How I Work: New Yorker cartoonist Barry Blitt

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Barry Blitt talks to CR about the pressures of creating New Yorker covers and why he prefers a quiet life in Connecticut

Barry Blitt has become well known for his cartoons and illustrations that lampoon political figures and take a satirical slant on the world. Created in a scratchy ink and watercolour style, Blitt’s images have a timeless energy about them. Even 30 years on, many of Blitt’s images feel as relevant now as they did when they were first created. 

Since 1992, Blitt has contributed illustrations and more than 100 covers to the New Yorker as well as having his work appear in the pages of Vanity Fair, Time, Rolling Stone, the Atlantic and the New York Times. Blitt has illustrated many children’s books, and has published many books of his own work, the most recent being Blitt in 2017, a compilation of his editorial illustrations.

Blitt has been honoured in exhibitions and awards from the Society of Illustrators, Print and American Illustration. In May 2020, he was awarded one of the highest honours, a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. Here the illustrator talks about creating his first piece of paid work at just 14 years old and how the pressure and panic of creating a New Yorker cover only seems to increase with time.

Top: detail from Vanity Fair illustration, 2016; Above: New Yorker cover, 27 July 2015

On his first paid job My first published drawings were pictures of hockey players – I grew up in Canada, after all. I was probably 14 years old, and a great sports fan. I sent caricatures to all the hockey teams, and one of them – the Philadelphia Flyers – commissioned more and printed them in the team magazine. The artwork was essentially hero worship, a long way from the sarcasm and cynicism I’d later pursue.