort to The Cartoons of Cobean most frequently.

Cartoons of Cobean

I’m a big fan of captionless gags, of which Cobean was a master. A lot of his gags are not so much laugh-out-loud (to me) as they are witty or clever and his sense of humor has a swagger and wink to it that charms me. His style of drawing looks effortless, breezy, as though he’d just skidded his Jag to a halt in front of the house, jogged up the stairs, and dashed off his batch with a cocktail by his side. The foreword is by Charles Addams and it’s edited by Saul Steinberg; heady company!

 

 

Roz Chast

Monster Rally, a collection of cartoons by Charles Addams would be my Cartoon Bible.

Addams : monster rally

When I was a kid, my parents and I spent almost every summer in Ithaca, New York. During the day, my parents often went to lectures or concerts at Cornell University, some boring thing that was of no interest to me. Instead of dragging me along anyway, they would park me in the browsing library in the Cornell student center. This library had an entire section devoted to cartoon collections. It was there that I discovered all of Charles Addams’ books, but Monster Rally was my favorite. I looked at it obsessively every time I was there. So horribly dark, and so horribly funny.

 

 

 

 

P.C. Vey

The World of George Price: A 55-Year Retrospective.

  Price

  I always loved this book when I was starting out. The characters looked like members of my family.

 

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today: Catching Up with…The New Yorker’s Frank Cotham

 

 

 

 

Frank Cotham's dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I met Frank Cotham  just once, in 1997 at a photo shoot organized during the Tina Brown era at the magazine. Forty-one cartoonists showed up to pose for Arnold Newman (the group photo was  published in the very first Cartoon Issue of The New Yorker). After saying hello to each other that day, sixteen years passed before we connected again.

 

Cotham 1997

 

(photo: Frank at the shoot, top center, in the pointed party hat. On the left, hatless, Dean Vietor; on the right,in top hat, Mick Stevens. Lower left, Lee Lorenz, lower right, Mike Twohy).

Michael Maslin : You know, it’s funny, but I realized this evening while looking up your work on The New Yorker‘s database that tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of your first appearance in the magazine, the issue dated December 13, 1993.

What was that moment like for you, selling that first drawing, and then seeing it in the magazine?

Frank Cotham: Total disbelief when I sold one to The New Yorker.  I had been sending a batch to them every week for fifteen years – the first twelve years or so were a little discouraging, but I was glad I kept with it.

MM:  According to a bio in the New Yorker, up until 1986 you were  “a staff artist in the production department of a television station”–so what transpired professionally  in those seven years after you left the staff artist position and broke into The New Yorker?

FC: I kept sending work to The New Yorker of course, and getting rejected, but I did do a lot of work for other magazines, mostly Penthouse. They pretty much kept me in business. There were quite a few “features,” which meant short deadlines and working through the night. I don’t think I could do that anymore.

MM:  Since you’re down in Tennessee we don’t see much of you up here in the Northeast — you’re kind’ve a mystery man. 

FC: I like the sound of that, being a mystery man.

MM: With some cartoonists, you can see the influences or influence.  Your work is a bit of a puzzle. Can you talk about what brought you into the cartoon world, your influences.

 FCThe New Yorker and its cartoons caught my attention when I was in junior high school – Charles Saxon was one of my favorites, and Robert Weber.  A friend of mine at the TV station suggested that I send some of my cartoons to magazines, and after a couple of years, I sold one to Saturday Review – My friend and I were both very surprised.

MM: Regarding Saxon and Weber:  now that you’ve mentioned them as favorites I can see a lineage there — it’s odd I never saw it before.  I had thought you more in the Addams school with a dash of Richard Taylor.   Did either of those artists influence you?

FC: Yes, very much so. Addams certainly. I always loved the somber grays in their work. In my mind, I thought that’s what a New Yorker cartoon was supposed to look like.

MM: What’s a typical work day for you — if there is such a thing as typical? For instance, Jack Ziegler writes first, then eventually heads on over to his desk to draw.   I don’t read anything first — I just sit down with a cup of coffee and wait.  How does it begin for you?

FC: My day usually begins by sitting down, after I’ve fed the dog and cat, with a book for about half an hour.  I have my orange juice, cereal, and coffee while reading the local paper, check Facebook for essential news on my iPad, and then sit at my drawing table and stare out the window.

MM: When I think about your work there’s a certain cartoon environment  that comes to mind.  It’s different from say a George Booth environment or a Mick Stevens environment — it’s so very much your own.  Can you describe it?

FC: I’m not sure I know what you mean.  I’ve noticed that two country people sitting on the front porch of a rundown house figure prominently in my cartoons in the last few years, I’m not sure why that is. It’s not really something that I see often around here, but my dog and I do mull things over on the back porch. [Frank sent a drawing of his dog for this piece — it appears above: “I’ve attached a sketch of my dog, but she can’t really sit up like that.”]

MM:  I’m going to ask you a question similar to the one I asked Roz Chast:  has anything changed for you regarding your work…the way you work, I mean.  What’s it like for you now in 2013, going on 2014 when you sit at your drawing board? Is it any different than what it was like in say, 1994 or 1999 or 2007?

FC: I work pretty much like I have from the very beginning – still use the same drawing table, still use watercolor crayons, a dip pen, and a bottle of ink.  But I have moved my office downstairs – I don’t have trouble going up the stairs, but when I’m ready to come down I feel that I need to call the fire department.

MM: Is there anything, cartoon-wise, you’re working on other than your weekly NYer batch that you’d care to tell us about?

FC: I’m not working on anything else – fretting and coming up with a batch decent enough to send in to The New Yorker pretty much occupy all my time.

MM: You were living near Memphis when we met back in the late 90s —  you’re still there? 

