January 23, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.

John Cuneo

Peggy Roalf does it again. This time with the great Cuneo. John, a powerfully vivid illustrator is also one of the best draughtsmen alive. Here, in full, is Peggy’s interview. Great work, all.

Q: Originally from New Jersey, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Woodstock. NY?

A: I have lived in Denver and San Francisco as well. I think of myself as a city person but may have to recalibrate that image now that I’ve spent a decade here inWoodstock. NY. I miss the stimulation of the city and should get into NYC more often, but I’m a pretty solitary person and this is as good a place as any to sit at a table and draw. Besides, I’m told that it’s really pretty outside.

Q: How and when did you first become interested in art and illustration?

A: I’ve always drawn (I was one of those kids). We weren’t a museum family, and any art or illustration I saw was in newspapers and books. My naive and entitled presumption was that kids like me eventually got “a job” drawing pictures that would be reproduced on a page somewhere, surrounded by type.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus In the computer?

A: I’ve always got some sketchbooks going. Among other things, I use them for practice, to document my neuroses and obsessions, and to reconnect with the tactile pleasure of making marks on paper. I’m fairly obsessive about it and would work in them exclusively if it wasn’t for  deadlines and mortgages.

All my stuff is done on paper and I don’t think I have Photoshop. I worry that if I had the technical option to make changes or “fix” images, my OCD would go nuclear and I’d wind up chattering to myself, hunched over a laptop tweaking flesh tones for a week.

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: Any current, unfinished sketchbook I guess. Also some original art from friends and colleagues. If my wife pops in, she goes to the top of the list. In the summer, the AC unit is pretty vital.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: The theatrically mournful tone and blunt predatory nature of the Walrus and the Carpenter in L. Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass really messed me up. Tenniel’s drawings here are peerless, which didn’t help.

Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: John Cheever’s personal journals and Geoff Dyer’s essay and review collection, Otherwise Known As The Human Condition.

Q: Who and what are some of your strongest influences?

A: My influences are in constant rotation and new ones are added to the list all the time. A book capriciously pulled from the shelf can propel me down a rabbit hole of craven envy or divine inspiration. Currently, Ronald Searle, Friso Henstra and David Hughes have prompted a good portion of both.


Q: What was your first professional assignment and how did you get it?

A: I don’t recall, but my first legitimate magazine assignment was from Martha Geering at Sierra Magazine, to whom I’ll always be grateful.

Q: What are some of your favorite places/books/blogs/websites for inspiration?

A: For a jump start, I’ll often scroll through Richard Thompson’s blog.   http://richardspooralmanac.blogspot.com/  Years and years of incandescent brilliance there. Also,  the superb daily drawings of Oscar Grillo.  http://okgrillo.blogspot.com/. Jillian Tamaki’s  http://blog.jilliantamaki.com/  and   http://www.itsnicethat.com/  are wonderful and efficient ways to postpone the inevitable.

Q: What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

A: For me, drawing for assignment is rife with anxiety. I envy those folks who express excitement and optimism at the beginning of a job. I am honestly hoping not to disappoint.

Q: What is/would be your karaoke song—and why?

A: Excruciating self-awareness prohibits me from the abandon required for this kind of fun. That said, in a perfect world, and with enough vodka, Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together is my jam.

Q: What is your hobby?

A: Pacing.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Lamb chops and a case of Barolo with family and friends. Iced poppyseed cake from Just Desserts in SF. Placemats to draw on.



Golf Digest reportage from the Masters Tournament. 


Personal sketchbook drawing.

Rhino and Poacher, for Fragile Planet exhibition. 

John Cuneo is a magazine illustrator.  His work appears in most major publications, including Esquire, The New Yorker, GQ, The NY Times, Garden & Gun, Entertainment Weekly, Mother Jones and Town & Country. Two collections of his personal drawing have been published:  nEuROTIC (Fantagraphics), and  this year, an eponomously titled collection published by Goya: LP Series.

His work has received 9 medals for the Society of Illustrators and in 2011 he received the Society of Illustrators Hamilton King Award.  

