My cartoon in this week’s issue of the New Yorker, from original idea to submission sketch to final published image:
Well, except for YOU KNOW WHO.
Here is my meta-list of my favorite music, films, books, and whatevers, from the Year That Shall Not Be Named.
1. David Bowie, Blackstar I listened to Blackstar on repeat the night after its release in January of this year. I was astounded by it’s brilliance, and I was equally excited that David Bowie was making vital art into his eighth decade of life, emerging once again as a presence in NYC. I drifted off to sleep with the album on, and then woke up the next morning to the news alert that he had passed away. The shock and sadness of that lasted with me for a long time, and it made it difficult for me to listen to Blackstar again until just recently. It was a tremendous farewell act.
2. Stranger Things, Netflix’s thrilling, funny, sci-fi mystery series which bullseyed both taut storytelling and 80s nostalgia. I told you, Lando.
3. Kanye West, Life of Pablo and Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book Both of these Chicago rappers created compelling music this year that had a heavy gospel influence. Kanye’s was tormented and messy – gospel as desperation – and announced itself as being capital “I” important. Chance’s was both full of explicit Christianity and also fun as hell, and settled for merely being maybe the most infectious record of the year.
4. The iPad Pro Finally an Apple computer whose screen you can draw on! It’s not perfect, but I enjoyed digitally drawing for the first time. When I found the software lacking I turned to AstroPad, which turns the iPad into a tablet that could run my desktop Photoshop.
5. Blake Crouch, Dark Matter A page-turner based on Schroedinger’s Cat? Say no more.
6. Triumphs and Laments I was glad to be able to visit William Kentridge’s impressive 550-meter long mural, created not by painting, but by by power-washing around the black soot on the walls of the Tiber River in Rome.
7. LCD Soundsystem reunion I hardly ever bite on the “Band Who Broke Up X Years Ago Reunites For Summer Festival” bait, but I somehow missed seeing them while they had been together, and I believed James Murphy’s promise that they’re in this to do something better than they’ve done before. So I ponied up the money to see them at Panorama, and they didn’t disappoint. My fingers are crossed for some studio music from them in 2017.
8. Unfinished Opening in the old Whitney Museum space on the UES in March, the Met Breuer (the Met’s new museum for contemporary art) crushed it this year with it’s inaugural exhibitions. Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible featured works that were unintentionally unresolved and also those that embraced an unfinished, “work-in-progress” aesthetic, leaving it to the viewers to ask themselves: when is a work really “done?” Never less than fascinating, my highlights were:
this abandoned Lucian Freud, a portrait that Klimt was still roughing out when he died,
a Daumier that was gorgeous not despite but because of being mostly scraped away, this creepy incomplete work from Anton Raphael Mengs,
and a room full of atmospheric Turners.
9. Kerry James Marshall: Mastry The next show at the Breuer (still on display through January 29) is a retrospective from this Alabama man who deals with the American black experience through both honoring and subverting the many stylistic traditions of Western art which he is well-versed in, from Rococo painting to comics. There are so many things going on in his works that it’s hard for me to accurately summarize it here, but it is powerful.
10. Empire Strikes Bond It’s refreshing to remember that the internet isn’t just a forum for fake news and hateful trolls. It’s also a place where art that would previously have gone unnoticed can find a wider audience. So what would the opening credits for The Empire Strikes Back have looked like if they were done in a James Bond style? This amazing visual mashup piece by a student filmmaker answers that question.
I don’t need to recap all of the ways that 2016 was horrible. Forget just a little – we need a lot of Christmas now.
Summoning the holiday spirit was difficult this year. Traditions somehow feel less comforting. I wondered if I should take a radical departure from my typical mix and do something completely different. In the end, I stuck to the same formula, because Christmas doesn’t need a reboot. Christmas is the reboot: God entering the world as an infant.
So business as usual, more or less, with the exception that I tried my very first actual mashup – with admittedly mixed results (but at least it’s short). The great artists that we lost this year are represented here – Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen. Because we’re a nation of misfits I included the Inflatable Men cover of the familiar song from the classic TV special. There are a few fun new songs, some great takes on classics, and other stuff not represented on the tracklist. So – enjoy!
