“There’s an improvisational nature, and a rhythmic nature to my drawing, building up certain areas, leaving other areas freer. I like the idea that less is more, both in music and in art.”
Award-winning illustrator Joe Ciardiello reflects on 43 years as a freelancer, the jazz portraits that turned his career around, his drumming and how it influences his artwork, having more illustrator-friends than non-illustrator-friends, why he’d rather not be called a caricaturist, the time he was accused of ripping off the style of one of his idols, the search for perfect pen and paper (and how he keeps his Rapidographs working), and his amazing Spaghetti Journal project! Give it a listen!
“If I didn’t get off Staten Island before I was 50, I was going to die there.”
“I’m obsessed with line quality, to the point of sickness. I can’t find paper that makes me want to draw.”
About our Guest
Joe was born and raised on Staten Island NY, just a short ferry ride to Manhattan where he attended The High School of Art and Design and college at Parsons, earning a BFA degree. Since 1974 he has worked for most major magazines and newspapers as well as for corporate and advertising clients, book publishers and record companies.
His clients have included: American Express, Audubon, Barnes & Noble.com, Capitol Records, Folio Society, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Politico, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Time and The Wall St. Journal.
Among his awards are four silver medals from the Society of Illustrators. In 2016 he was awarded the Society’s prestigious Hamilton King Award. Joe has been profiled in Communication Arts Magazine as well as other graphic arts journals. In 1999 he had a one-man exhibition of his work at the Society of Illustrators in New York. In 2007 Joe illustrated Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing for Harper Collins and in 2011 a limited edition book of his blues musician portraits, BLACK WHITE & BLUES was published by Strike Three Press. His work is also included in the Taschen book 100 Illustrators.
A musician as well, Joe plays drums with The Half-Tones, an illustrator jazz group. He lives in western New Jersey.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Joe’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same equipment in a hotel room in Los Angeles. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Ciardiello by me. Photo of me & his Philip Roth drawing by me. They’re on my instagram. Drawing of Joe by Joe.
“These days, we tend to think of identity as something chosen; we put on certain masks or we identify as this or that, culturally, ethnically or politically. Bellow is interested in something much more basic: who we really are.”
David Mikics joins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art (Norton). We get into Bellow’s legacy, his fall from academic favor, his transmutations of life into art, David’s humorously accidental introduction to his work, what Jewishness meant to Bellow, whether Philip Roth was right when he told Bruce Jay Friedman, “Saul Bellow am de daddy of us all,” and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art.
“Bellow once said that the reason writers had such messy personal lives is because they didn’t know what to do with the afternoon.”
We also talk about David’s experience as a professor, why writing is harder for today’s students, what it’s like to teach course called, “Is Life Worth Living?” and “The Human Situation”, which science fiction novels warped him as a youth, why we need Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, what contemporary books look like they’ll last, and why he eventually came around on Faulkner. Go listen!
“Canonicity is not where you find it, but where you make it.”
- Rachel Hadas (2014 and 2016)
- Bruce Jay Friedman
- Jules Feiffer
- Harold Bloom
- Langdon Hammer
- Edward Mendelson
- Willard Spiegelman
About our Guest
David Mikics grew up in Carteret, New Jersey and Atlanta. He went to college at NYU and earned a Ph.D. at Yale. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Victoria and son Ariel, and teaches every year at the University of Houston, where he is John and Rebecca Moores Professor of English. He is the author of six books, including Slow Reading in a Hurried Age (Belknap/Harvard) and Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art (Norton), and is a columnist at Tablet magazine.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at David’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. Intro was recorded on the same setup. Photo of Mr. Mikics by me.
“Hirschfeld is an artist who discovered what he wanted to do early on, and works at it his whole life and gets better and better at it.”
David Leopold, author of The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age (Knopf), joins the show to talk about the thirteen years he spent working with the great artist Al Hirschfeld, how he wound up running the Ben Solowey Studio, his career curating museum exhibitions, what he learned from following The Grateful Dead, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy The Hirschfeld Century!
“I don’t collect art; I collect artists.”
We also talk the trip that led Hirschfeld from painting to line art, the way MGM’s costume department started making the Marx Brothers look more like Hirschfeld’s drawings of them, one of David’s biggest regrets (not bringing Al Hirschfeld and Jerry Garcia together), Billy Rose’s plan to buy Ellis Island and make it a retirement home for millionaires, the fleetingness of artistic reputation, the goals of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, and the wonderful history of the Ben Solowey Studio. BONUS: You get to hear me discuss how I almost quit doing the podcast last week! Go listen!
“Every day, he was faced with a white board that couldn’t care less about what he’d accomplished.”
About our Guest
David Leopold is an author and curator who has organized exhibitions for institutions around the country including the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, and the Field Museum in Chicago. Internationally, he has curated shows for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Filmmuseum in Frankfurt and Berlin. He organized the archive of Al Hirschfeld’s work for the artist, visiting Hirschfeld in his studio at least once a week for thirteen years until the artist’s death in 2003. He is now the Creative Director for the Al Hirschfeld Foundation. His latest book, The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age, published by Alfred A. Knopf to coincide with a major retrospective that Leopold curated for the New York Historical Society has won universal acclaim. The Washington Post called it an “instant classic,” and Amazon selected it for its “Top Books of 2015.” His other books include David Levine’s American Presidents (Fantagraphics, 2008); Irving Berlin’s Show Business: Broadway – Hollywood – AmericaHirschfeld’s Hollywood (Abrams, 2001). He also authored a number of monographs on underappreciated artists for various museums.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Studio of Ben Solowey in Bedminster, PA on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same setup. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of David by me. Hirschfeld drawing of Carol Channing via Knopf’s publicity page for The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age.