Last year, he was one of 7 illustrators featured in the Delaware  Art Museum exhibit, State of the Art: Illustration 100 Years After Howard Pyle; one of his drawings hangs their permanent collection. He’s been the subject of a Communication Arts mag feature; his drawings are included in American Illustration, the Society of Illustrators, and the Society of Publication & Design annuals as well as many magazines and satirical publications abroad. Drawger





Serge Bloch, one of the most fresh-thinking people of our time is teaching the world how to see in new ways.

Long one of my favorite artists, he is interviewed here for DART by the wonderfulPerry Roalf.

Serge Bloch, one of the most fresh-thinking people of our time is teaching the world how to see in new ways.

Long one of my favorite artists, he is interviewed here for DART by the wonderfulPerry Roalf.

If your day is off to a bad start, just go to Serge Bloch’s website; you should feel better right away. For now:

Q: As an artist, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Paris and New York

A: I was born in Colmar, in Alsace, on the border between Germany and France. I like Paris and New York; I like cities in general, they make it easy to meet people, and I like people. All loners do. NY and Paris are different cities, the people are different, and they have different cultures and histories. I like to break out of the everyday, and changing locales lets me do that; after all, one has the freedom to work from anywhere now…

How and when did you first become interested in art and illustration ?

I studied at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg. I was Claude Lapointe’s student, a famous illustrator who helped me discover the field. After that, I started an ad agency with a friend, and then ended up being hired as Art Director in a children’s publishing house. I was also drawing the whole time; I illustrated books and newspapers (among other things) printed in France and in the US, as well as other countries like Germany, Japan, Korea…

What was your first commercial assignment?

I drew a front-page illustration for the Strasbourg daily when I was still a student.

 is your favorite part of the creative process?

I like researching an idea and having it materialize, but I especially enjoy being done with a project!

Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper versus in the computer?

I do use a sketchbook to jot down ideas and write down storylines; for years, I also used it to draw and goof around with my sons when we were waiting for food at restaurants.

When it comes to computers in comparison to paper, I like paper, and making illustrations for exhibits; being able to touch it, and to respect it, since paper is alive. Using it, I can find the honesty in a pencil stroke, or truth within colors, or collages.

Computers are creative tools. I am not a digital native, and I remember a world without computers. I also remember starting to use computers, the stress I felt seeing the little bomb icon or having the computer crash and having to start over again from scratch. I’ve mastered it now (or maybe it’s the other way around), but I try and stay modest, especially when I see how adept my students are at using digital technology. Computers also allow us to work quickly and in real time anywhere in the world; every tool one can use has its own logic and specific uses. Whether one uses a nib, a brush, bamboo, or a computer, the point is to utilize each tool’s specific strengths.

How do you spend the first hour of your work day? What is your favorite time of day for working?

I start the day by reading emails, sometimes working on projects I forgot to finish the day before and have to send out quickly. Otherwise, I procrastinate, not for too long though…

When I was younger I could work just as well at night as during the day. Nowadays, I’m asleep at night and work during the day, that is if I’m not napping. The best time for work, in any case, is when you have an idea, night or day!


What are you listening to? What are you reading?

I listen to all types of music, from all parts of the world: classical, modern, electronic… I’m often reading literature that is somehow related to my travels, whether I’m going to China, to the US, etc.

Who and what are some of your strongest influences?

Masters of the line, or stroke: Paul Klee, Steinberg, Steig, Topor, Blechman, Sempé, Ben Sann, Bosc, Chaval, André François and many more… My tastes run a fairly wide gamut, from Calder to Charles Addams.

Did your participation in the AI32 LIVE Cover Project have any spillover into your studio practice? Do you recommend marathon art projects for inspiration or redirection?

Participating in the AI32 LIVE Cover Project was a real pleasure, a truly pleasant day spent working with artists I already knew or whose work I discovered then and there. I love this kind of challenge, one that forces you to step ouf of your comfort zone and forget the outside world so as to focus in an unfamiliar place. Would do it again and again !

What was the last art exhibition you saw and what did you take away from it?

