More Oil and Water: Shannon Wheeler's sketches

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Shannon Wheelers sketches from the Gulf Coast for Oil and Water.
  • Shannon Wheeler's "sketches" from the Gulf Coast for Oil and Water.

In this week's cover story, I talked to the Steve Duin and Shannon Wheeler, author and illustrator of Oil and Water, a mostly nonfiction graphic novel about a group visiting the Gulf of Mexico last year — days after the Deepwater Horizon well had been capped.

The group, part of the real-life PDX 2 Gulf Coast project, was condensed from its 22 participants to 10 characters, and they quickly realize the oil disaster is a much larger and more complex problem than they believed. Duin and Wheeler were part of the real-life group, and Wheeler sketched and painted more than 300 pages over his 10 day tour across the coast.

After the jump: Wheeler, a New Yorker cartoonist and creator of the award-winning Too Much Coffee Man, shares his thoughts and some of his collection of sketches and paintings, from the Lower 9th Ward and French Quarter to people and places in coastal communities.

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"There’s something immediate about it. Even more than photos. And it’s an oddity. It’s like watching a dog do a card trick. 'How is this person drawing this picture that’s happening?' They want to see it, they want to talk to you about it, and it does create a real rapport. It opens people up."

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"Using the wash, (it) just worked with the landscape. … (There is) so much water involved with the story, using washes you can illustrate that water so well. It just has a tactile feel to it. That southern light, there’s a harshness to it. The wash really communicated that. To me it represents it really well."

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"There, I’m writing and drawing on the spot, trying to capture every moment. Usually I’m sitting in a coffee shop, or at home alone, and I’m trying to remember things, searching on the Internet for an illustration or photograph for reference. There, I’m on the spot. 'What is this person saying, what is the soul of what’s happening.'"

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