“I think they’re glad I’m gone,” cartoonist Liana Finck laughs, referring to her former neighbors in Park Slope.
After more than half-a-decade in the neighborhood, the 35-year-old professional observer — whose cartoons are often seen in The New Yorker — last week moved south of Prospect Park.
In the past five years, Finck has often turned her razor-sharp wit on her beloved Park Slope neighbors. From the propensity for giant baby strollers, to the propagation of “no dog pee” signs, to the fierce protection of one’s own interests.
“There’s a certain amount of scolding and self-satisfaction and people being very, very fixated on very small minutiae that shouldn’t matter so much,” she says.
“Park Slope is so ripe to make fun of… But I loved it. I wouldn’t have enjoyed making fun of it if I didn’t love it.”
In the last few years, Liana Finck’s dry humor and philosophical reflections have struck a chord with growing audience online.
Her observations — which often poke fun at the micro-aggressions and comic interactions between people (à la Larry David) — are the type that a millennial audience might say makes you feel “very seen.”
Today, Finck has more than half-a-million followers on Instagram. In 2019, ELLE magazine called her “Instagram’s Favorite Cartoonist.” She is the author of three books, and once even drew the cover for a Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande single.
On August 21, Finck will be showing her work at Manhattan’s Blue Gallery alongside Tommy Siegel and Cal Kearns, in a show that aims to bring artists who are popular online into the gallery space.
Interacting online is a sometimes fraught process for the self-described introvert. Her cartoons on Instagram often garner hundreds of comments, which Finck says she tries not to read.
While Finck says she prefers to allow people to explain her work themselves — rather than posting telling captions — as her Instagram audience grows, she has found herself explaining herself more and more.
“There’s only so many like-minded people in the world and they probably all followed me already,” she says. “I’m pretty thin-skinned and I’m scared of being misinterpreted sometimes.”
In the past, people once misinterpreted one cartoon as making fun of Canada, and another of making fun of breastfeeding. “I had a mass exodus of Instagram followers and worse,” Finck explains.
Despite this, she’s still prolific on the platform. Just six minutes before her interview with BK Reader, she posted a fresh cartoon to her page, depicting a person standing in the shadow of a mountain of “looming plans.” That idea sparked as she looked down the barrel of weekend social appointments.
Finck says inspiration often strikes her very fast, and she has drawn an idea as soon as it hits, posting it online then and there. However, with the fear of misinterpretation, she’s now just as likely to let an idea simmer, and post it later.
While many of her cartoons document interactions spotted on streets, cafes or subway rides, Finck’s work is mostly autobiographical.
Most recently, this has meant drawing about pregnancy — as Finck is currently pregnant.
A recent cartoon on Instagram with more than 50,000 likes depicts a smiling baby inside the body of a woman who has frown-faces on her back, breasts and heels. Another shows a person asking a pregnant woman if she knows if she’s having a “Vista or a Minu,” referring to two different models of upmarket UPPAbaby strollers.
In her caption, Finck tells her followers she’s making a Park Slope joke. “A stroller is not a stroller. A stroller is a class signifier,” a follower correctly replies.
Class, equality and access are common themes in Finck’s work. Asked about getting her start at The New Yorker, she says she remembers going to a weekly open call run by the magazine’s former cartoon editor Bob Mankoff.
“It was mostly older men and they were all lovely, and grumpily friends with each other,” she recalls. “I was out of place, but very charmed.”
Nowadays, a few things have changed. The pool of cartoonists are younger, there are more women, and it’s a little less white (“although the white was almost all Jewish,” she points out).
The New Yorker now has many more avenues for a cartoonist to submit work, too, Finck says. Artists can submit to Daily Shouts, which is online, or even submit last-minute work reacting to breaking news.
Along with everyone else, Finck still sends cartoons to an open call every Tuesday, hoping to sell work to the storied New York publication.
“I think of it like a musician practicing their scales every day,” she says. “Early on I would be so sad every time I didn’t sell, but you get used to it. It’s good practice for rejection.”
Her advice to young cartoonists is inspired by composer Philip Glass, who once said we often don’t find our “voice” until we are about 30 years old.
“People will publish you before you find your voice,” she says, adding that you might even find your voice by being published and seeing the high stakes you set for yourself go down.
For now, Finck is watching that her voice doesn’t become one of those she might have made fun of in recent years.
“I’m having a kid, and I thought I might turn into what I’m parodying,” she says. “But I bought a small fancy stroller, instead of a large fancy stroller.”
You can see Finck’s work on display August 21 at Blue Gallery in Midtown East from 1:00pm – 8:00pm. Finck will be at the gallery to meet attendees from 5:00pm – 8:00pm along with Tommy Siegel and Cal Kearns. For more information, click here.
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