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William Stout's portraits of the biggest names in blues...

William Stout is one of the most respected American artists working today. Here, the natural heir to Robert Crumb’s crown gives us the stories behind his portraits...

In his 65 years, artist and illustrator William Stout has unleashed his considerable talents on everything from comic strips, movie work for the likes of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Men In Black – he created Edgar, the big bug – to helping design the theme park at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. For blues heads, Stout’s greatest moment came when he was commissioned to continue the work of legendary illustrator and fellow blues obsessive Robert Crumb. A master of palaeontological art (that’s dinosaurs), in 2013 Stout turned his attention to another group of ancient beings with the publication of Legends Of The Blues, a collection of portraits of icons intended as a sequel to Crumb’s Heroes Of Blues, Jazz And Country. The book, the first part of a trilogy in progress, earned a 10/10 rating in this mag. He talks us through it in his own words…

How I Became An Artist

I grew up very, very poor in the San Fernando Valley part of Los Angeles in a town called Reseda, the hottest part of the Valley. I didn’t realise how poor I was because all of the kids in my neighbourhood were in the same boat. Amazingly, nearly every boy on our block became famous in his own chosen field. Being poor gave us all a real incentive to get out of the class we were in and better ourselves.

I have been drawing since I was a little kid. My first drawings were cartoons. I remember as a wee kid, drawing a guy in jail. He was eating beans (my parents told me that was what inmates were fed). Because he was eating beans, I logically drew little fart noises emanating from his butt (“Toot! Toot!”). My parents found the drawing hilarious. I was mystified, as it was a serious drawing to me. I haven’t changed much, except that I try to include ideas in most of my material now that are intentionally funny.

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