Monday, July 14, 2008

New Yorker Obama cartoonist is Canadian

Says best work comes from “crazy emotional morass”

Canadian media: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

As of 1:30 p.m., there were no hits on Google News Canada mentioning that cartoonist Barry Blitt – who drew the July 21st New Yorker cover currently burning up the blogosphere – is (or at least was) a Canadian, who went to New York in 1989.

Here are some excerpts of an interview with Blitt, from an online profile in March of this year:

“I got a scholarship from Leo Burnett ad agency while I was at Ontario College of Art, between my third and fourth year. I didn’t even know what it was for, I just entered it and I got it and I worked at Leo Burnett as a visualizer for my fourth year at college. I hated advertising; it was demeaning. I mean, they’d ask me to draw lettuce and then ask me to make the lettuce look crispier. That wasn’t for me.

“After school ended I went to England. There was so much great work coming out of London at the time, and I thought I would go there and get inspired by that and maybe I’d find my style or my niche there. But when I brought my portfolio around, I stupidly went to Leo Burnett there, too. And they offered me a job doing the same thing I had done in Canada and I took it because I didn’t know anyone in England. So I was drawing crispy lettuce and stuff like that, and I hated it. I worked there for about a year and then came back to Canada and somehow started bringing my work around and just did my bit.

“I had one style that was sort of black and white charcoal that was serious and then there was the crazy stuff in pen and ink. More and more the pen and ink seemed to be favored and I could put some humor in that, but at first it was all little spots and Canadian Business Magazine and stuff that. Some of it was just so bad. I didn’t even care. Sometimes I just don’t care. I’ll work on something and I just won’t want to be doing it, and I’ll have a bad attitude. I’m trouble: you have to stay away from me.

“I don’t think I necessarily choose my assignments well. Sometimes it’s hard to say no. Some of these people, they don’t want you to say no. But it’s really important to choose the right things for yourself.

“Back then I had more time to do self-generated projects and stuff. I remember I was doing these crazy biographies of my heroes, just one page each, anyone from George Washington, to Gustav Mahler, to Stravinsky. I did a whole series of those and they were fun and I didn’t care. I think part of the not caring thing is I have to sort of fool myself into not caring about a drawing. I do my best work when I’m not thinking about it, when I’m not worried about it. So any New Yorker cover I do, it’s just a crazy emotional morass. I’ll draw it seven or eight times and I’ll start painting each one, and this one’s better than the other one, and then I’ll go back to the first one (the first one is always the best one). I still haven’t learned to let myself make mistakes and that’s where the best stuff comes in.

Blitt was named in a lawsuit by Conrad Black, over an illustration in Toronto Life magazine in 2004. The suit was later settled.

There is no mention of Blitt’s Canadian origins in the stories posted at The Star, the Globe, Maclean’s, the CBC, or CTV. To be fair, most are only posting the US-produced Associated Press copy. But they can add their own stuff to AP copy, and even I remembered Blitt’s name and that he is Canadian.

9:20 p.m. Update: Alison Smith just delivered CBC’s very Obama-friendly story on the National. No word on Blitt’s nationality.

11:27 p.m. Update: CTV National News ran their Obama-sympathetic story at the end of the broadcast. The lead-in and story mentioned the “Canadan-born artist” but did not name him.

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