JUST THE FACTS
Born: 1978, Oshawa
Currently lives in: Toronto
Began illustrating: Officially, in 2001, unofficially on a hot day in the spring of grade two.
First memorable illustration: A rag-tag group of children climbing into a cave full of troll gold. Drawn in crayon in grade two, earned him a gold star sticker and a promotion to grade three.
First story: The story that accompanied the drawing of the kids going into the cave. “I can’t remember how it ended. Violently I think.”
If I wasn’t an illustrator I would be: In jail or dead.
JUST THE ANSWERS
FEATHERTALE: We hear that a girl once emailed you asking if she could tattoo your art on her body.
GR: Yes, that did happen. I never heard whether or not she went through with it. It was a pretty big tattoo so it’s possible she never made it. Can you imagine every person she is with for the rest of her life having to look at one of my grotesque characters? In a way it makes me sort of sick and in another way sort of proud.
FT: How would you classify your books?
GR: As accessible to the severely mentally ill.
FT: Who do you write your books for?
GR: Any audience that will tolerate them.
FT: You’ve got a new book out about Bigfoot, when did you decide to carry on the adventures of Bigfoot?
GR: After four years since releasing the last Bigfoot book I guess I got to the point where I realized that I had enough random but universal enough thoughts to form into another book. This is the third book, so if the pattern holds there could be another one out in another four years. Also, I might need money then.
FT: Why write about Bigfoot?
GR: For me it’s a really easy character to write. After years of denying it I have to admit that it is slightly autobiographical. I mean for me as well as Bigfoot, of course. I wind up referencing a lot of moments, thoughts and feelings that I have had in my own life and then just run them through the absurdity filter of Bigfoot. Certainly it isn’t just about throwing random shit down on a page in a funny voice with funny drawings. It requires some pretty serious reflection, recollection, and contemplation on how to make it funny and ideally funny and poignant. In the end I would say every little story comes out completely mutated from the personal point it started from, but without a doubt it helps that the inspiration for each story comes from a personal place. I think otherwise it would just be way too random and lack sincerity.
FT: Have any Bigfoot believers contacted you with a serious inquiry?
GR: I’ve had people rant at me before on Amazon.com comments pages about how the book wasn’t legit and no serious Bigfoot aficionado should ever let (my writings) in their dungeon lairs deep beneath their parents’ home.
It’s funny you should ask this question though since I just got off the phone from doing a radio interview with a syndicated talk radio show based out of Washington D.C. It was the first such interview for the new book and for whatever stupid reason I decided to falsely insist that I believed in Bigfoot and that I was in direct communication with him hoping the hosts would understand that I was joking since they had read the book. They hadn’t. What a train wreck. I feel like I need to take a shower or something.
Really, I think the ideal belief level for Bigfoot should fall in the Santa range – you know he probably doesn’t exist, you want to kind of believe though, and in the end your associations are completely personal and not to be discussed seriously with sober adults.
FT: Finish this sentence: A Sasquatch and a Yeti walk into a bar . . .
GR: “. . . and every hipster in the bar claims to have spotted them first but be totally over them.”
FT: You do a lot of illustrative work for news magazines. When you’re asked to illustrate for a story about hedge funds, what do you do?
GR: Reach for some pills.
Really what I do is just look for the bigger idea like in the case of hedge funds, which you could see as controlled gambling or something, it makes it much funnier, much easier to create images for.
FT: Why are so many Toronto-based illustrators working for international publications?
GR: I think it has everything to do with Toronto being the largest city in the country, and because for a long time there has been a relatively large advertising and publishing industry here and more commercial art schools to supply them with budding illustrators of which a small percentage of whom are exceptional and get to work for international clients. It’s also in a good time zone and close to New York. People might disagree and yell things like “What about the internet?!” and “I am self taught!” and “Blah, blah, blah!” To them I say: whatever. I just illustrated an article on hedge funds so I’m not feeling very romantic.
FT: Can you describe your workspace in five words?
GR: A shit encrusted unicorn stable.
FT: If you could illustrate a story for any one writer, who would it be and why?
GR: I would love to do a book with David Sedaris. He is funny.