A 28-year-old Iranian artist and activist has been sentenced to 12 years and nine in prison for making monkeys out of Iranian leaders. Tehran’s Revolutionary Court (which doesn't use juries) ruled that Atena Farghadani crimes included “insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “spreading propaganda against the system.”
One political cartoonist particularly knowledgeable about her plight is Iranian American artist Nikahang Kowsar. Now a CRNI board member based in the Washington area, Kowsar was jailed in his native Iran 15 years ago for his cartoons critical of the country’s leaders.
“Atena is being punished for something many of us have been doing in Iran: drawing politicians as animals, without naming them,” Kowsar tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “Of course, I drew a crocodile and made a name that rhymed with the name of powerful Ayatollah, and caused a national security crisis in 2000. What Atena drew was just an innocent take on what the parliamentarians are doing, and based on the Iranian culture, monkeys are considered the followers and imitators, [and] cows are the stupid ones.
It’s easy to like cartoons. It’s hard to draw them (at least something better than stick figures). Sometimes the best cartoons are drawn out of basic shapes and lines that look easy to draw by anyone, and yet it takes genius to draw like that. And genius is the word I use to describe the author’s drawings and teachings in this classic book.
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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.
(This cover was used as the cover image for Adrian's book, New York Drawings. Listen to my interview with Adrian on Gweek, and take a look at a gallery of images from New York Drawings.)
My First New Yorker Cover by Adrian Tomine