Interview with John Cuneo

September 3, 2020

This interview with John Cuneo is largely to fill in some missing gaps in his otherwise well documented career. At the bottom of this interview are some links to other stories and interviews for further edification.


There's a pretty reliable rumor going around that you grew up in Westfield, New Jersey. What schools did you attend, from elementary through high school?


I don't remember the name of the Westfield Elementary school I went to. I attended Roosevelt Jr. High and then Westfield High School in NJ through my jumior year.

I graduated from Lely H.S. in Naples, FL in 1975.


After your family moved to Florida and you graduated from Lely High, were you able to attend college? If so, what college or colleges and if college was an option for you, did it have an impact on you, either positive or negative?


I attended Florida state in the Fall of 1975 and the spring of 1976. No memory of instructors or events come to mind.

I went on to attend the Colorado Institute of Art, where Bill Kastan was an instructor and became a friend. We remained freinds until he passed away last year.


I happened to stumble upon an article in the Denver Post that mentions your being part of a "group of freelance illustrators" called No Coast Graphics in Denver. What's the story behind this?

Joe Malone was the Rep for the 4 illustrators at No Coast Graphics.
The dates I was there, as best as I can recall, were from 1977-1986.
There was a total of 4 illustrators (including myself and Bill Kastan).
I don't recall when Joe started No Coast and I think it dissolved a couple years after I left.

In Peggy Roalf's interview with you from 2014, you mention that your first "legitimate magazine assignment" came from Martha Geering at Sierra. Since Sierra is located in the Bay Area, were you living in San Francisco at the time and do you recall the year?


Yes the first national magazine assignment was from Martha Gerring of Sierra.

Yes, I believe I got that job while living in San Francisco. I moved there in 1986. I seem to remember hand delivering that job or a subsequent job to her. No idea about dates.

I know, without a doubt, that it was while living in San Francisco that I made a decsion that I was going to start focusing on editorial work exclusively. Again no idea about this date.


I recently read a short profile of you published by Entertainment Weekly, dated July of 2000 in which the staff writer mentioned that you had been working for EW over the last four years. It also states you were living in Denver when the profile was written. Ellen Shapiro's lengthy profile of you for Communication Arts drops you off in San Francisco in 1988 and then seems to shuffle you off to your current home on the East coast around 1997.

Since the EW article is dated in 2000 and places you squarely in Denver, there seems to be something missing in the record. Can you set the record straight on some dates?

Were you still in San Francisco when you got your first assignment from the late and demonstrably great Joe Kimberling at Entertainment Weekly? It would seem that you moved back to Denver from San Francisco at some point and that relocation to the East coast in 1997 is just not the way events unfolded. Do you recall what the year was when your first assignment came from Joe and where you were living?


I just don't recall exactly when I got my first assignment from Joe Kimberling at EW.

It may have been towards the end of my stint in San Francisco or shortly after my family moved back to Denver in 1993.

Knowing you a wee bit, I imagine you're wondering why anyone in their right mind would give a whip about years that milestones in your life occurred. There's this peculiar animal called History and oddly enough it's kind of eccentric about dates. At any rate, I'm sorry if any of the date questions are making you queasy. Just one more! When did you move to the east coast and why?

We moved to Woodstock NY in December of 2001 because my wife and I had another adventure in us and we thought it would be a good place to raise our son.


Everyone loves awards! Of particular interest for this interview would be awards from the Society of Illustrators, but any others worth mentioning would be terrific. Illustration awards are particularly difficult to document and I hope you'll share those here without feeling it's bragadocious in any way. I'm quite sure the publishers and art directors  involved were all immensely proud.


List of Awards and years below.

San Francisco Society of Illustrators

1990 Gold Humor Award
1991 Silver Humor Award
1992 Honorable Mention Humor Award
1993 Judge’s Choice for Motorland Magazine. Art Director was Al Davidson.
1993 Silver Medal for Golf Illustrated Magazine. Art Director was Bobbi Laberge.
1995 Best of Show
1995 Judge’s Appreciation
1995 Gold Medal

NY Society of Illustrators:
2004 Silver Medal for Esquire magazine's sex advice column on the topic of premature ejaculation. Art Director: John Korpics

2004 Gold Medal for an uncommissioned piece which subsequently became the cover for nEuROTIC. Robert Festino was the designer of nEuROTIC

2006  Silver Medal for Esquire magazine's sex advice column, titled Is Al Green Good for your Sex Life? Art Director was John Korpics

2006  Silver Medal for Frog Calendar (Poster). Client was Dellas Graphics. Art Director Jim Burke

2010 Silver Medal for? Cannot find which piece this was for but I have the medal in a drawer.

2012 Hamilton King Award for a New Yorker cover titled, Dog Meets Dog. Art Director was Francoise Mouly.

2012 Silver Medal for a drawing titled Julip in the Good Dog column in Garden and Gun magazine. Art Director was Marshall McKinney.

2013 Silver Medal for Town and Country magazine article titled Erotic Art.
Art Director was Edward Leida

2014 Silver Medal for New Yorker cover titled Carlos Danger. Art Director was Franciose Mouly.

2015 Gold Medal for uncommissioned category titled Killed Sex Sketches

2016 Silver Medal for New Yorker cover titled Winter Delight. Art Director was Francois Mouly.

In addition to awards,work has been featured in American Illustration and Communication Arts over the years.

And in 2014, received an Award of Excellence from Communication Arts Illustration Annual. The client was The New York Times Book Review.
The drawing was for a review titled Intoxicating Prose. The review was for a book titled The Trip to Echo Springs. The Art Director was Nicholas Blechman.

Also in 2014, featured in Papiers Nickles, a French publication, and the feature included 3 pages of drawings.


For Further Edification

Very long and information-packed 2010 article by Ellen Shapiro for Communication Arts, featuring quotes on Cuneo by Ed Sorel, Steve Brodner, Tim Bower and others.

Robert Newman's 2010 interview for American Illustration. Cuneo's answers to Newman's long-used boiler plate questions are pretty damn funny.

Tom Spurgeon's interview from 2007 has a few fun facts on the origin of Cuneo's first book, nEuROTIC for The Comics Reporter. The site's a bit hard to look at for those who appreciate attractive layouts, but the info is still quite good.

Peggy Roalf's 2014 Q&A with Cuneo  for Design Arts Daily is short but has a few tasty tidbits.

Jane Mattimoe, who writes a blog called A Case for Pencils which features stories on New Yorker artists, gives you an inside glimpse into Cuneo's studio as well as a pile of old pens, from 2017.

Francoise Mouly, writing for the New Yorker in 2019 gets Cuneo to fess up on what the deal is with animals. It's a short but good read.