Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Read Lately: Brush With Passion: The Art & Life of Dave Stevens

  • When Dave Stevens died in 2008, there were the usual sympathetic farewells from the comic community. It was sad to have another great artist pass on, especially one taken before his time. For me, though, I barely knew anything about him. There was The Rocketeer, a pulp icon created much too late. And I knew about his fascination with Bettie Page. But outside of that, I knew very little about his work. So when Brush With Passion: The Art & Life of Dave Stevens showed up at my local comic book store, I initially ignored it. When the book was still there the following week, I wondered what I might discover about this man.

  • Brush With Passion serves as both a collection of Stevens' works as well as a reminiscence about his life. Starting when he was young, the book tells his tale of growing up, discovering and learning about art, and where that journey takes him along the way. The tale is very candid, describing what his life was like through both the highs and the lows. However Stevens only turns that candor toward himself. He has little poor to say about anyone else, only occasionally expressing his disappointment in how some personal and business relationships turned out.

  • I have referred to this book as a tale quite specifically. This is not a stilted autobiography by any means. Instead, I feel like I sat down with Dave to look over his artwork and it inspired him to tell a long story about his life. Alongside his tale, we get sidebars from the various people he knew, like Jim Steranko and William Stout, that give us more insight on the man.

  • It may seem odd to you that I've reached my fourth bullet point without talking about the art since this is an art book. The reason, of course, is that I'm singularly unequipped to make any critique other than "That is/isn't very good." Brush With Passion is full of art from all across Stevens' career. Most heavily represented is his Rocketeer work and his "good girl" art. However the book gives a surprisingly wide spectrum of pieces from all stages of his life.

  • Having looked through several art books, I am very impressed by what Dave Stevens and his editors, Arnie Fenner and Cathy Fenner, have done here. While not every book needs to be part autobiography, this effort is an exemplar I hope to see more of from other artists.

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