NEW YORK – “It’s over,” stated a brief two-word statement released over the weekend finally pulling the plug on what has been a promising, yet ultimately, mediocre freelancing career. The immediate cause of death is undetermined but, according to experts (my art rep and my accountant), it was time for me to "throw in the towel." Things had taken a turn for the worse on last Thursday when Spanky’s Diner took a cartoon of mine from the Reader’s Digest website, using it without my permission for their place-mats. Typical of the many ways my work now has an intrinsic value of zero and how I’ve gotten screwed over in recent years, I did not receive any monies for the piognant and mildly amusing cartoon.
Corner of the actual place-mat from Spanky's in Hazleton, Pennsylvania sent to me by a friend who lives in that area. Original below. The owner says he will continue to steal my cartoons but has offered me a free dinner.
Reader's Digest 2009 © Bob Eckstein All rights reserved.
I guess I should at least be lucky I wasn't SUED by the establishment (One cartoonist was recently threatened with a lawsuit for not posting any more images for others to steal.
My first taste of occupational rejection was my high school paper. I pitched my early humor to a corrupt teacher named Charles Boote who drew the line to his open door policy for all student submissions with me. For years I would mail him tearsheets of my published pieces.
Despite no encouragement from the school paper or my guidance counselor, I decided to go to art school anyway following the advise of the one person I trusted at the time, Father Guido Sarducci.
I attended Cooper Union for three hours before transferring to Pratt Institute. Later I went to F.I.T. (Fashion Institute Technology) to snap out of a dating slump to enjoy a more favorable woman-to-man ratio. But I continued being shunned from school papers well into college and began even sending submissions to other school newspapers I didn't attend.
1980 © Bob Eckstein All rights reserved.As a little kid I used oil crayons & dyes and drew photo-realistically.
1982 © Bob Eckstein All rights reserved.
At Pratt Institute I finally had teachers happy with my work. They talked to my parents about me leaving school and trying to go pro. Conversely, my parents insisted I stay and get a Masters so I could teach (I didn't get a Masters. But I did teach for years at Pratt & S.V.A.).
Anyhoo, I did the sensible thing and as a sophomore I decided to start from scratch and taught myself to draw lefty. This new style included rejecting the use of traditional implements. Instead I used sticks I could find.
I unlearned everything I knew. I remember this going over like a fart in church. Seeing this for the first time in a long time I think, "Wow, this is really crap."
I returned to oil crayons but with my new primitive style. All work was executed in a few minutes. This was the piece mentioned below for a contest and went on display at the Smithsonian. The entries had to illustrate charity.
1984 © Bob Eckstein
New York Times magazine
All rights reserved.
As a junior in college I won an illustration contest with the drawing above. The prize was a full page in The New York Times magazine and it convinced me that I was on track with this drawing lefty business. An underground fanzine called, ironically, The Bob took a liking to me, too.
My first job out of school for hard cash was for the NY Time’s Book Review. My relationship with The Gray Lady would last another 25 years...until recently. I just learned was one of the recent victims of budget cuts and, sadly, this is my last piece for them. It's been an honor to be a part of this great publication.
Detail of a piece for The Village Voice where I later also worked as a sports reporter for short time...for reasons no one knows.
The last cartoon Spy magazine ever published. At this point I was considered the Andy Dick of publishing for being quite the jinx. Too frequently I was the last cartoonist to have a cartoon published before the place went under.
© The New Yorker Collection 2007
Bob Eckstein from cartoonbank.com.
All rights reserved.
My journey in freelancing has been a long one but I would just like to add that, if given the chance to do it all over again today, I would, in a heartbeat, be in pharmaceutical sales. There were so many bad moments it's hard to narrow it down but excluding lawsuits (including one pending with the NYC Saniation Dept for use of my talking garbage cans), here's three that come to mind;
1) Kobe Earthquake. While I really never made it big in my homeland, but I was big in Japan...that is until the 1995 Kobe earthquake. It flattened my agent and her office (my portfolio was never recovered from the rubble).
This was one of dozens of covers I did there where large department stores have their own magazines. Top illustrators are celebrities, appearing in fashion layouts and such. I would get paid a lot just for an interview. After the earthquake, nothing.
2) Mickey Mantle's death.
This one was a real kick in the groin. I was just about to fulfill a childhood fantasy, the cover of Sports Illustrated–the job was right up my alley, too–create two parody football teams, designing their logos. S.I. loved what I came up with and a company was quickly commissioned to manufacture these original helmets for the cover. The night before it went to press Mickey Mantle passed away and bumped me off the cover. The $2,500 kill fee was a tiny fraction of what I was to get. It would have been the last time artwork was ever used for an S.I. cover.
The Mick. Pretty bad week for both of us.
3) In recent years I went into denial as print media went into it's slow demise. Living in a fantasy world, I began creating make-believe publications for make-believe assignments for myself. This was a scary period for those around me who watched me get excited over jobs that didn't exist. It goes without saying, the checks were make-believe, too.
I would combine bankrupt magazines I worked for to create new ones. I then provided artwork and pithy editorials. Like this one; a hybrid of National Lampoon and Trader Monthly. At the peak of my creativity (and insanity), I was publishing eighteen titles. Maximum Walking, Popular Working Women, Rosie Digesting, etc. Below is a cartoon which appeared in the last issue of National Harpoon, jinxing yet again another magazine.
I’ve recently signed a contract with Google Adsense in hopes of correcting my current negative cash flow situation. Each time someone clicks on this page Bill O'Reilly's website, 1/18 of a penny goes to me.
This is just a stopgap until my new business venture is established. As leader of a creative team I've collected called The Penguins of Madness, our first project is to present the public with a brand new style of interior design I like to call Smartass Ideas For the Home. I sincerely look forward to this new challenge which, incidentally, (along with aforementioned story above) is all true.