If this week’s cover of The New Yorker has something of a Minneapolis feel, it’s because it was created by Minneapolis native Marcellus Hall, a Washburn High grad, musician, illustrator, and longtime cyclist. To be sure, Hall’s whimsical “Urban Cycles” could be set in Nice Ride-whipped Minneapolis, which thus far has taken to bike-sharing with more gusto than New York City, whose CitiBike program launched earlier this month.
The cover is Hall’s third for the New Yorker, and his first since 2008.
“It is definitely an achievement to have one’s art on the cover of The New Yorker,” he said. “The magazine’s history and high standards make it that way. To be on the pages where illustrator heroes of mine were published is intoxicating; Ronald Searle, Peter Arno, Saul Steinberg, Constantin Alajalov, and Eugene Mihaesco come to mind. The significance of being on the cover can be measured by art director Francoise Mouly’s congratulating me when telling me that my work was selected. I can think of few jobs where the art director congratulates you when your work is being used.
“The New Yorker enlists a loose ‘stable’ of artists to supply a stream of cover ideas in the form of sketches. The artists are not compensated for the sketches, but they compete in the hopes of having one of their ideas chosen for a cover. I submitted this particular cover idea via email on May 16th. The art director called me on May 21 requesting a ‘color sample’ version, which she would show to editor David Remnick. I pulled out all the stops and did a final version as best I could. On May 23, she called me and requested that I bring in the art for scanning. It was a ‘go’ at this point unless some major world event or catastrophe occurred in the next 24 hours that would require the magazine to change course for the cover.”
Hall is the founder of Railroad Jerk, White Hassle, and Marcellus Hall & The Hostages. He has been biking New York for 15 years. He biked the Greenway during a visit to Minneapolis last year, and was impressed by its beauty, accessibility, and, well, non-stationary environs.
“I’ve always considered stationary bikes funny since a person could be exercising just as effectively on a real bike,” he said. “Recently lower Manhattan, where I live, has been graced with hundreds of bike share stations. The topic seemed ripe for comment.”