New York Drawings

I haven’t read any comics by the talented Adrian Tomine in a long while now. I know his lovely, detailed work takes time, so I wasn’t concerned, but I was hoping New York Drawings would share some of his thoughts about moving to the Big Apple.

I was mistaken. This book is a collection of Tomine’s illustration work for The New Yorker, including covers and sketches. The images are as beautiful as ever, but they’re not sequential. They’re not stories, but supporting players.

Each image is given plenty of white space, each on its own page with a small, tasteful label giving its title and appearance date. It’s very reminiscent of an art museum — all that’s missing is the list of media used to create the piece. There’s an endnote section that tells more about the context of the image, whether it accompanied an article, for instance, or column. I wish they’d appeared on the same page as the art; it became tiresome flipping back and forth between the contents and the back material. Many illustrations are better understood by the reader when she knows what event listing they were accompanying.

The first set of drawings are mostly related to ten-year-old movies and TV shows that were being reviewed or listed by the magazine. I didn’t recognize many of them, but that explains the occasional figure who looks like a certain celebrity. There’s also a section that reprints a portfolio previously released by Buenaventura Press featuring sketches of city dwellers, most on the subway.

There is an occasional comic, including a self-effacing three-pager that opens the book. It’s about Tomine’s discomfort at attending a New Yorker party. I found his disbelief at being part of such acclaimed company humanizing and reassuring. It’s very typical of the comic autobiographical story, about how shy and geeky its subject is, even when he’s among celebrities. Another one-pager captures his (fictional) conversation with his California barber about his departure. Two others feature neurotic parents and pushy e-reader users. Obviously, these were my favorite part of the book. I wish there’d been a lot more, but that’s due to the mismatch between my expectations and what this book actually is.

New York Drawings is a great book for fans of Tomine’s art. Lovers of the city will also appreciate seeing these varied glimpses of their town. This interview with Tomine shares some of his views of the city and includes a slide show of sample work. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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