These pictures of course do not do this justice, but the other day we went to the Van Gogh Experience in NYC. It was one of the best things I have experienced. The best part and most unbelievable part was just as we entered, my favorite song, No Regrets by Edith Piaf started playing.
This was not planned. We entered randomly, it was not as if the show was starting, it’s an ongoing thing. The person at the entrance, parted black curtains, and four of us entered, the lights came on and Edith Piaf started singing and Vincent Van Gogh’s work was bigger than life surrounding us. An indescribable moment.
I’ve been in New York. Did a lot so far in a week. The worst part was the flight. From the time I left my house until I got to the door here in NY, it took 10 hours. The flight was delayed and then we didn’t have a pilot! We literally sat on the plane for an hour waiting for him to arrive!
But I’m here and all is well.
Been to The Hamptons with my family and friends, we were at an outdoor bar listening to one of my cousins perform., He’s an entertainer and he was doing his thing out at the waterfront. It was a perfect day.
Did a bunch of other things – ate at one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Brooklyn. Did Hoboken and saw Manhattanhenge.
On Wednesday, a friend and I did the Little Island. It was beautiful and a lot of fun, but the temperature was 96 degrees with a heat index of 105 degrees. Oppressive! I even passed up Mr. Softee – I was too nauseous to eat.
Thursday a friend and I did the MET Museum. It rained all day, so that was a good indoor thing to do.
Been to diners, had an egg cream. Did all my usual stuff.
I interviewed one of my favorite cartoonists, Jason Chatfield, who incidentally helped me immensely with my own cartooning, as I live by one of his statements: “Don’t curate your art to what gets likes. Curate it to what you like.” I live (and create) by that now.
I was interested in Jason’s schedule, technique and so much of his cartoons and comics work and work ethic.
TOM: You seem to do so much, TV, New Yorker cartoonist, daily comic strip (Ginger Meggs) and President of the National Cartoonists’ Society (NCS). What is the schedule like, for instance, when do you do the comic strip? When do you do New Yorker cartoons?
JASON: I have a pretty regular schedule — I work from a calendar instead of a to-do list — I tend to do 6 daily strips at-a-time, then the Sundays (weekend paper strips) on separate days.
I pitch a batch of 10 New Yorker cartoons each Tuesday; some roughs and some finished, and some of them re-submissions with new captions. 99% are rejected. Those are done in a 10-step process that I outline here.
The TV work is usually just a one or two-day shoot somewhere, then the show or commercial runs for years, so that’s not very time-heavy, and my NCS work is just constantly streaming in every day. Some days there is a lot to do, other days less so. Cartoonists are my favorite people, but trying to organize them can be like herding cats. ☺️
It sounds like a lot, but I manage to sleep somewhere in there and take weekends off with my wife and pup.
TOM: I see that Ginger Meggs recently turned 100 — that’s quite a weight to bear — taking over such a well-known strip. How did that come about? How were you chosen to do this?
JASON: When I was a 23 year-old editorial cartoonist in my hometown of Perth, the fourth cartoonist on the strip, James Kemsley, asked me to take it over. That was few days before he died of ALS. He was a dear friend and mentor so it was a very bittersweet honor to inherit. I’d give up the strip tomorrow it it meant having Kems back; he was an impressive guy, always way ahead of his time and always helping other cartoonists. I’m glad I could carry the baton and keep Ginger going past 100 years. (Details on the centenary are at gingermeggs.com )
TOM: As President of the National Cartoonists Society, what is your take on webcomics or comics only published online? They seem to be the most read today, yet I have heard that cartoonists have a problem joining the society.
JASON: We have many webcomic cartoonists in the NCS, and under past President Tom Richmond’s tenure (around 2010/11) the NCS introduced two webcomic categories into our Divisional Reuben awards. (Long form and Short form).
Webcomics are a rich and diverse artform we’re really proud to promote — comics in newspapers are only a fraction of the make-up of NCS membership. Our biggest numbers of entries for the 2020 Reuben awards were for both webcomics categories.
I think I read about 70% of my favorite comics online (the rest in magazines and printed book collections.)
TOM: Do you work digitally or with pen and paper?
JASON: I use both. I learned to draw traditionally before I learned to draw digitally, so the transition was very natural. I use a Wacom Cintiq with an Ergo Arm for most of my work, but I often spin around to my drawing board and use a Hunt 101 Imperial nib on my dip pen for a lot of my New Yorker finishes. (Mainly because people request to purchase the originals… And I like to get inky fingers so my wife thinks I’m doing actual work.)
TOM: What does your studio, workspace look like?
JASON: It changes all the time. I’ve moved so many times the past 15 years my studio has been every kind of room imaginable. You can get a glimpse of my current studio (June 2021) in this video just shot by Wacom for the production of a series of coins I designed for the Royal Australian Mint. They cut the part where my dog sits under my desk while I’m working and farts. Almost constantly.
