As a big fan of Adrian Tomine’s work, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of his “New York Drawings.” Unfortunately, though the theme of “New York” ties everything together nicely and is clearly a subject matter that Tomine is passionate about, there’s great variety when it comes to the quality of the work included.
Tomine always delivers at a high level, but seeing some of his much more detailed and well-considered drawings — the ones that stand so effortlessly on their own and that “say” something about a variety of subjects (whether that be a love song to the city of New York or some deeper commentary) next to smaller less important sketches — draws a sharp contrast that’s a bit frustrating. The book is filled to the brim with beautiful work, but the bulk of it is made up of work he’s contributed to “The New Yorker” over the last ten plus years. Most of those smaller works, when taken out of the context of the story they’ve been commissioned to illustrate, simply lose their impact. All of them remain lovely, but standing next to more important and more careful work makes them seem less than and it’s an unfortunate comparison a reader can’t help but draw.
That said, the covers and some of the larger more important New York illustrations are stunning, filled with Tomine’s quiet style that is simultaneously precise and effortlessly loose, a quality not easily captured by many artists. Additionally, there’s a fantastic section of rare and never-seen-before sketchbook work that’s evocative and easily the strength of the book, next to his strips of course.
Though I’ve immensely enjoyed seeing Tomine’s illustration work in “The New Yorker” over the years, and I hope that continues — both for my benefit and for the steady work I’m sure it provides Tomine — reading the few strips included here is a reminder that he is so much more than just a talented illustrator. He is an exceptional storyteller, one with a sharp self-deprecating and observational sense of humor that never ceases to make me laugh and think. Reading and absorbing this lovely book really leaves me yearning for more actual comics from Tomine. He’s greatly missed, even though he’s not really left us.