Hey everyone, I hope y’all had a good week. Two posts prior, I spoke about artists I’ve newly followed on Instagram and discussed their styles and why I enjoyed each artist’s work. This week, I want to mention a few of my absolute favorite graphic novels and how they’ve influenced and informed MY work as a visual artist and storyteller.

Let’s start with Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods…this piece of art was first brought to my attention by an illustration teacher, Patch, I had my first semester at University of the Arts in Philadelphia (back when I was still majoring in illustration). Patch (check out his work on Instagram) always knew EXACTLY what to recommend to students no matter what they were into, he had this amazing wealth of knowledge and gave me a copy of Carroll’s graphic novel to look through; I devoured the whole thing in a half hour during class, I was amazed and fell instantly in love with the colors she used and how the typography felt like a character itself.

On the left is the front cover of the graphic novel and on the right is a page from a short story I had written a year later as a sophomore illustration major. I tried to mimic the way Carroll used type and her use of black and loose, almost watercolor-like, usage of color. I could go on forever and ever about her illustration style which would make this post incredibly long, so, in short, check out the novel…I provided a link to it above and also check out her website because she has a ton of creepy online comics that will lure you right in. You should also check out this really cool comic dub from 2016 of “His Face All Red”, a short story from the novel.

The second graphic novel I want to mention is a hefty one, both in length and emotional content. Craig Thompson’s Blankets is a beautifully told coming of age story. My time spent working at UARTS’s library afforded me the opportunity to find a lot of really cool books (there really is nothing else like browsing through library stacks and finding hidden gems) while working. Blankets uses simple, black and white illustrations. I love Thompson’s style (it reminds me of expressionist wood block carvings) and the graphic novel is a lot heavier than Through the Woods with its storyline and themes. I haven’t read it in a few years since it clocks in at 582 pages, but I hope to return to it soon.

The last novel I want to mention is also very near and dear to my heart. Tom Haugomat’s Through a Life is told only through illustrations (with the exception of time stamps as you’ll see below). This is amazing because you need to heavily analyze the illustrations to understand the storyline. Fair warning, it doesn’t have the happiest of endings, but the emotions are so wonderfully raw and relatable. You should also check out Haugomat’s Instagram to see more of his work. His style, at first glance, seems minimal in its use of analogous color schemes and composition, but they really do offer the viewer a chance to sit with their emotions and process what is going on in the illustrations, and for the sake of this post, his graphic novel. I personally had to read through it a few times to pick up on small details and you should, too.

As you might’ve noticed by clicking on the links to the graphic novels, I specifically chose The Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center’s website because I personally want to stop shopping from huge online retailers like Amazon. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and now is the time to lift them up! (ESPECIALLY black owned businesses, so here’s a link to a list of black-owned bookstores to check out, show them some love!!!). I also wanted to add a small list of some honorable mentions:

  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Kafkaesque by Peter Kuper
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (also illustrated by Emily Carroll)
  • Mountain of Madness H.P. Lovecraft’s novel reimagined by Gou Tanabe (this is a link to part 1, part 2 was released this past December but I haven’t read it yet)

I have a few more graphic novels that I haven’t had the time to read yet, there’s always so much to read and learn! I hope this list helps add to your library (or if you’re a first time graphic novel reader, welcome!). I hope you have a great week and are able to find the time to relax and do whatever you need to take care of yourselves.

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