Record alums talk cartooning beyond Yale

Past and current contributors to The Yale Record came together at a panel on Saturday afternoon to examine the humor publication’s historical and current role in American cartooning and design.

The panel was hosted by The Record as part of its “140 Years of Yale Cartoons” exhibit, which opened Feb. 14 in the Timothy Dwight Art Gallery. During the discussion, three former staff members spoke about how they have translated their artistic work with Yale’s humor magazine into careers in cartooning, art and graphic design. The exhibit, which displays cartoons dating back to the publication’s 1872 founding, is part of a greater effort to increase the cohesiveness of The Record’s community while highlighting Yale’s significant role in America’s archives of illustrative humor, said David Kemper ’13, the Record’s outgoing chairman.

The panel’s participants noted that Yale has and will continue to influence the world of graphic design and illustration. The event featured three presentations by former Record staffers Donald Watson ’59 ARC ’69, Karin Fong ’93 and Robert Grossman ’61.

Watson, a curator for the exhibit and a former School of Architecture professor, presented first, inciting audience laughter with slides of old Record cartoons and describing the career trajectory of each featured artist. After Yale many of these artists continued onto notable careers in cartooning or illustrating, Watson said, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau ’70 ART ’73, a former editor in chief of The Record. According to Watson, Trudeau began to develop the illustration style he would employ in Doonesbury during his time working on The Record.

In a presentation titled “Six Things I Learned at The Yale Record,” Fong presented a montage of film titles and commercials she helped create upon graduating, including the opening titles for “The Pink Panther II” and “Boardwalk Empire”. Fong, a former graphic advisor at The Record, said the multi-faceted nature of working at the humor magazine, for which staffers in her time designed, drew and wrote in order to make deadline, translated well to professional life.

Fong said that working at a humor publication taught her how to pay homage to earlier works, whether through parody or modification: For a Target commercial featuring singer Christina Aguilera she co-directed, Fong said she took artistic inspiration from the iconic pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. She added that her experience as The Record’s graphic advisor allowed her to be true to what she wanted to do.

“One of the things I remember was how The Record was this playground for our ideas,” Fong said. “Everyone could come to the table with many types of humor. That’s the beauty of the whole thing.”

Artist Robert Grossman ’61 concluded with a slideshow of his political drawings for publications including Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and The National Lampoon. Grossman shared anecdotes about publishing follies and offended readers, including a story from the 2008 presidential election in which he was asked by an editor to modify a caricature of John McCain that was to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. Grossman was told to remove his overly sexualized rendering of Sarah Palin from the drawing — the editor, Grossman said, feared that readers would see the cartoon and feel inclined to vote for Palin because of her exaggerated attractiveness.

Spencer Katz ’13, who draws cartoons for campus publications including the News, the Yale Scientific Magazine and The Record, said he appreciated hearing from alumni who continued their creative work beyond their time at The Record.

“[Cartooning] is more of a hobby,” Katz said. “I never really considered it as a career, so it was cool to be exposed to people who chose it as a path and made a career out of it.”

The idea for “140 Years of Yale Cartoons” began in 2011 when a group of Record staff members including Kemper began to catalogue cartoons from the magazine’s old issues. Watson and Kemper said they hope this exhibit will become part of a larger 140th year anniversary celebration of The Record this fall.

The exhibition will run in the Timothy Dwight Art Gallery until March 22.

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