NEW YORK – In a brief statement released over the weekend, I finally pulled the plug on my promising, yet ultimately, mediocre career. According to experts (my art rep and my accountant), my career has been in a steady decline for quite some time and it was time to throw-in-the-towel. Things took a turn for the worse Tuesday when Spanky’s Diner took my cartoon from the Reader’s Digest website for their place-mats. Typical of the many ways my work has an intrinsic value of zero now and how I’ve gotten screwed over in recent years. I think I summed it up best with my simple two-word press release which stated; “It’s over.”
2002 © Bob Eckstein All rights reserved.
Corner of the actual place-mat from Spanky's in Hazelton, Pennsylvania sent to me by a friend who lives in that area. The owner says he will continue to steal my cartoons but has offered me a free dinner.
Reader's Digest 2009 © Bob Eckstein All rights reserved.
My first taste of occupational rejection was my high school paper. Despite no encouragement from the school paper or my guidance counselor, I decided to go to art school following the advise of the one person I trusted at the time, Father Guido Sarducci.
I attended Cooper Union for three hours before transferring to Pratt Institute and later went to F.I.T. (Fashion Institute Technology) to snap out of a dating slump and enjoy a more favorable woman-to-man ratio. But I continued being shunned from school papers well into college and began even sending submissions to other school newspapers as well.
1980 © Bob Eckstein All rights reserved.
As a little kid I used oil crayons & dyes and drew photo-realistically.
1982 © Bob Eckstein All rights reserved.
At Pratt Institute I finally had teachers happy with my work. They talked to my parents about leaving school and trying to go pro. Conversely, my parents insisted I stay and get a Masters and teach (I didn't get a Masters. But I did teach for years at Pratt & S.V.A.).
Anyhoo, I did the sensible thing and as a sophomore I decided to start from scratch and taught myself to draw lefty. Plus this new style would use no traditional implements. I used sticks found on the ground. I unlearned everything I knew. I remember this going over like a fart in church. Seeing this for the first time in a long time I thinking, "Wow, this is really crap."
I returned to oil crayons but with my new primitive style. All work was executed in a few minutes. This was the piece mentioned below for a contest and went on display at the Smithsonian. The entries had to illustrate charity.
1984 © Bob Eckstein
New York Times magazine
All rights reserved.
As a junior in college I won an illustration contest with the drawing above. The prize was a full page in The New York Times magazine and it convinced me that I was on track with this drawing lefty business. An underground fanzine called, ironically, The Bob took a liking to me.
My first job out of school was the Time’s Book Review. My relationship with The Gray Lady would last another 25 years...sadly ending yesterday with my last piece for them. I created this post because as part of their unfortunate budget cuts as of a few hours ago, I knew this was the end for me. But I am very grateful to worked for them this long! An honor.
The top piece was about how poets spoke to each other and the other drawing is on secret identities. (All the work here can be enlarged by clicking on them.)
Detail of a piece for The Village Voice where I later also worked as a sports reporter for short time...for reasons no one knows.
When the first computers came around I was convinced by a high school buddy that one day people would work on them. So I set-up one of the first websites ever. Of course, only pioneers ever saw it–nobody had computers yet. Starting over yet again, I learned to draw on the Mac. I threw out my art supplies and have been paperless since. My friend went on to be a leader in Silicon Valley and is very wealthy for inventing video-conferencing. This was for Entertainment Weekly, I think, when Pee Wee was arrested in a porn theater.
While eloping in Reykjavik I saw this Icelandic cartoon below that caught my eye and would become a revelation for me. While I never did find out the translation of the punch-line, it spoke to me and I knew then-and-there that I wanted to switch away from illustration and join the ranks of professional cartoonists.
The last cartoon Spy magazine ever published. At this point I was called the Andy Dick of publishing for being quite the jinx. Too frequently I was the last cartoonist to run a cartoon before the place went under.
1998 © Bob Eckstein All rights reserved.
© The New Yorker Collection 2007
Bob Eckstein from cartoonbank.com.
All rights reserved.
The first cartoon I pitched the New Yorker.
My journey in freelancing has been a long one but I would just like to add that, if given the chance to do it all over again, today I would be in pharmaceutical sales. There were so many bad moments it's hard to narrow it down to the top ten but here's three that come to mind;
1) Kobe Earthquake. Well, I really never made it big in my homeland, but I was big in Japan, for awhile at least...that is until the 1995 Kobe earthquake. It flattened my agent and her office (my portfolio was never recovered from the rumble). This was one of dozens of covers I did there where large department stores have their own magazines. Top illustrators are celebrities, appearing in fashion layouts and such. I would get paid alot just for an interview. After the earthquake, nothing.
2) Mickey Mantle's death. This one was a real kick in the family jewels. I was just about to fulfill a childhood fantasy, the cover of Sports Illustrated–the job was right up my alley, too–and create two parody football teams, designing their logos. S.I. loved what I came up with and a company quickly manufactured the helmets for the cover. The night before it went to press Mickey Mantle passed away and bumped me off the cover. The $3,000 kill fee was a tiny fraction of what I was to get. It would have been the last time artwork was ever used for an S.I. cover.
The Mick. Pretty bad week for both of us.
3) In later years I went into denial as print media went into it's slow demise. Living in a fantasy world, I began creating make-believe publications for make-believe assignments for myself. This was a scary period for those around me who watched me get excited over jobs that didn't exist. It goes without saying, the checks were make-believe, too.
I would combine bankrupt magazines I worked for to create new ones. I would then provide artwork and pithy editorials. Like this one is a hybrid of National Lampoon and Trader Monthly. At the peak of my creativity (and insanity), I was publishing eighteen titles. Maximum Walking, Popular Working Women, Rosie Digesting, etc. Below is a cartoon which appeared in the last issue of National Harpoon, jinxing yet again another magazine.
I’ve recently agreed to take part in an university study to correct my current negative cash flow situation. It involves testing unapproved skin products and restricting my diet to night plants.
This is just until my new vocation as an interior designer takes hold. I've collected a team of creative names forming The Penguins of Madness with the first product being Smartass Ideas For the Home, details of which will also be disclosed here as I am hoping to make it all interactive. I am aboveboard about this declaration and sincerely look forward to this new challenge.