TOM: What comics/cartoonists influenced you?
JASON: I was a big fan of MAD growing up, so all the Usual Gang of Idiots were my teachers — Sergio Aragonés was my favorite for his pantomime marginals, but Mort Drucker’s hand gestures and caricatured likenesses, Jack Davis’ movement, brushwork and shoes, Al Jaffee’s inventiveness (and snark) all contributed to my weird brain. And then the “newer” guys like Tom Richmond, Mark Frederickson and a slew of other talented idiots followed suit.
TOM: If you could crawl into any strip or panel for the day, other than your own, which would it be, and why?
JASON: Cul de Sac. I would want to sit down and just pick the brain of Alice Otterloop. What a brilliant mind Richard Thompson had, to bring her into this universe. Wildly inventive, funny and smart character writing.
TOM: At what point did you realize you were famous?
JASON: Ha! I don’t think that’s true. I know it sounds silly considering all the things I do being so public-facing, but I now totally get people having a pseudonym. Fame isn’t something I aspire to — I just like to do my work and hopefully have people enjoy reading it. I think ‘actual’ fame comes with more downsides than upsides… unless we’re talking about my local diner naming a roast beef sandwich after me. That’s all upside. (And topside).
I had to laugh when I saw this cartoon by Ellis Rosen today, not just because it’s funny, but because I was thinking of this very situation at the moment I saw this on Instagram. My friend jak would say that’s a case of being in the right place at the right time.
I was talking to one of my neighbors about a delivery that was missing. Amazon delivered it, but she couldn’t find it.
I live in a small condo and deliveries are always left on a table down by the elevator, but her package was missing. What happened was, the delivery guy brought the packages up the stairwell, rather than leave them downstairs. Basically, no one uses the stairwell here, it’s an emergency exit, people use the elevator. I do use the stairwell, as I like to take the stairs for exercise, so I had seen the packages yesterday.
The elevator opens up into our units. There is no hallway or corridor. We use key fobs and each unit has its own code/fob and the elevator opens up right in your living room, which sounds cool, but it does get old after a week.
Anyway, there have always been screw ups with the elevator, the door would just open randomly, or the key fob doesn’t work and all the units are left unlocked, etc. So that’s where the cartoon comes in. I was thinking of the Amazon delivery and also of the time I came into my living room to find the FedEx delivery guy standing there with my package. He got into the elevator, because the fob system was not working, he pushed my unit button and there he was – in the living room.
I could not get mad at him or the Amazon guy, since they both went out of their ways to bring the deliveries up where they could have just left them down on the table in the lobby.
As I was thinking this, I saw the cartoon above pop up – a case of being in the right place at the right time. jak always said that when you hear a word on tv or radio or hear someone say it as you are reading it at the same time – that’s a case of being in the right place at the right time. Same thing when you say a word or phrase and someone else says it at the same time in person or on tv.
I got the chance to ask Stephan Pastis, creator of the comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, my Ten With Tom questions. Stephan has one of the most popular comic strips around, his tipping point was when Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, noticed his work and mentioned it in a blog post. The rest is history. His online readership went through the roof overnight.
He won the 2015 Reuben Award for best newspaper comic strip.
Do people mistake you for Seth Macfarlane?
I’ve heard that before, but the one I hear more is Robert Downey, Jr. I even had a restaurant owner in Dublin, Ireland tell me what an honor it was to have Robert Downey, Jr. in her restaurant. I told her that I appreciated it, but that I didn’t like to be disturbed while dining.
Why do you create your comics 7 months in advance, why so far ahead? I’m anal retentive. I need to relax. Are you recognized on the street? Almost never. Except as Robert Downey Jr. in Dublin.
What are a few of your favorite classic newspaper comics from your childhood?
Far Side Calvin and Hobbes Peanuts Bloom County
Flintstones or Scooby Do? Scooby. There’s always someone trying to scare away prospective house buyers by filling it with fake ghosts and/or monsters. Knowing that the ghost thing is a sham, I could probably get a great deal on real estate.
Which comic strip would you like to crawl into and spend the day? Krazy Kat. Lots of peyote and throwing bricks at others.
Dick Tracy or Little Orphan Annie? It wouldn’t be Annie. Her lack of pupils would be disturbing, particularly if you fell in love. You could never look into her eyes.
What section of the printed daily newspaper today should be eliminated to add more comics? Many of the comics.
Without looking, what color is Olive Oyl’s dress? Top half of her is red. Bottom half of her is black. Both halves are probably stained by spinach.
Do you think you’ll ever go digital in creating Pearls Before Swine? Why? No. Too lazy to learn. Plus, it doesn’t seem like something Robert Downey Jr. would do.
Today’s comic looks a bit different than my usual work. Why? Because it’s old! It’s one of my old ones.
