One student finds his niche in graphic novels

March 01, 2006|By MARY CAROLE MCCAULEY | MARY CAROLE MCCAULEY,SUN REPORTER

Who says that the neon-bright world of comic books can't explore serious and subtle themes?

Eighteen-year-old Orpheus Collar used the graphic novel to investigate the question of how people would behave if they knew they had just 15 minutes to live.

It was this entry, along with some paintings, that won a silver medal this year from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts -- making Collar one of the three top teenage painters in the United States, in the opinion of competition judges. The award comes with a $5,000 check, which Collar will pick up in April at an awards ceremony in New York City. The check will come in handy when it's time to pay his next tuition bill at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he is a freshman.

Collar honed his techniques at Carver Center for Arts and Technology, where he attended high school and studied with painting teacher Terry McDaniel. As a junior, he won one of the prestigious Marie Walsh Sharpe awards that fund intensive, two-week seminars in Colorado for the nation's most gifted visual arts students.

"I like graphic novels because they are narrative," Collar says. "With movies, you move at the director's pace. You can't move forward or backward or pause. With a comic book, the audience can take in what they want to take in, at the pace they want.

"For me, graphic novels blend everything I'm interested in: film, fine art, animation and sculpture."

He then thought of another advantage of the art form. An important advantage.

"Plus," he says, "You don't need a big budget to put together a comic book."

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