Questions from the Studio – Conversation with Barry Blitt

Questions from the Studio – Conversation with Barry Blitt

Artist Gary Komarin Painting in his StudioIllustrator and Cartoonist Barry Blitt may be best known for his New Yorker covers, but his hidden talent lies in answering questions. I’m sure you’ll find yourself laughing, as I did, over anecdotes from childhood classroom caricatures, the stress of deadlines and the unexpected drawing created while half asleep that put an end to his quest for nighttime inspiration.

Gary Komarin: Did you draw a lot as a kid and does that inform what you draw now?

Barry Blitt: I sure did draw a lot as a kid. Cartoon characters, hockey players, rock stars. But what probably resonates most with my work today was the mocking caricatures of my school teachers that I scribbled secretly at my desk, for the amusement of my classmates. It may have been Mrs. Herschkopf back then, and Donald Trump today, but the objective was the same.

Barry Blitt New Yorker Cover Art March 1998

Gary Komarin: How do you get inside the “character” or personality of who you are drawing. Do you need to get “inside” or can you work from the “outside” as it were?

Barry Blitt: Um. I’m not particularly psychological in my portraiture (but thanks for asking). Sometimes I just need enough of a likeness to know that the figure is, say, Hillary Clinton, and not Wolf Blitzer. You don’t have to deal with seeing inside the characters in my cartoons, for good or for ill.

Gary Komarin: Do you ever struggle to get a certain Face or Body just right………and what do you do if it isn’t working?

Barry Blitt: I recently was so frustrated at deadline time with a likeness I couldn’t capture that I actually traced a photo and inked it. But usually, I just keep torturing myself, drawing and redrawing until I get what I need (or until time runs out – whichever comes first).

Gary Komarin: What is the most fun you have in doing a Cover for the New Yorker?

Barry Blitt: The most fun for me is coming up with the idea for an illustration. I get real nervous when it comes to rendering the final art – I’m not a particularly graceful draftsman, obviously – and by the time I’ve got a concept approved and I have to actually make the image, I’m a nervous wreck, I’m worried about all the ways I can ruin it and render it unreadable, and there’s little fun in it. But starting out, thinking on paper, I’m just trying to make myself laugh, and that can be a lot less bleak an endeavor. Pleasant, almost.

Gary Komarin: What is the least fun you have when doing a Cover for the New Yorker?

Barry Blitt: see above answer

Barry Blitt New Yorker Magazine Cover

Gary Komarin: Do you ever draw in your Sleep?

Barry Blitt: I remember hearing that the brain is most susceptible to creative ideas when on the verge of sleep. So I kept a sketchbook open by the bed, and occasionally I would scribble stuff when half asleep, or having just awakened from a dream. Most of it was pretty crazy stuff I could never use. (I recall a rough drawing of a person carrying what looked like luggage, surrounded by animals, with the caption “Babe Ruth checks into a hotel with pigs”. I think I stopped shortly after that one).

Barry Blitt is a cartoonist and an illustrator. Since 1992, he has contributed illustrations and more than eighty covers to The New Yorker, including “Deluged,” which was voted Cover of the Year by the American Society of Magazine Editors in 2006, and “The Politics of Fear,” a finalist for the same award in 2009. His work has also appeared in Vanity FairTimeRolling Stone, and The Atlantic, and he illustrated Frank Rich’s weekly column in the New York Times. He has been honored with exhibitions and awards from the Society of Illustrators, Print, and American Illustration, and is a member of the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame. His work for children includes “George Washington’s Birthday” and “Once Upon a Time, the End (Asleep in 60 Seconds).” See more art and witticisms on his website,

Cartoonist and Illustrator Barry Blitt

Read previous conversations from my Questions From the Studio series: Editorial Director DJ Carey, Interior Designer Young Huh and Documentary Filmmaker Harry Moses


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