Robert Crumb is a comic art pioneer, a trailblazer in the world of indie comix and one of America's most famous illustrators, but before he became the Big Cheese R. Crumb had to join the rat race just like everyone else.
At nineteen Crumb's art skills landed him a job designing cards at the American Greetings company in Cleveland, Ohio, where he met Harvey Pekar and other artists who inspired him to get out there and try to get paid for his comics.
Crumb's cards feature his signature art style minus all the pervy and drug-themed material found in his underground comix, and even though he didn't really dig the job the experience helped shape him as an artist:
Of all the big cities I’ve been in, Cleveland’s about the deadest or something. But that’s only in certain ways. In other ways I really like Cleveland, ya know? It’s like the lowest common denominator or something. Like you can get right down to basics here or something. Like in Chicago, Milwaukee, or Detroit or Denver or a lot of other towns, I can get a lot of attention from people who appreciate artists. Like I get a lot of ego build-up that way, but Cleveland’s a big dumb town.
I was here off and on for three or four years. I came here when I was nineteen after I left home to look for a job and to live with my friend Marty Pahls, and I was here like two weeks and got a job with American Greetings doing color separations. So I worked in the color separations department for about a year and then I was promoted to the Hi Brow department for about a year and then I got married and went to Europe and came back and worked American greetings again for about two months and then I decided to f@#k Cleveland and went to New York to try to make it big in New York.
I was there for nine months and I said f@#k New York and came back to Cleveland. Worked in Cleveland for about another eight months or something and then I went to San Francisco.
The boss kept telling me my drawing was too grotesque. He got me to draw this cute stuff, which influenced by technique, and even now my work has this cuteness about it.