Comic Artist Depicts Places, People of Kalamazoo
For over a year, Coop Scoop, the quarterly newsletter put out by People’s Food Co-op of Kalamazoo has devoted a page to storytelling in the comic-art form. A 2011 University of Michigan school of art graduate, Simon Borst is the illustrator and is also the front-end manager at the co-op.
In Borst's tiny home studio, the realistic drawings of Kalamazoo area people come to life on a drawing table that his father rescued from a dumpster and repaired.
Chris Moore, Media and Communications Coordinator at the co-op, is the writer who conducts the interviews of the people in each comic. Borst takes photographs and works form those to make his comics, which he considers a niche genre of graphic storytelling.
“It’s just a different way to kind of get to know some folks in the community,” Borst says.
The comics have included profiles the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market, the chocolate shop Confections With Convictions, Roseland Organic Farms, Kalamazoo Collective Housing and Green Gardens Community Farms. Borst’s comic of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail have appeared in Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave, as well as a story about Kalamazoo Promise, of which he is a beneficiary.
Borst has been enjoying comics since he was a kid reading Calvin and Hobbes over a bowl of cereal as well as the “innocent first-editions of a lot of those super-hero comics.”
Borst says a couple of teachers at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo were an asset to his development as a graphic storyteller.
In college, Borst experimented in all sorts of disciplines: graphic design, computer animation and more conceptual work.
“After college, I found myself drawn back into drawing,” says Borst.
His primary focus is “in transforming someone into a cartoon, not losing any aspects of their identity in that process and still being able to capture who they are.”
Borst says he loves Kalamazoo and sees endless stories in the community.
“Just about every story is worth telling in one way or another,” says Borst.
He says he hopes one day to compile a book of his work, which he feels is getting better and better with each story.
“I’ve always enjoyed my position at the co-op,” says Borst. “It’s something that I’ve been really committed to. I try and keep up with this the best that I can but, you know, with anything that you love, whenever you are not doing it, no matter what you are doing and no matter how fulfilling that can be, what you love may be driving some anxiety for wanting to do that.”