DL:RP Series: Cartoonist Emma Hunsinger

Dig into another fantastic DL:RP edition today, featuring WFU ‘13 Emma Hunsinger. The cartoonist grew up dreaming of publishing her original work in the New Yorker… and made it happen years later! Enjoy this WFU Magazine feature by Cherin C. Poovey.


So You Want to be in the New Yorker?

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WFU Magazine, June 14 2018, Cherin C. Poovey

Photography credit: Perri Hoffman

In 2015 Robert Mankoff, longtime cartoon editor for The New Yorker, told TIME magazine there were seven simple steps to getting a cartoon in the savvy, sophisticated publication. They included getting a day job, having an unmistakable voice and looking at the world as if you were an alien. Above all, he said, cartoonists who aim to publish in The New Yorker should aspire to have a distinctive style. “It’s not the ink,” he said, “it’s the think.”

With his own pen and idiosyncratic approach, Mankoff, who retired last year, drew one of the magazine’s iconic cartoons: a businessman on the phone consulting his appointment book. “No, Thursday’s out,” reads the caption. “How about never — is never good for you?”

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In the life plan of artist Emma Hunsinger (’13), Mankoff’s “never” was no good at all. As early as grade school she knew she wanted to sell cartoons to The New Yorker and make a living off her work. In 2017, after years of drawing and redrawing, pitching and rejection, the self-proclaimed perpetual doodler’s perseverance paid off when her cartoon, “American Girl,” was published in the Nov. 27 issue. Drawn in Hunsinger’s characteristic linear style, the cartoon depicts a weaponized American Girl doll, dressed in frock and Mary Janes, being confronted by police officers reporting a “417K” — police code for “person with a knife.”

A knife-wielding doll being confronted by the law? Perhaps not everyone’s recipe for a spontaneous belly laugh, but the artist is fine with that. “With any given cartoon there will be a split on people who like it or get it versus people who think it’s silly or could be better,” Emma said. “It’s very subjective how funny it is. I guess I was just thinking about how everyone thinks dolls are really creepy.”

Image credit: Emma Hunsinger/The New Yorker Collection/The Cartoon Bank

Image credit: Emma Hunsinger/The New Yorker Collection/The Cartoon Bank

Emma came to Wake Forest from New Canaan, Connecticut, a free spirit whose fascination had always been cartoons. Her father, who is in the publishing business, regularly brought home magazines to show her examples. In middle school she pored over a book and CD collection of every New Yorker cartoon from the 1920s to the 2000s. “I read it cover to cover, and I loved them.”

She cartooned for her high school newspaper and arrived at college unsure whether to major in studio art. “I kind of waffled a bit because you could choose drawing, printmaking, photography, video … but there was no specific cartooning focus. I sold myself short thinking I wasn’t good enough to be a fine artist so I shouldn’t major in studio art,” she said. “By my sophomore year I wanted to get better at it. You don’t go to college to stay good at what you’re really good at, so I double-majored in studio art, with a focus on drawing, and in communication.”

After graduation Emma, who lives in Brooklyn, submitted her resume to Condé Nast, publisher of The New Yorker, and she interviewed at Teen Vogue and Bon Appetit. She was hired by The New Yorker as a sales assistant who answered phones, managed emails and fetched coffee. “It was great because you have to be scrappy to be an assistant in New York,” she said.

The position paid off as she began meeting people on the editorial side and got a glimpse of what went on. She started submitting cartoon drafts, and one of her efforts — a flow chart titled “Can I Wear This T-shirt to Work?” was subsequently published online. “I read they get 500 or 1,000 submissions a week and they only buy 12-15 cartoons a week,” Emma said. “It’s an extremely competitive publication.”

In 2016, she left the sales assistant job and started work as a line cook, making pizzas to pay the bills while she devoted herself to her cartoons. “American Girl” was her second sale to The New Yorker and the first to be published in print.

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Emma’s dry wit, along with her intellectual curiosity and knack for constantly questioning, is perfectly suited for The New Yorker, said her Wake Forest mentor, Teaching Professor of Art Leigh Ann

Hallberg (P ’12). “I think in the ‘American Girl’ cartoon she is questioning the cultural assumption that the doll is, well, the epitome of niceness. She just goes, ‘Really?’”

Leigh Ann was Emma’s champion when it came to esteem and self-confidence, encouraging her not to take herself too seriously and to hang on to that sense of playfulness that everyone loved. At the same time, the teacher helped her student perfect drawing technique, question what she was doing and try other things. “She encouraged me to keep making art and keep making silly art,” Emma said. “It helped so much to learn about art history and how people have used art as communication.”

“Everyone loves Emma,” said Leigh Ann. “She’s just one of those people that when they pop into your head, you just smile.” Unlike most students, Emma took her class notes in pictures, not words. As a freshman, “she was beautiful and wild — not lost —never lost,” said her mentor. “She had all kinds of energy and enthusiasm but, like many students, was searching for direction. We just kind of instantaneously loved her; she was very talented.”

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Katie Wolf (’13), Emma’s friend and classmate who is assistant director of the University’s Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery, recalled a day when it was pouring rain and she noticed a drenched student, weighed down by a backpack, chugging across Davis Field. She drove closer and discovered it was Emma, then stopped to offer her a ride.

