During the last three years, David Orr has been able to focus exclusively on his art projects – having retired from careers in architectural design, facilities management, and web development/user experience. Besides art, Orr is hooked on education. He has his B.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and a Master of Architecture degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Recently, at the age of 70, Orr completed a Master of Liberal Arts in Media and Popular Culture at Henderson State University in my hometown, Arkadelphia, Arkansas – as well as a program in Stand Up Comedy with the Second City Performance Center in Chicago. Now, at the age of 71, David has just been admitted to the 2023 incoming low residency MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Hardly afraid of leaving his comfort zone, Orr hopes to take his writing, illustration, and graphic narratives into new dimensions.
Born and raised in a small college town in the U.S. South, Orr grew up among raconteurs who often invoked the Southern tall tale form, as well as magical realism and surrealism. Aspects of these traditions appear in both his writings and illustrations. David sees his work as grounded in fun and in a desire to show how differences bring people together. David finds that he resolves most problems with graphic narrative layouts in his head while taking his two bull terriers for walks. If he could do life over again, he would arrange to be born in an era that knows how to travel at the speed of light. Yet, he is happy with who he is and where he is in his life adventure.
During the last three years, my creative focus has progressed from sequential painting in triptych format to sequential drawings and digital media in graphic narratives. I first write a script that builds on emotional as well as factual truths. My scripts aim to capture innocent yet astute concepts of identity — as seen in themes of both the early civil rights movement of the 1960s and culture wars now. After a few script edits, I sketch. I develop characters and scenes through layered techniques in photo editing software. I find that sketching typically reveals more and more of the story to be told. Many of my sketches, such as the ones submitted to HMVC’s “Home,” are square formats with layered components. As story arcs build, I seek to create graphic narratives in which two-page spreads can stand alone as works of art. I believe that a two-page spread for a graphic narrative is missing a powerful opportunity if component text, images, and frames and their patterns based on scale and proportion do not form one all-encompassing super image. A leading U.S. scholar of comics and graphic narratives sees my current artistic approach as “part of the graphic narrative avant-garde.”