November 21, 2013 Turning in ‘My New Leaf’
The New Leaf that you see is a faux New Yorker magazine I’d done for a school project. Inside, I included a number of essays, poems and doodles and oodles of pretentious fonts and bylines. The results were quite fun. But I still love the cover most of all. Let me explain.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Skyline Hotel in New York City for the Footsteps 10th Anniversary Gala was that on this evening, my shoes were going to silently murder me. The second thing I noticed, and that completely made me forget the first, was that a magazine cover was blown up on a beautiful poster board and placed on a table at the entrance of the program hall. There I stood, on my bloody Towers of Pumps, staring at my work that I’d almost forgotten. It looked so professional, published, sophisticated even, with its bold colors on light background. I hobbled around the table and informed everyone who did and didn’t care to know that I’d done it. (And I had.)
I drew this faux New Yorker cover – my New Leaf – a number of months ago. It is actually part of a larger work I created for an admissions application. A part of my endless and often frustrating graduate school career is the constant scrambling to complete lengthy funding or program admissions applications. For this creative writing application, I decided to have some fun with it, and instead of simply sending in a 30-page essay, I compiled a number of my published and unpublished essays and some of my cartoons, and formatted it all in the style of a sleek New Yorker, complete with oodles of pretentious fonts and bylines. (I drew the line at umlauted diphthongs though, thank you very much).
I toyed with a cover concept and decided to draw something clean and neat and came up with the dual woman, only with a twist. I like that she’s poised in both lives. There’s something to that. A friend surprised me and printed the pdf on glossy pages. One day, in the mail, I got my own real-looking magazine, complete with various author names, like F. Vizel and Frieda V. and the authentic New Yorker fonts. Mmm, fonts. Then it got lost somewhere in my house, with the thousands of other subscription mailings.
Works like these make the effort of learning amateur cartooning worth it. Actually, Amateur comes from the Latin word amare– to love. Amateurs are people who do what they do foremost because they love it; not because they are in the business of reaching financial and creative success. How it is that amateurism has become a negative term, I can only guess. Our world of over-education and perfectionism and ruthless careerism does not sufficiently appreciate the raw and perhaps sloppy works of the amare. We are much too success-oriented for the amateur to be appreciated on the basis of loving his work alone.
But I love amateurism; and in the ways in my life that I am not the amateur I once was, I miss it. But I take solace; I will always be an amateur cartoonist. That is, unless I won’t be a cartoonist at all. That’s a dangerous thought; perhaps not an outrageous one, considering my doodling output has considerably slowed down. And my Photoshop drawing board, too, went the way of the old Macbook; to hell.
I still doodle; mostly to send ridiculous cards to friends of their adult faces lodged on their six-month-old bodies, or to put a note in my son’s briefcase with lavishly illustrated awards of recognition for him. Here and there, I doodle something to go with a written piece. Lately, I’ve been writing more and I’ve been involved in some creative writing projects, and I enjoy playing with mixed media. But nothing beats a funny doodle with a biting punchline. Well, save for a funny doodle with a biting punchline and an amare flair, perhaps.
I did get an acceptance letter a few weeks after I submitted this compilation. But with a tuition price tag I can’t really afford, I felt a mix of excitement and disappointment. And then I moved on. It was wonderful to see it again at the Footsteps celebration that night, but then came the treat on top: up at the penthouse, where the dancing was supposed to happen, for the people whose shoes had spared their feet, someone sought me out. Someone downstairs, she said, wanted to buy a print. I took his business card and promised to be in touch. Did you know that a 1968 Francis Bacon painting was auctioned for $142 million last week? Who knows, my tuition may still get paid after all.
A final word about – and to – a living legend and cartooning inspiration: Bob Mankoff. Bob. Mr. Mankoff. Supposing you do see this. Mr. Mankoff– Bob, I am such a fan of yours. I would be honored and thrilled if we could have coffee. Don’t worry, I’m no ruthless cartooning manipulator. As I explained, I’m headed off to graze on other pastures. But if your people would call my people, and you could spare a half hour, I’d love to chat over coffee. I think I could learn a great deal from you and perhaps, who knows, you might even enjoy learning a thing or two from me.
Frieda Vizel, amare