“We were talking about this series of drawings she did called ‘The Angsty Animal Teenager Series’ that I just loved,” said Katie. “The person with bird legs, the kid in the corner with eczema, the jackass guy … I saw it as her sort of poking fun at traditional bullying tactics.” The next day, Emma gave Katie the drawings and said, “Thank you for taking me home; I want you to have these.” “They are some of my favorite possessions,” Katie said.

While Emma spent much of her time in Scales Fine Arts Center, she worked at WAKE Radio and was a member of the Lilting Banshees comedy troupe, calling it the perfect mental gym in which to exercise her comedy muscles. She immersed herself in volunteer work, including Campus Kitchen every Friday.

The student humanitarian trips to Vietnam her junior and senior years broadened her world view and influenced her art. “Just to be exposed to what’s on the opposite side of the Earth was so powerful and gave me a sense of scale about how big I am and what matters,” Emma said. “It really made my brain bigger in a way that’s helpful to a cartoonist. If you want to be funny and smart you’ve got to know a lot and experience a lot. That was huge for me.”

Describing her work as delightful, innocuous and silly, Emma appears to have what editor Mankoff was looking for: a distinctive style and the think, not just the ink. “That’s the work I want to be making,” she said.

Still in her 20s and published in The New Yorker, Emma has already accomplished the cartoonist’s equivalent of pushing a piano through a transom. But don’t be surprised if there’s another piano on the drawing board. Never will never be good for her.

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Spotlight Interview: Kovi Konowiecki

Kovi Konowiecki: Photographer

Los Angeles / London

WFU Class of 2014

Major: Communications, Media Concentration

Minor: English

 


 

After graduation, Kovi moved to Israel to play with a professional soccer club called Hapoel Kfar Saba F.C. After some time, he realized that photography was what he really wanted to be doing with his life. We spoke with Kovi to learn how this revelation has impacted his journey since.

 

DeacLink: Tell us what you’re up to right now.

Kovi: I just finished my MA in Photography  from University of the Arts London and have two if my images being displayed at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

I am currently polishing up a series called 'Delivering Flowers to Grandpa Jack', which I began creating to capture the uniqueness of Long Beach, California—the people and places that I thought made it different from everywhere else. But as I spent more time documenting my hometown, I realized that its uniqueness does not stem from the people who live there or the streets that comprise it. Rather, it is the things that don’t stand out that make Long Beach like nowhere else for me. The series pays tribute to the elements of Long Beach that many would find commonplace and un-extraordinary, highlighting the beauty of familiarity that can transform the mundane of one’s hometown into something very personal. The photographs’ devotion to the elements of the everyday signifies how the special feeling one associates with their hometown does not come from the place itself—it comes from being from the place. Undefined by a specific era, the people depicted in the series exist in a setting created by my perception of home—a place that remains intimate and ageless—an embodiment of the feeling that no matter how many years pass, and no matter how many things change, there are certain things that never change.


 

DL: How did you end up in a Masters program? What were your biggest incentives for enrolling?

K: Going back to school was really appealing for me at the time-- the process of collaborating and being in a creative environment was really exciting to me. Because I played soccer at Wake, I never really had that experience in college-- to be completely immersed and driven by photography.


 

DL: How much did your studies or Wake in general inform or drive your career path?

K: Wake allowed me to really figure out who I was, both an as individual and as an artist. I was rather different in a predominantly homogenous community, which perpetuated many of my artistic endeavors. I wanted to create platforms for social change.

I was also fortunate enough to have some really engaging professors that allowed me to form some of the ideas that are the basis for much of my work today.


 

DL:  What do you think Wake arts could have done to have better prepared students for life after graduation?

K: I think college is all about finding out who you are. For some it takes longer than others. For others it never really happens. I think Wake could do a better job of giving students more opportunities to explore creative outlets. It is very easy to get sucked into the code of getting good grades.

 

DL:  What’s the hardest part about breaking into your field?

K: It is highly competitive! Everyone's a photographer these days. It takes a lot of trust in yourself and your sense of authorship. It also takes a lot of patience, as it can take years to establish who you are as an artist.

 

DL: How did you like living and producing work in London, versus back home in LA? Is there a significant difference in the quality of your work, the ease of producing, and the reception of your work, between the two places?

K: I like the negotiation  between LA and London. I sort of get the best of both worlds. London is like an incubator for me, I get tons of inspiration from all of the creative outlets. LA is a more of a place for production and reflection for me. Everything runs at a slower pace in LA, which can be great at times.
 

 

DL: What has surprised you the most about the art scene in London? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move to move there?

K: If you put in the effort to make connections and see what is out there, London can really be a fantastic place to grow. My biggest advice would be to take initiative-- there is too much going on to sit back.

 

DL: How about in LA?

K: With regards to LA, the art scene is growing a lot. There seems to be a movement of people coming from NY (I think people are starting to get a bit tired of the cold). But like London, there are tons of collaborations and opportunities waiting to happen.
 

 

DL: What and where is next for you?

K: I wish I knew...I am using this time to reflect and figure out where I want to be... and where will be best for my career.
 

 

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on, or currently go by?

K: Be patient and let things happen naturally. And the work is always more important than self promotion or getting your name out there-- the work has to always be at the forefront.

 

Visit Kovi's website and follow him on Instagram