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Urban Renewal: An Interview with Adrian Tomine

October 29, 2012 | by

In “Missed Connection,” Adrian Tomine’s now-famous New Yorker cover illustration, a boy and a girl spot each other through the windows of subway cars headed in opposite directions. They’re both reading the same book—potentially perfect for each other, they’re destined not to meet. The image sums up what makes city life frustrating but also thrilling: the possibility of romance around every corner, the sense of isolation in a crowd, the higher-than-usual incidence of bookish hotties. Tomine began contributing crisp, colorful artwork to the magazine in 1999 and has continued to produce covers that often gently send up urban reading habits. The newly released New York Drawings collects the entirety of Tomine’s New Yorker work, along with his illustrations for other periodicals, book jackets, and album covers.

But commercial illustration is only one part of Tomine’s career. The thirty-eight-year-old artist began publishing comics as a teenager. His stories of young misfits and malcontents, serialized in his semiregular comic book, Optic Nerve, have been collected in book form as Sleepwalk and Other Stories, Summer Blonde, and a full-length graphic novel, Shortcomings. His short, funny, loose autobiographical comic strips pop up throughout his books; last year’s Scenes from an Impending Marriage narrated Tomine’s wedding preparations in the style of classic newspaper funnies.

A West Coast native, Tomine moved to Brooklyn eight years ago. We met one evening at a pastry shop near his home in Park Slope.

It seems obvious that by now your New Yorker work has given you more visibility than your comics. How do you feel about that?

It definitely reaches a broader audience. At this point there are a lot of people who know me through The New Yorker and have no idea about the comics I do. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising to me. I’ve separated the two jobs in my mind quite a bit, and that’s been useful. I’m sometimes a cartoonist and there’s an audience for that, and I’m sometimes an illustrator and there’s an audience for that.

But there must be some relationship between the two.

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