Patrick Hackleman with Bruce Burris


Patrick Hackelman with his model of the USS Monitor

Patrick Hackleman is an artist based in Corvallis, Oregon (near Portland), best known for his highly detailed diagrams and models of ships which strive to improve on historical designs, reaching backwards in time with a humanity and romanticism to avert disasters long past. These works were recently exhibited by Andrew Edlin Gallery at the Outsider Art Fair and will be included in an upcoming exhibition this year in Lexington, Kentucky.

Bruce Burris currently works with two overlapping projects in Corvallis that support Hackleman and other artists. ArtWorks, an art program provided by CEI (a disability services provider), and his own project Outpost 1000, work in conjunction to provide the supports of a progressive art studio in an innovative way. Bruce explains his methods briefly:  

“...based upon community partnerships and with the goal of supporting an artist who is navigating their entire my programs unlike [older progressive art studios]...are out the door programs as well as studio programs...and they are somewhat more expansive in terms of creating self advocacy platforms for/with artists etc. Also we employ art forms such as performance, etc to more fully engage the community. Our intention is to help to move an artist's career forward - providing only the most necessary and most innovative supports...leaving the path up to the artist as much as possible.“  

Burris, also an artist, has been a dedicated advocate in this field for nearly four decades, well before it can be said that this field even existed. In the 1980s he bagan leading informal workshops at a state institution in Delaware, supporting disabled artists not only to create, but to be seen. Starting up and leading workshops of this kind eventually led him to work for a few weeks at Creative Growth, where he met Florence and Elias Katz. He then moved on to Lexington Kentucky, where he participated in the establishment of several other programs, including the co-founding of Latitude Artist Community.

This special guest contribution by Patrick and Bruce is a discussion of Hackleman’s lesser known body of work - a robust recreation of the narrative surrounding a video game character, recreating by hand comic packaging with the same benevolent ambition to alter history that informs his ships. 

Sonic the Hedgehog and filled out stories

By Patrick Hackleman with Bruce Burris

Patrick: It is important to me that this is my own story, and while I made this with Bruce, it’s all stuff that I approve of. Because we want to talk about my work here, I want to be able to do it in my own way. My work is important to me and that’s why I do it. It’s my way of saying the bad guys are going to get it. I don’t want to see or hear my heroes suffer. I want to make sure that when people see my comics, they understand. So this is why we made this article like we are talking to each other. Some of it is written and some is an interview. 

Bruce: Patrick Hackleman lives and creates in Corvallis Oregon, which is about 90 miles from Portland, which has become a hotbed of comic book culture.  Dark Horse has been a part of the Portland comic scene for many years. Image Comics, the industry’s 3rd largest publisher that is known for The Walking Dead series and Oni Press, recently moved to Portland. Many comic book creators also live in area, and Patrick is not immune to the momentum and energy they contribute to the comic scene.  In addition to being a regular attendee of Portland’s Rose City Comic Con, Patrick is often a vendor at regional zine fests.  He also has been amassing a comic book empire of his own. 

About 5 years ago, Patrick began to create original works based upon particular Sonic the Hedgehog comic stories. With two complete boxed editions representing 16 “stories” each, Patrick’s accumulated work hovers around 750 pages of original content. Currently Patrick is seven comics into his newest series based on Sonic the Hedgehog numbers 142 and 143. 

Patrick is a multi-talented artist whose coveted ship models have been exhibited at New York’s Outsider Art Fair via the Andrew Edlin Gallery and will be seen later in 2017 in an exhibit in Lexington, Kentucky. Most recently his technical ship drawings were shown at the Corvallis Arts Center. When not working on these projects you will most likely find him adding to his Sonic the Hedgehog re-creations. These go far beyond typical fan tributes and seem comfortable residing in an area inhabited by the likes of Mike Steven’s “Mingering Mike”, who created a catalog of soul music inspired record ephemera such as unplayable records, album covers and such. 

