Paul Gravett | Paul Gravett | March 16, 2007
Ron Regé Jr interviewed by Paul Gravett
RON REGÉ JR:
A WEB-EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Ron Regé Jr is one of America's new movement of 'peace-seeking artists'. Overnight success has taken Regé, 36, the best part of a decade creating Yeast Hoist and other comics and graphics in his 'cute-brut' style, a hybrid of psychedelia, faux-naive and folk art, Outsider rawness and cartoonish joy. More recently he's been finding wider fame through commercial work, such as his designs and action figures for Tylenol's 'Ouch' campaign, and making music for Lavender Diamond, voted Spin's best unsigned band.
Regé, not pronounced like reggae but 'ree-gee' like Fiji, approaches each new comic differently, like a freelance writer, the script and ideas often coming to him fully formed from his subconscious. Regé's 12th Yeast Hoist is out from Buenaventura Press, brimming with exuberant sketchbook observations and intense daily comics.
He currently lives in Los Angeles, after completing a two year residency at the Narragansett Grange Hall in coastal Rhode Island - an artist space co-owned by musicians Geoff Farina and Jodi Buonanno. The Grange Hall has a number of large studio spaces, which Geoff and Jodi provide as inexpensive living and studio space to an annual artist-in-residence who needs these resources to persue a specific project. Out of this came the next 'lucky' 13th Yeast Hoist, from Drawn & Quarterly. This two-tone anthology of subconsciously autobiographical comics and drawings in nine chapters ranges from eloquent silent landscapes full of dreams to sly funnies about our supposed desire for peace.
Slow down when you read his pictures and ornately lettered words, quivering, scintillating, radiant, and they will leave you awake and awakened.
The following interview was conducted by email on April 11, 2006.
What role and effect do you think "peace-seeking" artists can have today?
Ron Regé Jr:
What a great question! - and a hard one to answer... I think that we can approach what we do peacefully, and with a great sense of peace. I think that we can lead by example, perhaps? I am not a competitive, or confrontational person by nature - so I don't like to shout too much, or too loudly (which is why I like to speak through such a silent artform) So much media is petty, and mean and selfish - I think that we can put forth a different idea. As far as the effect we can have? I don't know - I'm not worried about that as much. I mostly default to the works & ideas of John & Yoko. Peace is here if we want it. If we think about it, if we live it. Everyone everywhere says it is what they want, but there is still so much conflict! Why? Stop it! Peace is here. Earth is paradise, if we let it be.
What appeals to you about comics over other forms of expression?
I like comics because they can be such a slow & quiet medium. I also like the way comics are directly personal, like writing - but even more so! The connection between the artist & the reader is so direct. When they read my words, they can see what has come directly from my hand. It's really quite amazing. I have always loved picture books. As a two dimensional, visual artist, I am so much happer to have someone examine what I've made slowly, at their own leisure. I like this so much more than forcing them to see my work momentarily, on a wall in a room. I also feel that picture stories are one of the most ancient, and universal forms of human expression.
How do you comics-making and music-making connect and contrast?
They don't really connect at all from my own personal experience - which is why I do one as a rest from the other. But I DO like to make comics about music & the process of making it - and I like to include music with my books whenever possible. Is this a contradiction? I don't think so.
How much do you plan and structure your comics beforehand, and how much do you trust intuition and the subconscious?
My comics are completely scripted beforehand, and I rarely make changes from those scripts - except to fit the size and format of the piece. I have hundreds of pages undrawn comics that I've scripted out. I am unable to sit down with a fresh piece of paper, and create a comic from panel to panel. I have no idea how to do this. BUT - at the same time - my scripts and ideas often come to me fully formed from my subconcious. A great deal of The Awake Field came to me as a single idea - fully formed.
Why are "difficult comics" worth making the effort to read and understand?
Hmm... for the same reason that any piece of art needs to be studied and examined to be experienced? Why look at anything? The "comics" world makes me tired with such questions. Some people create works that fit into a standard "format" and some people don't. I like so many different kinds of drawings that incorporate words, for so many reasons... I often get asked questions like this - and it makes me wonder - have the people who find my work "difficult" ever seen any other art from the 20th century? It's like asking Picasso why we should look at cubism. Wasn't this all cleared up a hundred years ago?
There's a cuteness and a bruteness to your work - how do you juggle these two (competing?) tendencies?
I don't know, it all just ended up that way... There's a lot less violence in my work these days... That's mostly gone... I think... So then is my work "cute" I guess? That's what people say. I don't see or intend it that way.
What did you get out of that 2-year residency and how did it change your work in Awake Field?
My time in southern Rhode Island was very special to me. It gave me a chance to slow down, and to concentrate exclusively on my artwork. It gave me great amount of time to be peaceful, alone, and reflect. Previously, I've always needed to hustle and work other jobs to survive. Now, I am (just barely) surving off of my art, and my time at The Grange helped me achive this. I created my last book (Yeast Hoist 11) while there, as well as many internet comics, which have yet to see print. The Awake Field is dedicated to this place, and to my time there.
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY :
#1-8 were handmade minicomics and are now out of print
#9 was included in Expo 2001 anthology
#10 was included in Ganzfeld #3, 2003
#11 was published by Highwater Books, 2003
#12 was published by Buenaventura Press, 2006
#13 was published by Drawn & Quarterly, 2006
The collected Yeast Hoist #1-10 will be published by Buenaventura Press in 2006.
Skibber Bee-Bye, Highwater Books, 2000
Boys, Highwater Books, 2000
She Sometimes Switched in McSweeney's Quarterly #13
We Must Know We Will Know in Drawn & Quarterly Vol 4