Friday, September 18, 2020

Mike Lynch: Interview About Cartooning for a Living


I'm prepping some cartoons of mine for a question and answer session about "What's It Like To Be a Cartoonist?" for a SUNY college class this morning. Sometimes, I get asked to show up and talk about this kind of career. I hope I can answer some of the students' questions. In the meantime, here are some cartoons and some interview questions and answers from an interview I did for a European site that I've never published here. 


What experiences have triggered your ideas most?

Ideas! When you draw magazine gag cartoons, as I do, you have to have the habit of coming up with a lot of ideas on a regular basis. The finished gag cartoon has to successfully communicate to its reader in about 4 seconds. Or, in other words, a successful gag cartoon takes only about 4 seconds to “get” or “not get.” As for what triggers me getting a good idea: I stay aware. I keep up on the news. Anything that makes me angry or seems like an incongruity in life – THAT is fodder for a cartoon. My grandmother told me this. She kept up on the news and would talk current events and controversies. It kept her plugged in to the world.

How would you characterize the philosophy of your artwork?

Oh, gee. Well, I never really thought that much about the philosophy of my drawing. I like it to be clear. I mean, I like my drawings to be clear. That's pretty basic now, isn't it? I want a dog that I draw to look recognizably like a dog and so on. That's damn basic. Ha ha! I don't like cartoonists who draw close ups all the time. It seems like a cheat to draw closeups of the eyes and the mouth and so on. I try to work in a background and I try to put people's hands in the image. I don't ever want it to look like I'm afraid to draw something, you know? I remember talking to a cartoonist at my first National Cartoonists Society Reubens weekend. He was saying how he does one drawing for a comic book page and then just repeats it for a dialogue scene. Ugh.


Above: for a book of Maine cartoons I edited and contributed to. The little girl reaches for "Blueberries for Sal" as the bear is going for "Little Girl for Lunch."

What has been the relationship between music & literature in your life and art? How does affect your inspiration?

We all get inspiration from listening to music or reading. I'm moved by certain pieces of music like the Faure Requiem, but does it impact my inspiration? Good question. 

Inspiration is a word that makes me uneasy. I would love to lie and say I am inspired all the time, but I am not. As a working cartoonist, you have to create every day, whether you are inspired or not. But, hey, I think you are talking about the influence of other creative people, and yeah, of course, there is a relationship. They do inspire.

There is a lot of art that I love (George Grosz, Thomas Hart Benton, Bemelmans to name a few off the top of my head). Most of it tends to be comic art by cartoonists I admire (Jean Jacques Sempe, Walt Kelly, Billy DeBeck). I love looking at their art and I guess there may be bits of it in my own work. It does help to look at their work and see how they drew, how they communicated. I used to assist a Marvel Comics artist and he would put a Wally Wood-drawn comic book page in front of me and say, "Look at the knowledge!" And he was right. There is a lot of great work out there and there are always things to learn.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

George Rhoads, an audiokinetic sculptor, bought my Dad's house in Ithaca, NY. This was a while ago when I was still working in a full-time “real job.” I had dinner with George, his wife and my Dad one day after George moved in in 1999. George is a working artist, best known for those sculptures with billiard balls that roll down tracks and make noises. His work is on display all over the world. He was a quiet fellow who seemed a bit gruff, but when I asked about his work, he showed me around their new home and was showing me how he works. He asked me about my plans and I told him that someday I would try to draw full-time. And he frowned at this and told me I would never be any good unless I did it full-time. 

I could see the truth in his eyes. I felt it the moment he said it. Having an artist of his stature tell me this impacted me. I quit my job as acting head of graphics for Deloitte and Touche later that year. It was a hard choice, to leave the security – but one that I needed to do to prove to myself that I could cartoon full-time. Plus: Rhoads was right: I got better once I started cartooning more.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of art? What do you miss most nowadays from the art of past?

When I think of "art" I think: "cartoons." Is that OK? 

