At the Smithsonian with Ed Koren

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

Ed Koren at the FreerLast week I worked with producer Maggie Burnette Stogner on a shoot for the Smithsonian’s Freer art gallery. One of the curators, James Ulak, is friends with Ed Koren, the long-time New Yorker cartoonist known for shaggy dog illustration style.



The Freer has an upcoming exhibit on Hokusai, the 19th-century Japanese print-blocking artist. Ed has drawn 528px-Katsushika_Hokusai_-_Courtesan_asleep_-_Google_Art_Projectinspiration from Hokusai and felt a certain kinship with his style when he spoke to us on camera about Hokusai’s focus on certain physical elements (such as the eyes) and the way in which he drew his lines.


Some of Hokusai’s original work sits on that table in the photo above. To my eye, there certainly was some resemblance, particularly with the use and flow of line.


After the Hokusai discussion, Ed drew a couple cartoons on the table while we filmed him. He says he gets most of his ideas just through observing other people, whether that is walking on the street or at a restaurant. We asked if he found that has unnerved anyone. “No, but even if it did it would be too late for them to do anything about it!”


The first he was not happy with. It was of a jogger and her dog running together. Not interesting enough, he said. He picked up and prepared to tear it half before Maggie yelled out “Wait! Don’t!”


For Ed, it was a failed drawing of thousands but for us it was something new, an original to be treasured by a man we have admired and come to know only through the pages of a magazine. He was much happier with the second drawing.


Afterward, we joked whether he was observing us throughout the day and if we might find one of us in the crew—myself, Maggie, and audio recordist Brian Buckley—in one of his future cartoons. His eyes twinkled as he merely smiled.

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