Tag Archives: cartoon

Me and Bobby Flay

One day recently I was thinking about whether all those cooking shows on TV really help people to become better in the kitchen, or if, at the end of the day, it’s all just mere entertainment. But it occurred to me that those shows might actually put pressure on those who have to cook dinner regularly. Kind of like the Victoria’s Secret fashion show (which apparently is on right now because I see people angrily Tweeting about it) – I wonder if moms just say “I don’t need this in my life.” And that led to this cartoon, in this week’s magazine.

Flay sketch

 

Flay

I really sweated one particular detail in this one, which was the image on the TV. My instinct was to show a plain white screen, and you should almost always listen to your instinct. Instead, I overthought it and tried to put a silhouetted image in there. I thought some people would get the joke more easily if they saw a hint of Mr. Flay on the screen. But I can’t draw anything resembling a likeness, especially at this scale, and having a clunky approximation doesn’t help. Your eye wants to fill in the rest of detail that you know is there, that’s been started but not finished, and it’s an unnecessary distraction. It’s beside the point.

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When I returned to the white screen it seemed empty to me, so I then scratched in what I thought would look like a vague shot of food. But this was even worse. I found my eye constantly being drawn over to it, and thinking “what the hell is that?” So then I colored the screen in fully, thinking that would be an improvement, but to me it looked like the set was off. This took way longer than it should have. So I went back to the white screen, which suddenly looked fine.

Obviously, you could have asked: why didn’t you show the room from an angle where you didn’t see the front of the TV at all? Well, maybe it just all comes down to laziness. But I wanted to trust my first instinct about the perspective. Yeah, trust the instinct. Bah. You could also ask: why Bobby Flay and not Anthony Bourdain or Mario Batali or somebody else? Instinct. You could also ask: is she cooking the sweet potato soup with the blue corn tortilla chips in it? Hey, now who is overthinking everything?

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Not buying: the new stealing

Here’s my cartoon in this week’s New Yorker, done with Black Friday in mind. But it could also apply to anytime in December, or early January, or President’s weekend if it was at a car dealership, or Valentine’s Day, or – you get the idea. This is America, after all. Does anybody else sometimes feel like you’ve got to sneak out of a store if you’ve been there awhile and haven’t bought anything?

My initial sketch cut the figures off at the knees, which is an awkward place to do it. The are no rules for this kind of thing, at least nowhere in the Constitution that I can find, but generally if you’re gonna crop a cartoon person you do it around the waist. When I went to do the final drawing for this, though, I decided to include the full figures. Because this scenario presents something of a physical confrontation and not just a line of witty dialogue it seemed to warrant that arrangement. When this cartoon is adapted for an off-Broadway show, the director may want to do the blocking differently. I’ll leave that up to him.

Happy shopping!

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Paleo Gym

I’m in the New Yorker again this week with a cartoon began as this idea:

gymcolorYup. “The gym,” with some cavemen standing around and large boulders on the ground. It’s a fragment of an idea, that I wrote down a while ago and figured that I’d do something with it later. But I kept looking at it and thinking “meh” and moving on to other fully-realized ideas. This happens a lot. When I go to draw my weekly batch, I paw through my sketchbook and if a concept requires too much work, then sometimes I leave it for another day.

I did that a couple times with this, but then I must have had just the right amount of coffee, because I realized all it needed was a simple scenario to illustrate it.

gymFor a moment I considered trying to invent a clever prehistoric treadmill, or some primitive version of a modern stationary bike or elliptical machine using a pterodactyl or something, but that seemed to make the joke weaker. The pile of rocks was enough. Things were, you know, simpler back then.

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And here’s the final version that ran.

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Cooling it

It’s suddenly that time of year when my hand is sticking to the page, because of the humidity. It’s time to break out those cooling summer cartoons! An issue of the New Yorker makes a nice face shield. And you can use the back issues – you know you’ve got them lying around – to cover your other body parts.

I did this one a few years ago and am still waiting for the movie to be made about this summer superhero.

spf super heroFor this week’s issue I thought of a similar idea. Full disclosure: I got my grad school degree in drawing shade. My professors said it was at least 5 degrees cooler than the other students. So it seems like a good thing for me to focus on.

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Prost!

Where did the last two weeks go?

Oh yeah – now I remember. I was in Austria, along with Matthew Diffee and Paul Noth. We were asked to come host a symposium in Wels with a bunch of other very talented cartoonists from Austria and Germany, and so we did, after one of us was – ahem – detained by the Swiss police over passport issues.

