Artmaker: Meet Peter Vey, cartoonist and illustrator

  • A self-portrait of cartoonist and illustrator Peter Vey. Image courtesy of Peter Vey

  • Image courtesy of Peter Vey

  • Image courtesy of Peter Vey

  • Image courtesy of Peter Vey

  • Image courtesy of Peter Vey

Published: 4/18/2019 3:02:45 PM
Modified: 4/18/2019 3:02:33 PM

If you’ve flipped through even just a few issues of The New Yorker in the last 25-odd years, you’ve likely seen some of Peter Vey’s cartoons: droll portraits of quotidian life, populated by people with mysteriously bulging, elongated eyes, like two men, a supervisor and an employee, in a drab office in which the supervisor says “It’s not that I don’t like the job you’re doing — it’s just that I’d like to start seeing other people do it.”

Vey, better known by his nom de plume, P.C. Vey, has published work with many other publications, including National Lampoon, The Boston Globe and The New York Times. A lifelong New Yorker, he moved to Amherst last year so that he and his wife, Tina, who’s originally from the Valley, could be closer to Tina’s mother, who also lives in Amherst.

There were a few other motivations for the move, Vey notes: “Actually we moved to Amherst because we were stuck. The city was pretty much getting untenable. All the record stores I used to like to go to closed. Some moved to Brooklyn, but since I spent half my childhood in Brooklyn, I really didn’t want to go to Brooklyn.”

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you're currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Peter Vey: Right now I’m doing a batch of cartoons, which is about 15 to 20 roughs. I actually do this every week for The New Yorker. The batch is due by 12 o’clock on Tuesday. After they’ve either OK’d one or none, I send them off to a few other publications. Occasionally somebody asks me to do an illustration.

HL: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

PV: I work with whatever’s on hand, information that seeped into my brain from the internet, TV, the radio, which is playing all the time when I’m working.

I’ll draw a situation: a couple at home, people in an office or walking down the street. Then I throw in something odd, like a meteorite out the window or a dancing cat, or just read something interesting in the paper, and bang — a cartoon happens.

HL: How do you know when your work is finished?

PV: The work is never finished.  After the batch is done I start a new batch. And then after that batch is done I do another one …

HL: Have you ever had a “mistake” – a project that seemed to be going south – turn into a wonderful discovery instead?

PV: Actually every cartoon starts out going nowhere, then, after a few mistakes, goes somewhere.

HL: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

PV: Jack Ziegler and Sam Gross. Jack because of his smart weirdness and Sam because he always goes too far.

HL: What's the most recent exhibition/concert/book reading/other event by another artist or group that you've attended and enjoyed?

PV: The last exhibition I went to was at the Society of Illustrators in New York. Two cartoonists, Michael Maslin and Liza Donnelly, who are married, put up a show of all the New Yorker cartoons they collected over the years. A lot of them were from friends, so one of mine was in the show. It’s a common practice for cartoonists to give each other a piece of their work.

HL: If you weren't an artist, what do you think you'd be?

PV: Probably a night watchman from the 70s.

HL: Dream dinner party — who would you invite?

PV: Right now my wife Tina and I are both low-fat vegan, so I don’t think many people would enjoy a dinner party we would have. She makes a very delicious, spicy/sweet potato and chickpea curry in case anyone’s interested in coming over. Which is actually nothing new because Tina used to make great curries in New York although they weren’t vegan.

HL: Do you listen to music while you're working? What kind?

PV: When I’m not listening to the classical radio station, I’m listening to Sun Ra or Miles Davis and a lot of free jazz. I also listen to a lot of ambient and experimental stuff, like Current 93 and Nurse with Wound, but Tina asks me to close the door if I put it on.

 

— Steve Pfarrer

Peter Vey’s website is pcvey.com.

 




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