If you like this one and want more, you can still hear my mix from last year:
Here is a quieter, more reflective mix to soothe your soul, which I did in 2014:
And here’s Xmas in Space, if you like your Christmas music with beeps and boops and sound FX and recordings of alleged UFO eyewitnesses:
Lastly, here is a link to a folder with every mix I’ve made going back to 2007, available for download. Get busy and Merry Christmas!
Before they were published, they were just scribbles in a sketchbook.
Then I decided to see what they would look like all drawn up
and given a proper caption.
And the good ones, like this one, get published.
My original idea on this was a skeleton sitting at a desk. Funnier or just more macabre?
I consider myself fortunate to be able to do what I love in order to pay the bills. So when I have the opportunity to work with talented and creative people, it’s a bonus. And a very enjoyable one.
Last year my friend Mark Peters asked me to illustrate his book Bullshit: A Lexicon, which was a blast to do. Soon after, Cathy Salit asked me if I wanted to draw cartoons for a book she was writing about how learning the principles of improv can boost your job performance. I was happy to say yes.
Cathy is the CEO of Performance of Lifetime, a group of individuals grounded in improvisational theatre who help companies to take their work to the next level through an understanding of performance. A few of us cartoonists had performed at a POAL event, so I knew her already. She told me that the book was based on the Becoming Principle, the paradoxical idea that we don’t discover who our authentic selves are until we are allowed to play and improvise, trying on different roles in life.
I’ve never taken an improv class, but I knew that one of the core ideas is that, by saying “yes, and…” to your teammates (and by them saying it to you) you can safely venture past your self-imposed limits and into unexplored territory. I told Cathy that, although she might have initially hired me to read the chapters and then draw cartoons reflecting the concepts within them, I thought it would be fun to try something which honored the spirit of the book – something improvisational. Maybe something I, or we, had never done before, kind of figuring it out as we go. Maybe create a new form of illustration!
I met with Cathy and her team and we came up with a bunch of interesting ideas click here to read the rest of this post
I just returned from the SXSW music festival in Austin once again. It’s still a ridonkulous clusteryouknowwhat of humanity, but the conference has appeared to cool off just a bit in terms of spectacle (even if the actual attendance numbers are still ballooning), and that’s great news for music fans, at least in my opinion. I couldn’t care less about John Legend or Guns N’ Roses opportunistically helicoptering in at the last minute to play a “secret show.” The event originated as a showcase for unsigned and unknown bands to get attention and, although the music business doesn’t work that way anymore, this year seemed to be more about those hard-working under-the-radar acts playing their asses off to make a breakthrough, and not wondering if Lady Gaga was going to appear inside of a giant Doritos machine. And, even if they’re not really that far under the radar, it’s still a great opportunity for discovery.
The band Hinds alone played 17 shows in 5 days. Seventeen. You could have just called it SXSHinds. A lot of bands I saw played 10, 11, 12 shows over the course of those days. You get a sense for what a band is really like when you see them multiple times. Car Seat Headrest‘s shows were completely unpredictable: not just the song choices, but the very tone of the set. The day I saw them they were punchy and aggressive, but my friends reported that at other shows they were the exact opposite. I chose to see TEEN, a Brooklyn band whose new album I love, at the Flood magazine party which Sir the Baptist basically turned into a raucous St. Patrick’s Day karaokefest – in other words, not the ideal setting for a band with thoughtful lyrics and Krautrocky grooves – but then was able to see them later in a more suitable venue. And I was happy to go back and see Beach Slang twice – they already are like The Replacements on Red Bull, but at their last-slot-of-the-night show at Sidewinder they basically tore the venue a new one, in the best way possible.
Small is spectacular. Here’s hoping that the festival will continue to grow that way. Here are some clips from last week.
LA artist Jenny Fine was kind enough to swap drawings with me when I was in California recently. I definitely got the better end of the deal. She can draw her ass off. Look at this sketch:
It’s pretty close to perfect, especially the legs. The bold strokes, the varying line thicknesses, the bit of texture where the ink gets dry – it’s all so nice to look at. She nailed the weight shift in this woman’s stance. And this:
It’s a little more exaggerated, but she’s captured exactly what’s going on with this dude’s (Left Brain from Odd Future, I think?) swagger. This is how you draw! If you want to see more work like this, check out the Kid Ink video below, for which she did all the sketches, or sift through her Instagram.