On the way there, we did our Fisticuffs! show in Linz, Austria, as part of the Next Comic Festival at the university.

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And although the battle was fierce, we all lived. (Which is true, but we also suffered head wounds from getting kicked by a large cartoon boot).

boot

So we moved on to our symposium in Wels. It was an honor, but also somewhat intimidating, to be “teaching” to people who were pretty accomplished in their own right.

IMG_4728Luckily, there was no awkwardness whatsoever. I think we all appreciated everybody else’s talents and it became a big, goofy hangout session, which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, we had the theatre at the Medien Kultur Haus booked click here to finish reading this post

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Trapped!

What does this post have to do with R. Kelly? Nothing, really. But keep reading anyway.

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Awkward situations always make great comedy. For my cartoon that appears in this week’s New Yorker, I was thinking about those performers who get right in your face on the subway and demand that you pay attention to them. Of course, you never ever want to do that. What would happen if one of them found a way to get sweet revenge, and to confront you in a place where you couldn’t merely look away or pretend that they weren’t there? I thought of a situation where a singer somehow followed a guy into his office building elevator, and I drew it up like this:

Elevator_v2

Good enough, but I wasn’t sure the drawing was getting the job done. I like how you enter into the elevator the same way this employee does; you identify with him and so you’re drawn into the scene. It’s a dramatic way to set it up. But I thought maybe it was too dramatic. I don’t like how you can’t see the rest of the elevator. It somehow makes it scary, like there’s something hidden in there, but that’s not part of the joke. Also, by positioning him outside the elevator, he looks like he’s maybe not going to walk in, and the whole point is that he can’t avoid the situation. And I didn’t want to draw both of them inside the elevator from this angle because it’s forcing them into a space that’s too small. The narrative element would be lost. So I drew it from another vantage point:

Elevator_v1

This was the one that the editors approved. It’s a little less dramatic this way because as the viewer, you’re now an outside observer instead of identifying with one of the characters, but it works a little better. I mean, they both work – look, we’re not trying to solve world hunger here! I don’t even know if we’re trying to solve world laughter. But even for cartoons, if it’s worth doing, then its worth doing well, because if even one person can spend money on a New Yorker magazine instead of spending it on food, then I will have done my job. (And now I guess we know where I stand on world hunger.)

Another issue was that the viewer’s vantage point is a little too high. The reader should be standing in the elevator with the two people, not hovering above it. So I experimented with perspectives. I know – so much to think about! When do we get off this ride, right?

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And that kind of looks like a notebook page from anyone who took drawing 101 and had to learn about vanishing points. For some reason it took me more attempts than usual to nail this:

Elevator_work

It’s still not perfect. It might be funnier if the space was tighter and a little more uncomfortable, and it might have been better to widen the room (in other words, making the perspective not technically correct) in order to more easily show that it’s an elevator door. But I don’t know if I could do both of those things simultaneously. And in trying, there would probably be some cartooning version of Occam’s razor that I’d be violating in overthinking it. So this is the way it appears: 

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Man, I’m exhausted by that! Let’s all go eat something.

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Work in Progress

Orange-PylonThis pylon is going to be here for a long time, because I’ve only just started working on my first children’s book. Did you know that? I suppose I should have made some formal kind of announcement.

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ve written a children’s book that’s going to be published by Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Henry Holt, some time in 2015.

So yeah, that’s out of the way. I’m illustrating it, too, and I couldn’t be more excited to be doing it. It’s been fun working with Christy so far, even though we’re still in the early stages of nailing down the final product (Christy said “cartoonists are usually good with deadlines,” but I’m wondering if that’s an observation that’s not shared by all in the industry). It doesn’t sound like a huge step up – it’s a 32-page picture book – but it’s definitely a major transition from small black-and-white spot drawings to full pages in color. And at the end of the book the reader can’t say “I don’t get it,” like some people do when they read my cartoons… come on, nobody does that, do they?

I don’t want to say what the book is about, but I wanted to show a teaser of the first part of the process: writing, editing, sketching, rough layouts. There’s also a fair amount of coffee built into each step, but you already know what that looks like.

photo 1Even within the framework of a standard picture book, there are different layout options that are available, depending on what you want to do with the story. You can’t just add or subtract a few pages at the end. So that’s the first step. click here to see more pics

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