A "New Yorker" Illustrator on Cape Cod / by camille broderick

The Atwood House, Chatham Ma.

How does one spend a Sunday?   That is such a personal question.  I usually try to go to church.  If not, I sleep in, skip the work out, read the New York Times (not online), have a fatty, decadent breakfast and make Italian for dinner.  However, when my father asks me for a favor, I always oblige because he never refuses when I ask for his help. He proposed we film a lecture on a Sunday afternoon by a local "Chathamite" named Bob Staake, a professional illustrator.  The lecture is part of series for the Chatham Historical Society at the Atwood House Museum in Chatham, Massachusetts where my retired father volunteers.  The museum is located on Stage Harbor Road, in the former home of Captain Joseph Atwood.  The house was converted in 1926 by The Chatham Historical Society as a museum to preserve the historic relics and artifacts of this colonial, seaside fishing community.  Chatham is also well known for the story that inspired the book and movie The Finest Hours.  This little village has as much New England charm as one could imagine.

Still sleepy, we drove from a Boston suburb to Chatham, situated on the "elbow" of Cape Cod overlooking Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.  It was one of those perfect fall days New Englanders love... bright blue sky, golden sunlight that streams across the trees, with a gentle breeze that blows just strong enough to make the golden leaves fall off their branches and dance gently to the ground.  We are the first to arrive at the Atwood House, and my Dad instructs us to park at the far corner of the lot to allow room for the expected crowd. (Coming from city living, I don't see how crowded this little place can be, but I did as my Dad requested).  I did my homework before arriving and learned the illustrator is known mostly for his children's books (over 70 and counting).  But more interesting to me, was his thirty-plus year career in illustration from Mad Magazine to The New Yorker.  He's probably best known for the cover of the issue that was released after Barack Obama was first elected president in 2008.  Bob is known for and refers to his work as "a bit retro and playful".  He likes to play off famous images from Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron Cassandra and other early 20th century artists while bringing his own satiric twist.  "I prefer to distill a complex idea into one graphic image without giving an idea or concept away.  The viewer needs to bring their mind to the image."

We enjoyed the sun on the front deck as we waited for guests to arrive.  We had no idea how much we would enjoy this artist's quick humor, his enormous talent  and learning about his fast paced life in his little studio under the sign "IMAGINE" on Main Street in Chatham.  His visual presentations included his submissions of confirmed and unconfirmed covers for The New Yorker, to photos of all the trinkets and artwork he created in whatever free time he doesn't seem to have.  One of the slides showed numerous robot clocks.  Another showed a large, 600 lb stone orb he moved to his backyard, a subject for a mysterious and beautifully designed adult illustrated book.  

My Sunday was not a typical one, it was much more.  As the beautiful fall day closed, we realized we had met a very special and unique artist who brought us into his big, little world.  We slowly made our way out to the filled parking lot and as did the others, leisurely made our way to our car.  We drove along Shore Road and as a special treat, stopped at The Chatham Bars Inn to have a glass of Champagne by the fire.  A perfect ending to a perfect day.  If only I were able to illustrate that.