Two of my recent New Yorker cartoons, start to finish, in GIF form. Separated by pictures of otters, so it’s not so visually confusing.
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.
If you’ve never visited Incidental Comics, the blog from cartoonist Grant Snider (who is frequently featured in the NY Times Book Review), you should. His short-form narrative comics are among the most satisfying I’ve ever read. They are frequently very meta: comics about comics, or about the process of writing, or drawing, or creativity in general. His drawings are effectively simple and I love his use of color, which is artful and often symbolic. And the comics themselves are playful, insightful, and read like poetry. Since I’m working on a picture book of my own, I thought it would be a good time to repost one of my favorites from his site here. Point taken, Grant!
A meta-list of notable and memorable things from 2014, in more or less chronological order.
1. Getting to see Vermeer’s famous Girl With a Pearl Earring in person, albeit with about a thousand other sweaty persons stuffed into the Frick on the last day of this Dutch painting exhibit. I couldn’t get as close as I hoped, but it was still worth it. The painting is luminous.
3. A trip to Vienna, where I took in the Egon Schiele- and Gustav Klimt-heavy Leopold Museum, and a day running around spying murals in Berlin, including this massive spaceman:
4. Graphic designer Adam Lewis Greene was looking for $37,000 to Kickstart the designing of a new Bible and wound up blowing well past a million dollars. Why? It’s a simple but cool idea: to present it in the format of a novel, with no chapters or numbers or annotation, with the possible benefit that someone might read it for what it means on the whole (and not to “aggressively” pull out single verses to clobber people with). It’s called Bibliotheca, elegantly presented with a font he designed especially for the project, and with stylish letterpress prints that caught my eye.
5. Boyhood. Coulda watched it for three more hours. It ended just as my interest was peaking.
6. Wait, is it still 2005? I wouldn’t have anticipated that both Spoon and the New Pornographers would put out fantastic releases this year – arguably the best of their careers? – ten years after the height of their popularity. Or whatever you call popularity in the world of indie rock. “Educated folks singers want my soul.” I’m feeling you, Britt.
8. The street art show at the now demolished but long defunct Precinct 21 police station on East 22nd St. in Manhattan. “four floors of dope.” I wrote about it in August.
9. Um, Too Many Cooks.
10. Lucius at Terminal 5. I liked Lucius’ more-or-less debut album in 2013, and I liked the band even more after seeing them live at the beginning of the year – the kudos they get for their live act is well-earned. This show was a homecoming for them after a year on the road, and it was a total home run, from the goosebump-inducing opener of “Go Home” to the ambitious crowd surfing to the confettied John Lennon Christmas-cover finale.
Swoon at the Brooklyn Museum, the (announcement of the) resurrection of Twin Peaks, Over the Rhine’s continued excellence in the musical space they call “reality Christmas,” The Juan Maclean keeping DFA dance music on the map, and – is this really the only book I can recall reading this year? – my New Yorker editor Bob Mankoff’s entertaining cartoon memoir.
Cash For Your Warhol and I thought this sign needed a little rearranging. Just a little. A car load? Detergent? Get it?
In lieu of separate lists, here is a meta-list of the things I enjoyed the most this year (besides Art Basel, which I just wrote about a few days ago), in no particular order.
1. The skittish, slackerish, stream-of-consciousness Ninetiesish punk of Parquet Courts.
2. The graphic stories of Allie Brosh. She portrays herself as some kind of monster who is a crudely amateurish artist. She is neither.
3. This deliciously eye-popping piece of street art from Tristan Eaton in Little Italy, NYC.
I went to Art Basel Miami Beach for the first time last week. It was definitely fun to get an eyeful of the Warhols and Picassos that you’ll probably never see otherwise, because they’re essentially moving from one private collection to another. But, since I’m not really in the market to buy a $20M Jeff Koons, I was less interested in that big convention center hoopla (I did an “intentionally poorly taken iPhone photo” review of that exhibit over at Curator Magazine). Luckily, there are tons of other things going on during Basel, and there’s something for everybody, even in loo options, as evidenced by these:
Also during Basel week there are incredible art fairs showcasing lots of other up-and-coming artists, one-off installations like FAILE & Bast’s vintage video game arcade, memorable parties like this one, and the orgy of street art going on in the Wynwood area.
I’m guessing that Wynwood has the highest concentration of street art in the country – even more than Brooklyn – and click here to continue
You might think my cartoon in this week‘s New Yorker is a copyediting joke to appeal to the punctuation police, the nerds who are always getting upset about these things. That view is dangerous, because it overlooks the fact that punctuation can be objectively bad. They get away with it, because most of the time they’re so small that we don’t notice what they’re really doing. But if you are able to zoom in on your screen or with a pair of magnifying glasse’s ( <see what I mean? Stupid apostrophe inserted himself in there when i wasn’t looking) you will often be shocked at how horrible apostrophes really are:
Or, as T.S. Eliot wrote:
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a misplaced semicolon;
The last decade has not been a kind one for illustrators who prefer hand drawing. With the obvious exception of New Yorker covers, illustrations in print and digital media have often been pushed out in favor of infographics, photographs, or various things you could just put under the category of Things That Are Not Illustrations.
The world of criminal justice still needs artists, though. We’ve still got to have people who can quickly render a mugshot of a suspect or sketch out a courtroom scene. This has always been fascinating to me: artists doing the work of the law. I don’t imagine the 21st century artistic temperament being a great fit for this field. I mean, who are the people who are drawn to doing this kind of art for a living? (I used to draw on gravestones for a living, so I can ask these questions.) I look forward to news coverage of courtroom events because it’s the one time when we get to see real live art, and it’s not always pretty. Have you ever looked at courtroom art? There is a good sampling here. Some is great and some is outright terrible. A lot of it is what I’d call “fittingly uncomfortable.”
Once, in my college newspaper, I used a real police sketch in a cartoon. The face of this breaker-and-enterer was photocopied and plastered all over campus, so it was instantly recognizable to everybody. I had him breaking and entering into my cartoon panel. I probably didn’t have any other good ideas that week. >
I’ve tried a few times to publish a cartoon that captures the awkwardness and/or absurdity of an artist in the courtroom. There’s this one from a few years ago, which is kinda stupid (and is too similar to this one which I already had published and which I like a whole lot better):
And more recently this, which misses the mark:
But in the cartoon for for this week’s issue I was more on target, although you can see that my original caption was different. The Zimmerman verdict had been handed down the week that I was drawing this, and the experience of people trying to make sense of the trial helped give me the language for the caption that seemed more appropriate.
So this is the one that finally made the cut. And in case you’re wondering, yes: the pineapple is currently in the witness protection program.
My friend recently told me I had too many apps on my phone. Maybe, I said, but no harm in that. If you use it, even just once or twice, you might as well keep an application on there, right?
But there’s a word for it, he said, which is “overapplicated.” It means you’ve got too many for your own good. I disputed this fact, but he doubled down on me, saying that no, I was pretty much a textbook version of it. “You’re so effing overapplicated it’s not even funny,” were his exact words.
Then I started to read the icons on my phone and I said whaddya know? Guilty as charged, man, Guilty. As. Charged.