FC: I still live in a Memphis suburb, and have lived here since forever.

MM: I’ve got to ask:  Have you ever been to Graceland?

FC: I’ve never been to Graceland.  It’s not like I’m anti-Elvis or anything, it’s just that I’ve never been an Elvis fan. Janice [Frank’s wife] and I just happened to be returning from a brief vacation in Florida the day Elvis died, and we stopped in a Waffle House late that night. The waitress asked where we were going and we told her Memphis, and she said, “Oh, Elvis.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we weren’t headed to the candlelight vigil.

Click here to see Frank Cotham’s work on The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Bank site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Up With…Roz Chast

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Roz Chast has been contributing her work to The New Yorker since 1978 when she burst on the scene in the magazine’s pages causing a mixture of excitement and in some quarters, just a little confusion.  The veteran New Yorker cartoonist, Charles Saxon, a giant in the  magazine’s ranks, queried Ms. Chast, and not in the most positive sense,  “Why do you draw the way you do?”  She responded, “Why do you draw the way you do?”

 

Since that time Ms. Chast has herself gone on to become a giant in the ranks of the magazine’s contributors. Most everyone knows what a Chast drawing looks like (and often they smile just upon hearing her name).

RC
Roz and I have known each other since the year our work first appeared in The New Yorker, Incoming Class of ’78.  I remember being introduced to her by the cartoonist, Richard Cline, in the Grand Ballroom of the Pierre Hotel, where The New Yorker once held its anniversary parties.  We email from time-to-time, and recently, I asked her if she’d let Ink Spill visitors in on what’s happening in her life these days.

 

Michael Maslin:  Roz, when we connected a few weeks ago you were making your first pickles.  It’s not at all what I imagined you would be doing that day.  I’m not sure what I imagined you’d be doing, but it wasn’t that.  What’s with the pickling? And how did it go?

 

Roz Chast: I have a couple of friends who are obsessed with pickle-making. Looking back, I think it was peer pressure. Anyway, my pickles were ok. Don’t know if I’ll do it again, though. Voice in my head right now: shut up about the pickles. [Roz’s first batch of pickles are in the photo above].

 

MM:I know you’ve returned to one of your passions: pysanka egg-decorating. I love seeing group photographs of them, as if they’re assembled for a concert or something.  When you’re decorating them, are they individuals, or do they belong to various egg families?  In other words, is there ever a story between them, or are they strangers to each other? Am I making sense?

 

imagesRC: They are both individuals and part of a group. With the pysanka dyes, each egg becomes very pretty in its own way, but when you put them all together, they become almost head-explodingly pretty.

 

MM: I know you’ve been working on a book, coming out next May, and that it’s perhaps different from previous books of yours. Can you tell us us about it?

 

51DlvVXiTiL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_RC: It’s called Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, which is what my father used to say whenever a difficult topic, like death or illness, came up.  It’s a graphic memoir and includes writing (nothing typeset), cartoons, illustrations, some of my mother’s poems, photographs, and, as they say, much, much more. The book begins when I realized I had to “step up to the plate” and deal with their increasing frailty—that none of us could continue sticking out heads in the sand– and it ends with my mother’s death.

 

MM: Let’s turn to our favorite magazine for a moment.  A good percentage of the cartoonists who began when we did, in the mid-to-late 1970s, are still contributing to the magazine. They’re (we’re) continuing a tradition of long careers for cartoonists at The New Yorker. Jack Ziegler, Mick Stevens, yourself, Liza Donnelly, Tom Cheney, and, of course, our current cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff are full participants nearly some forty years into it.  What do you make of that, if anything?

 

RC: Hasn’t it always been that way, in a way? When I started, it seemed like there were lots of older people who had been contributing for several decades.

 

MM: Has anything changed for you regarding your work…the way you work, I mean.  What’s it like for you now in 2013, going on 2014 when you sit at your drawing board? Is it any different than what it was like in say, 1982 or 1990 or 2005?

 

RC: It’s the same in a lot of ways. I still contribute a weekly “batch.” I still use a Rapidograph-type pen and draw on 9 by 12 Vellum Bristol paper. I still am happy when something makes me laugh. I no longer go in to The New Yorker in person—I send my work in via pdf, so that’s different. And of course, I’m a lot older and closer to death now than I was when I started. Let’s change the subject.

 

Click here to vist Roz Chast’s website.

Click here to see Roz’s work at The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Bank site.

 

Society of Illustrators Exhibits Work by 45 New Yorker Artists

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As promised a few days ago, below is a list of New Yorker artists whose work appears in an upcoming exhibit at The Society of Illustrators. The artists included span the entire history of The New Yorker, beginning with early masters, Helen Hokinson, Peter Arno and Gluyas Williams right up through many of today’s most exciting and incredibly funny contributors.

 

 

Ed Arno, Peter Arno, Charles Barsotti, David Borchart, John Caldwell, Roz Chast, Richard Cline, Joe Dator, Drew Dernavich, Matthew Diffee, Liza Donnelly, Bob Eckstein, Dana Fradon, Felipe Galindo, Sam Gross, Larry Hat, Helen Hokinson, Zachary Kanin, Nurit Karlin, Farley Katz, Robert Leighton, Bob Mankoff, Marisa Marchetto, Michael Maslin, Richard McCallister, Warren Miller, Roxie Munro, Paul Noth, John O’Brien, Danny Shanahan, Michael Shaw, Barbara Shermund, Barbara Smaller, Edward Sorel, Peter Steiner, Mick Stevens, Julia Suits, P.C.Vey, Liam Walsh, Kim Warp, Robert Weber, Christopher Weyant, Gluyas Williams, Bill Woodman, Jack Ziegler