Hello. My name is Jeremy Nguyen
and I’m a new Yorker cartoonist.
Today we’re talking about how to draw a city.
I moved to Bushwick in 2011
and started drawing this comic strip
called Stranger than Bushwick.
I never really thought about what drawing a city
or a neighborhood was like
until I started doing these cartoons.
I personally think that a city
is way more than its buildings,
you can draw it’s people
and if you’re still drawing the city,
capturing the details of like
the city has certain traffic lights
or the city has certain bushes and plants in it.
I think that’s almost more important.
So why don’t we look at some specific examples
of how to drive a city.
I love this cartoon.
I think it’s one of the weirder ones I’ve done.
This is a sword swallowing cartoon
where there’s a guy in the store
swallowing a sword
and the clerks are at the counter saying
This guy comes in all the time,
spends hours putting swords in his mouth,
and never buys anything.
Tell me about like how you sort of
built this space.
I feel like I really couldn’t sell you
on the location of this place
without putting a ton of swords.
A ton of daggers in it.
Even the doormat has a sword insignia on it.
I’m curious how often when you’re drawing cartoons,
you turn to like YouTube and Google images?
I look at reference all the time.
I love the jet, obviously Google images.
Sometimes if you look up
like a sword swallower on Google,
they’ll show you like doc images
but then go on Pinterest,
they’ll show you like an actual sword swallower
who has a blog and an Instagram account.
You could go back and forth.
Do you want the Halloween costume version of something?
Or do you want to go as authentic as you can?
Sword swallowers are kind of just rare to see
and you might think you have one in your head
but what does the sword swallower even wear?
What is the posture of sword swallowing?
Having these arms raised up was actually a challenge.
As I was drawing the sword swallower
and wondering about what he wore.
I thought about what if a sword swallower
had no shirt on?
That seemed a little too bizarre
to put into a cartoon.
So at least I gave him a little vest
that yes, allowed him to still show off his abs
but he was still technically wearing clothes
as he’s out and about shopping.
Then I drew some pants on him
and when I got down to his feet
I decided this guy,
Is not gonna have any shoes on.
So I want to talk about this other cartoon.
That’s sort of like the crasher
of people inside dining.
The caption is
That table is yours
once that party decides to move to the suburbs.
This is such a complicated
sort of like Renaissance scene
almost with all like movement across it.
How would you suggest someone go about
starting to try to draw something like that?
You wanna stage the characters,
reading it like a book like left to right.
So you have this setup on the left side
and then you have this punchline
on the right side.
So of course I have these couple coming in
and that begins this whole narrative
and then they look out
into the sea of what tables can they take?
It is a complicated affair
to balance this many characters
in the cartoon as well.
I wanted to make sure that there was a rambunctious,
crazy, Asian child
’cause that’s basically how I was as a child.
I think one of my favorite characters is this angry waiter
who has to deal with this all the time.
So that’s why he’s like scowling.
Then this hostess I mean, she’s just fantastic.
She’s got the best fashion
and this is like the first time
I employed gray tones for a cartoon.
And it was definitely necessary
just to delineate what’s in the foreground,
what’s the middle ground.
What I like to do when I have a lot of characters
is to use depth to draw the viewer’s eye
where you want it to go.
Most of your cartoon will be taking place
in the middle ground
and for today I am drawing a restaurant tent.
All these restaurants
in New York have these tents
that are being put up in the parking lanes.
In the foreground I have some people drawn.
What’s great about the foreground elements
is that they can help create a sense of depth
by having something close to camera like this.
In the background,
you can employ something called
to not have to draw that much.
That could be the background is just a few lines.
And I’m going to employ a lot of grey tones
to create an environment
where we’re looking past the dog walker
and the bicyclist,
into the subjects in the middle ground.
And in this particular scene there’s this couple
having a drink having a little bit of wine.
And one of them says,
It’s missing the notes of car exhaust,
cigarette smoke, and sewage steam that I’m used to.
I really loved the minutia of everyday life,
the mundane of everyday life.
That’s where I feel like I thrive
so for this time to be like so weird
and so strange already
And so surrealistic.
In real life, it’s hard to transfer that surrealism
into a cartoon.
But you did make a very surreal version.
Do you wanna describe it?
Yes. So we have two characters
who are wearing masks.
They notice that there’s a whole crowd of people
wearing masks that are made of different pastries
and different breads.
And they say,
everyone’s baking and sewing again.
You grapple with something here too
that a lot of the cartoonists
have been having trouble with, which is
the construction of a New Yorker cartoon
there’s usually one person speaking
and the types caption is what they are saying,
but now it feels almost irresponsible.
I think for people to draw
especially outside in a crowd,
like anyone without a mask on.
And so this guy is being a little bit of an ass hole
like pulling up his mask to make this clip
That was the only solution I could think of
for someone to be indicating that they’re talking.
So for this bread mask cartoon,
I knew that I was going to be drawing
a lot of people
and I love drawing crowds.
People are just so much more fun to draw
than a park background.
I don’t always wanna draw a sidewalk or buildings.
Of course I wanted to draw
all kinds of different pastries and buns.
That was the entire joke for me.
Then I drew these characters in the background
who had to be commenting on the scene of course.
I filled in one character,
the speaking characters shirt black,
so that your eye is drawn towards him right away.
After I drew out all the characters in the scene
and the backgrounds,
then I go in and add a great tone to the back,
to sort of give this some sort of framing device
as well as a composition.
And I always liked to frame the speaking characters
in the white,
they sort of break the horizon line
and then I just add text and there you go.
Everyone’s baking and sewing again.
One of the things I love about this cartoon
is just how viscerally and tasting it is.
It’s the rare cartoon that really makes you
suddenly like smell a croissant.
Yeah, that croissant.
I don’t think I’ve drawn a better croissant than that.