Painting in Blues

Art lecturer’s latest book on the history and future of jazz named on Forbes’ list of best graphic novels.
David Chisholm holding his graphic novel Enter the Blue

Lecturer of Art David Chisholm’s graphic novel Enter the Blue was named one of Forbes’ Best Graphic Novels of 2022.

“It was definitely a big surprise,” Chisholm said. “I wasn’t expecting it to happen but it was really nice. I’m still not sure how they found my book but I’m glad they did.”

“I wasn’t expecting it to happen but it was really nice. I’m still not sure how they (Forbes) found my book but I’m glad they did.”
David Chisholm

Leaning on his deep knowledge of music and drawing, Chisholm created a story about a young woman who rediscovers her passion for jazz in an effort to save her comatose mentor. The novel’s namesake “Blue” refers to a mythical dimension accessed only through playing jazz with your entire heart and soul, which ingrains that moment into itself alongside all other great moments of jazz history.

While such a place doesn’t truly exist, Chisholm believes its concept has a basis in reality.

“When you really commit to jazz and to learning its history and then also kind of commit to finding yourself through this music, you can have these moments where you feel like you’re holding hands with a chain of people through time who played this music,” Chisholm said.

Enter the Blue graphic novel open on a table

Pages from Enter the Blue

Chisholm has dedicated his life to the pursuit of mastering not one, but two distinct and complex art forms in music and drawing. This passion creates the anchor of his teaching. At SUNY Brockport, Chisholm teaches courses on drawing while most of his remaining time is spent teaching rock, songwriting, and jazz at the Hochstein School.

“Music and comics have both been lifelong obsessions of mine,” Chisholm said. “My whole creative and professional life has been bouncing back and forth between these two disciplines.”

While Chisholm admits there are obvious challenges to portraying music through books, it is also the aspect he enjoys the most.

“The fun is to try and be as specific as possible with how a soundless medium can represent the goings on of a sound-based medium,” Chisholm said. “It’s all about finding clever ways to address the dissonance.”

Chisholm is currently working on his fourth graphic novel. While the three that are currently published are music-centric, he views his endeavors in art and music to be primarily separate.

“I’ve had a run of music-related books, but I don’t want to paint myself into a corner,” Chisholm said.