Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Monday, 8 December 2008
I found this sorting through some old discs. I can't remember what it was for exactly (it was for some back-room sized record label or something) and this was a rough idea. Actually, I don't think the job got past the 'rough ideas' stage.
It's from two or three years ago, I think.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
I was in the Gunmakers, in Clerkenwell, last Wednesday - waiting for Ant and trying to block out the drone from the next table.
An Italian woman was listening intently to her English friend bang on and on. The topics covered included; how great the English woman was at accents; how the English woman was from a posh part of the country but could hold her own in East London; how the English woman should really be an actress. There were other topics, too, and I'm sure you can guess them.
Anyway; rather than suppress the urge to shout 'shut up!' at the top of my lungs, I tried to draw the Italian woman in my sketchbook without getting rumbled.
(Apologies for the swear, mum, if you're reading this).
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
This sketch is from the second series of Big Train. I did the caricatures that Kevin Eldon's 'drawing' in it, back when I was - I dunno - 25 or something. I remember how when the coffee-stained piece of A4 with the script on was biked over, my flatmate looked at it and said 'that doesn't sound very funny'.
I can only look at the drawings through my fingers, now; they make me cringe so much. Given a second chance I'd do a much, much better job but hey - they only gave me half an hour or so to get them done, and they never actually paid me in the end. So I guess we're quits.
(Thanks to Rhodri for ripping it from the DVD).
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Monday, 10 November 2008
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Sometimes I actually love youtube.
Here's a reason why: A 1969 interview from French television, where (in a group with other bande dessinée authors) Hergé, Goscinny and Uderzo compare their most famous creations*. Click the bottom right of the screen, then the red 'cc' icon, if you want to turn the English subtitles on (...and then do what I did, and trawl through the rest of quiestce88's youtube channel).
*For anyone about to ask that question - I prefer Tintin. And also for the record, I'm a Chip-ite.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Monday, 27 October 2008
Thursday, 23 October 2008
I thought the exhibition was very good (with a really comprehensive range of Bacon's paintings) but it was extremely busy; and I often found myself jostling for position with people trying to take in the 'loneliness and solitude' of the work. Still - I'd recommend it.
And you'll see i bought a 'joint' ticket - I went to the Turner Prize too. It left me very cold, I'm afraid.
Finally; news for anyone reading this stateside; there's a drawing of mine in the next issue of Bust. I'll post it on here once I get the all-clear.
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
So, here goes. It was done onstage at the ICA, straight after a performance by Crumb's band. It wasn't complete, anyway, and I've cut a slither from the beginning, as that was very much about the band and not as interesting, I don't think (general gist: French music is good). Anyway, this blog's supposed to be about cartooning.
Robert Crumb, 3rd April 1999.
Elliot: How does your love of music manifest itself in your work?
Crumb: It’s an indirect thing. I don’t know, I try not to analyse it. But I love my music and I listen to it every day, y’know. Get out one of my old 78’s and go through the old ritual. I love laying on the needle, turning it on, sit down, listen, get up, put it away, get out another; I love it. It’s very important to me.
E: The way you come across in the stuff written about you, and also your work...
C: A real crank, I know.
E: That’s not what I’m getting at...
C: I am. I hate most stuff. Rock and roll, computers. I’m a real nightmare.
E: Is there anything modern that interests you?
C: Girls. All these modern girls have great assets, the whole, y’know, women being strong, independent, all that. I love it.
E: How does that sit with your reputation as this ‘celebrity misogynist’?
C: Celebrity misogynist? (Laughs just like Disney’s Goofy for a while)... I don’t know...
E: Do you find that people expect you to be like that? To be the ‘R. Crumb’ that we see in your work?
C: Gosh, I dunno. I have no idea how people expect me to be. Some pervert with a pen? I just don’t know.
E: Your musical and cultural tastes seem firmly rooted in the past. Is this now a conscious decision, and you consciously stop yourself 'moving forward'?
C: Ha ha ha - how do you mean, 'move forward'?
E: I guess I’m trying to ask if you could see yourself becoming a more ‘modern’ person?