As he describes them, Hackleman’s Sonic the Hedgehog adaptations are altered to give his subjects “an optimal chance of survival”. As described by Patrick, “I include characters of my own creation to show what I would do to help them have the opportunity and courage. They are based on myself and my friends”. It is Patrick’s belief that the original Sonic comics usually do not have endings which he views as sufficiently “positive.” His impulse then is to change that. “After reading Sonic [number 230] in which I saw terrible things happening, I realized that I had to make my own comic books. I wanted to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel for Sonic and his friends. I like to keep the casualties on the hero side as close to 0 as possible.”                                                                                                        

Similar to Mingering Mike’s creator, who exhibits some concern at revealing his identity, Patrick has a concern over copyright issues related to his characters’ likeness and storyline. To counter this anxiety, he distributes his works to friends for free and places them anonymously within the stacks at local book and comic book stores. 

As he works, various story lines occur to him and Patrick commits these to memory to insert at certain junctures. Patrick chooses colors for his work which are intense and radiant. Though he understands that the markers he uses and the copy process he chooses contribute to this look it is his intention to inundate his work with the most vivid colors that he can. “My concept is that these are the colors that are most realistic, or you can say that they are the colors that bring my work to life”. 

Patrick color photocopies the many hundreds of pages required in each series with money he has earned himself. His various comic series, each 16 issues long, are then carefully packaged in detail rich boxed sets, somewhat akin to Lp tribute sets. On occasion a friend from his workplace helps Patrick to scan his work onto disks which he also distributes to friends in boxed sets. 

Recently Patrick collaborated in framing some questions which he felt would help to explain his creative interests. The interview took place at ArtWorks (CEI), which is a progressive art studio in Corvallis, Oregon operated by Collaborative Employment Innovations, an organization which links job seekers considered to have disabilities with employers.

Bruce: Patrick, what inspired you to begin this series of comics?

Patrick: Lots of people and artwork have influenced me, especially movies, comics, tv shows and other neat stories and people. My biggest influences include anime, Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi Oh!, NUKU-NUKU and BUBBLEGUM CRISIS -  to name just a few. I also watched those “How to Draw” commercials on Nickelodeon and paid attention to many cartoons and various animation methods. After a while I was satisfied with my own work and had the guts to share it with others. I started by watching Sonic the Hedgehog on Saturday mornings on ABC, this was between 1993 and 1995. I started reading the comics around Easter in 1997. I stopped reading them after what happened to Sonic’s ace girl Sally in issue #230. She was mechanized by Eggman’s evil creation the Death Egg Mach 2. So I started writing my own story after seeing Dr. Eggman about to “improve” Mecha-Sally in issue #232. When I saw that happen to Sally I said “I’m not going to take that anymore” and I started to write my own stories. This was back in 2011.

Bruce: Do you play Sonic video games? 

Patrick: Oh yeah, I started playing them after seeing the tv shows. I liked them a lot but I wanted to add to them to make sure that the heroes were doing the kinds of things of things we could all be proud of. Eventually I started to make the comics myself. At first it was hard to make them. I wasn’t sure about it. My characters are in Sonic but also I make my characters up or invent them, so it’s both that you will see. My stories are ones I made myself, they are mine, and they are about the hero or heroes. 

Bruce: You are engaged in a body of work which spans ship models, technical drawings and finally your comics. The comics are so different from the rest of your work, how do you keep these things separated?

 Patrick: Good question, I don’t really know. 

Bruce: What do people need to know about your comics? 

Patrick: I draw my comic books to let people know we have this world worth visiting someday. They are my reaction to my life or all life. I’m trying to make sure that people know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

All images courtesy the artist and Bruce Burris

Bruce Burris is an artist living in Corvallis, Oregon whose work was recently included in the Portland 2016 Biennial, curated by Michelle Grabner. Burris has been a collaborator, ally and advocate in the field of arts and disability culture for over 35 years. He has served variously as founder, director and owner of a number of agencies and programs recognized for creating innovative supports which enable people to assume esteemed roles within their communities. 

Patrick Hackleman is an artist living in Corvallis, Oregon. Hackleman’s work is well known having recently exhibited at New York’s prestigious Outsider Art Fair via the Andrew Edlin Gallery and in various local and regional venues such as the Arts Center in Corvallis and the University of Washington. His work has been the subject of several newspaper and magazine articles. He is looking forward to an exhibit in Lexington, Kentucky later in 2017.