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Comics leap “Off the Page” in Downtown exhibit

By Jordan Streussnig

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Off the Page: The Comic Book and Game Art of Christopher Moeller

March 5 throughApril… Off the Page: The Comic Book and Game Art of Christopher Moeller

March 5 throughApril 25

709 Penn Gallery

Wed/Th — 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Fri/Sat — 11a.m. to8 p.m.

Sun — 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Graphic novel readers are probably used to seeing the name Christopher Moeller on bookshelves, but a new exhibit Downtown, “Off the Page,” features Moeller as an artist as well as an author.

Moeller said he was always a fan of art, but it was during his sophomore year of high school that he decided to join the discipline.

“In 10th grade, I was exposed to students preparing their portfolios for college, and it really excited me. Afterward, I really began working toward becoming an artist,” he said.

It wasn’t an easy road. Moeller earned a BFA at the University of Michiganand went on to graduate school at Syracuse University for illustration.

“One of my mentors after college told me it might take five years to find work. I was a young hotshot and didn’t believe him … and it ended up taking me almost exactly five years,” Moeller laughed.

But during that time off, Moeller wasn’t just sitting around watching his paint dry.

“The whole time I was waiting, I wasn’t just waiting. I was working on my portfolio, looking for opportunities to get my work in front of people,” he said.

Though art can be an unsteady pursuit, Moeller never wavered.

“There is a clear path forward, even though it doesn’t seem like it. Get a job that won’t take up all your time and energy but will allow you to survive and keep working on your craft. You will get little windows of opportunity, and you need to jump on them,” he said.

That he did, and in 1990, nine years after completing his undergraduate work, Moeller wrote and illustrated a graphic novel for Innovation Comics called “Rocketman: King of the Rocketmen.” This was his first professional endeavor, and things really began to take off, so to speak, for Moeller.

Moeller has done work for Dark Horse Comics, Caliber Comics and DC Comics, according to his website. He has done more than 100 illustrations for the trading card game, “Magic: the Gathering,” and has also done illustrations for another trading card game based on “World of Warcraft.”

Currently, Moeller writes and produces his own comics, called “Iron Empires.” He has thus far published two such graphic novels titled “Faith Conquers” and “Sheva’s War,” according to his site. He’s also published three comics with pre-established characters.

It seemed like Moeller was doing it all — he was working artistically in comics and games and even doing a lot of writing. But then he got a unique offer that Moeller, ever-ready to take an opportunity, gratefully accepted.

Sonja Sweterlitsch, curator at the 709 Penn Gallery, was familiar with Moeller’s work and asked him to put together an exhibit.

“She had asked me to jury a show for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust awhile back, and we talked. Her husband is familiar with my comics,” Moeller said.

Soon after, Moeller found himself among the “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds” of paintings in his studio, trying to decide which paintings to include in what would be his first gallery show since he was an undergrad.

“I wanted to include some of my personal work and also show some comic work and gaming work. And that was enough to fill the gallery,” he said.

Art may not be a sure shot as a career, but Moeller has proved that with talent and diligence, there are no limits.

“I think one of the important things if you’re going to choose a discipline where there is an unknown element is that it really has to be something you don’t even question,” said Moeller. “It has to be such a big part of your life that you can’t really imagine doing anything else.”

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Comics leap “Off the Page” in Downtown exhibit