Image courtesy of Brooklyn Cartoons
Meet Brooklyn Cartoons. The Instagram account responsible for shining a satirical light on millennial lifestyle. Conceived by artist and designer Emmet Truxes, Brooklyn Cartoons acts as both an observer and a mirror to a demographic who gets a bad rep for appearing to prioritize taking the perfect selfie. Emmet has found his niche in a community of Instagram accounts where content is passed around like Buzzfeed’s quiz at work that tells you what kind of pizza you are. His content and original illustrations stand out for his clever depiction of an insatiable group impacted by technology and a refusal to settle like generation’s past. With a newly released book aptly titled You Look Better Online, DSTLD sat down with Emmet to discuss his career, creative process, and what’s next for his brand.
DSTLD: Tell us how Brooklyn Cartoons came to life, and why the name?
ET: I started developing my cartoon aesthetic about 12 years ago in college. I was getting published in a weekly student newspaper, and finding the observational voice about our generation that people would recognize now. After graduating in 2006, I moved to Brooklyn and tried to keep cartooning, but I was in my early twenties and it was impossible to draw with all the exploring, going out, and life lessons to be learned. Nevertheless, it was during this time that I first put the words “Brooklyn” and “Cartoons” together, alongside a kernel of an idea about using this moniker to draw cartoons about our generation. So I grabbed the dot com in 2007, but after the financial crash in 2008 decided it would be a good idea to wait out the recession studying architecture in graduate school. And, as you may have heard, the culture in architecture school forces you to basically eat, sleep and shit architecture 24/7, so I had to put cartooning on hold for four years. It wasn’t until I graduated, got married, settled down in Williamsburg, and then moved out here to Los Angeles in late 2014 that I finally had the time to build the account. At the beginning, I really missed Brooklyn, and used the account as a means of connecting back to the city. But the more I got comfortable living in Los Angeles, the more I realized the obvious - that there’s a Brooklyn-ness that transcends its namesake and is spread throughout the country, embodied in our generation’s culture and values.
DSTLD: Your cartoons are a similar style The New Yorker’s iconic cartoons. How has the publication’s cartoons, and what others if any, influenced you?
ET: When I was growing up, I’d grab the comics section from the newspaper every morning before school and read Calvin and Hobbes, Far Side and Non Sequitur, and we also had all the Tintin and Maus books lying around. All of these were hugely influential on me as a young artist. But yes, for a kid growing up in a small town a couple of hours from New York City, the absurdity of city life on display in the single panel cartoons in The New Yorker was especially alluring. Fast forward to the present, and the parallels between brooklyncartoons and The New Yorker cartoons are intentional: the single panels with italicized text underneath, the black and white drawings, etc. But my account is really more of a mashup between this classic format and the meme format, in which text, often times dialogue, is placed above an image. Having the flexibility to move between these two formats is huge and it opens up the possibilities to build out the characters and scenes a bit more. I’m a huge fan of memes when they’re done well, and think that if a cartoon is fundamentally just an image combined with text, then memes are the rapid fire, crowdsourced, socially-driven cartoons of our generation and such an exciting creative medium. I’ve also been hugely fortunate to be a part of the meme community on Instagram and to have collaborated with the creators behind a number of brilliant accounts.
DSTLD: Tell us a little bit about your creative process. How do you come up with topics to draw?
ET: It’s a mix of what I see on social media and in real life. Being part of the meme community provides a nice window into what’s trending and what threads might be worn out. Offline I’m fortunate to have hilarious friends, and there are definitely times when we’re out that I’ll overhear or observe something and immediately make note of it, usually after exclaiming “oh shit, that’s a cartoon right there.” I email myself a rough caption or scene idea and will then tweak it, sometimes for weeks, until it’s ready to be illustrated. When I start sketching I have no idea what the final result is going to be, which makes the whole act of creation this fun, improvisational flow state. I draw everything using a digital pen on a Wacom mobile tablet (back in the day I inked with technical pens and watercolor, and then had to scan and edit) and once I finish the illustration, it gets exported into Photoshop, where I add the caption and tweak the levels. From there it gets posted onto Instagram directly into the hands of my followers.
“It will never stop blowing my mind how easy it is right now for artists and musicians to have a direct line to their fans.”
DSTLD: How has the move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles changed how you approach your work?
ET: I think it’s safe to say that a lot of my content is universal and accessible to anyone with a smartphone, struggling with adulthood, or plugged into the culture. And yeah, there’s definitely some Los Angeles specific settings and subjects: palm trees! car culture! Kombucha on tap! But beyond that, moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles definitely changed the game. For me, there’s just more time, space, and blue sky here to think and develop art. Not to mention the incredible friendships I’m building. And I say this as someone who hated Los Angeles my first 18 months here. I now realize that living in Los Angeles drives my outlook on life and gives me space to sharpen my awareness, all of which feeds directly into my ability to come up with ideas. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Los Angeles is the driving force in entertainment and digital culture. But I still make a point to get back to Brooklyn on a regular basis to see friends and family and lose myself in the city.
Image courtesy of Brooklyn Cartoons
DSTLD: In addition to Brooklyn Cartoons, you run a design studio here in Los Angeles with your wife. How do you choose your projects and what are you currently working on?
ET: I met my wife Clementina while we were at graduate school studying architecture. After school we got married, worked for a year in New York City and then moved out here about three years ago to start up a design practice together. We call ourselves ASTVDIO and right now we’re focusing primarily on residential, interiors and small commercial projects. We were fortunate to land our first project, a gut remodel and addition in Pasadena for a private client after a couple of months being here (that whole “LA is a place where your dreams come true” manifestation is more than just a cliché here). Our work is spread throughout Los Angeles, but a lot is concentrated in the West Side, which is where we’re based. At the moment, everything is coming through word of mouth. Some current projects we’re excited about is an interior design and renovation for a private client in Brentwood, a residential gut remodel and addition for a developer in Del Ray, and a takeaway pasta place in the Latin Quarter in Paris. We love how architecture and design is appreciated in Los Angeles’ culture, how experimental everything is here, and how much great design is present at all scales, mediums and styles. We’re really excited to be working here and feel we have a lot to contribute to the modernization and development of Los Angeles.
Images courtesy ofBrooklyn Cartoons
DSTLD: What’s next for expanding Brooklyn Cartoons’ audience beyond Instagram?
ET: My first book You Look Better Online was published by Abrams on October 10th. It’s a combination of greatest hits from the Instagram account and never-before-seen material. After years of creating content just for Instagram, it’s super rewarding to have a tangible artifact out in the world. And I recently started production on my second book project. I can’t get into too much detail, but it’s a collaboration with Overheard LA and will be coming out Fall 2018. Beyond these books, my team and I are actively laying the foundation to develop the property into an animated series.
Image courtesy of Brooklyn Cartoons
You Look Better Online is available now.
For more of Emmet’s work, visit his site.
Images by Carlos Moscat