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Author-illustrator Hector Curriel to speak at Nobles County Library in Worthington

“When I came and stayed (in the U.S.), the first town I lived in was Worthington, so I have recognition and appreciation for Worthington. I call it my hometown sometimes.”

Author-artist Hector Curriel will speak Monday at the Nobles County Library in Worthington.
Author-artist Hector Curriel will speak Monday at the Nobles County Public Library in Worthington.
Submitted photo
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WORTHINGTON — Ace fighter pilot, South Dakota governor and TV host Joe Foss led an extraordinary life, and writer-illustrator Hector Curriel, who told his story in a graphic novel, will speak about Foss and his own work Monday at the Nobles County Library in Worthington.

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“Everyone should come. I’m hoping to see a lot of friends I made when I lived in Worthington,” Curriel said. “I think if you have kids interested in art, please bring them to the class about graphic novels.”

He will give two talks at the library on Monday, one geared toward teens and focusing on graphic novels from 4 to 4:45 p.m. and another for grown-ups with more information about Foss from 6 to 7 p.m.

“American Ace: Joe Foss, Fighter Pilot” is Curriel’s first graphic novel, packed with 130 pages of dramatic black-and-white illustrations of Foss’ career as an unlikely fighter pilot during World War II.

Anyone who’s flown out of the Sioux Falls Regional Airport has likely heard of Foss, as the facility is also known as Joe Foss Field, but his route to shooting down five enemy planes and earning his status as an official “ace” was an unusual one.

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As the war began, he joined the South Dakota National Guard and then the United States Marine Corps’ flight training program. But when he was ready to become a fighter pilot, he was deemed too old for combat and instead was assigned to teach younger men to fly. Over and over again he volunteered for special assignments, until he earned a place in a fighting unit and went to Guadalcanal. He shot down 26 enemy planes in less than a year, earning the Congressional Medal of Honor. He later became governor of South Dakota and went on to host “The American Sportsman” and “The Outdoorsman: Joe Foss” on television. He also served as a football commissioner for the American Football League, a rival to the NFL.

The cover of “American Ace: Joe Foss, Fighter Pilot", by Hector Curriel.
The cover of “American Ace: Joe Foss, Fighter Pilot", by Hector Curriel.
Submitted photo

Curriel, a visual artist who has illustrated several books and also does cartooning and caricatures as well as fine art, responded to a call for artwork from the Sioux Falls Regional Airport. For his proposed project, he went to the library in Sioux Falls, and they provided Foss’s autobiography.

“I started reading the book and I was very engaged with his history because he did such remarkable things,” Curriel said.

After he read the book, he started asking people what they knew about Joe Foss, and found that most people hadn’t heard of him at all. In order to make the story appealing to young people, Curriel decided on a graphic novel format for the project.

“I had a good response from people, not only in the states but in other countries as well,” he said.

To create the book, Curriel needed pictures that would engage people and keep them interested enough to continue reading the story.

“You have to really think about filmmaking in some way, think of angles and views and make the flow of the story go smoothly,” he said, as if it were a storyboard for a movie instead of a conventional illustration for a text.

While he uses watercolors and acrylics for work in fine art, Curriel normally uses digital tools like ProCreate to illustrate books, so that he can work on his iPad and bring it anywhere. In this case, though, he recalled the great graphic novels of the 1950s and 1960s, which were generally printed in black and white.

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As such, Curriel worked in ink, making the art by hand, creating dramatic images of stark light and deep shadow. While it was effective, it was also time-consuming, and while he is interested in creating another graphic novel, he said he’d probably go back to digital work next time.

Curriel, who originally hails from Peru, currently lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“When I came and stayed (in the U.S.), the first town I lived in was Worthington, so I have recognition and appreciation for Worthington,” he said. “I call it my hometown sometimes.”

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Becoming an artist was his dream and his passion since he was very young, though he actually has a background in architecture.

“There’s a career in it… be persistent, and don’t be afraid to talk about yourself and what you do,” Curriel said, offering advice to prospective artists. “It’s about practice, every single day. The more you practice, the better you’re going to be as an artist.”

He emphasized the importance of hard work and consistency over talent.

“Ninety percent is, every day, trying to work and trying to learn from other artists, and finding your own path,” he explained. “Be consistent and never give up.”

“American Ace: Joe Foss, Fighter Pilot,” is available for purchase on Amazon, and for more information about Curriel, visit hectorcurriel-artwork.com .

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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