C: I don’t, like, go with the trends in the modern world, that’s for sure. But I do try and move forward in my own way. You know; more of my own thing, with my own work.
M: A lot of your work is fiercely autobiographical, and in it you come across as...
C: A completely ego-centric person, I know. I admit it, I am. Everything is preferential to me in my work. I can’t get with or assume... y’know, pretend in the way that some cartoonists do, with characters that are in some way an accurate version of themselves. I don’t know, I couldn’t draw myself that way, I can’t do it.
E: You’ve said that when you were younger, you were driven by the desire to become a great artist.
C: I don’t know about that stuff, it’s embarrassing.
E: Which is exactly why I wanted to ask you about it.
C: What a fool I was, what a fool.
E: Well, all these critics rave about your work, you’ve had great critical acclaim.
C: Oh sure, sure. Jeez, look at me, my huge ego, it’s embarrassing. I, well - I guess that I’ve left my mark on this earth, but the fact that I’ve succeeded in doing that, well it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot really. Who’s going to care four billion years from now? Not me, that’s for sure. I guess I’d better get used to that, in four billion years no-one will care. But then I guess that four billion years is a long time, so.
E: But how do you feel about all this acclaim, the comparisons? Robert Hughes calling you ‘the Breughel of the 20th Century’ for example?
C: Oh sure, the Breughel of last week, maybe.
E: Surely you’re glad of this success; that you’ve made your mark?
C: Well yeah, but when you have that you have to look at it for what it actually is. You have to realise that it’s just another piece of, I don’t know, another piece of vanity.
E: Vanity in a way, sure, but how does it make you feel? Surely it’s not wholly an embarrassment to you, you must be in someway happy about it.
C: Yeah I am, I still have a big enough ego, but it’s a two edged thing. When I read about this guy saying (mockingly overly enthusiastic tones) ‘Hey, he’s a Breughel’ it’s cool and all, but on the other hand it’s just embarrassing, y’know?
E: Because your work reveals so much about you (as did the documentary made about you) is it possible to remain a private person?
C: It’s very hard to do, to continue to be a private person. It’s killing me. Like, several million people know the intimate details of, like, my sexual perversions. Like, I have to go hide in the woods. Just hide out there for a while.
E: Do you manage to keep anything private? There’s so much of your work published the world over, everything from comics you did as a child to your sketchbooks, to stuff by your family... is there anything you don’t let your publishers have?
C: You mean, like, the stuff that I tear up and flush down the toilet? Yeah, sure, there’s still the secret, crazy, pervert fantasies of mine. Oh, boy, now I’ve said it.
E: Do you feel as though your work has suffered due to the level of fame you have now? Do you wish you could get away from it, at least for some of the time?
C: Oh yeah, sure. I keep being self conscious. If I sit down in front of a blank piece of paper, it’s like ‘here’s the great and famous R. Crumb, this had better be a great masterpiece’ and that’s... a little ...intimidating. It’s difficult to be spontaneous. And the other thing is the fucking phone’s always ringing.
E: People not only know so much about you from your work, but to a lesser extent, your family. How does that feel?
E: But it can’t be that scary; you could actually pull the plug on it all, your work doesn’t have to be published.
C: Yeah... yeah. I... I feel that I have to do it, and just... accept the consequences. I just feel that I have to do it, I dunno.
E: How much trouble have you had to accept as a consequence?
C: That documentary was big trouble. Big trouble. When my friend Zwigoff made that film, we had no idea it would go over as big as it did or shown as widely as it was. None of us knew, and if we had known then maybe we’d have been a little more reserved about the whole thing.
E: You do come across as though you’re speaking freely to your friends, almost unaware that it’s being filmed.
C: Yeah, he was my pal. We had no idea what would happen. I mean he’s real happy about it, it gave him a career. Before he spent years working as a watch repairer. He didn’t make any money either, he was always broke. His house was falling apart.
E: The other film that you were involved with, and I say ‘involved with’ loosely, was Ralph Bakshi’s interpretation of your comic strip ‘Fritz the Cat’.
C: Oh yeah. Embarrassing. Awful.
