Schooled: Chris Ware’s New Yorker Covers


Chris Ware illustrated September’s back-to-school New Yorker cover with a scene of parents turning their backs on their children, immersed in their own digital devices. This week he did another cover that brilliantly reflects how the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings changed the dynamic between parents and children.


On this 2013 cover our point of view is 180 degrees different. It is dark inside the school. We see the children’s dazed expressions. The parents outside are trying to stay connected as long as they can. Ware shares his thought process about these powerful images on the New Yorker’s culture blog.

“In September, I pictured, more or less, my daughter’s teacher and her class on a back to school cover that jokingly pointed to the free time parents would have now that their kids were back in class…something I saw every morning, and I thought it would make a sort of funny picture. In the wake of Newtown, it didn’t seem so funny anymore.”

These covers are © 2012 and 2013 Chris Ware and The New Yorker, used here only for the purpose of reviewing Ware’s extraordinary illustrations and leading more readers to his essay.

Ethan Ross On Broadway.

Signage for Christmas Story at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, NYC

I know the purpose of higher education is not job-training. Still, I must admit there is nothing that warms this professor’s heart more than getting an email with the subject line:  Hey Prof, I GOT A JOB!

Ethan Ross, NY designer, KU CD grad, class of 2012.

Ethan Ross wrote to say, ” I have been working full-time as a Junior Designer at aka NYC. I interned here over the summer and they offered me the job. The company is located in the Theater District in Manhattan and exclusively does advertising for Broadway. Right now our biggest shows are: “Matilda the Musical” and “GlenGarry Glen Ross.

Ethan designed posters, signs, and banners for Christmas Story, the Musical. The image above is peppered with quotes from Jean Shepard’s beloved holiday tale, notably, “Oh My God, I shot my eye out!”

Ethan got to do edgier design work for the new rock musical, BARE.

Ethan Ross’s poster for BARE, an Off-Broadway musical

Ethan describes Bare as an “Off-Broadway musical about teenagers attending a Catholic boarding school and trying to find their own identities. I am the lead graphic designer on this show and have worked with a creative director from the beginning. In addition to the poster, I designed a direct-mail piece and a series of illustrations that are being used on the show’s social media outlets.”

He has also been doing a lot of art for Bare‘s Facebook page. Bare opens this week, Nov 19, at The New World Stage, 340 W 50th St.

I wrote to Ethan asking how he fared during Hurricane Sandy. He wrote back, “Sandy didn’t affect me much, thankfully. I live in Marble Hill in the Bronx which is pretty far north and on top of a cliff, so I didn’t have to worry about flooding or losing power. The only inconvenience  I experienced was when the subways shut down after the storm I was essentially trapped for a few days.” Clearly, Ethan has adjusted to life beyond Kutztown. We expect to see more great things from him.

funny things art spiegelman said about the funnies

art spiegelman by Kevin McCloskey © 2012

“I’ve been called the father of the graphic novel, but I demand a paternity test!” -art spiegelman.

I caught art spiegelman’s “What the %@&*! Happened to Comics?” at Lehigh University. One of the most influential artists of our time, I knew him before he won the Pulitzer for his graphic novel, Maus. Even though we are nearly the same age, I was once his student.

In 1985, I took his comics course at the School of Visual Arts. It was the History of Comics, but included some drawing projects. I recall one interesting assignment. Each student in the class did a zine based on a different letter, picked from a hat. I got “S.” Then the 26 zines were wrapped together in a cover that evoked a Campbell’s soup can. He called it Alphabet Soup and he arranged for it to be sold at Manhattan’s Printed Matter.

art spiegelman, guest star on the Simpsons

I’d heard many of his one-liners in class. Still, it was great to hear him again at Lehigh. I brought my camera, but just as they dimmed the lights there was a “No cameras, No recording devices!” announcement. Luckily, I had my Moleskine sketchbook, which is a permissible sort of recording device, I suppose. I took notes of his comments and did the quick sketch above. I added color in Photoshop at home.

“Definition of graphic novel: comic book that needs a bookmark. ” -art spiegelman.

Nancy by Ernie Bushmiller

“In the period following world War II, Nancy was the most read comic, not because it was the best, but because it took more effort not to read it, than to read it.”

“My wife says I should take pride in my two great achievements, the first is Maus, second – Not permitting Maus to be made into a film.”

Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art painting Whaam, image from Wikipedia

“Lichtenstein did no more for comics than Warhol did for soup.”

Back in the day, I remember spiegelman always insisted his name be written in lowercase letters, like e.e. cummings. That’s why I am overriding spellcheck, for the sake of art, art spielgelman.

WILCO buys Brian Shaw’s Art for Gig Poster

Brian Shaw graduated a few weeks ago, winner of the 2012 Don Breter Memorial Award for most improved illustration student. He drew a series of gig posters for his senior illustration class. He asked me how he might get them in front of the eyes of Wilco, one of his favorite bands. I didn’t know, but Scotty Reifsnyder, a successful illustrator and KU alum did a poster for Wilco once, so I asked Scotty to take a look at Brian’s work.

Brian writes, “This opportunity was a dream come true for me. Not only did I get to illustrate for a band, but for one of my all time favorites, WILCO! I never in a million years thought I’d get this lucky. I owe all my thanks to Kevin McCloskey and Scotty Reifsnyder for helping to set up this opportunity! Scotty was extremely encouraging and offered very helpful information to point me in the right direction. Perhaps the most helpful tip was to be patient and determined! Though you may not find the work right away, keep trying and eventually something will present itself.”