An exhibit in Paris showing photographs by Vivian Maier. Her work, as I discovered, is modest, sensitive and beautiful.She casts a unique glance on the city and its people; she’s very adept at mirror effects, to say nothing of her self-portraits, some of which almost seem like images stolen by her camera. Her work is also important for what it has to say regarding fame as opposed to obscurity, especially considering the fact that she developed a very small amount of the pictures she took. Her need to create despite meager means and continue doing what she loved also reveals the paradox present in all arts.

Have you ever had a creative block with a deadline looming? What do you do to get crackin’?

I don’t get blocked. When I run out of ideas, I fake it, but don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret. 

Is there any particular new technology you’ve embraced as an avenue towards entrepreneurial adventures?

The Internet: it’s allowed me to work across oceans. No more boundaries. Digital photography and Photoshop, as well. It gives you this immense freedom, it’s almost scary to have that much power at your disposal. You can make images move, or even add sound. Quite a revolution for those of us born to paper’s silence (a heavenly silence!)

Where do you teach—and what do you like best about teaching?

I teach at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs de Paris. I’m new at it, and feel like a beginner. What I like best is to meet young people trying to find something.

What advice would you give to a young illustrator who is just getting noticed?

Keep your wits about you, avoid fads, work with long-term goals in mind, always stay curious and seek pleasure. P leasure is what fuels it all, without taking any for yourself how can you give it to others?

Serge Bloch has illustrated more than 300 books; his editorial illustrations appear regularly in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, as well as GQ and National Geographic, and two of his books have been turned into animated series. Bloch’s works have been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, France and Italy. Bloch has received awards for his artwork and illustrations from around the world, including a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, the Prix Baobab, the Bologna Ragazzi Award and the Best Book Award in Taiwan.



Thank Goodness . . .

 . . .  Geithner got his Crony Capitalist private equity job. What took him so long? Maybe the revolving door kept hitting him in the back.Geithner in tub



Thanks to everyone who participaed in Illustration Next last night at SVA. Very honored to be included in the Illustration Week festivities. We had about 370 outstanding works by the top artists in the world, many of whom showed up  to add comments about process and execution. It came in at just under 2.5 hours but not tiring to me. Art and people like this create their own evergy. Most stuck it out till the bitter end; I think they were surfing on the power of the work too.

The discussion hinged mostly on a single concept: the artist as producer. We no longer wait for the call. We dream the project, make a presentation, make the calls, make the connections, sell, create . . . invoice. Then do it some more.  If this is exciting to you, and to many of us, including me, it is, then this profession continues to work for us. That was my point made over and over by the brilliant work of my colleagues. Here are some videos from the talk. The first is the full Bo Jackson ESPN doc using illustrations by the amazing Mickey Duzyj.


Jonathan Rosen, providing the images for Christopher O’Riley, playing Debussey’s Jardins sous la pluie.


Kyle Webster is a brilliant entrepreneur, devising brushes for Photoshop. Here he sells them perfectly: Ultimate Drawing Set 2:

Simon Spilsbury’s Bath Project. He collaborates with poets in painting on walls in the town of Bath using projected images.

Yao Xiao’s and other young artists have found organizations like this, Imagelink, that provides live-art documentation for conferences and speeches.

Titmouse Studios employs some 300 artists. This and other businesses are always receiving applications from young artists. They, it turns out, give you a test. My suggestion: if you dig animation find out what the test is like, take it.

Seraph by Dash Shaw,  who is a comic artist. He was given the chance to direct this honest and deeply human animation by David Cameron Mitchell.

Richard Borge’s animated ad for Rawporter:

Victor Kerlow, an illustrator who is a young creature of print, going all out, doing hundred of drawings, the old fashioned way, for a History Channel / KIA ad:

Hanoch Piven, our friend and wonderful collage artist, has done an incredibly beautiful project. Working with the Beit Hatfutsot Museum in Tell  Aviv he has encouraged families to work on a family portrait done in Hanoch’s inimitable style: using found objects. Each piece was photographed and placed in a huge mosaic that tells the group story of Israeli families as well as each one individually. Here is the video he made to explain the idea to visitors to the museum.

Swing Shift: Sonny in ’59

Thanks to Icedrum 2: https://www.youtube.com/user/icedrum2?feature=watch