Graphic novel artists visits LCCC

By Jennifer Stogsdill
A&E Writer

Delve into a world where stunning artwork meets epic adventures as Laramie County Community College presents "Square Deal: Regional Adventure in Sequential Art" at the Esther and John Clay Fine Arts Gallery.

This exhibit though Feb. 22 features three graphic novel artists, Chad Blakely, Felipe Echevarria and Lee Oaks.

Blakely's career in graphic novels started as a child when he began reading comics at age 15. "I love telling stories, so it's a great crossover," Blakely said.

Blakely, of Cheyenne, likes to portray real-life people in a fantasy realm. "You can get a good human story under sci-fi events," Blakely said. In the gallery, Blakely has featured his artist's statement that has been made into a comic book cover, pages from his upcoming graphic novel, "Astonishing Adventures" and pages from his last graphic novel that came out in August titled "Kidnapping Kevin Smith."

Blakely's "Astonishing Adventures" is about a family and family struggles all placed in a sci-fi setting, and his graphic novel "Kidnapping Kevin Smith" is about two comic book writers who kidnap Kevin Smith and force him to write a screenplay based off their ideas.

Echevarria's graphic novel career started when his girlfriend at the time told him he needed a career. Because he was always interested in art and comic books, he went to school and really learned the art, he said. Echevarria, of Loveland, is continually inspired by this art because he finds it incredibly interesting.

"I like writing about real-life characters who deal with human issues in a fantasy setting," Echevarria said. He added people can work out very human problems with fantasy, and that is lots of fun.

Echevarria has displayed in the gallery a bit of his "Dark Shadows" work that was based on the TV show, a bit of his adaption of "Psycho" that came out in three issues titled "Hitchcock's Psycho" and a bit from his short story graphic novel called "King David's Skull," which was published in the graphic novel collection "Negative Burn."

Also featured in the gallery is a page from an upcoming vampire adventure graphic novel that Echevarria is working with writer Todd Jones called "Stakes" and a page from Echevarria's upcoming graphic novel "Death From Above." "Death From Above" is a spiritual graphic about dealing with death and life issues and will first come out on the iPad. Echevarria said it's going to be "highly interactive and fun."

Oaks said he first fell in awe with graphic novel art when he was exposed to "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller. He said: "I knew who Batman and Superman were, but I had never seen them that gritty. I was especially intrigued by a scene where Superman was struck by lightning. It made him more interesting to see him vulnerable."

However, Oaks was aware of his drawing skills in the third-grade when the teacher asked what the students wanted to be when they grew up. "Everyone knew what I would be. Drawing and comics go hand in hand. It was a natural fit," Oaks added.

Oaks, of Fort Collins, said he is inspired by all the things he observes. "Be it nature, other artist's work, or a funny name," he said. He also finds inspiration in other graphic novels, sculptures, paintings and movies. He said he also enjoys reading books on various topics and listening to audio books while he draws.

Some of his graphic novels are "Tales of Traloddren," "Black Ice," "La compagnie des Glaces" and "Escape from Terra" volumes 1 and 2.

The college decided to feature the graphic novel artists in the gallery because of continued student interest in this type of art and career field, said Matt West, LCCC art instructor and gallery curator.

To kick off the exhibit, a reception will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Art Gallery.

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