From landscapes to graphic novels: sharing stories with Peg Bruhn

Many visitors to the Torpedo Factory know Peg Bruhn as a landscape painter—but if you’ve been to studio 3 in recent weeks, you may have spotted dozens of small white-on-black rectangles on the table near the front window, each one featuring a sketch of a character waiting for a story to be told.

“This project is still in the fermentation stage,” Bruhn explains. “I have sort of a primordial soup of characters I play with, hoping they’ll begin to form groups and stories. I invite studio visitors to play with them, too, and share their ideas.”

Inspired by the graphic novels she discovered through her Torpedo Factory colleague Anne Buchal, Bruhn recently experimented with telling a story a day through sequential drawings, and she’s intrigued by what other artists have accomplished.

Great Mohonk Sky
acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 34″

“This new form seems to unite a number of my interests: children’s book illustration, comics, and narrative painting,” she says. “When I paint landscapes, I try to capture the experience of coming to, and being in, a place. Working on my own graphic novel may also allow me to capture a series of experiences—a visual story.”

Whether her characters appear in a graphic novel or are destined for a far different medium, Bruhn sees an audience for mature visual storytelling—not the more lurid fare for young people, but graphic novels like Special Exits, Joyce Farmer’s poignant book about the slow decline of her elderly parents.

Bruhn has also pondered the medium’s more familiar conventions. Lately, she’s imagined superheroes—albeit elderly ones—and she smiles as she recalls an idea her four-year-old grandson offered her: a superhero fish. Because Bruhn is receptive to both seriousness and whimsy, her new project exemplifies several Torpedo Factory ideals—experimentation, collaboration, and openness to visitors.

“I want people to come in and tell me their stories,” she says, shuffling her characters anew—and greeting the next ones to walk through her door.

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