New York Drawings, Adrian Tomine, 176 pgs, Drawn & Quarterly, drawnandquarterly.com, $29.95
When leafing through an issue of The New Yorker, it’s tempting to eschew the essays and the Talk of the Town’s witty apercus to focus solely on the great cartoons. Poring over a retrospective of Adrian Tomine’s work generates the greatest pull to graphics over the written word. Collected in a hefty volume, the images chronicle over a decade’s worth of his experiences as an illustrator in New York, mostly for the city’s most venerable publication.
A West Coast native, Tomine sees NYC with the exactness and wonder of an outsider. Loneliness and introspection are the commonalities in the characters who populate his drawings: I could spend a long time speculating about the backstory of a preoccupied girl at a bar, surrounded by men who eye her intently. For Tomine, the eyes have it: he renders glimpses and glances, drawing viewers in with melancholic, disaffected and shy facial expressions.
In his working sketches and scribbles, Tomine reveals himself as a keen people- watcher. He observes a woman on the D train, wearing a brown T-shirt with her hair pulled back in a bandana, staring “straight ahead, smiling.” He notes that she is “seemingly very content” and “didn’t move a muscle for four stops.” There’s a guy engrossed in his cell phone, “ears tucked into his baseball cap,” “exhaling loudly” and “rapidly hitting the buttons.” He excels at creating thoughtful vignettes, capturing the idiosyncrasies of his subjects. It’s his awareness of small details that lends sensitivity and individuality to his work, especially in a speedy metropolis teeming with people. (Amy Stupavsky)