Sunday, April 05, 2009


Here's a few forest drawings by Robert Crumb. The thing that catches your eye about them is the detail. Most artists simplify forest scenes, but not Crumb. He loves the busy, mysterious tangle of it all, and crams as much of it in as he can.

That's a good way to go. Our whole delight in seeing forests is that they're so wonderfully different than how we'd organize the world.  They're the mysterious "other." They're packed with dimly understood life and a hint of some grand message that's just beyond our reach.

Here's (above) what looks like the dried up bed of a stream. You have to wonder where those rocks came from.  How do little creeks manage to pile up heavy rocks like that? Flash floods could do it. Maybe the whole area is as rocky as the stream bed but the other stones were covered up with soil and plants.

Here's (above) a mysterious path through the boulders which leads to a dark, leafy tunnel and a bright, sunlit area beyond. What a delight!

Here (above) a space in the rocks reveals a magic carpet full of fascinating detail way, way down low at the ground level.  It's as if nature had set aside an exhibition of  treasure, but put it on the damp and shadowy ground rather than on a rock or a table.  It's hard to resist the idea that we've stumbled into an area that was meant to be enjoyed by small creatures, and not giants like ourselves.

It's odd how forests just abruptly stop and make way for clearings of grass. The stump looks cut and there's no fallen tree, so the pesky interference of man is evident here.

Isn't it amazing that a guy who's famous for his big city drawings would be so good at sketching nature?



Brubaker said...

That settles it, R. Crumb is a master at cross-hatching.

Thanks for the post. If you have anymore rare Crumb drawings, please don't hesitate to post more of them.

David Gale said...

Wow! These are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for posting. They almost remind me of Rembrandt etchings.

Aaron said...

those are awesome

kellie said...

Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘taking a line for a walk.’

Anonymous said...

It actually looks better from afar. That's amazing! I never knew he did this kind of work.

The Modesto Kid said...

Thanks -- the "Deal With It" sketch is now hanging on the wall in my office.

remind me of Rembrandt etchings

David, have you seen Rembrandt's sketches? I went to a show of them in NY a few years back and remember being surprised at the way they reminded me of R. Crumb.

Dubsoldier said...

these inspire me to take a notebook into the wilderness next time I gather myself there. Though my tree never look that great, and don't get me started on my my head, I can visualize myself creating works like these, but on paper, my hands aren't that good at translating. sigh...good thing there are R. Crumb's out there to, if anything, inspire.

Craig said...

Versatility, funny drawings, great draftsmanship. R. Crumb is one of the absolute best cartoonists of all time.

Jenny Lerew said...

He's certainly a beautiful draftsman. Which book is this from, Eddie? Is it something new? I'm so out of the loop on ol' Bob since he moved to La France.

You know, his drawings here look amazingly like Maurice Sendak's in style. I'm sure it's a coincidence, and it's probably because they've both been so influenced by a certain sort of retro rendering style, plus their choice of tools, but it's interesting. If you'd shown me a couple of these and asked me who did them I'd have said "Sendak".

lastangelman said...

Please feel free to visit the official Crumb website managed by Crumb and his family, a truly talented and different bunch of people.

Also check out Drew Friedman, a younger contemporary that Crumb marvels at and idolizes.

Lester Hunt said...

This is amazing. I don't think I had ever seen a drawing of purely natural subject by him before. Interesting how it is much easier to detect his style when you enlarge and look at tiny details than it is when you view the big picture.