I first read about Scott McCloud when a favorite comic blog I read daily, Sheldon, recommended Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. I thought that if Sheldon believed this book was amazing, I should read it. Understanding Comics is, hands down, the best work on the art, theory, and design behind what makes the comic strip format the compelling narrative form that it is. I heard about The Sculptor being published and was excited to see McCloud’s work, because he is a master at explaining and describing art.
David Smith is a sculptor who is down on his luck. His talent, though undeniable, is marred by his uncanny ability to push away those who believe in him. His angry outbursts are a tragic counterpoint to his deep need to create with his hands. Complications arise when he can’t find anyone to a) buy his work, or b) fund his work in progress. The art world with its politics, critics, patrons, gallery shows, and competing artists is used as a backdrop to explore what art is, what it means, and how that is translated to its value in dollars.
The Sculptor took McCloud 5 years of ‘hibernation’, as he terms it, to complete. It is at once a love story, a meditation on mortality, and an aria to the creative process. McCloud takes advantage of every visual trick and frame to tell his story and bring new insights to the character and the city around him. The caption photo above is an excellent example of using a sidewalk and calendar to represent not only the passage of time, but the passage of time in a specific way. For this virtuoso performance in graphic novels, I recommend Sculptor.