Sketches: John Cramer

The musician and artist offers a tour of his mental landscape

By Peter Holley March 7, 2014

People are sometimes surprised that John Cramer, by all accounts a friendly and polite individual who leads a mostly normal life, is the actual source of his own artwork. 

"I don't know whether they expect me to be mean and scary or what?" he said. "It's just artwork, you know. I'm not intentionally trying to spook people or freak anyone out."

Fortunately or unfortunately, he sometimes does. A longtime musician in the band "Project Grimm," Cramer took up drawing a few years ago in hopes of finding a new creative outlet when he wasn't playing as much. Almost immediately, his doodles turned into faces and his faces turned into...well...we're not exactly sure. Not plain or pleasant faces, but contorted, severe and pained faces, the kind of faces that feel like the banal has gone nightmarishly awry. If the work feels anxious there is a reason for that, Cramer explained. 

"I've admittedly struggled with anxiety for several years and I went through a couple stretches of dealing with full blown panic disorder," the 45-year-old said. "I just have the kind of mind that just doesn't settle down ever." 

And yet, it would be a mistake to assume that Cramer's work is merely a reflection of distress. On his Facebook page, he gives his work more context:  

"I believe discomfort is a fantastic window into expressing that which I find truly beautiful."

A finished drawing can take hours or weeks to produce. Cramer, who tries not to over plan his work, is never really sure of how a drawing will unfold. His work, he said, is more reflective of an ephemeral mood than it is a heavily edited idea. Sometimes, in fact, it's just "the stuff you can't easily say to your buddy over a beer."

"There are different reasons why I produce this stuff," he said. "You can't just go on Facebook and say I feel these emotions. When you say something verbally you're making a direct statement, but I don't want to express these feelings in that sort of way."

To see more of Cramer's work you can check out his Facebook fan page here.  


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