I do hope there will be more artists out there who connect with fans. It's vital to survival. Chris Schweizer and Mattias Adolfsson, just to name two contemporary cartoonists I admire, sell prints, originals and books. They both sell copies of their sketchbooks, which I love and buy. Seeing these behind the scenes process sketches and drawings is exciting and it's good to see something like that on the market. Selling cartoonist to cartoonist is a still-new thing -- and there is a market for this! Now, these guys take time out to hype their wares on social media. This can take time and I always remember that it's very good of them to take time away from actually working and drawing to get the word out.

What do I miss about art from the past? Paper. I miss seeing comics interspersed in between articles in newspapers and magazines. I miss gag cartoons in magazines. It's a real shame.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of counterculture comix of 60s with the new generation of artists?

The 1960s counterculture cartoonists (like Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson, Robert Crumb, etc.) were drawing comics for themselves and I think the same is true with some of the younger cartoonists today.


If you could change one thing in the world of comic and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Allow good cartoonists to make a living wage. Well, maybe better than that: allow them somehow to only concentrate on their creative work and not have to be business people as well. So many cartoonists MUST be aware of how to be in business: contracts, invoices, taxes, etc.


What is the impact of comix/cartoon to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Well, you know, the fact that it's the 21st century and cartoonists are being hurt and assassinated kinda tells me some bad stuff. In America, the editorial cartoonists who are fiercely controversial are seeing their markets shrink, while bland, non-controversial cartoonists gain newspapers. People love cartoons, but a lot of editors are afraid of them. At the end of the day, the impact of an insightful, sharply written cartoon is still there -- but the cartoonist's welfare -- in money and in body -- threatened now more than ever. This is not good.

Where would you really wanna go via a time machine and what memorabilia (books, records) would you put in?

There's a great gag cartoon by Don Rosa in an old 1970s issue of Rocket's Blast Comic Collector that immediately pops in my head when you asked this. Rosa did a drawing of Captain Kirk jumping out of the Guardian of Forever time travel portal, carrying a big stack of Action Comics #1 and other vintage comic books! I always think of that cartoon when I think time machine! I guess if I could be anywhere, it would be in the offices of the New York World in the early 20th century, hanging out with TAD Dorgan, their sports cartoonist. He was a great guy, by all accounts. He attended Polytechnic High School with Rube Goldberg. At the age of 13, he had an accident and damaged his drawing hand. He lost several fingers. Most accounts agree he as left with only his thumb and little finger on his right hand. So, he learned to draw with his other hand. Now, THAT'S serious drive. A lot of the phrases he made up ("the cat's meow," hard-boiled," 23 skidoo" and others) made it into American slang. In addition to cartooning, he managed a bullpen of comic artists. He advised Segar where to send his "Thimble Theater" comic strip proposal. He was a mentor to a number of cartoonists, including Herriman. Walter Berndt, who drew the comic strip Smitty for 50 years, signed the "T" in his signature just like TAD signed his "T" as a salute to Dorgan. So, I would love to meet TAD. He lost those three fingers on his right hand, and learned how to draw with his other. Who could not want to meet a guy who had that kind of drive?

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Cartoonist Jeff Danziger: Cartoonists are Still Foot Soldiers of Democracy

 Via Vermont Humanities:

Political cartoonist Jeff Danziger discusses his role in a French documentary film, “Cartoonists, Foot Soldiers of Democracy,” and describes the origin of some of his recent editorial cartoons. 

He also reviews how cartooning has changed over his career, and covers the challenges and opportunities of creating editorial cartoons during this time in American history. 

This presentation is part of our Democracy 20/20 Fall Conference. Learn more about the free conference, and view all of the free videos we've recorded, at Help support our speakers! All of these events are free and open to all, but the scholars are paid an honorarium for sharing their expertise. Please consider making a donation to support these scholars at

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

National Cartoonists Society NCSFest

This past weekend, the National Cartoonists Society, in lieu of its annual in-person convention, created a nine hour live streaming event. A schedule of the events is here. The complete video is below. Using the schedule, and the YouTube toggle, you can pick and choose what you want to see.


Lynda Barry won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. Her acceptance video is here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Garden As of September 15, 2020


It's a cloudy morning and the temperatures last night were in the upper 30s. The hummingbirds took off for South America over the weekend, and the garden is winding down. I pulled up all of the cucumbers and most of the zucchini. 


Still a few tomatoes. I may blanch them and make a sauce. We'll see if I can make the time today. Behind them, out of eyesight, are a couple of green pepper plants with one pepper each. 



