John Cuneo, Illustrator


Many interviewers have used the Marcel Proust questionnaire — and for good reason.

Proust’s questions seem a perfect fit for the somewhat shy and private illustrator and humorist John Cuneo, whose work has graced the pages of The New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, The Atlantic Monthly, Mother Jones, and more.

Growing up, Cuneo was not exposed to art or creativity — and this seems like it might have been a good thing. His work is a constantly brilliant commentary on the world and his life as he sees it.

Photographer Deborah Feingold visited John in his studio and home in Woodstock, NY.


  John's recent book Not Waving But Drawing Published by Fantagraphics

Follow John on Instagram @johncuneo3 – He’ll crack you up.

Photos by Deborah Feingold

A few of many sketch books by Cuneo.

A few of many sketch books by Cuneo.

From latest book:  Not Waving, But Drawing . 

From latest book: Not Waving, But Drawing

New Yorker Aug. 5, 2013

New Yorker Nov. 11, 2015

Sculpture at the the Louvre

Alcoholic writers. For the cover of the NY Times Book Review

At work in his studio.

At work in his studio.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?  My dial doesn't go that high, but if my family is healthy, and I'm on a couch with a sketchbook, I can flirt with "contentment".

What is your greatest fear?  Death. Am I the first to come up with that one?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  Oh, there's a list, but envy is near the top.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? Narcissism, or deplorable traits of my own that I recognize only when reflected back at me in others.

Which living person do you most admire?  The illustrator Jack Unruh was alive until recently. The position now remains open.

What is your greatest extravagance?  Recently I bought a rather expensive fountain pen. But I can write it off, can't I?

The ever present sketchbook...

The ever present sketchbook...

What is your current state of mind?  Anxious, as ever.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Being "Zen".

On what occasion do you lie?  Holidays, weddings and other lesser occasions.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?  My face, for starters.

Which living person do you most despise? The current Commander in Chief

What is the quality you most like in a man? Empathy and calm authority.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? A sparkle, smarts, a sense of the absurdity of our condition.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Lately, I am wearing out and occasionally even mispronouncing ‘ostensibly’. Sad!

What or who is the greatest love of your life? My wife, Jan.

When and where were you happiest?  "Happy" is too high a bar for me. But I can recall a giddy, fleeting moment many years ago in a Denver apartment with some friends, some scotch, cocaine and an Elvis Costello song.

Which talent would you most like to have?  To play saxophone, or sing in harmony. To play sax in harmony.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  I'd like to change into that person who could narrow it down to just one thing.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Honestly, managing to keep it together this long.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?  Probably a pen nib, seeking revenge.

Where would you most like to live?  In a house with central air.

John's water colors.

John's water colors.

From latest book:  Not Waving, But Drawing . 

From latest book: Not Waving, But Drawing

What is your most treasured possession?  I try not to get too attached to stuff. That fountain pen though...

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  Losing a child.

What is your favorite occupation?  There was a time when a good bartender held a special place in my heart.

 What is your most marked characteristic?  A damp, tedious insecurity that clings like an odor.

What do you most value in your friends?  Tolerance of the above.

Who are your favorite Illustrator / cartoonist? There are so, so many. In recent years we have lost Ronald Searle, Richard Thompson and Carlos Nine, who are certainly on the list.

Who is your hero of fiction?  The father, 'Papa', in Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'

Which historical figure do you most identify with?  That Japanese officer from WW2 who hid in the Philippines for 29 years refusing to believe the war was over and that he could stop fighting.

Who are your heroes in real life?  People, some of them friends, who have managed to get this far with some humility and grace.

What is your greatest regret? That I probably already blew it.

How would you like to die?  Not dwelling on the answer above.

What is your motto?  "Take it inside." (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes)

At home.

At home.