Claudio Verges, rising star in the art world, is enrolling in art college. His classmates are excited about having a genuine genius in their midst, but Claudio is hoping that they won’t find out he’s a fraud. Oh, the paintings are his alright, but to him they’re just paintings, not art. They have no passion, no heart, no soul. As his well-meaning roommates try to help him win the heart of the sharp-tongued sculptor Beatrice, Claudio finds himself drawn to the one person who has spotted his artistic dilemma, the handsome photographer Benedict.
I sometimes have dreams of writing a romance and if I did write one, I hope that it would be as sweetly romantic as Paluzzi and Delk’s darling story. Both women are graduates of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), so their setting and plot have the weight of reality about them. Benedict’s discussions about the nature of emotion in art are fascinating, helpful, and laid out in such a way as to be readable without ever seeming preachy. In fact, I’m torn between whether the art or the writing is my favorite element of this work, so I think I’ll just settle on “they were both great and fit together perfectly,” which is, after all, what a graphic novel is supposed to do. Humor, drama, and misunderstandings are deftly written. The misunderstandings are particularly well-done. The reader needed to be able to see what both speakers are thinking and what their misconceptions are, while also believing that the speakers could honestly be mistaken in what they think the other person is saying. That type of dialogue is tricky to do well, without seeming forced or awkward, but Paluzzi and Delk handle it like old pros.
The art also walks a fine line gracefully. Paluzzi and Delk don’t attempt to make their work “manga-style” or to copy any other type of style. They very much have their own “voice” in their drawings, with a modernness that is light and humorous or sexy and emotional, depending on the dictates of the story. The characters are all attractive, fitting for a romantic story, but not unbelievably so and, unlike in a lot of stories, they look and act the age they are–college and graduate school age. Benedict is swoon-worthy enough so that the reader can easily see why Claudio would feel an attraction to him, but he is also shown to be a real person, with problems and issues of his own. Claudio is equally realistic, especially in his conflict over his art. His roommate Hero and Hero’s boyfriend John are over-the-top gay and provide much of the comedic moments, but even they are given moments of reality and depth and Beatrice’s struggles with her emotions are heart-wrenching.
What really worked for me was that this isn’t just a boys’ love title, it is also a homosexual romance. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre that might sound like I’m repeating myself, but actually boys’ love and yaoi titles don’t necessarily reflect the reality of gay life. That seems to be slowly changing in some of the newer yaoi I’ve read, but most of them are still basically fantasies designed to appeal to women. Paintings of You does seem to have a bit of that fantasy element to it if you are unfamiliar with life at an art college or in an art department, but, speaking as a person who was an art major, let me assure you that Paluzzi and Delk’s world rings true. There is no actually use of the words “gay” or “homosexuality,” but Claudio, Beatrice, and Benedict still struggle with their feelings for people who may or may not be attracted to the same gender they are. Sexual content is at a minimum, really only kisses, but that doesn’t make the book any less romantic or sexy. Language is also at a minimum and I would comfortably recommend this for ages 13+, even in my conservative area.
NOTE: This review was previously posted at an old blog of mine, Fujoshi Librarian.