True Artist Tales Rides Again at the Galveston Artist Residency
Once in the long-ago, this little Website used to be an even-littler actual print zine. I know, right? Paper — who the hell does that? (Kidding! Kind of…) But before that, even, there used to be little old me as a college student.
I was relatively new to Houston, and had recently discovered the Public News, a now-classic paper that was really my sole link to the amazing, unrecognized world of Houston music and art. It was weird, and kinda messy, and I remember wishing I could edit some of it, but warts and all, it was great; I read it cover to cover every time I got a copy.
One of my favorite parts was a neat, strange cartoon strip called True Artist Tales. I didn’t always get it — again, young college student — but I thought it was fun and different, and I really liked the artwork. The artist truly captured the weird, gritty, hot vibe of early-’90s Houston, which was still climbing out of the ’80s oil crash and was full of a lot of (to me, anyway) sketchy, bewildering characters and grimily realistic settings in Montrose and further afield.
Now, to make money so I could occasionally buy stuff while I was in college, I got a job working at the Rice University Library. And one of the first people I met there was a real-live librarian (i.e., not a student) named Scott Gilbert. I don’t recall how long it took, but fairly quickly I realized that, holy crap, this guy Scott was the same guy who did True Artist Tales.
He was a great guy to work with. He kindly didn’t make the newbie kid go tell the basketball players to shut the hell up or go roust the pervs from the grad student carrels, and despite my general youthful stupidity, we chatted about music and comics and politics, and somewhere along the way, I’m pretty sure (I hope?) I told him how much I loved his strip.
Later on, I very nearly even convinced my erstwhile bandmates to buy the rights for one of his pieces to use as the cover of our first-and-only 7-inch, which would’ve been freaking great. And once I graduated and got a little actual money, I bought one of his original strips, “Clarinet God,” proudly hanging it on the wall of post-college house I shared with three other people.
When the print version of SCR started, circa 1997, I knew I wanted to interview Scott. He was (and is, to my mind) one of the coolest artists to come out of this city in the past few decades, not to mention a neat guy to talk to and all-round Good People. By then he’d moved over to the still-extant Houston Press, where he thrived for several years more before stepping away from TAT. We talked for a good long while about art, music, Houston, and a whole bunch of other crap, and it was fun.
Looking back recently, I came to the realization that my interview with Scott may well have been the first interview I ever did, with anybody; it was definitely the first for the zine, coming out in the inaugural Spring 1999 issue (yeah, yeah, and it holds a special place in my heart because of that. In recent years I haven’t talked to Scott as much as I should — kids and work and travel and blah-blah — but I still love the guy. Again, he’s Good People.
I say all of this because, well, True Artist Tales is back. Not in the form of new strips, sadly, but in the form of a very cool retrospective later this month down at the Galveston Artist Residency. It’s curated by Robert Boyd, himself a pretty major fixture in the local art scene with his blog The Great God Pan Is Dead
The opening reception for the show is on Saturday, November 26th at the GAR Gallery (2521 Ships Mechanic Row), from 6-9PM, and it sounds like a lot of fun, with music provided by Brett Needham, formerly of legendary H-town band Joint Chiefs.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m psyched about this. Scott deserves boatloads of recognition for his work in general, and for me personally, that work remains one of the most enduring touchstones to those early years of my life here in Sweat City. Congrats, Scott — this is well-deserved and overdue.