E: I’ve seen it described as ‘a vibrant personal statement on life in the 60’s’ ( in Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice and Magic - A history of American animated cartoons ). But surely that’s Bakshi’s ‘personal statement’. Does it bother you that your character has become so closely identified with Bakshi?
C: If he’d made it into a good thing it would have been alright but he made it into a dumb thing. It was embarrassing, just chaos. Bakshi wasn’t capable of creating anything good, he didn’t have any good ideas. he just botched it up. All of his films are botched up.
E: How could he have made it better?
C: It just couldn’t have happened. The guy didn’t have it, that’s all. he didn’t have the creative capacity to turn that into a good animated cartoon.
E: You’re thought of as a great American satirist, why do you think your work is so popular outside the States?
C: I don’t really know, like in France I don’t go over that big. A lot of Europeans don’t get my stuff at all. They’re like, ‘what’s all this, this sex fantasy stuff? What’s his problem?’ It’s in the more repressed cultures like England and Germany; I’m real big in Germany right now.
E: Another thing I wanted to ask you, and I’m beginning to feel in danger of coming across as a real comic shop fanboy here so...
C: No, you don’t come across as some... comic shop...nerd. Ha ha. These are my people. I’d be dead without these guys. I’d be floating dead in the water.
E: Well, you’ve said that you were a big fan of the Harvey Kurtzman-era Mad magazine, which was more inspirational, that or your discovery of LSD?
C: I’m not sure. First, when I was a kid, there was all that Harvey Kurtzman, Mad magazine comic stuff and then in the sixties there was LSD which was a real ‘Road to Damascus’ experience for me. It knocked me for a loop, totally. I was a complete comic nerd throughout my whole adolescence but it was LSD and that whole experience that made me well known. My comic thing began to cross over into that whole psychedelic thing and it hit with the hippies and I became this ‘underground hero’.
E: In Britain cartoons and comics aren’t viewed in the same way as they are in other countries. In America, certainly, but also in France and Brazil for example. Of course, due to its history, political cartooning is afforded a certain amount of respect, but comics are still viewed here as a very juvenile medium. Do you think that the reason you come across as dangerous to the censors, has a lot to do with the fact that you are ‘subverting’ a medium aimed, primarily, at children?
C: Yeah, probably. In England, sure... the problem I have here is with the customs officials, Her Majesty’s customs officials. They have a lot of arbitrary power. When my books come in from America, they have a look at ‘em, and if the guy on duty doesn’t like ‘em then they impound ‘em and then thousands of pounds and years get spent fighting the case in the courts. The weird thing is that, if
they print my stuff here in this country then there’s no problem. It’s only the imported stuff that ends up impounded by Her Majesty customs officials.
E: One of the accusations leveled at you is that your imagination goes ‘way over the top’... I can’t see how imagination can go over the top.
C: You can’t?
E: No, as it’s imagination, it’s in its nature; you can’t not imagine things.
C: Right, but imagination can be a dangerous thing, you have to be able to cultivate it, too.
E: If you were working in a more literary, or (more precisely) what would be considered a more literary medium, do you think the censors reaction wouldn’t be as great?
C: Sure, literature passed through this thing 50 years ago. It went through all that Lady Chatterley’s Lover and everything; getting censored, forbidden and all that. The fact that it’s picture books is I think, the big part of the problem.
E: So how far do you feel censorship should be allowed to go?
C: I don’t know, it’s a complicated question, y’know? They shouldn’t hand out child pornography in schoolyards, I guess. Who knows? Maybe they should lock me up and take away my pencils.
Thursday, 16 October 2008
My favourite cartoon* of his goes like so: A group of klansmen march on from stage left, only to be met by a group of Nazis - who scoff at them; saying 'oh look - pointy headed liberals'.
