The fourth edition of Maui Comic Con is upon us and one of the featured guests is a local hero in the deepest sense of the word. native of Maui Noble Richardson created eye-catching and moving murals in Wailuku and Kahului. His art, in addition to being beautiful and rich in detail, often blends Hawaiian history and culture. Richardson, who teaches at Wailuku Elementary School, is an excellent artist who works in oil painting. His work can be found on Nobleisms.com. Prior to his appearance at Comic Con, he spoke with MauiTime on its history of origin and its influences.
Barry wurst: Please tell me a bit about yourself, your background and where you grew up.
Noble Richardson: Well… I was born and raised here in Wailuku, Maui, and this is important to me as part of my artistic career. I started my adulthood in Las Vegas and spent 13 years navigating the anatomy of almost every aspect of the nightlife industry before moving home to focus on my artwork.
NB: Who are the artists who influenced you and the people in your life who encouraged you to follow your art?
NR: Art exists in my everyday life, and whenever I prepare for certain approaches, I still remember the words spoken by a few teachers. My family is my biggest encouragement and the music is the rhythm that will initiate the creative process.
NB: Which cartoonists and graphic novels were you addicted to when you were a young man?
NR: Thanks to Maui Comic Con and everyone involved in helping it become what it is today, I am starting to learn the names of the artists behind the artistic inspiration of my childhood. Alika Seki was the guy who did the most to give today’s young people the same opportunity I had when I was a kid.
Like most children, I was in love with art and characters. Spiderman, Wolverine and the X-Men saga, and Tim Burton’s Batman were huge influences for me… It was the first time Batman wore a black suit, it was my first time in front of a big screen, and I saw him at the opening day at the theater of the Old Kahului mall. Before entering the theater, I stood next to my father in a line that snaked around the building. I saw another boy holding an all-black Batman toy he bought at the comic book store near the Wailuku Bridge.
Although I couldn’t get this same toy, I discovered the comic book store and after frequent visits my imagination started to take flight. Comics weren’t new to me, but on the walls there were drawings of other kids, and all I could think of was, “Wow, I didn’t know a lot of people could draw. This prompted me to draw a lot of pictures from my own comics. And 30 years later, I have one of my artwork in the Maui Comics and Collectable store at the Queen Kaahumanu Center.
NB: What do you think of Maui Comic Con? Have you been to other comics (like San Diego Comic Con) before, as a guest or as a patron?
NR: It was definitely an idea to attend the early days of SDCC, however, I never made a commitment. I think the one held here at UH Maui was more than amazing. The youth of Maui have the opportunity to meet the artists who create so much of what we love to play, read and watch. The workshops and live art are what I see as a major influence for many of the students I teach at Wailuku Elementary. It also opens up opportunities for local Hawaii entrepreneurs and, with aloha’s warmest welcome, it’s the first organization I’ve dealt with that respects local vendors as much as comic book legends.
NB: What made you decide to become a teacher?
NR: May 1, a shipping container moved, the pride of the elders, a manager who didn’t introduce me, my niece and nephew and my wife all lined up on an offer I decided to try . Basically, I offered to paint a mural on the Wailuku Elemental shipping container that is on the May 1 lot.
In addition to accepting a mural, Principal Stanich offered me a part-time position to teach art to students. My wife convinced me to try something that has positively changed my life forever. Part of that inspiration comes from my firsthand experience with art when I attended Wailuku Elementary School, as well as the advice I received from Ms. Sato at HP Baldwin High School.
NB: What do you hope to express with your art?
NR: My real answer is too complex for me to answer comfortably, however, it is that simple. In Hawai’i, we have many knowledge paths that tell the same stories in slightly different ways. It is not a question of who is wrong or who is right, and the origin of this mana’o is widespread and adapted by translation. I just share what I learn through daily interactions.
I don’t spend time recounting the interconnected web of ‘ike that has come my way, as it is best reserved for face-to-face interactions. Many times my art is a collection of stories that I tell with my own choice of images, which can better describe the message I’m currently engulfed in. I think people born and raised in Hawai’i get a different kind of humanity than the outside world, and I like to create works of art that may or may not appeal to locals or visitors. What I am sure of is that I strive to create a unique work that exemplifies my love for Hawai’i, and if the viewer tunes into it, I am extremely honored. And if they want to hear more about my thoughts, I’m happy to engage.
Maui Comic Con happening October 26-27 at UH Maui College. In addition to Richardson, guests include Eric Powell (creator of “The Goon”), Marvel Comics legend Carl Potts, Disney comic book illustrator James Silvani and animated storyboard artist Keith Tucker. There is also a keiki cosplay costume competition, for adults and for groups. Free entry! Visit Mauicomiccon.com for details.
Photos by June K. Harper; Maui Comic Con poster courtesy of Maui Comic Con