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An Exchange with R. Crumb

Robert Crumb’s much anticipated Book of Genesis Illustrated (W.W. Norton, $24.95) will be officially released 18 October. Art Director Geoff Gossett requested an interview for Molossus, but instead engaged in the brief conversation below, over the course of which he found Mr. Crumb to be a as lively and personable in his electronic correspondence as his drawings are on the page.

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From: Robert Crumb <xxxxx@xmail.com>
Date: August 6, 2009 1:10:42 AM PDT
To: geoff.gossett@moloss.us
Cc: xxxxx@xmail.com

Mr. Gossett:

Alex Wood forwarded your e-mail to me concerning your interest in interviewing me — presumably during my brief visit to Los Angeles in October.  I must respectfully decline the proposal, as I am booked as solidly as I can stand to be with interviews for the next four months, mostly arranged by the publisher of my Book of Genesis Illustrated, W.W. Norton & Co, to promote the book.  Already I’m worried about how I’ll be able to bear up under so many interviews, since I know I will quickly grow tired of answering questions about this Genesis project, and will start repeating myself mechanically, and in the worst, most advanced stage of burn-out, will become sullen and sarcastic, like the famous Billy Bob Thornton radio interview.  So you see, I can’t take on any more interviews… Contact me again around the year 2012… that is, if the world as we know it still exists in 2012…

R. Crumb

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From: Geoff Gosset <geoff.gossett@moloss.us>
Date: Aug 19, 2009 at 8:33 AM
To: Robert Crumb <xxxxx@xmail.com>

Dear Mr. Crumb,

Thank you very much for your personal response. Despite the fact that we’re sorry to hear that you won’t be able to make an interview with us personally, we’re very excited to hear the details of your book and its publicity tour. Although we would gladly accept what would be automatic droll, we wouldn’t want to add to what’s already a hellish pan-American book tour. You’re right, there’s no reason to republish that which has already been documented well by others long before us.

After talking it over a bit my colleague and I did figure out a way to work out our situation without having to bother your schedule. With your permission we would like to publish this small email correspondence (with your address blocked out, of course) alongside our feature of your Genesis book as a testament to an older, more personable and dignified character-type which rarely exists in the general public let alone the artistic world.

I do have one question that I would like to ask. It’s about your technique. I’ve read many times that you use a lot of love and white out to fix mistakes so that you can trace over lines again to make the final, clean layout. I go to school for illustration and they teach us to clean/fix/change everything on the computer in Photoshop and Illustrator from term one. It’s difficult keeping clean line work on the hard copy when you know you can just scan it in later. I wanted to know if you think any part of the essence of a visual piece is lost by the digital editing that has been thrust on my generation, which hardly knows anything else.

Again, we’re quite humbled and content with the fact that you took the time to personally respond and will leave this correspondence to be the last. In the meantime we hope that our fair city of Los Angeles, which has raised and nurtured me personally, finds a way to drudge up some of its former dignity to give you a pleasant short stay while you’re here.

Sincerely,

Geoff Gossett

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From: Robert Crumb <xxxxx@xmail.com>
Date: August 25, 2009 2:14:59 AM PDT
To: geoff.gossett@moloss.us
Subject: Re: Request to Use Email

Mr. Gossett:

Are you describing ME when you refer to “an older, more personable and dignified character type which rarely exists in the general public let alone the artistic world”??

It seems that you are.  Maybe that’s just my letter-writing style that you’re perceiving, or maybe I’ve grown more civilized with age.  I think in my younger days I was something of a crude, foul-mouthed customer, socially inept, clumsily offending people without realizing it, even going so far as to leap on the backs of women in public.  I guess I’ve become more socially skillful and polite in my later years.

Certainly you’re free to publish this correspondence.

“A lot of love and white out”??  I certainly do use a lot of white-out, that is true.  You want to know if I think “any part of the essence of a visual piece is lost by… digital editing.”  What would bother me about making corrections on the computer is, where does that leave the original art?? If the original art is actually done on paper with ink or paints, and then corrected by Photoshop on a computer scan, your original is left uncorrected, flawed, inferior to the scan… So what do you do, throw away the paper original?? Wouldn’t you want the original art itself to be brought to its fullness of realization?  Isn’t the original art considered into the equation??

As for the “dignity” of Los Angeles, I’m afraid it’s pretty much long gone, but it is still a city full of beautiful women, which is some compensation… Maybe one a’them will even let me leap on her.  You never know.

R. Crumb

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One Response to An Exchange with R. Crumb

  1. Joanne November 17, 2009 at 9:07 am #

    Did I not mention this before? What a fantastic, almost magical, correspondence. Geoff, you intrepid creature, thank you!

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