John Cuneo’s latest book of absurdities, Not Waving But Drawing (Fantagraphics Underground), is being published this week. It is “another little collection of my sketchbook/personal things,” he told me. The cover image, “which is kinda gross (and pretty much rules out the evangelical demographic),” is conceptually over the top but fits the book’s subtitle, “Dark Thoughts, Lightly Rendered.” Ed Sorel says Cuneo’s mind is in the gutter. Given the state of the nation today, it’s a good place to be. I actually prefer the erotic-less stuff. Cuneo is such a magnificent sketcher. I asked him to say a few words about my pick for recommended looking.
As I was paging through the mix of surreal, absurd and hilarious sexual and animal drawings, I thought of Tomi Ungerer’s Underground Sketchbook, where he got as much taboo stuff out of his head as possible. What’s your excuse?
I suppose there is a bit of a purging involved. Also these things are a respite from assignments and drawing-on-demand. I try and not think too much (I have a knack), and usually just doodle a figure or an animal and then, as a benign sort of practice or discipline, I try and “make something” out of that—make it a picture. Add an element or another character and have them interact somehow, even in the most ludicrous way. It rarely works out. If there is a caption or word bubble, it’s added at the end as a last, flailing attempt at context.
There are a couple of topical (e.g., Trump) cartoons in here. What are your favorites?
I don’t do sophisticated political satire, which makes our president a target-rich environment. I’ve decided that when he goes low, I’ll happily go lower. The mirror drawing is as decent, or indecent, an example of “alternative facts” as I can muster.
What is this fascination with alligators that crops up in many of these drawings?
Alligators are fun animals to draw and they anthropomorphize better than most. The downside is that every time you draw one, you subject yourself to the inevitable comparison with the peerless Heinrich Kley. That kind of masochism often appeals to me.
Is there anything autobiographical about your images?
Many years ago I would angrily dismiss the suggestion that my drawings about sex, nihilism, misanthropy or self-loathing might contain any personal psychological insight or betray any elements of autobiography. I don’t do that anymore.
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