University of Oregon alumni and cartoonist, Joe Sacco, gave a lecture on “Comics as Journalism” at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art Wednesday night. He has had an impressive career, and helped to create comic journalism. He even received the Ridenhour Prize for his graphic novel Footnotes in Gaza.
During the lecture Sacco discussed his experiences in the Middle East while documenting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for his graphic novels.
In his books, Sacco said he aims to spark emotion into the reader and transport him or her into a particular place or moment in time. To achieve this, he took extensive notes while in the field for accuracy and so he would have a realistic portrayal of people, places, and events. He said he knew it may be years before he draws the story panels, so he needed all the notes and details he can get.
One method he utilized in his novels was to angle his panels or stack them on top of one another during stressful events to build up tension and create a feeling of chaos for the reader. This was meant to mirror the feeling of people in a war zone.
“Some spreads are so cluttered that the reader becomes unsure of what panel to read first, or what direction to go in,” Sacco said.
Another unique character trait about Sacco is that he thinks of geography and landscape as a character in his work and creates extremely detailed environments.
At the end of the lecture, Sacco gave advice to his captivated audience and aspiring artists.
“Every artist should depict what he or she wants… they might fail, but they should still try,” Sacco said.
One audience member, Rick Iannacone, was unaware of who Joe Sacco was and the kind of work he did. However, as a fellow artist, he was glad he came to the lecture, and was impressed that Sacco found a way to turn his hobby into a career and make it mainstream.
“I think we’re gonna see artists transforming their talents and adapt to the changing times,” Iannacone added.
Sacco demonstrates this convergence of talents. Artists can also be journalists and depict real-world events and conflicts to raise awareness and evoke emotions. News stories don’t have to just be written anymore, they can be drawn out. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.