Recently I’ve been redrawing old art, but I liked the look of this one, so I didn’t change it and a reader noticed. He commented, “This comic doesn’t have your touch. Like, you have a separate way of art and this toon doesn’t have your common art sense. But it’s funny.”
I really appreciated that comment. I like that he notices my usual style and the fact that I ever have one and I like that he mentioned it.
It’s always interesting to see how people’s drawing style changes over the years. This was my Far Side period, I did a lot of weird stuff. I have published some of them lately, but since they were redrawn, they fit in with the rest of the cartoons.
I like my line work better these days, it’s evolved, and I don’t use as much background if any, these days. In the past, I filled in the whole panel with background. But now I find it cleaner to use less background. I may put one image to set the scene – sort of like a black box theater where there isn’t much scenery on stage, just maybe table and chair.
For instance, in the snake scene above, I would have used the sign of course, but maybe just have the stage door with the star on it, where the voice is coming from. I doubt I would have used the dressing table or even the pipe up at the ceiling. And I don’t think I would have used a lot of color, I think mostly white would be the background.
Cartoonist Jason Chatfield said, “Don’t curate your art to what gets likes. Curate it to what you like.” And I’ve tried to live by that. Not so much the drawing, but the whole comic and gag. Sometimes I feel that the audience won’t get the gag or think something is funny, but I go with my gut feeling, and it seems to work out.
The lemonade comic had many comments – people were dissecting it on one website and on another, there were about 150 comments where people described similar incidents at their places of work or shopping! So you never know what is going to work, so it’s true, go with your gut and see where it falls. I wasn’t sure about that one, but I liked it so I published it.
I wasn’t sure about yesterday’s cartoon – this office one. It didn’t have a gag and I felt that people would be looking for the gag, but people got it. It was just a slice of life – a period of time where people are returning to the office and the happiness (I guess on most parts) of people seeing their co-workers and friends in person again. People liked this cartoon. So another gut reaction on my part that was right.
We’re one today! Well, this incarnation of Tomversation is one.
On May 4th, 2020, I started publishing this incarnation of Tomversation, right at the beginning of the pandemic. This is the first cartoon. I started on May 4th, so that I would remember “May the 4th Be With You!” Although I don’t think I would have forgotten an important anniversary date.
A lot of the beginning cartoons were pandemic related, I guess it was easy to come up with those idea since that was an all consuming topic at the time. And it’s great to know we’re almost out of it!
Thanks for sticking around.
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This is freaky, but interesting. I was flipping through YouTube the other night and this caught my eye and I couldn’t stop watching. Famous people’s statues are brought to life. It’s so real and lifelike, and spooky when they blink!
Today’s comic about Bob’s issues, brought back memories of when I was a kid in elementary school, maybe even middle school, which we called junior high back then.
I didn’t get the idea for the comic from then, after I created the comic, the memories came back.
Back then, maybe I was 10 or 12, I can’t remember. My best friend Gary and I had a daily project we did called, “The Issue.” And what it was was a parody newspaper of what was going on in school. Each day we handed each other “The Issue” at some point during the day. You know, we each did our own issue and swapped.
I like the name, I don’t know who came up with it.
The Issue parodied people and events and things going on in the school. I vaguely remember it being on notebook paper and I think it was just the one page, back and front, and there were drawings and news and things like that.
All these years later I wonder where they went. Did I throw them out? Did we save them and they just disappeared over time, sort of like all those famous toys that seemed to come and go? Like what happened to all our toys? All those things going for hundreds of dollars now on Ebay, the ones we had, where did they go?
Anyway, I guess I was always meant to be in the news business, starting at an early age with the daily “Issue.”
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Somebody posted an old 1966 review from Cleveland Amory in the TV Guide on Facebook, which reviews the new upcoming tv show “Batman.”
He talks about it being on two nights in a row and that if watch part 1 and miss part 2, oh well.
No VCR’s or DVR’s back in then.
I remember when I was a kid some time in the 1970s, there was a show I was watching, I can’t remember what it was, but when it was over, I said to my mother, “I wish I could just snap my fingers and be in California so I could see the show again when it comes on there during their time zone.”
I remember in 1979 or thereabouts one of my uncles got a VCR, that was the first one I saw I think, although I do remember in school they used to wheel in something similar on movie or documentary days, so maybe his was the first one I saw in a house.
One quote from the Cleveland Amory review says, “The whole show, on first impression, may not be as great.”
This of course, is my favorite Batman, and while I have drawn other versions, I stick with Adam West’s 1960s version when I draw him. I ran a Batman comic this week and have another one coming up next week. Too much?
Sometimes I wonder if I am stepping on their trademark.
There was this guy who used to do Charlie Brown-type comics daily. That was his comic – a retread of Charlie Brown. I don’t think he got away with it because I have not seen his work in a couple of years.