Rejected cartoons get a second chance

Choosing a cartoon for The New Yorker is a tough job, and someone has to submit quite a few with the hopes of being the chosen one. So, what happens to those that don’t make the cut?

David Ostow, a cartoonist and the curator of the “Not OK” exhibit now on display at the Rye Free Reading Room, decided to gather some friends and do something with the rejections.

“Most of the people I reached out to were very enthusiastic about being in the show,” Ostow said. “You produce so much to be published, and you’re left with so many you haven’t sold.”

A trained architect, Ostow, 38, got into cartooning after helping his sister with illustrations for a novel loosely based on their childhood. He continued to draw, and eventually built a community of fellow cartoonists.

Some artists Ostow knew had started to submit to the magazine, and he followed suit. The New Yorker is known for its tongue-in-cheek observational cartoons, and cracking the magazine is “an arduous process,” according to Ostow. He has yet to have his work printed in the publication, though some of his work can be seen online.

Around two years ago, Ostow ran an exhibit in Bushwick, Brooklyn where he and some of his cartoonist friends displayed their work. Last year was the first time “Not OK” was on show, focusing on rejected The New Yorker cartoons that the artists still wanted people to see.

Maggie Larson, 30, is one of the cartoonists in the exhibit and has had around eight works published in the magazine so far. “Part of handling rejection is getting used to it, and recognizing that it’s part of the process,” she said. “It’s also a chance to rise to the challenge…. Not getting attached definitely helps.”

Chris Shoemaker, the director at the Rye library, knew about the first “Not OK” exhibit through his brother-in-law, Ellis Rosen, who is another cartoonist on show. “Thinking of the Rye community, I thought that residents would enjoy getting to see pieces of art that were pitched and didn’t quite make it,” Shoemaker said. “People have had a good chuckle.”

Rosen, 32, became a cartoonist after seeing a fellow illustrator begin to submit work to the magazine. “It looked like so much fun,” he said, adding that anyone who is interested should give it a try. “[Rejection] is a given; I do feel bad about it on Friday nights. You just move on to the next batch and get excited about that possibility of selling one of those.”

“Not OK” will be on display at the Rye Free Reading Room through Wednesday, Jan. 31, and works are for sale. There will be a panel with Ostow, Larson, Rosen and two other cartoonists on Saturday, Jan. 27 to see the faces behind work. For more information, visit

Ellis Rosen’s “Rabbit Revenge.” Photo courtesy David Ostow



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