Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How a great cartoonist does what he does

Did you know each cartoonist who freelances with The New Yorker, that storied magazine founded by Harold Ross in 1925, is required to submit 10 panels a week for consideration (nine of which typically get rejected)?

How do they do it? How do they come up with so many original jokes?

Well, thanks to Jeff Bercovici of Forbes, we know how one great cartoonist does it. In an interview with Matthew Diffee, who draws cartoons for The New Yorker and other media organisations, Bercovici draws out the essence of a cartoonist's light-bulb moment. We learn that Diffee parks himself at a table for the first hour or two of each day — however long it takes him to drink an entire pot of coffee — and forces himself to free-associate on a blank sheet of paper. That means writing, not drawing:

Diffee says his cartoons always start with words, not images. Typically, he’ll take a phrase that’s lodged in his mind and tweak it this way and that until he comes up with something funny or hits a mental dead end. By the time he fills up the paper, he usually has at least a couple workable ideas.

Here is a Diffee cartoon from a recent issue of The New Yorker:

“I’m sorry, Paige, but grades are based on the quality of the writing, not on your Klout score.”

Diffee also demonstrates how he does what he does in a brief (less than five minutes) video interview with Bercovici:

You can read the Forbes interview here: "New Yorker Cartoonist Matthew Diffee Shows How To Be Creative".

And take a look at a collection of New Yorker cartoons here.
  • Plus, meet the R.K. Laxman of England, Matt of The Daily Telegraph: "There’s no cartoonist like Matt. With his sharp humour and kind touch, he expertly captures the absurdities of everyday life. No wonder our readers start the day with a smile" — A tribute by Mick Brown.

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