Paul Karasik wins 155th annual Agricultural Society Fair poster contest

Paul Karasik — Brittany Bowker

When New Yorker cartoonist Paul Karasik heard about this year’s Agricultural Society Fair poster design contest, a nostalgic vision came to mind.

Mr. Karasik distinctly remembers walking around the fairgrounds with his family. As kid with an eye for good design, the fair posters always caught his attention. “They were quite simple, traditional and very old-school,” Mr. Karasik said. “Sometimes only two or three colors, a lot of white space, simple blocky letters, and one central image.”

Mr. Karasik set out to design a contemporary version of these posters. He immediately had a concept for the poster: a central image of a chicken holding an egg, lots of white space, and the familiar words “Come to the fair.”

His memories made the job a lot easier, condensing what is usually a two- to three-day project down to a couple of hours. “Usually your first stab at something is really just your first stab at something,” Mr. Karasik said, “but after the first draft, I thought ‘Wow, that’s pretty good.’ I sort of couldn’t believe my eyes.”

Mr. Karasik spent another day tweaking the draft with more detail, but eventually looked back at the original and realized it was perfect. “In adding to it, I subtracted from it,” Mr. Karasik said. In the end, he decided to submit the original.

His tool of choice is a soft Blackwing pencil accompanied with watercolor. He then uses Photoshop to enhance and adjust. Mr. Karasik does the majority of his drawings in a makeshift studio at his home in West Tisbury. All he needs is a drawing board, a laptop, and a cup of coffee.

Mr. Karasik says he lives a number of distinct lives: one as a comics teacher at the Rhode Island School of Design, another as part-time development director of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, and another as a board member of the Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha’s Vineyard. His cartooning career fills up the space in between, “whenever that exists,” he said.

In the midst of a busy schedule, Mr. Karasik dedicates a few hours every Saturday morning to the drawing board. This is where he puts together a batch of 15-20 cartoons to send to the New Yorker.

“If I sell a cartoon, it’s a good week,” he said.

Mr. Karasik came across a notice for the Ag Fair poster contest in late March, and knew this was an additional project he’d be willing to take on. “It’s always been sort of a childhood dream of mine to have a design on that poster,” he said.

A few weeks later, Mr. Karasik got a call from fair manager Eleanor Neubert. At first, there was silence, and then, in unison, several voices on the other end cheered, “Congratulations!”

“I was so psyched,” he said.

The 155th annual Agricultural Society Fair starts on Thursday, August 18, and runs through Sunday, August 21. The theme, inspired by Mr. Karasik’s winning poster, is “Sittin’ Pretty.” Mr. Karasik plans to attend with his wife, Marsha Winsryg, who is also an Island artist. She’ll have her own booth, selling African crafts to raise funds for disabled children in Zambia.

Mr. Karasik’s next project is 10 years in the making. He is co-writing a textbook on the language of comics. Mr. Karasik says it is unlike any other textbook he’s come across, and that it should be ready by the end of the year.

“Just another one of my hats,” he said.