Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Robert Crumb (R. for short) is an "underground comics" artist who began working in the mid-to late 1960s. The image I chose to represent him is one which I originally saw in a book (which is its proper context as opposed to online). While Crumb has done vast amounts of self-biographical narrative-style comics for which he is most well-known, he is also an accomplished illustrator who is wonderfully adept at bringing text to life. This image is from a book produced by Crumb and Zane Mairowitz titled Kafka. It is essentially a short illustrated biography of the writer Franz Kafka. Crumbs work is particularly suited to illustrating Kafka's writing as it is often grotesque, explicit, and highly stylized. The viewer can see the obsessive line work which utilizes hatching and very high contrast to create an image that really "pops" off the page. It conveys a potent sense of neurosis which disturbs some people, though I think it is brilliant.
Crumb uses mainly pen/ink and rarely (most likely never) uses any form of digital imaging -- another trait of his which I am quite fond of. This piece is a great example of Crumb's work because it showcases his ability to visually represent a feeling in a striking way. A look at Crumb's other work will reveal more violence, sex, and primal emotion shown in ways that make the situation, however explicit, seem somehow funny -- or at least palatable . The Kafka book contains some of my favorite illustrative work by Crumb because it shows that he really felt a sort of kinship with Kafka in the sense that they are/were both sensitive artists tormented by inner demons as a result of family issues and societal conventions. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in illustration to explore Crumb's work if they have not already. Below is a link to his website and some of his work.

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