Optic Nerve cartoonist Adrian Tomine wrote a great piece for The Thought Fox about how he came up with his popular (and first) cover for The New Yorker. It includes a lot of preliminary sketches.
If you’ve lived here your whole life, you probably just think of the subway as a way of getting from point A to point B. But to me it was fascinating the way subway cars sometimes run alongside each other, just inches apart, and occasionally line up at the same speed. Sometimes you make eye contact with someone in the other train, which is usually more awkward than anything else, but I turned it into something kind of romantic or wistful.
Françoise saw some potential in this one, and I have to give her credit for one crucial addition. You’ll notice in this original sketch that the books are just blank, like they’re just generic, random props. She made the suggestion of putting some detail on the books so it would be clear that the two people are reading the same book, and that ended up being the most important, memorable part of the finished image. It would probably be better for my career if claimed this idea as my own, but it’s too late now.