Tuesday, March 23, 2021

My Article in The Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain "The Jester"


The Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain, "the UK's largest and oldest cartoonists' organisation," has published an article in its Jester magazine that I wrote about The New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno. Here's a copy of the cover, with a cartoon by Peter Rigby. There are profiles of Peter Rigby, Frank Dickens (whose "Bristow" strip ran in the Evening Standard for 51 years), Jim Russell (who drew perhaps the longest running cartoon strip by a single artist -- "The Potts" -- for 61 years, from 1940 to 2001), and some short articles on new members and computer programs. All in all, a great issue, and chock full of cartoons. 


John Stilgoe, the CCGB Secretary, had seen my short piece on Peter Arno on this blog, and asked to reprint it in their monthly magazine. Yes, of course!


Below is the story about Peter Arno in easier-to-read original bloggy format:

Here's one of my favorite stories about Peter Arno (1904 - 1968):

Some cartoonists like the beginning bit (the coming up with the idea, honing the gag bit I mean) and some like the process (the sketching and layout) and others prefer the end (the sale). My favorite part is coming up with the gag and drawing the doodle in my sketchbook. Not so with Mr. Peter Arno.

Arno would draw and redraw his cartoons sometimes dozens of times. There is a true story that cartoonist Mel Casson would tell, about visiting Mr. Arno in his penthouse apartment. I'll do my best to relate it here, from memory of him telling it some 20 years ago as part of a National Cartoonists Society Connecticut Chapter speech he gave.

So, a few decades back, Mel Casson and a friend went to visit the one and only famous New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno. He had invited them to his apartment. And it really was a penthouse apartment. The lobby elevator went up, and the doors opened onto the interior Arno landing, from which one could see the Arno living room and -- there he was -- Peter Arno himself, mixing drinks.

It was a pleasant visit and Arno was a wonderful host. After sitting down, having a drink and talking shop, Arno asked the younger cartoonists, "Do you want to see my studio?"

Well, of course! Who wouldn't want to see Arno's studio?!

So, Arno walked over to a door, and opened it. They walked in. Arno switched on a light. The room had curtains all around, from floor to ceiling, covering the wall, the windows. "I can't have any distractions," explained Arno. The only furniture: a large drawing board, lamp and chair. And on the drawing board, laid out in two rows, were twenty original drawings.

These were 20 originals of the same cartoon, drawn over and over. But, coming closer, the cartoons were not exactly the same. Each one was had a slight difference: an arm bent a different way, a head turned, one character was upstage of the other, to the right in another, etc. Each one was a fully inked Arno piece of original comic art, ready for publication.

I remember Casson telling Arno how surprised he was that he (Arno) did all of this work, painstakingly laboring over the cartoon, drawing and redrawing it in so many different, subtle ways -- all in finished ink and wash. Casson suggested drawing a series of thumbnails or pencil sketches instead of going to all this time and effort to create twenty finishes.

Arno explained that this was always the way he worked: drawing many different variations of the cartoon until he was satisfied. Casson repeated that it was so much work, drawing a large size finished piece over and over and over again.

"But you don't understand," explained Arno, motioning to the 20 cartoons, "This is my favorite part."



Harry Lee Green brings a lovely sampler of Peter Arno's amazing layout and masterful wash style from the collections SIZZLING PLATTER and HELL OF A WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD. 

Michael Maslin, who wrote the great bio of Arno (Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist), weighs in and quotes many New Yorker cartoonists on the man.

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