Welcome to DiffeeVille: Connecting Through Doodles with Cartoonist Matt Diffee
New Yorker Cartoonist Matt Diffee is giving away free art!
Every once in a while, you get to meet the people you admire in person. Sometimes they walk into your corner store, or share the elevator with you, and sometimes they respond to your fan letter.
In the case of New Yorker cartoonist Matthew Diffee, it was the fan letter. I’ve loved New Yorker cartoons since I was a little kid, when my dad would explain them to me. (Today I have to figure them out for myself, sadly, but I luckily I can always tweet Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff if the situation is dire.)
In addition to his work for the New Yorker Magazine, Matt is also the editor of The Rejection Collection: Cartoons You Never Saw, Never Will See, In The New Yorker (Volumes 1 and 2). You can’t even imagine.
Giving It Away
My very own Diffee Doodle!
Last summer Matt posted on Facebook that he was going to give away a free piece of art to anyone who signed up for his newsletter, the Diffeeville Dispatch. The Dispatch is worth reading regardless of the free art, but I confess that the offer did compel me to sign up right away. I became a citizen of Diffeeville, as his subscribers are known.
I began receiving the Dispatch, and eventually I received a wonderfully appropriate original Diffee Doodle. It is a drawing of a sitting cat with a Dr. Seussesquely long tail. It reminded me of my beloved kitty, Pantera Azul, who had an equally lovely albeit much shorter tail.
That’s when I wrote Matt a fan letter and asked him if he would do an interview with me for Markets of New York City. He doesn’t sell his work in any markets (yet), but he is an artist who is making a living doing what he loves. And if I can do anything to support that endeavor, I am thrilled to do it.
I was curious about why Matt would be giving away his artwork.
Connecting With Real People
Oh, beehive! Diffee Doodle #0461
Matt told me that he started this campaign as a way to reach out and connect with his New Yorker fan base. Prints of his published cartoons are available for purchase through the New Yorker Cartoon Bank, but his other drawings had been inaccessible, and he was looking at ways to bring them to light online. He realized that the best way to build up an online network is to give stuff away.
“It’s just a quest to establish a real connection between myself and the people who like what I do,” he said. “I’d rather have a connection with a few people who choose to subscribe and hear from me, and I’m happy to take 10 minutes of my life to draw a doodle on paper and mail it to each one of them.”
Little did he know how much doodling he’d have ahead of him when over a thousand people subscribed.
The free images for new subscribers are now high quality prints because of the sheer volume. Understandably, it was taking a while to create original drawings for everyone. Some individuals thought it was appropriate to complain that their free original piece of art was taking too long to arrive. So now you’ll receive a print when you subscribe, which is still fabulous and will arrive in your mailbox much quicker.
Todd Wilkerson and his Diffee Doodle (via Facebook)
I love my Diffee Doodle. It turns out that I am not the only one who found a meaningful connection with the image that came to me. Matt sends them out randomly, but people are seeing their own dogs or cats or even their grandparents in the images.
He loves seeing people post pictures of themselves with their doodles on his Facebook page.
“There’s something neat to me about mailing out hundreds of doodles,” Matt says. “In a weird way, those people are connected to me and to each other.”
He’s thought about doing Diffee Doodle Owner Meetups, where people can come and talk about their doodles over a beer, and maybe even start a doodle exchange. (i.e. “I got #142, but I really wanted #316.”) I’m not sure I’d trade my doodle, but I’d definitely like to talk about it with perfect strangers. (I could be tempted with #426.)
Longhorn – Diffee Doodle #0472
Matt has been prolific in his doodling. And it has helped a lot with his drawing.
“I tried to draw a pug and couldn’t do it,” he said. “So I kept drawing pugs until I got it right. I can draw a pug now.” (Indeed.)
Beyond acquiring the valuable skill of drawing pugs, this exercise has helped with his creativity and with his discipline (his goal has been to draw 3 doodles a day).
At the same time, it has also offered him the creative freedom to draw whatever comes to mind, which may include a giraffe smoking a pipe, a duck wearing a scarf, or a helicopter airlifting a giant daisy (or maybe it’s a teensy helicopter and a regular sized daisy).
Making a Living As A Cartoonist
Diffee Doodle 0485 (via Facebook)
Matt recently appeared on The Moth, where he told the story about how he became a New Yorker cartoonist. You’ll want to listen to it at least twice because a) it’s very funny, and b) it has a perfect ending.
“The New Yorker has its own wonderful benefits, and it’s an honor to be a part of that grand tradition,” he says. “But it’s also nice to connect with real people who are interested in other things I enjoy drawing beyond the cartoons.”
The internet is the vehicle for Matt to connect with those people and offer the things he creates to a wider audience via ecommerce. Luckily for us, Matt recently launched the Diffee Doodle General Store online! Now you can buy his prints. It looks like he’ll have original works available soon. And if you have any ideas about what you’d like to see in his shop, he’s open to suggestions.
Diffee Doodle #0085 (via Facebook)
Matt is working on a new book, Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People. Finally! A book for me! It comes out on May 14th, and you can pre-order it now.
Matt moved to LA about a year ago, and he recently married someone who is undoubtedly fabulous. So I was understandably a little worried about him and how much he’d be making me laugh in the future. I feared he would become too accustomed to the perfect weather, to life as a newlywed and to LA things, like juicing and driving. Maybe he’d even give up his banjo. Or, even worse, play it more frequently.
So I keep reading the Dispatch, and I have realized that everything is going to be okay.
~Karen Seiger, Markets of New York City
Byron Hargett and his Diffee Doodel (via Facebook)
Renee Warnock’s Diffee Doodle (via Facebook)
Tim Spike Davis and his Diffee Doodle (via Facebook)
Libby Smith’s Diffee Doodle (via Facebook)
EK Rivera’s Diffee Doodle (via Facebook)
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