“big cartoons”

[Close-up of desertmanhattan, in its early "pencil" phase, Autumn, 2008.]
I was thinking earlier today how I had made my reputation drawing very, very small cartoons [i.e. "drawn on the back of business cards"], and now here I am, with The Marfa Series, going in the opposite direction i.e. very, very big cartoons. Two sides of the same coin, perhaps…
Yes, I’m still calling them “Cartoons”, even if the rest of the world will want to call them something else- “Paintings” or whatever. No matter where life takes me these days, I still consider myself first and foremost a cartoonist. Like I said over at Lateral Action, “I never liked calling myself an ‘Artist’. I think History decides if you’re an artist or not, not yourself.”
With the traditional cartoonist’s business model looking increasingly untenable (And it was in trouble LONG before the Internet came along , believe me), I think it’s a good time to ask the question, well, what is a cartoon, anyway?
Does the cartoon HAVE to be what it’s always been? Or can it evolve into something else more interesting? Does the cartoon have to be figurative, or is abstract perfectly valid, as well? Does the cartoonist HAVE to have an editorial or humorous slant, or are there OTHER spheres of human existence worth exploring?
It’s good to push the edges…

[Backstory: About Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]


  1. I agree with you , a cartoon is a cartoon, no matter what size it is :)
    I draw cartoons here http://www.tooons.blogspot.com and when you look at my paintings http://www.moiselevi.blogspot.com they look like BIG cartoons.
    Cartoons help me get a message across my financial blog. Then readers end up buying my paintings.

  2. As a writer, I think taking your current “form” or “genre” and expanding it (no pun intended) is always a good thing.
    We can get bored as artists, and the last thing we want is boring work, so I think it’s quite nice you’ve grown (quite literally) your canvas.
    Enjoy your blog. I just finished your book and have been recommending it to my writer friends.
    Kelli Russell Agodon

  3. I guess with your cartoons it’s just close enough to making sense but then the mind fails to grip it, at least at first, then you are kind of pulled deeper by the curiosity of trying to understand what the scene is about. I feel like I’m looking at the echo of a city when I set my eyes on your cartoons.

  4. I’ve always seen you as an artist.
    Would you call Keith Haring a cartoonist?
    Just sayin’… :-)

  5. Hugh, I think I’ve heard you say – or write – if you can’t be first in a category, make you’re own fucking category. Be the artist formerly known for small cartoons and then call them NOTHING.
    I love that you’re moving to a new medium but maintaining your identity. Cool man.

  6. Can I just say there’s a little bit of life in the old dog yet. Editorial cartoons were being slowly strangled by syndication in the USA well before the internet came along, and it’s still pretty healthy in Australia.
    The are two major saving graces of ed cartoons. Firstly they’re a major point of difference for a masthead, which will become more rather than less important as everything goes digital and secondly, they’re current, so the market constantly needs new stuff. Assuming mastheads survive in some shape or form. Well, I hope so, anyway…
    Nothing wrong with doing something different with the ol’ words and pictures though. It’s a pretty versatile form of art.

  7. Good direction. You go, dude.

  8. Leonardo da Vinci made cartoons too, of course.

  9. I love the shift in perspective when you change the size of your canvas. I can’t believe how different my art became when I stopped sketching in little books and began painting on huge canvases. I’m intrigued to see how you go.

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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

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His work acknowledges the absurdity of workaday life, while also encouraging employees to respond with passion, creativity, and non-conformity...   MacLeod’s work is undeniably an improvement over the office schlock of yore. At its best, it’s more honest, and more cognizant of the entrepreneurial psyche, while still retaining some idealism.

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In moments of indecision I glance at the wall [to Hugh's work] for guidance.

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