Wilco printed 145 limited edition, 18 by 24 inch, prints, all signed by Brian. Brian was paid a flat fee of a few hundred dollars and he got to keep the first 15 prints for sale. When those run out, they are available for purchase from WILCO’s store for $25.

Rock gig posters are a natural fit for Brian, “When I’m not drawing, I’m playing drums in my band, The Flintstone Club.” To see more of Brian’s illustration and design work, or to contact him about buying a signed print, visit his web site. 

Artwork for his own band, The Flintstone Club, © 2012 Brian Shaw

An Illustrator’s Mind Explored

Loni Sue Johnson is an an illustrator who has had enormous success. Her whimsical watercolor illustrations graced the pages of the NY Times and six memorable New Yorker covers. Then one day in 2007 she fell ill with viral encephalitis, a rare condition, sometimes carried by mosquitos and ticks. She survived the virus, but large portions of both sides of her brain suffered devastating neurological damage.

Drawing from the Right and Left Side of the Brain:

Her mother, Margaret, invented drawing games to rehabilitate Loni Sue. She would draw a partial drawing then ask Loni Sue to complete it. Very gradually Loni Sue began to draw again. Shown artwork by famous artists she had studied in school, like Vincent Van Gogh, Loni Sue failed to identify the artist. But shown her own artwork, pre- or post illness, she recognized it immediately as her own creation. This suggests how very deeply one’s drawing style becomes ingrained in one’s self-identity.

Watercolor childrens' book illustrations © Loni Sue Johnson
Watercolor children's book illustrations © Loni Sue Johnson

An exhibition originally organized by Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum can be seen at Morven Museum and Gardens, Pricenton, NJ, through June 3, 2012. It is a wonderful show. Two Johns Hopkins University scientists, Dr. Barbara Landau, an old friend of Loni Sue, and Dr. Micheal McCloskey have been studying her art.

Loni Sue Johnson drawing, from the the Johns Hopkins video, link below.

Most illustrators are familiar with Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  Dr. McCloskey describes Loni Sue’s recovery portfolio as a sort of scientific detective story. The left brain/right brain divide may be more porous than we thought. There is a remarkable short video at the exhibition, in which Dr. McCloskey states, “I think if we were to make a map of the brain which showed which parts of the brain were important for art it would be pretty much the whole brain.”

Loni Sue on NPR: Radio seems a nutty way to consider illustration, but Guy Raz’s poignant interview with Loni Sue and her sister Aline is well worth a listen.

detail from Morven Museum announcement. Art above © Loni Sue Johnson 2011

See more of Loni Sue Johnson’s art via the links on her blog.

He’s Got a Million of them –7 Great Designs by Greg Christman

Greg Christman is one of the most prolific illustrator/designers to come out of Kutztown’s C.D. Dept. His work is frequently seen on the hippest design blogs. He was recently featured in a spread in a new French design publication called the Book of Creation. I asked Greg to explain a few of his inventive images the French liked so much.

Greg: Did this when I was working at Gyro. Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction was looking for some artist shirts. I made this. It’s just a fun type experiment.

I love cats.  Andy O’ Dore (also a KU CD grad) and I created/run a cat website (which has really blown up this year )… so you know I’m always making dumb cat things. This is exactly that… a dumb cat thing.

Love Harry Potter. No other explanation for this. This got reblogged thousands of times which was really, really amazing for me.

4-color screenprint for Slingshot Dakotas vinyl release of their record. Tom from Bird Apartment Printing screened this. He is also in the band. He is a talented screenprinter. I do a lot of work for him and his band. Excited that I’m doing their up and coming record on their new label.

Wonder Years? Band contacted me to do a t-shirt. Went through a few rounds and this one got made. Really happy with it.

Paint it Black poster: 2 -color screen printed poster for a show in DC.  Contacted by the band to do it. Got a great response and sold a ton.

Asked about his career path, Greg responds: “Oh ___! Day job. I worked a crazy ad job for a few years. You know… 8am – 8pm, while still having work to do at home. It wore me out… so I quit. It was great for experience and I highly recommend anyone getting out of school to do the same… but MOVE ON. It’s what I did. I took a job that was far less stressful. It is fulfilling, allows me to do my own work, as well as spend time with my kid and wife. You have to have that balance. Design and illustration is fun and all, but life is way better and that ultimately makes you a better designer.”

All images © Greg Christman. We leave you with a photo of Greg and his son, Oliver. Greg is the mature one on the left. 

Bootie Pirates in the News

Chair Karen Kresge let the faculty know, “I just found out that KUCD alum Randi Meredith had her Booty Pirate snowboard featured in the new book, Inside the World of Board Graphics: Skate, Surf, Snow.

The book is by Robynne Raye and Michael Strassburger, the founding partners of Seattle’s Modern Dog Design. Randi Meredith is a talented designer and illustrator. She is also a world traveler. She was a participant in one of the last of the CD Dept.’s sketchbook courses in Mexico. Then last year, she and her boyfriend took a seven-week trip around the world. She blogged about her global adventures here. Below is an image of her booty pirates which were a big hit at the senior show when she graduated in 2010. She was the winner of KU’s Karen Anderson award. We knew she’d go far. Check out her website.

Booty Pirates © 2010 Randi Meredith

The Boston-based running shoe company, Reebok, was at KU last week to recruit talented C.D. students for their internships and apprentice programs. Randi was a participant in the Reebok program and did some interesting stuff for the company like the batik-inspired women’s T-shirts below.

© Reebok 2010, Women’s Organic Line, designed by Randi Meredith.