Roz Chast Illustration
Roz Chast (b. 1954) is an American Illustrator and cartoonist, known well for her New Yorker Cartoons, and for her breakthrough graphic novel memoir, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?”
Some of the most influential, entertaining, and grabbing imagery comes to us not through fine arts, but through the simple art of cartooning. A well executed cartoon has the ability to strike an emotional chord and tell a story within extreme limitations, often a single panel using only inked line. When I reflect on some of the best cartoonists working today, I can’t help but immediately think of Roz Chast.
Chast is an American cartoonist who has had an extensive career working for the New Yorker, illustrating her first cover for them in 1986. Over the years she’s illustrated over 800 cartoons for the publication, making her work exceptionally well known and synonymous with the magazine. Additionally, she’s illustrated hundreds of cartoons for other publications, and illustrated a few children’s books, including Steve Martin’s “The Alphabet from A to Y, with bonus letter Z.”
Chast was born in Brooklyn, New York, to depression era parents, George and Elizabeth, who valued extreme frugality. Her father was a chronic worrier, and her mother had a temper, and due to this upbringing she reflects on having a rather anxious childhood. Using her home life as inspiration much of her work draws upon autobiographical experiences, and casts a humorous light on her struggles with anxiety and difficult topics like death.
In 2014, she published her breakthrough memoir graphic novel, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” Detailing the last years of her parent’s life, Chast writes an honest, darkly comedic, and heartbreaking account of her parent’s decline and how she processed their aging and death. The poignant book immediately rose to the New York Times Bestseller’s list, and won numerous accolades including the Kirkus Prize and the National Book critics Circle Award.
To be able to take a morbid topic and flip it into something that is at once humorous and deeply relatable is something that only a master of storytelling and the human condition can do. Chast’s work, while deceptively simple, will surely stand the test of time to all who stumble upon her work.
Aja Mulford is an illustrator, art director, and illustration teacher based in Northern California.