*I shall find it, and scan it.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Anyway - Below is the piece as it appeared. Of course there are a few mistakes here and there (Crumb never submitted 'Fritz the Cat' to MAD, for example) but I think it's fair to chalk half of those up to the judicious sub-editor, and the other half to me (not the dig at comic shops at the end, mind, that was them). Fans won't find anything new in it, I'm afraid. I've a cassette recording of the whole interview somewhere, which is leagues longer and more involved. If I ever find it, I may subject you to a transcript. (Edit - now here)
A quick note about the photos; they were a bit of a scoop, as Crumb had been interviewed by the Times a month or so earlier, reporting that Crumb wouldn't allow his picture to be taken. So, imagine our delight when he agreed to be snapped (by Ewen Spencer, who went on to photograph album covers for the Streets, the White Stripes and others).
Volume Two/ Issue 17/ Elliot Elam/ 21.04.99
Breughel of the twentieth century or perverted adolescent? SN delves into the twisted mind of Robert Crumb.
Robert Crumb is preceded by a weighty reputation, or rather, he is he is preceded by two.
The first is that he is a genius; the most gifted graphic satirist of this century, a genuine predecessor of Gilray, Cruikshank or Grosz. The New York Times art critic Robert Hughes calls him 'The Breughel of the 20th century' (an accolade of which Crumb is dismissive - 'Oh sure, the Breughel of last week, maybe'.
The second is that he is a perverted, repressed adolescent, whose sometimes racist images and misogynist fantasies are little more than pornography, and nothing less than corrupting.
To Crumb, it is obvious where Britain's Customs and Excise, who regularly impound his work, stand on the debate. It isn't lost on him either that in Britain, where comics are still very much considered a children's medium, he comes across as even more of a dangerous figure than a novelist would with the same material; 'Sure. Literature passed through this thing 50 years ago. It went through all that Lady Chatterley's Lover and everything, getting censored, forbidden and all that. The fact that it's picture books is, I think, a big part of the problem'.
Crumb was born in Philadelphia in 1943, into a family that - as anyone who has seen Crumb, Terry Zwigoff's documentary about him will attest - made the Jacksons look like the Cosby Show. His obsessive older brother Charles instilled in him a love of comics and the two of them spent their formative years doing little else other than reading, writing and drawing their own characters and stories (much to the annoyance of their father. He wanted at least one of his boys, along with their equally geeky sibling Maxon, to become a Marine).
After a failed attempt to sell the first of his Fritz the Cat cartoons to Harvey Kurtzman's MAD magazine (A letter was sent back reading 'We really liked the cat cartoon but we're not sure how we can print it and stay out of jail') Crumb's break into comics came with the onset of the hippy ethic in 60's America. More precisely, it was Crumb's encounters with LSD that sent his comics (and consequently his life) in a completely new direction; 'LSD was a real Road To Damascus for me. It knocked me for a loop, totally. I was a complete comic nerd throughout my whole adolescence but it was LSD and that whole experience that made me well known. My comic thing began to cross over into the psychedelic thing and it hit with the hippies - and I became this underground hero'.
'My comics appealed to the hard-drinking, hard-fucking end of the hippie spectrum, as opposed to the spiritual, eastern-religious, lighter than air type of hippie' recalled Crumb in 1997's Coffee-Table Art Book. It was hardly surprising then, that he should catch the attention of Janis Joplin, who commissioned him to draw the cover to Big Brother and the Holding Company's 1968 album, Cheap Thrills. It was this cover that really established Crumb as a psychedelic, counter-culture hero.
Ironically, Crumb didn't care much for psychedelia, especially the music, admitting that he only did the Cheap Thrills cover as a favour to Joplin. The Rolling Stones offered him a fortune to do a cover for them, but he turned them down. By this time he had begun to indulge his own tastes, both musically and otherwise. It's a dictum he sticks to: 'I don't, like, go with the trends in the modern world, that's for sure. But I do try and move forward in my own way, you know, more of my own thing, with my own work'.
