Monday, June 14, 2021

Adrian Tomine’s “Easing Back”

 Françoise Mouly in The New Yorker.

For many of us, covid-19 transformed life in a matter of days. 

We have a bit more leisure when it comes to our return, with each person proceeding at their own pace. 

In his new cover, Adrian Tomine, the artist behind one of the most enduring images of quarantine, depicts the lingering presence of the pandemic on our past, our present, and perhaps even our future. 

Tomine recently told us about what he’s looking forward to this summer.

You imagined this moment long before the pandemic began to abate. Do you prefer working on an image over a long period of time or with a tighter turnaround?

I remember submitting a version of this cover last summer, and getting a response along the lines of “I’m not sure we’re there yet.” It was unsettling to realize that—for possibly the first time in my life—I had been overly optimistic. 

When we decided to shelve the image, I felt a real sense of hopelessness, because of what it said about how far we still had to go. And that was kind of ironic, because I don’t even really like parties. But it felt very sweet to revisit the picture, knowing we had arrived at a point that once seemed so distant.

I always prefer gestation over a quick turnaround. I’m often able to improve an image by viewing it with fresh eyes, and this was a perfect example of that. After not looking at it for almost a year, I made a number of revisions to the drawing and basically redid the colors, and I’m grateful I had that opportunity.

During the pandemic, you and your wife were juggling work while taking care of your kids at home. What are you most looking forward to as schools reopen?

I’m looking forward to a sense of routine, as well as extended stretches of quiet and solitude. I’m looking forward to taking a break after getting a full morning of work accomplished, eating takeout by myself in front of the TV for half an hour, and then doing some more work. 

I’m looking forward to having a little bit of time to read books and watch movies. And I’m looking forward to missing my kids, and being excited to see them when they get home from school.

I just posed this question to my wife, and she said that she’s looking forward to our kids having a consistent, rigorous educational experience and the sustenance of peer social interaction, which is what I meant to say.

Do you have any summer plans that you’re looking forward to?

I’m hoping that we’ll make it out to California this summer. I lived there for thirty years before moving to New York, and there are friends, family, and restaurants out there that I’ve missed very much over the past year and a half. 

There’s also a movie based on my work that’s coming out in France, and I’d love to see it there, on a screen, with an audience.

All of your covers feel so well-observed. Do you keep a sketchbook or take photos to help you keep track of ideas?

I do keep a sketchbook and take photos, but the truth is most of the note-taking occurs inside my head. It’s similar to how I write: I’ll observe something or come up with an idea, and then I just let it evolve in my brain for as long as possible. 

I try to draw from memory rather than from reference, but I will admit to doing a few Google searches to help with the stuff inside the closet in this image.

You’re working on the film adaptation of “Shortcomings,” one of your early books. Do you have any advice for your younger self?

I’d say, “Don’t write scenes that take place on the subway or on an airplane. And if you’re thinking about adapting this book for film, be prepared to wait awhile.”

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