Over recent years, I’ve explored various approaches to cartooning. Some have been somewhat against the grain for me and difficult to pull off, while others have seemed to be as natural to me as breathing. Drawing in my sketchbooks and just letting ideas fall out onto the page is probably the closest thing to the cartoonist I see myself as in my own head, than anything else I’ve done. I suspect that most artists taste-levels are far above their ability and for me, having started cartooning somewhat late to the game, I feel I’ve been playing catch up with my own mind! Does that make sense? I feel I’ve made some significant leaps forward recently though, and that feels good.
One of the things that I’ve been striving to do is bring that looseness that I put into my sketchbooks into my main work. Not easy at all! I like to see that liveliness in a cartoonists line and the sense that the pen is connected as directly as possible to the true psyche of the artist. For me, the artist who embodies this sense above all is Robert Crumb – one of my very favourite artists.
Crumb’s work feels like it’s been spewed directly from his fevered brain and I love it for that reason. His technique is simultaneously loose as hell while being incredibly clear. His wobbly line and dense hatching aren’t the product of needless doodling or hiding behind noise. No, each pen stroke is absolutely necessary to get his painfully self reflective and often hilariously crude points across.
Anyone interested in the counter culture of America during the 60s and 70s (and onwards) would do well to explore Crumb and his underground comix. He and his art embody the true outsider looking in on the madness of modern life. I’ve always related to his surreal, sidelong look at the world and its stupid people (including myself). He explores his own sexuality on the page in a way that is fearless while still self mocking and grotesquely titillating. And of course he loves old timey Blues music, as do I. For me, flavour-wise, Crumb goes hand in hand with Zappa, Burroughs and Smith. Tasty, more-ish but slightly bitter. Altogether wonderful.