Brush with Passion: The Art and Life of Dave Stevens

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Several years ago, Avengers writer Brian Michael Bendis talked about Brush with Passion on a WordBalloon podcast. I was unfamiliar with Dave Stevens outside of the fact that they made a movie out of The Rocketeer. When they came out with an Artist Edition of The Rocketeer at IDW last year, I bought it and fell in love with the art. It’s the most beautiful book I own. So, I decided to find a copy of Brush with Passion and read his autobiography.

Stevens died in 2008 after a bout with leukemia. But I have never read a book that was so filled with hope and passion. The title is apt. And I finished the book in two days. I couldn’t put it down and had the images stuck in my head all day.

I loved every page and story within the 288 pages of the tome. His recanting of his childhood reminded me of mine. He was so enamored by pop culture and art, specifically comic art, that he would consume as much as he could find. For anyone who knew me as I was growing up, literature was this all-consuming force for me. I would find as many books as possible and read them like mad. As Stevens detailed his love, I felt mine reignite.

Through heartache and struggles, Stevens continued to seem like a child who hit it big. He was so excited about what he had achieved and what he had done. He wasn’t satisfied and always wanted to do more, but I know that feeling.

There were a few passages that stuck out to me:

“I’ve never felt like I belonged with any particular group, socially or professionally: I guess I’ve always been a bit of a square peg. I keep looking and hoping to find my ‘sphere,’ my circle. I’m sure they must exist somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet. Still, though i have my share of failures and regrets and a list of things I might have done differently if given the chance, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet and befriend sow of the most wonderful and gifted people walking the planet…and gotten to do the type of work I love…I happily acknowledge that everything that I’ve done and everything I’ve experienced are what makes me who I am (for good or bad).”

I hope to be able to say something like this when the time comes.

And to read some recollections of Stevens after his death, I noticed some aspects of his personalities that I also have. His friend says that “he was contradictorily a ‘people person’ who was intensely, almost extremely private” and that “upon his death some described Dave as their ‘best friend,’ but it’s almost certain that Dave knew much more about them than they ever did about him.” I have been told both of these things. It’s a nice little hope and inspiration that I should keep going.

I have a new kindred spirit in Dave Stevens. This book may be near the top of the list of life changing reads. If you ever want to buy me a gift, try to find this out of print book. And in conclusion, I’d like to send a thanks to Mr. Stevens, wherever he may be. This work was amazing and really made me think about everything. I hope to share your passion.

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