John Donohue '90
It was a probably just a matter of time before John Donohue ’90 would turn to drawing the facades of New York City’s culinary landmarks.
The former night life editor and cartoonist for The New Yorker has always had a love of drawing, and an appreciation for that favorite New York City pastime— letting someone else do the cooking.
Drawing is therapy, says Donohue, who usually starts and ends each day holding a pen and sketchpad. In the morning, it’s a toy (a duck on a tricycle); at night, it’s a dish rack of clean pots, pans and plates.
Recently, he has taken to the streets of New York to capture a pen-and-ink snapshot of dining destinations. He finds a place out of traffic, draws quickly and makes no corrections. He often adds a splash of color when he gets home.
The title of his new book, All the Restaurants in New York may seem a bit aspirational. (He covers about 100 of an estimated 24,000 in the city.) But Donohue captures the favorites of Manhattan and a few in the other boroughs. Among them, Tavern on the Green in Central Park, the Russian Tea Room and Barbetta in Midtown, the Odeon in Tribeca and Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side.
Diners and owners are excited to see their favorites, and Donohue sells prints on his website: www.alltherestaurants.com. He also takes requests.
He is at work on similar books covering the gastronomic hotspots of London and Paris, due out in the next few years.
“Drawing puts me in the present moment,” he says. “That’s why I do it without any corrections. It’s a very therapeutic process.”
Donohue lives in Brooklyn with his wife and children and works as a development officer for a large human services non-profit.
At Union, he was an English major and economics minor. He worked on the Idol, the student literary magazine, and won the Academy of American Poets Prize. He did a term abroad in York, England. Though he dabbled in art at Union— designing and selling t-shirts for campus events—and spent his early career as a writer, he didn’t find drawing until about 20 years ago after reading Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain.
Donohue published five cartoons in the New Yorker, but decided against pursuing cartooning. Even the most prolific of the magazine’s cartoonists publish less than 10 percent of their output.
In 2011, he edited Man With a Pan, an anthology of culinary adventures by men who cook for their families: Jim Harrison, Mark Kurlansky, Mark Bittman and Stephen King to name a few. The book was a New York Times best seller.
“I’ve always been interested in food,” Donohue says. “Before I was looking at how you cook it. Now I’m just looking at it another way.”