The other two boxes have been mostly cleared. Still a couple of zucchini plants, and the radishes and carrots are still growing. But I think I'll harvest them by this weekend.

 It's still mostly green here, but there are pockets of red leaves on the trees here and there. 

 The roses, which bookend the growing season with two blooming sessions, are almost done for the year. The zinnias are still happy, while the daisies are on their last legs. I've had a fire going in the woodstove since last night, so I guess it's really going to be fall now. 


The Garden As of September 1, 2020

The Garden As of Mid-August 2020 

The Garden As of Early August 2020

The Garden As of July 15, 2020

The Garden As of July 1, 2020

The Garden As of June 15, 2020 

The Garden As of Early June 2020

Monday, September 14, 2020

Bob Fujitani 1921 - 2020

Golden age comic book and comic strip artist Robert "Bob" Fujitani passed away at his Cos Cob, CT home on September 6th. He was just a month short of his 99th birthday. Raised in Cos Cob, he lived most of his life with Ruth, his wife of 73 years, in Old Greenwich. 


From the obituary:


"He went to Cos Cob elementary school and graduated in 1939 from Greenwich High as class president and quarterback of the football team, Bob is well known among comic buffs for his lifelong career as a comic book artist. He was only twenty when he went to work at the New York studio of Will Eisner as a penciler. A few years later, he was drawing "Hangman" as well as other superhero and detective comics. This was the period known as the "Golden Age of Comics". Bob went on to illustrate the comic books "Prince Valiant" and "Lassie" among others. He spent many years drawing and inking the daily and Sunday "Flash Gordon" strips for King Features. Bob was also a talented and prolific painter, particularly seascapes of Long Island Sound where he loved to fish, and the woods at Tod's Point and Montgomery Pinetum where he walked every day."

D.D. Degg has a thoughtful timeline of Bob's career, which started in comic books, and grew to encompass commercial illustration and prominent King Features comic strips

Bob is survived by his daughter, Susan Fujitani Meller, and her husband, Frank Rubenfeld, who live in Berkeley, CA.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit the Legacy Sympathy Store



Friday, September 11, 2020

Happy Weekend


Have a good weekend. Remember your sketchbook! 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Video: Professional Jokers: Jewish Jesters from the Golden Age of American Comedy

 From the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research:

This panel discussion on Jews and comedy features comedian Robert Klein, comedy writer Alan Zweibel, 'Old Jewish Comedians' artist Drew Friedman, 'The Comedians' author Kliph Nesteroff, Jewish popular culture scholar Dr. Eddy Portnoy, and special surprise guest Gilbert Gottfried. This stellar panel was moderated by comedy writer Frank Santopadre.

In case you hadn't noticed, Jews have played a central role in American comedy. By the 1930s, acts like the the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges became significant players in the world of comedy, launching a era during which Jewish comedians and writers became a major force in the world of humor. Dozens of legendary comics from Milton Berle to Jerry Lewis to Mel Brooks to Joan Rivers, among dozens and dozens of others, have earned a place in the pantheon of American comedy. YIVO's latest exhibit, "Professional Jokers: Jewish Jesters from the Golden Age of American Comedy," combines archival material from YIVO’s collection with artist Drew Friedman’s “Comedy Jewseum” to present photographs, posters and other rare ephemera on Jewish comedians in America.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Central Park Birder Turns Clash Into Graphic Novel About Racism

From The New York Times:

 "The impressionistic novel from Christian Cooper features a Black teenager who looks at birds through binoculars and instead sees the faces of Black people who have been killed by the police."

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Video: Very Funny Ladies: Cartoonists of The New Yorker

Join New Yorker cartoonists Liza Donnelly, Roz Chast, Victoria Roberts, Emily Sanders Hopkins, and Sara Lautman as they discuss their work and what it is like to be a woman in a field historically dominated by men.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Friday, September 04, 2020

The National Arts Club Presents a Conversation with Barry Blitt

The National Arts Club presents a conversation with Barry Blitt

This recording features new video of Blitt's work. Blitt, who won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for his satirical artwork, is best known as “The New Yorker’s preeminent political cartoonist” (Washington Post). During a decades-long career, he has sketched more than 100 of the magazine’s most sharp and humorous covers. In this conversation, he speaks with his distinguished colleague Francoise Mouly, The New Yorker’s long-time art editor, about his career and art.


