Mary Lawton – Thursday Child Has Gone Far

For 30 years, Houston-based cartoonist Mary Lawton submitted her work to The New Yorker. For 30 years, she received a series of rejection notices, most of them quite polite but with the same gist: thanks, but no thanks. Occasionally the rejections came with a nice note: “I’m sorry.” She took this as an encouraging sign that they’d actually read it.

Then, in 2017, the magazine hired a new cartoon editor, Emma Allen, the first woman to hold that job…Lawton, who moved to Houston in 1994, had all but given up on the magazine. But she saw a possible opening with the infusion of new blood at a publication that has long battled a reputation for stodginess. She submitted once more. This time, [Mary] got something for which she wasn’t prepared: a yes.

Mary Lawton has been cartooning for 40 years, 2017 was a breakthrough year for her: “[W]ith the New Yorker breakthrough (online New Yorker Daily Cartoon July 27, 2017), the floodgates opened.” The same year she got onto the pages of The New Yorker (December 11, 2017 issue) she also made it on the comic pages of newspapers around the world when she became the Thursday contributor to the syndicated Six Chix panel (August 17, 2017), “a collective of six female cartoonists whose collaborative strip is distributed by King Features Syndicate.”

In 1979 Lawton moved to Boston, where she fell in with a group of fellow alternative cartoonists. Lynda Barry and Matt Groening, many years before The Simpsons, were among her heroes. So was Bostonian William Steig, who became a mentor and a sort of father figure for Lawton. Best known for creating the Shrek character (long before the ogre became a movie star), Steig encouraged Lawton to keep drawing and keep working.

Chris Vogner, for Houstonia Magazine, profiles the now-Houston-based cartoonist.

Further reading:

A 2004 Houston Chronicle/Arlene Nisson Lassin article about the then ten year Houston resident.

Preferring to create art with whimsy and humor, she has been published nationally in various newspapers and magazines, including The New Yorker, Houston Press, Ms. Magazine and a regular cartoon feature called “In the Wild,” in New Moon Magazine, a children’s periodical published in Duluth, Minn.

A 2019 interview with Mary by A Case For Pencils.

I drew with Rapidograph pens for many years. I switched to dip pens, which I enjoy depending on the paper. Lumpy or textured paper, ugh. Smooth paper, and it’s perfect. I practiced using the dip pen by doing calligraphy for a long time, with lots of different nib sizes and shapes. At the moment I use Pigma Graphic in all sizes, but they are disposable, so I’m on the hunt for a new reusable pen so I don’t add to the land fill. I sketch out cartoons in pencil most of the time, then ink in. I love Arches papers, and use them for finishes and gouache paintings. Or Bristol paper.

A mini-bio listing some of her clients and with a half dozen samples from Curated Cartoons.

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