Readers of the New Yorker are likely familiar with Liza Donnelly and Michael Maslin. The couple, who’ve been married more than 28 years and have raised a family together in Dutchess County, are cartoonists for the ne plus ultra of cartoon publishing.
Michael Maslin, who grew up in New Jersey, always dreamed of being published in the magazine. After college, in 1977, he moved to the city and a year later achieved his dream: he got his first cartoon into the New Yorker. His inspiration? “James Thurber; I wouldn’t have headed towards the New Yorker without James Thurber’s work.”
Liza Donnelly began her career at the magazine in 1982. A few years later she met Maslin, they fell in love and married in 1988, and decided to settle in the Hudson Valley. “I was happy to move here,” says Donnelly. “I loved the city, and I still do. I kept an apartment there for a while, but this area is so beautiful. Everything was so peaceful.”
“When we first met,” she continues, “he showed me Rhinebeck. I grew up in the suburbs and I didn’t want to live in the ’burbs. It was either the city or the country for me. And Rhinebeck was great; it was so pretty. And for kids, it was better to have space to roam around in.”
Copyright Liza Donnelly, The New Yorker Collection
Did the rural beauty affect their output of cartoons? “No, I’ve always been an inner-directed cartoonist,” says Maslin. “I was living in Greenwich Village one day, the next on a farm in Kerhonkson and woke up with cows outside. But it didn’t affect the work.” The same could be said for Donnelly, whose work “ is about people…usually driven by a news item, or a cultural or gender-related topic.” However, Donnelly says the move to the country did “coincide with having children.”
Rearing children also forced Maslin, a former night owl, to become an early bird. “The typical day became one where we split the childcare; I usually worked the morning shift and then took over with the kids. Liza then had the afternoon for work.”
Both cartoonists recommend life in the Hudson Valley. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else now,” says Maslin. “We’re close enough to the city to get there easily, when we want to, and we live here where I look out the window at an old barn, trees, the blue sky, it’s all great.” Donnelly adds, “I like the people here, both the older generation of farmers and farm families, and the artists who’ve moved up here from the city. It’s a great mixture for us.”
Copyright Michael Maslin, The New Yorker Collection
Dutchess County apparently appealed to the rest of the family, too. Their daughters not only attended public and private schools here, but college as well. “One went to Bard and the other to Vassar, and they both still live and work here in the area,” says Donnelly.
Any advice for local cartoonists who are itching to move to Gotham? “You can be a cartoonist from anywhere these days,” says Donnelly. “No need to go live in the city.”