Andre Gruber is an illustrator, painter, and musician. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Andre relocated to the United States at the age of 10 and settled in Jacksonville, Florida. Andre was a student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts from 2003 through 2007, where he studied Visual Arts. He never graduated, however, due to being deported back to South America in 2007.
After being deported from the United States Andre spent nearly two years living in his native country of Venezuela. He continued his pursuit of the arts by attending a music conservatory in Caracas for one semester. There Andre learned basic music theory and how to read music. While living in Venezuela Andre worked full-time as a private English and guitar instructor.
Andre returned to Jacksonville in 2009. In 2011 he founded Rum & Duck LLC. His company has published 6 issues of “LUST/APE Magazine” and produced 9 animated shorts. Rum & Duck LLC is also the avenue that Andre uses to record and release music. Paul Heumann, Charlie Shuck, Owen Sikes and Abigail Gruber comprise the publishing team at Rum & Duck LLC.
Several of Andre’s pieces are on display, and available for sale, at Wolf & Cub in downtown Jacksonville.
Andre performs music with his wife Abigail under the moniker Darn Whippoorwills. The duo is influenced by jazz, old time music, blues, and country western. Andre also performs with the group You Rascal You!. However, the group is presently on hiatus. Visit Bold Bean on Thursday nights and there is a good chance you will find Andre performing as a solo musician or with Abigail.
10 Questions with Andre Gruber
What is the origin of “Lust/Ape Magazine“? When is it released and how can interested individuals subscribe?
”LUST/APE Magazine” is a free, local “zine” publication. The magazine is not subscription based, but rather locally distributed. The whole idea behind the project is to provide a local alternative to advertisement-based publications. We do get funding from local advertisers but our sponsors are under the understanding that the content is to remain uninfluenced. The magazine was originally intended as a hub for alternative ideas, weird art, comics, and pulpy digests. Over time it grew into something of a parody paper.
As an editor, I became obsessed with the idea of playing with our audience. Every issue became more and more unpredictable. The ideas and themes became more abstract and the articles more diverse. We start every issue with a tittle, which serves as a conceptual launching point. The idea is not to create a parameter for the work, but rather to explore, stretch, and challenge the creative process.
Take for instance our fourth issue, titled “Nihilist Karma”. The phrase itself is nonsense, but trying to figure out what it meant was constantly influencing the writing, drawing, and editing processes. I would like to note that “LUST/APE Magazine” has a large number of other contributors besides our team. We’ve had the pleasure of publishing works by Clay Doran, Molly Sweet, Ron Johnson, Mike Centeno, Jarrett Carter, and Caroline Fraley, among others.
People often ask about the name “LUST/APE Magazine.” The truth is that it was accidental and completely arbitrary! When I started producing the first issue it was obvious that we needed a title. I had a few ideas but all resembled other things I’d seen before. I looked over at a defaced canvas that had been sitting in my office for a few weeks. On the bottom left corner I had written “lust-ape-lolly-pop” so I named the project folder “lust ape” as a stand-in. When the time came to draw the cover I decided to stick with it, simply because it seemed absurd. I added the “/” as a simple design element.
It was after gauging a few reactions to the first issue that the title began to take on meaning for me. I noticed that the name seemed uncomfortable, awkward, alienating, and outright embarrassing, even to me! After giving it some thought I realized the words “lust” and “ape” carried a weight of truth behind them. We are all apes ever lusting for the most primal of things, regardless of status, intellect, creed, or dignity. None of us wants to admit it, but there’s a beast living inside each and every one of us. That’s when the name grew on me. It had a challenging nature that would begin to define the direction of the paper.
Over the last 4 years we published 6 consecutive issues, with the 7th one still in production. The magazine has been on somewhat of a hiatus for a year and a half, partly due to founding. But to be honest, we have been pivoting our attention to our animated videos and other online media. Rest assured that “LUST/APE Magazine” will return very soon! In the mean time all of our issues are available for free at our website.
You’re currently working on a 60 page graphic novel. What is the theme of the graphic novel and what are your plans for publication/distribution when you finish?
Over the last year or so I have been working on my first graphic novel. The comic will be published as part of an anthology, along with two other titles written and drawn by fellow collaborators. The book will be titled “Quizzacious 3: Secret Origins pt.1” and will serve as a launching point for our shared comic book universe.
My graphic novel is called “El Boo: Man or Monster”. I would say “The Count of Monte Cristo”, “The Metamorphosis,” and “Chariots of the Gods” influenced the story . My protagonist, Edward Lazarus, starts out as a newly appointed crime lord. Through a series of events he winds up abducted by aliens. Edward is brought back to earth nine years later, except he’s no longer human. He quickly finds himself tangled in a web of conspiracies that threatens the human race as we know it!
There’s a certain “pulpiness” or “B-movie” aspect to my comics, I think it helps keep my stories fun and grounded. I also like the idea of exploring metaphysical themes from an absurd point of view. The world in which these characters live is absent from morality. It’s interesting to see them justify themselves, change, cower, and fulfill their destinies to no end. The first chapter of the story, titled “The Alchemist’s First Law,” is available for download now at the Rum & Duck Entertainment Patreon page. We plan to crowdfund the actual printed tome, which will hopefully be out by the end of the year.
