Thursday, September 20, 2012


(Caution: The following post contains content for mature viewers)

John Cuneo's personal drawings in his sketchbooks are very different from the sketches of the other artists I have covered over the past two weeks.  For me, Cuneo's sketches represent the best of his work-- they are more intelligent, more trenchant, more disturbing, and definitely more oblique than his finished work which is regularly showcased in magazines such as The New Yorker, Esquire, Rolling Stone and Town & Country.

The smartest magazine will be the one that gives Cuneo a full page to free associate each month: 

In my view, the strange brew of anthropomorphic animals in this sketch rivals the best work of Heinrich Kley.


Fabulous snake (and the crocodile ain't bad either)

A large rodent comes to the door, while Cuneo tries to work out whether that is a waitress or an actress holding that tray.

Preliminary sketch for an Esquire cartoon on aged sperm donors

The final two sketches today are ones that were previously posted on Cuneo's web site.  I am pretending they qualify as "unpublished" because they are such superb examples of the dry wit in Cuneo's sketchbooks.


Paul Klee wrote that "drawing is taking a line for a walk."  In his sketchbooks, Cuneo takes his line on a stroll through some mighty peculiar neighborhoods-- places where many fear to tread-- but the result is some of Cuneo's best work. 


MORAN said...

Cuneo's animals don't rival Kley's but Cuneo is the funniest illustrator working now.

Anonymous said...

Is Cuneo the only illustrator who makes sexy pictures in his sketchbooks?


bill said...

Natural drawer. Many of us are schooled drawers but his drawings come from somewhere magical and go beyond schooled. I don't think his animals need to rival Kley's, they are certainly at that level but exist in their own realm.

Thomas Fluharty said...

Cuneo's in a class by himself. He has done naturally what every artist wants to do.... separating himself from the masses. And he does it with pure drawing ability combined with a line unique to John alone. I thank God for John Cuneo!~T

Anonymous said...

I always am reminded of Bill Plympton when I look at Cuneo's stuff...not a bad thing!

ken meyer jr

David Apatoff said...

MORAN--Kley drew his animals with long, sleek, rapid lines. Cuneo, on the other hand, draws his animals with smudges, stray scratchings and organic looking marks that somehow cohere in truths. (Take a close look at the dog's tongue in that second picture-- the fingerprint ink smudge shadow under the pipe, the hatch marks along the side, the light line along the top of the tongue and the heavy line reinforcing the bottom-- the thing's a goddamn symphony.) But despite their very different styles, both artists share a rare gift for injecting humanity into their animals. I find the faces on Cuneo's two dogs hilarious, and fully the equal of Kley's elephants, bears or alligators.

JSL-- No, but I'm saving those for my final blog post.

bill-- Agreed.

David Apatoff said...

Thomas Fluharty-- Thanks, that's a welcome remark from an artist who is also in a class by himself.

Ken Meyer Jr-- well, they are certainly both unconventional, but among other things, I think of Cuneo's tiny drawings as more intimate than animation-- even independent animation-- can be.

Benjamin Raucher said...

Yes, I agree that he employs humor in his work.


Joe Procopio said...

Nice to see Kley's work come up here on your blog, David. I actually had asked Mr. Cuneo to write something for one of the two Kley books I just recently published, but he demured.

If anybody is curious, more info (and even a video "book trailer") on the new Kley two-volume set can be found here:

It was a real pleasure meeting you a couple of weeks back, David. I hope we have more such opportunities! Take care...

--Joe Procopio

David Apatoff said...

Joe Procopio-- Thanks for writing in. As I have written elsewhere on this blog, I think you did a superb job with your Kley books, and I recommend them heartily.