Hillsdale College is holding its first-ever exhibition of comic book illustrations, beginning Thursday in the Sage Center for the Arts.
“Storytellers: Illustration, Comics and the Graphic Novel,” which will be on display in Sage’s Daughtrey Gallery from Thursday to March 25, features the work of three comic book artists. The show will present original ink illustrations from Gary Kwapisz’s series “Conan the Barbarian” and two complete graphic novels from Durwin Talon and Guin Thompson’s series “Beautiful Scars.”
Although the college’s last professional exhibit featured children’s book illustrator Aaron Zenz, Teacher of Art Bryan Springer said this semester’s focus on illustration was coincidental. Regardless, highlighting both comic and children’s books illuminates diverse styles within the same artistic genre.
“It gives a broad sampling of the genre of storybook illustration,” Springer said. “They both incorporate historical themes into their work.”
The difference between these comic illustrations and the children’s art, according to Springer, is the double genre explored by comic artists.
“They are taking these historical themes and placing them in more fantastic genres,” Springer said.
Viewers may notice both themes in Kwapisz’s new series, “Civil War Adventure,” which includes various fictional and real scenes from the battlefields of the Civil War, and Talon and Thompson’s work “Beautiful Scars,” which incorporates World War I imagery alongside dragons.
It is interesting from an artistic perspective to explore the juxtaposition of historical and fantastical imagery, one that curiously fits comic book art as a whole. This show is one of exploring the integration of reality and the surreal in the illustrators’ work.
The college does not offer illustration courses in its art program, but the genre has introduced some in the department, including Springer, to the larger field of art and design. Even still, Springer sees the art program as one which is helpful to students who want to take up this kind of discipline.
“We see this type of illustration as a result of good, fundamental drawing skills that are learned from still lives and figure drawing and sculpting here,” Springer said.