Thursday, November 17, 2011

Roz Chast - Cartoonist Survey #249

Cartoonist and writer Rosalind "Roz" Chast was born in November of 1954. She grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York where she attended Midwood High School. Once she graduated from high school she went to Kirkland College where she learned a lot of art related “stuff” such as etching, lithography, silk screening and film development. After two years at Kirkland she transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design where she studied painting and graphic design. She earned a BFA from RISD in June of 1977 and moved back to New York.

Back in New York, Roz started showing her portfolio around and landed a few illustration jobs before deciding to give cartooning a go. She sold some cartoons to Christopher Street magazine and the Village Voice, but the pay wasn’t very good. In April of 1978 she learned that drop-off day for cartoon submissions at The New Yorker was Wednesdays, so she decided to leave a package of her cartoons. When she went back the next week to pick up her drawings, there was a note with them from the magazine’s art director, Lee Lorenz, asking her to see him. Much to her surprise, Lee ended up buying one of her drawings and told her to submit more work every week. Less than a year later she was under contract as a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker.

Now, over thirty years later, Roz has contributed hundreds of cartoons to The New Yorker, as well as full-color spread illustrations and covers. Her cartoons and editorial illustrations have also been published in over fifty other magazines and journals including Mother Jones, Town & Country, Redbook, the Harvard Business Review and Scientific American. She has illustrated and written many children’s books including Steve Martin’s “The Alphabet from A to Y, with Bonus Letter, Z” and her own “Marco” series of books.

There have been numerous compilations of her work printed including the 400 page “Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons” which includes most of her cartoons from 1978 to 2006. Her most recent release, “What I Hate; From A to Z” is a funny, alphabetical look at her fears and anxieties. Another edition of her “Marco” children’s books, “Marco Goes to School” is scheduled to come out next July.

Roz has received many awards and accolades including the Museum of Cartoon and Comic Art Festival Award in 2004 and honorary doctorates from Pratt Institute, Lesley University/Art Institute of Boston and most recently Dartmouth College. She and her husband, humor writer Bill Franzen, live in Ridgefield, Connecticut and they have two children, a son and a daughter. Visit Roz’s website to see more of her work, including her pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs), and to check for dates of upcoming lectures and book signings.

What is your favorite pen to use?


Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?

I sketch in pencil first for finished drawings, but not generally for roughs. Mechanical pencil.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?

By hand.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?


What type of paper do you use?

Bristol vellum 2 ply.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

Things like "the woods." Also, large crowd scenes.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?


Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?

Not really.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?

I listen to music only when I'm doing color. All genres except marching bands and country.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?

Charles Addams. Also loved Nancy. Also, MAD magazine-- Don Martin, Dave Berg, etc.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

Don Martin

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?

Merck Manual. Yes.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?

I graduated from R.I.S.D. Also, in high school, I went to the Art Students League for figure drawing in NYC on Saturdays.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?


Did either of your parents draw?

My mother "doodled" a little. But not really.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?

I had a couple of wonderful teachers in high school.

Do you keep a sketchbook?


Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?

No, I've never taught.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?

50/50. I know, wussy answer.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

To some extent, old New Yorker artist cartoon books. I used to collect more things, but I've become less interested in "stuff" since clearing out my parents' apartment after they died.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?

I hope I would be the brave little toaster and not that blanket who was always in a panic.

Are you a righty or lefty?


If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?


In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

My studio is in the corner of the house. It's a good temperature and quiet and dim, except for the light on my desk.

Do you play any musical instruments?

Not really.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?

If you have no other options, give it your all and hope for the best.

Who is your favorite artist?

Charles Addams

Thanks again for your time Roz!


Mike Reagan said...

Nice interview with one of my favs!

Suz is getting a puppy said...

Thanks Roz and thanks David. Things I wondered about my favorite cartoonist. So glad you do your work by hand Roz.