Hardcover, 496 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by First Second
Source: Raincoast Books
How much would you give up for your art? Or perhaps that question should be: what will you give up for your art?
David Smith is a sculptor who just can’t seem to get a break. After being dumped by his affluent and influential sponsor, David cannot find any gallery (except one) interested in carrying any of his art pieces. On his 26th birthday, with only pennies to his name, he is approached by his Uncle Harry–only Uncle Harry has been dead for more than a decade and the being wearing his Uncle Harry’s face is the grim reaper himself. Uncle Harry nee Death offers David a deal. 200 days for the power to create art or he could just walk away and have a mediocre life by sacrificing the dream.
We all know what David chooses. Only the 200 days unfold in ways that he isn’t expecting. When the deadline approaches, David realizes that he doesn’t want to die. However, a dead is a dead is a deal.
The graphic novel is drawn in shades of blue and white and sometimes I wished the art style would have changed colour as this would have given more focus to the art within the art. A different shade to perhaps spotlight it. I wasn’t the greatest fan of that but I was definitely invested in the story. In fact, it hit a bit too close to home. There is one scene in which David has a dream where he is surrounded by failed artists who all want to create art whether in words, movements or however art is created. And he is repeatedly struggles with the idea of life alongside the process of dying and the graphic novel tackles the thought that both life and dying are art unto itself. Which you know is as profound as it sounds because so many people have already thought that. What makes The Sculptor so brilliant is the inherent sincerity in David. His promises to himself that he never ever breaks, his desperation to immortalize himself in some way so that he is never forgotten. The person he is was created by a staggering amount of loss: he loses his entire family and by the end of the novel, he even loses his only friend. Can he create something when he is so empty inside?
Is it still art when you are doing it for money? Shouldn’t art be created without the corruptive influence of profit? The ending was not unexpected but still packed quite a punch. I am not sure whether I really love this graphic novel but I do know that it brings up really interesting questions and provokes thoughts about what art is and how much of ourselves we pour into it without knowing if we’ll get anything in return.
Definitely worth a read.