Pursuing his 'own thing' is what has polarised critical opinion, and lost Crumb as many old fans as it has gained him new ones. Some, used to his 'cuter' early work were shocked, then appalled, as private fantasies were incorporated into his comics. 'Joe Blow', published in a later issue of ZAP, shows a perfect American family gradually engaging in incest, finishing with the payoff line 'you know, we really should spend more time with the kids'. It's at once an attack on the American family ideal, and graphic enough to suggest there are motives lurking behind the images other than purely satirical ones. Crumb openly admits masturbating to his own drawings, jokingly revealing in 1987's My Trouble With Women that producing pictures for self-gratification was how he learned to draw. When asked if he keeps anything private today, he answers with 'You mean, like, the stuff that I tear up and flush down the toilet? Yeah, sure, there's still the secret, crazy pervert fantasies of mine'.
That said, there isn't much that he does keep to himself. The premier cartoon character in the Crumb back catalogue is Crumb himself. Fiercely autobiographical, R. Crumb the character (drawn truthfully as a round-shouldered myopic outcast, bedecked in blazer and boater) seemingly unearthed every uneasy aspect of R. Crumb the cartoonist's life and times. On the reasons for being so revealing, he seems unsure; 'I feel that I have to do it, and just... Accept the consequences. I just feel that I have to do it....' Both his voice and explanations peter out into a mumble.
Now in his mid 50's, Crumb's autobiographical strips appear to have run their course, at least for the moment, and he seems to be consciously shedding the image he has acquired. He no longer sports the trademark blazer and boater, and his moustache has become part of a scratchy white beard. Also, he is vocally happier about having moved from America to Southern France.
Yet traces of the 'Pervert with the Pen' are still in evidence. When asked to pose for our photographs, he complains that they'll look depressing with 'just some old crank' in them and Ciara, EMI's press officer, is roped into appearing too. As the camera clicks away, Crumb becomes more animated, calling Ciara a 'big Oirish lassie' and his hands begin to wander. His reputation seems well deserved.
Coffee Table Art Book has just come out in paperback, published by Bloomsbury.
Crumb the video has been out for years, but is a great introduction.
Robert Crumb's comics are available from all good, seedy and depressing comic shops.
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Monday, 29 September 2008
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
This shop hilariously shares the same name as 70's soul sensations Earth Wind and Fire. In what seemed like a good idea at the time, my friend Darren and I decided to compile such occurrences on this flickr site.
Now, be warned - only those willing to accept the most tenuous of connections (as well as those with a working knowledge of vaguely obscure rap acts) may wish to take a look.
Thursday, 18 September 2008
... by which I mean 'I did it ages ago, but it's only just come out'.
Grifter are a band from Plymouth. They make that kind of balls-out rock (I think that needed to be in bold) that's influenced by Black Sabbath, Scissorfight and Clutch. My mate Phil plays bass for them -and at the end of 2006(!), he asked if I'd draw a picture for the cover of the band's new CD. I said yes, Phil. I'll draw you a picture if you like.
That new CD finally got a release (of sorts) a month or so ago. In this interview, Ollie from the band explains the delay, and also mentions the cover and how the character I drew has been adopted as the band's mascot.
Be warned though, he does a swear.
Monday, 15 September 2008
Amazing what you can find in charity shops if you look. I found a load of books, you see. Books that I could have sworn blind had only been published in recent years.
Take this, for example - a first edition paperback of Jeremy Clarkson's compendium of tedious opinions, 'Born To Be Riled'. From 1963, no less.
Sometimes, I just can't believe my
Monday, 8 September 2008
Friday, 22 August 2008
Thursday, 21 August 2008
See that? That's one of the spot illustrations from Rhodri Marsden's upcoming book for Rough Guides.
The book's called 'FWD This Link - A rough guide to staying amused online when you should be working', and it'll be in the shops come October 1st (the drawing's for a piece in the book about a 'Star Wars Trumpet Solo', in case you're wondering).
Of course, October 1st is over a month away so, while you're waiting, you can keep yourself amused with the book's related blog, which is here.
Monday, 18 August 2008
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Thursday, 7 August 2008
There's a picture of mine in the latest issue of Plan B.
They printed it bigger than I expected, and now I wish I'd spent more time adding details (not that it's their fault; I was on a 'simplicity' kick at the time and I feel I over - or is that 'under'? -did it). But ho-hum ... another something to add to my 'do better next time' list.
If you can't make it out from the photo, the pic's over on my flickr account, too.