How do you mentally prepare yourself when you begin a new project? Do you have any patterns, routines, or rituals?
Every project is different. I will say there’s always a research period. I also plot a lot of ideas on sketchbooks, that way I can always have a well to draw from. Besides that, I like to work at night and I drink a lot of coffee.
What is the breakdown of time you spend creating digitally versus the time you spend creating with physical materials?
Everything I do is always created physically first. The cartoon cells, the illustrations for the magazine, comics, etc., they are all hand drawn and inked the old-fashioned way. I use digital tools to assemble, color, and lay things out. I paint every once in a while and I enjoy drawing on my sketchbook, ether from real life or from my head. If I had to break it down I’d say 80% of the time is spent creating with physical materials.
You illustrate videos for Rum & Duck Entertainment’s YouTube channel. As I watch the videos on that page I feel as though you’re paying homage to, among other things, 1960’s Hanna-Barber animated series (“Space Ghost”, “Johnny Quest,” “The Herculoids,” etc.). What was your relationship to cartoons and animated series growing up and whose work do you hold in high regards?
I was born in 1989, which means I got to live through somewhat of an animation renaissance. There was so much great stuff coming out, “Batman: The Animated Series”, “The Simpsons”, and “Ren & Stimpy”, just to name a few. That stuff was so culturally relevant that I think it’s impossible for me to deny their influence. However, The cartoons that really marked me where the classics.
Believe it or not, Walt Disney’s animated shorts from the 30s and 40s where mesmerizing to me. Films like “The Three Caballeros”, “Song of The South”, “Fantasia” and “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” all created a nostalgia within me for a time that I never lived. The lush scores, the spellbinding animation, and their eerie sense of timelessness appealed to me. I also love the animated pictures produced by MGM and Warner Brothers from around that same era. The greats like Tex Avery, Robert “Bob” Clampet, Fritz Freleng, and Chuck Jones are among my most esteemed heroes. Then there are all the Hanna-Barbera cartoons you mentioned. They always felt like comic books and comic strips come to life.
Jazz, blues, and old time music appears as a reoccurring theme in your work. As an artist, what is your relationship to music?
I am a working jazz and old-time musician. It’s the music that I love. There’s a certain spirit to these particular musical styles that really moves me.
There’s obviously a lot of history that goes along with the music. Putting that aside, the sheer sound and syncopation are unlike anything else. Aesthetically speaking, I like the improvisational aspect. I like the emotional content and the expressiveness. Ultimately, it’s a way to connect with folks that lived a hundred years ago, or more, through a melody. There’s something profound about that.
Then there’s the aspect of obscurity, and that’s why I always feature my favorite artist on my work. To me guys like Blind Blake, Jelly Roll Morton, Charlie Poole, and Eddie Lang are heroes! Over the last sixty years, their works have been buried under layers of mediocre mass media. To me that’s shameful. The least I can do is wave their flag in hopes that more people are touched by their work.
When you develop a new character, do you develop personality traits based on the physical attributes of the character or vice versa?
There’s a few ways to do it. One way is to record yourself and just let it come to you. This might seem a little silly, and it is, but it’s also a lot of fun.
This approach is great to do with friends, it’s almost like an improv class. After you play around enough you can listen back and start crafting a performance out of sound clips. From that point you begin to see the character in your head and then just start drawing. The second and more methodical approach starts with a drawing. You work backwards from the appearance of the character; I ask myself “what does this character want?”
From there is just a matter of letting the character tell you his story
How do you overcome the intimidation of a blank sheet of paper?
I don’t usually have that problem. Part of the discipline of being a creative person involves not relaying on inspiration to produce work. If we talk about a literal “blank sheet of paper,” I can honestly tell you that the ideas reveal themselves to me out of the whiteness. My duty is to be receptive and follow that idea to the best of my ability.
Learning music has given me a lot of tools that carry over into my visual process. Discipline and patience being the two most important. There’s also no substitute for rigorous studying. Inspiration is all around you if you look! Reading, watching films, studying other fields, and learning as much as you can is the safest bet to developing your artistic voice. Once you got that, it’s just a matter of not letting other things get in the way.
What does the space in which you create look like?
My studio is actually quite messy at the moment. I clean up seasonally, but when I get going I don’t have time to stop to keep things organized. There are books lying about, piles of sketches, and materials all over my drafting table. I keep a Super Nintendo and a Nintendo 64 handy in case I need to clear my head.
What inspired you to first pick up a pen/marker, and what inspires you to continue doing so
I do it because I love it, nothing else. It’s the purpose I gave myself so I’m committed to seeing it through. I have very little control over my life, but when I create I become a force of nature. Whether I’m playing a solo or inking a comic page, it’s all pulled from the same source. I have no idea “why” but I can’t imagine doing anything else with my time on this earth.
I don’t consider myself to be exceptional, talented, or technically skilled in any of the things I do. But If I have any special gift, it’s my ability to materialize whatever is in my head. I don’t take that for granted, so naturally I have to keep doing it until the day I die.