Sunday Page: Kaamran Hafeez

Every week on “Sunday Page” an author has to choose a single page from a comic book. It could be for sentimental reasons o for a particular technical achievement. The conversation could lose itself in the open water of the comic book world but it will always start with the questione: «If you had to choose a page from a comic book you love, what would you choose and why?».

This Sunday I’m out with Kaamran Hafeez, New Yorker cartoonist. He also published his works on Reader’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post and the Wall Street Journal.

newyorkercartoon

This is a cartoon by Robert Weber from the 2004 The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker. What I find fascinating about Robert Weber’s work is how loosely rendered it is, and yet how effective the drawing is despite the looseness of the line art.

Allright, nice choice. What do you like about Weber other than that? And why this particular image?

The thing that excites me most about Weber’s work is the way he is able to create mood and emotion in his drawings and his characters—the realism. It’s as if the scene is actually alive and happening, more so than any other New Yorker cartoonist present or past.

I attribute this emotional quality to his attention to architectural detail. In many of his works, the interiors are filled with very detailed and specific pieces of furniture, the space is architecturally unique. I get the distinct impression he worked off of photographs.

In this drawing, you can see how much attention he has given to the architecture of the building. The signage, the lettering, the structure of the parking garage (notice the pipe on the left next to the garbage can). It’s as if he pays more attention to the space and context than he does to the people/characters. It’s like he draws the street and the garage first—the space—then places the characters within that space.

This, I think, is responsible for the realism and the emotional quality. I think our subconscious registers all of these subtle details and you have the experience, whether you are aware of it or not, that you are experiencing the moment being depicted. Much the way we become absorbed in a movie, for instance.

Because of internet and the democratization of the news, do you think that a cartoonist like you has a harder job thank somebody like, I don’t know, Herblock?

Certainly, because of the internet, there are fewer cartoon markets than in the past. In the heyday of the printed magazine—50s and 60s—it was relatively easy to make a living selling cartoons to magazines. So it’s harder in that sense.

The democratization of the news and the internet has hurt newspapers as well and many of them have closed their doors. So there are fewer opportunities for editorial cartoonists. Many New Yorker cartoonists have day jobs. I’ve heard being a New Yorker cartoonist compared to being a poet. You do it for the love of it. In fact, I often think of Oscar Wilde’s advice to a young writer. He encouraged the aspiring writer to get a day job so that his creativity would be free of the pressure to make a living.

Interestingly, for the moment, I have a steady gig doing a Daily Cartoon for The New Yorker‘s website. The Daily Cartoon format combines elements of editorial cartooning—my mandate is to key off on current events—as well as magazine cartooning in that, when I do key off on a current event, it is often by making indirect or oblique reference to it. So here we have editorial cartooning, magazine cartooning, and the internet all rolled into one.