Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 16, 2004

Local artist looking to create interest in Christian comics

By Ryan Gueningsman

A hand-written small piece of paper with the word "pray" written on it seems to sum up Sherwin Schwartzrock's philosophy on life.

Schwartzrock, who lives on the east side of Winsted Lake with his wife Leah (Kern), is a Christian comic book artist and a graphic designer.

Schwartzrock has been living in the area for the past eight years, and has been doing Christian comics for the past three.

His goal is to make Christian comics more available to people, and ultimately more popular.

Schwartzrock grew up outside of Rollog, about 40 miles east of Fargo-Moorhead and drew comics growing up. He and his brother worked on the comic, and it was published in 11 small-town newspapers.

"Then, he got a real job and split, so that ended," he said. "I got into graphic design, but growing up I taught myself to draw people by looking at comic books."

Schwartzrock went to Moorhead State, now University of Minnesota Moorhead, for graphic design, and had been doing design work until 2000. He and his wife lived in the Twin Cities area, and then moved to Spokane, Wash. in 1994.

"We had a lot of fun out there, but it just didn't seem like home," he said. He and his wife, who is originally from Waverly, moved back to this area, and started BlackRock Graphics, which has done work for places like Byerly's and Lund's, in addition to brochures and annual reports and identity work for companies.

"I did a project for a client of mine that was just a promotion, but it had a comic book feel," Schwartzrock said. "But, I just fell in love with comic books again. I couldn't think of anyone who would write a comic for me though, because I'm not a writer."

Inspiration struck when Schwartzrock was reading his Bible, and he thought "my goodness, these are comic book stories."

The first story Schwartzrock worked on was called Korah's Rebellion, adapted from Numbers 16 of the Old Testament.

"That was a learning experience," he said. "It was that first book that I learned a ton on. I was a Christian who didn't think anyone else would be interested in Christian comic books, but I found other people on the Internet that are."

There are now "e-groups" for comic book artist, as well as conventions for Christian comic books.

"We draw comic books all the time, we spend a ton of money, and we don't make a dime," Schwartzrock said laughing.

"It does take quite a bit of work and take the raw story and tell it in picture book ­ its different than literary form," he said.

He begins by sketching thumbnails, or general outlines of a page, he said. After that, he takes the drawings to his computer, working with it, and typing in all of the text for the balloons.

"There's so much text," he said. "It's really a composition element."

Schwartzrock moves across his studio to another table, and "inks" it, than again scans each page back to the computer, and works with it in his Photoshop program.

Lettering and coloring is the next step, but Schwartzrock generally does not do that.

"Generally, that's just another guy like me that does that," he said. "I'll give them an idea, but I don't try to take away the creative process for the colorist either."

The Washington Post did a story on Christian comics that also featured Schwartzrock recently.

"Surprisingly, they included a quote from me and some information regarding "Anointed," a comic I illustrated last fall," he said.

"Christian comics are just an art form," he said. "I just want as many people to know about Christian comics and get more support and readership."

To get more awareness for comics, there is a movie in the works, and conventions, in addition to a web site www.communitycomics.com.

Some other projects include a "Luther" comic, which is a series to promote the movie that came out last fall.

"The article also details other Christian comic projects, giving me a hope that Christian comics may see new life in 2004," he said.

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