Graphic Account 

Richmond artists spill ink for the new “RVAnthology.”

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If you don't recognize Richmond within the covers of “RVAnthology, Vol. 1,” you haven't lived here long enough. While familiar hot spots such as the James River, Carytown and other areas of town play background roles in this graphic novel's five stories, it's the cigarettes, beer bottles, bicycles, ghosts and a remarkable appearance by the Dark Lord that are the dead giveaway.

The capital of the South may appear in perfect focus to some, or slightly warped through the lens of an angst-ridden dream sequence to others. But most likely the anthology's readers will agree: Graphic novels are preferable to graphic violence.  

The collaborative brainchild of five younger-than-25 artists — Eric Pfeiffer, Julia Scott, Chris Visions, Richie Pope and Nate Nelson — the glossy anthology was overseen by the Whitley Gallery.

“Our mission is two-fold,” says Emilia Lanwehr, manager and curator at the Whitley, which serves as a space for emerging artists and people who are, or have been, incarcerated to display their art. “Even though no one in the anthology is incarcerated or has been incarcerated, young artists need to have an outlet,” she says — “someplace that they are able to be creative individuals as much as anybody else.”

Opened in 2009 by criminal defense lawyer Angela Whitley, the gallery has worked with the Richmond City Jail and featured artists incarcerated in Coleman Federal Camp in Florida and the Lunenburg Correctional Center. “Creative people who've made bad decisions and ended up in jail could have made better choices if they had a better outlet,” Lanwehr says. The gallery is a vehicle for them to display their work.”

One young artist is Eric Pfeiffer, a 23-year-old communications art major at Virginia Commonwealth University. After having a solo street art show at the Whitley in 2009, he decided he wasn't going to sit around waiting to be magically struck a published illustrator. “I think it's a misleading idea in the education system that you're going to graduate and then just go out and get a job in your field,” says Pfeiffer, who's scheduled to get his degree in the summer. “It doesn't just happen. You have to do it.”

“I didn't have to be critical of them or push them. … They just worked off of each other,” says Lanwehr, 27, who got her master's degree in art business from Sotheby's Institute of Art at the University of Manchester. “I was definitely more of a supervisor. They have a shared passion for what they do.”

With Lanwher's support, Pfeiffer and his friends turned their dream of publishing a creative magazine into a reality. Before their gallery show in December, the Richmond-centric anthology was printed by Digital Banana in Scott's Addition, the website designed by Kevin Penney of PenBrain, LLC. For each copy of the anthology or related piece of art sold, two cans of food are donated to the Central Virginia Food Bank. 

“We're all extremely proud of it, but looking back it was mostly a huge learning experience,” Pfeiffer says. “If I were to do another comic today, it would look completely different.”

Pfeiffer says he plans to spearhead additional volumes of the anthology in the near future. “As soon as we finished it we were completely motivated and ready to keep working on new projects,” he says. “There were so many nights when we just didn't sleep. We underestimated how hard it was going to be. Everyone learned so much; we just sort of inspired one another.” S

Information can be found at rvanthology.com.

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