Thursday, September 03, 2020

Charlie Hebdo Terror Trial: Widow of Cartoonist Georges Wolinski Speaks to FRANCE 24

 Via FRANCE 24:

"As the trial of the January 2015 terror attacks opens in Paris, FRANCE 24 speaks to Maryse Wolinski, widow of cartoonist Georges Wolinski, who was assassinated with 11 others in the attack on Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015. A journalist and writer, she has written a book in which she recounts her own personal bid to understand the horror of that day. In the book, Wolinski addresses the slain terrorist Chérif Kouachi, the elder of the two Kouachi brothers who carried out the massacre. She says her visions of him 'suffocated' her to the point that she fell ill."


Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Jackie Ormes and Liz Montague

I missed Jackie Ormes's birthday yesterday. But millions of people took note, since she was the "Google Doodle" that day.

Here's more about Jackie, straight from Google:

"Ormes was known for her satirical and stylish cartoons and comic strips that challenged the derogatory portrayals of Black female characters prevalent in the media. She is widely recognized as the first and only Black female newspaper cartoonist of her time in the United States. On this day in 1945, her groundbreaking single panel “Patty-Jo ’n’ Ginger” debuted in the Pittsburgh Courier, introducing the world to the smart and fashionable Ginger and her precocious 6-year-old sister Patty-Jo. Each slide of today’s Doodle provides a glimpse into stages of Ormes’ life, from her beginnings as a self-taught artist to a powerhouse cartoonist and humorist whose work continues to inspire.

"Jackie Ormes was born Zelda Mavin Jackson on August 1, 1911, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She taught herself to draw at an early age and showcased her skills with a page of cartoons in her high school yearbook. After graduation, she entered the media landscape as a proofreader and freelance reporter for the nationally circulated Black newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier.

"In 1937, the Courier published Ormes’ first comic strip: “Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem,” which at times reflected the more serious struggles of real people migrating from the South to the North to escape racism and find better opportunities. Ormes’ trailblazing career continued with “Candy” and “Patty-Jo ’n’ Ginger”—her longest-running work–and her final comic, “Torchy in Heartbeats.”

"Across all of her work, Ormes’s heroines faced real-life issues like romantic heartbreak, environmental justice, and gender inequality, mirroring the issues Ormes encountered in her own life and those around her. Her characters were all independent women—confident, intelligent, attractive, and brave, who persevered against adversity to reach their next adventure.

"Ormes furthered positive depictions of Black women and girls while also expressing her talent for fashion design through the development of several dolls related to her characters. In 1949 she made history by designing one of the first high quality American Black dolls “Patty-Jo,” complete with an extensive wardrobe produced by the Terri Lee Doll company. Later, her 1950 debut of a new, full color comic strip featuring her character Torchy, came with an accompanying paper doll topper, “Torchy Togs.” This bonus feature promoted a positive depiction of Black women while advising them on such fashion tenets as fabric, cut, and seasonal trends.

"A pioneering professional woman in a male-dominated cartooning industry, Ormes retired in 1956 but continued her commitment to advocacy and community leadership throughout the rest of her life. In recognition of her achievements, Ormes was posthumously inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists’ Hall of Fame in 2014 as well as the Will Eisner Comic Industry Hall of Fame in 2018.

"Thank you, Jackie Ormes, for helping to strip away negative stereotypes one panel at a time."

Liz Montague, the first African-American New Yorker cartoonist, created the Google Doodle. Here's a profile of her from earlier this year:

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

The Garden As of September 1, 2020

Beautiful zinnias in the morning sun.

The garden is getting tired. With most of the tomatoes harvested, and the rest of the cucumbers, zucchinis and peppers on the wane, things are winding down.

The tomatoes are still producing. See below for all of the ones that were picked on Sunday. 

The zucchinis are spent. 

Same with the cucumbers.

The radishes are coming along, with carrots ready in a couple weeks. 

Not even half of the tomato harvest. You can see one pepper peeking out.