Roz Chast, Magazine Cartoonist

April 1, 2005

   Backgrounds cluttered with minute details and numerous word bubbles, the most average-looking people and a big dose of funny are what make Roz Chast a cartoonist in demand. At the tender age of 23 in 1978, she began her successful career in magazine cartooning with a treasured contract with The New Yorker magazine. Roz Chast continues to grab the funny bones of readers today.

   Born on November 26, 1954, Rosalind Chast grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents, now retired, were a high school teacher and assistant principal. Always fond of drawing, Roz studied painting and graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, graduating with a BFA in 1977. Finding that she really didn’t like painting, Roz returned to drawing and her favourite art form, cartooning. *(1) She created a portfolio of her cartoon work and began the search for publication.

   Lugging her portfolio of cartoons around from editor to editor, Roz didn’t have much success at first. She submitted a large batch of 100 cartoons to The New Yorker in April 1978 and was stunned when they purchased one. Roz told Media Bistro in the February 6th, 2002 issue that, “It was a combination of feeling like they’d made a mistake and thinking “ Why didn’t they take more?” *(2) The editor took a liking to Roz’s unusual perspective on hilarity (definitely different from the usual male-oriented cartoons) and she was given a contract as one of The New Yorker’s few regular cartoonists.

   From her success at The New Yorker, Roz branched out to other magazines. (The New Yorker has rights of first refusal.) Her cartoons have appeared in Scientific American, Psychology Today, House and Garden, Harvard Business Review, Utne Reader, New Woman and many more. Her editorial illustrations have enlightened readers in Ms., Opera News, Fortune, Vogue, GQ… the list is long. Add to her resume the illustration of many books for both children and adults, at least eight collections of her own work, speaking at seminars and lectures, and you have one busy woman.

    It is easy to spot a Roz Chast cartoon. The people are spectacularly average, with small, pointy noses, tiny yet expressive eyes, and an abundance of detail to create the proper mood of the scene. The characters could be just about any one of us, expressing angst, sadness, frustration and confusion at the quirks of family and life. Roz points out the irony in the mundane, everyday situations and isn’t afraid to make her own political statements. Not encumbered with the daily deadlines and formats of comic strip artists, Roz is free to comment on any topic she likes and in any format.

   But that freedom also brings the possibility of no cartoon sales. Roz submits a batch of rough cartoon sketches for inspection by editors every week. Some weeks, no cartoons sell. When none sell, Roz is devastated, fearing that her work may never sell again. Other weeks, she told Media Bistro, “they take one, occasionally they’ll take two. Then you just feel like everything is really wonderful, until the next week when you have to do it again and you’re back to square one.” *(2)

   In November of 2004, Roz signed a development deal to create a short family-oriented comedy pilot for the ABC Family television network. *(3) Her latest book is The Party, After You Left: Collected Cartoons 1995 - 2003, published by Bloomsbury USA, April 2004.

   Along with the rewards of being a feisty mom of teenagers – Ian and Nina - and wife of humour writer Bill Franzen, Roz has earned impressive accolades for her wry sense of humour and captivating work. She received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Pratt University in Brooklyn in 1998 and The Brooklyn Public Library Foundation named Roz as an Honoree in 2003. In 2004, Roz was given the MoCCA Art Festival Award. (MoCCA is the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York City.) *(1)

   The fascinating work of Roz Chast has been exhibited in solo and group exhibits across the USA and in Germany. Her most recent exhibit was at the Julie Saul Gallery in New York City, a display of her cartoon originals and her newest art form – Russian eggs combining “the traditional decorative motifs of the art form with images of her own very recognizable Chast people.”

   The Chast/Franzen family make their home in Connecticut. With well over 800 cartoons producing smiles and provoking thought from The New Yorker audience, and many more in other magazines, Roz Chast continues to entertain fans with her exceptional brand of humour.

Roz Chast
Book: The Party, After You Left - on Amazon

   Information about Roz, a look at her Russian eggs and a large selection of her cartoons:
*(1) http://www.saulgallery.com/chronicle/chast.html

   Slides of Roz creating the Russian eggs:
http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2004/11/25/arts/20041126_CHAS_SLIDESHOW_1.html

   Questions and Answers With Roz Chast on Media Bistro:
*(2) http://www.mediabistro.com/content/archives/02/06/24/

   Blurb on The Futon Critic (Scroll to bottom of the page to find Roz info.)
*(3) 66.51.173.18/cgi/gofuton.cgi?action=newswire&id=6776  (Link broken)

   A listing of Roz Chast’s accomplishments:
http://www.saulgallery.com/chast/biography.html

© Susanna McLeod 2005
TheCartoonists.ca  
 
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)