I asked some of my students at GURU to stop working for a moment and ask themselves why they were pursuing illustration now that they’ve been in the thick of it for a few months. Tough question. Why illustrate? What’s the point in doing this? Who am I? Why? Huh?
Above, we can see the result of the their brainstorming. We can also see that being an illustrator does not guarantee clean handwriting. Some notable quotes:
“Because it takes a hell of a lot of courage not to have your creativity stripped by the tyranny of the status quo.”
“To poke fun at the world.”
“To make people angry.”
and of course: “Excuses to draw cats.”
This is of course only the tip of a very large iceberg. What do you think? Why should we illustrate? It’s part of that larger question that has no answer: “why art?”.
Two large sheets of newsprint, scrawled on by the hands of students. Sharpies. Crayolas. Permaopqaue markers.
It’s that time of year again: tax season. Well, really, that time of year is almost over. The deadline to push the big tax button is today!
As usual, I rummaged through all of my invoices and bills and write-offs and you-name-its until late last night, only to barely beat the deadline for the season and submit everything on time. And, being that I haven’t been a student in quite a few years, the idea of actually getting money back seems like a lost dream. Ack!
How I usually feel about this stuff:
But alas, I am a happy Canadian. My healthcare is good(ish). I have decent infrastructure in my city (though accessibility for cyclists could always be better). And of course, among all of this fun stuff, I see arts institutions pumping out culture and artists being supported. How could this be possible? With The Taxes, of course.
Maybe I’m just trying to be optimistic about The Taxes.
Last night I was a volunteer at Latitude 53’s somewhat regular bingo night at Fort Road Bingo. If you’re not in the know, this is a regular source of income for the non-profit organization that would not be available if were not for all of the volunteers willing to donate their time to help out. If you haven’t volunteered a bingo night before, I recommend you give it a shot. It’s really good people watching here in Edmonton.
It’s an odd experience, too. In a good way. A single giant room filled with what looks like semi-retired folks from around the city, and me, in a cage in the back of the hall watching everything happen. Even though that “watching” meant looking at people sitting down, hunched over with their wall of dabbers, it was … exciting? I wonder if they even noticed me?
Anyway, I brought my sketchbook along with me, hoping to make a few drawings in the spare moments I had here and there. I didn’t have enough time for serious observational drawing, but enough time to record the gist of the environment.
…dabbers and sheets and cards and money and coffee and fries and bingo and balls and callers and ushers and tables and fries and chairs and TVs and bingos and etc…
Drawings in my Moleskine sketchbook (the hipster sketchbook) with my trusty Uniball pen.
It’s moving time and Latitude 53 is looking for some friendly volunteers to help them haul goods into their shiny new space over the weekend of April 27th and 28th.
Can’t be there for the day? Donate some boxes! Want to help earlier? Swing by on the 25th and 26th and get packing.
Interested? Send them an e-mail.
Little doodle in the sketchbook, made with Copic Pigment Liners. Roughly 3”x3”
Regarding illustration in Edmonton
Normally my blog posts have used image more than word. But not this post. As an illustrator, most of my work is created to help embellish the word. To help to illustrate a point. Perhaps in this situation though, an illustration might not be best suited for the idea, because the whole point is about the lack of illustration. Still, even in that case, I’m sure an illustration could be used to help emphasize any article. But not this time. I’m going to use word as illustration today. Onward…
Nearly every major city in Canada has a free alternative weekly newspaper. Some cities have more than others, and sadly, some are now extinct due to the ever changing landscape of print and digital media, but this shouldn’t affect the way weeklies both need and create a strong community of local artists.
The weekly, as we call it, focuses on local arts and entertainment. In Edmonton, we call it Vue Weekly. There are features about local musicians. There are features about local plays. Features on upcoming art exhibitions. Features on local restaurants. All of the local arts shine in the weekly, and yes, this also includes press about out of town acts passing through your city, be it theatrical, filmic, musical, and of course, the visual.
The weekly itself also wouldn’t be possible without the help of its staff and contributors. Here we see that it’s both created and supportive of local artists who make everything possible. Writers. Photographers. Designers. Bloggers. Cartoonists. Webheads. Critics. And more. Of course, there is also political discourse involved within the weekly, as well as a nice section about the “solicited dating world” near the back before the funnies, but, hey, we can still call that art.
In short, that is the weekly. It’s made by artists, and it’s usually about the arts.
That is, most of the time.
Since the great merge of 2011, when Vue Weekly and SEE were absorbed into one mega being, it seems that a certain player has evaporated from the general aesthetic of the magazine. The illustrator.
Or more specifically, the freelance illustrator.
I’m not referring to the political cartoons or the page of funnies at the end of each issue, both of which I dearly respect. I’m talking about content created by a freelance editorial illustrator who has been hired out to create a nice embellishment to the weekly, and paid a wee bit of cash. To get to my quick point: when is the last time you saw a really nice illustrated cover on Vue Weekly? Personally, it’s been a long time.
I’m also not talking about the in-house illustrator who creates some of the more current covers, which frankly, I’ve seen a ton of since the great merge. This in-house illustrator works in production at Vue, which means he or she is also in the thick of layout for the whole issue. This I assume would lead to one feeling pretty spread thin if it came time to have to also work on an illustrated cover. I mean no disrespect to the in-house illustrator who does these works, by the way. Quality work happening there, it just seems that more time could be put into these covers to make them come to life.
More time needed, you say? Why not just hire a freelance illustrator to do that job for you to create some real quality?
That’s the point here.
The weekly makes for a great stomping ground for an up-and-coming illustrator. Sure, anyone in the industry knows that the rates aren’t the greatest, but that’s fine for people looking to sharpen their teeth. Personally, I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for FFWD Weekly in Calgary or Vue Weekly in Edmonton. They gave me the opportunity to help shine up their covers while bolstering my newcomer illustrator profile.
I know of many other illustrators who cut their teeth on the cover of weeklies. The illustrative powerhouse that is Raymond Biesinger, now in Montreal, created many covers for Vue in his early years. Jeff Kulak, also now in Montreal as well, did the same. Smokey (Nickelas Johnson), a local visual artist, was given opportunities to illustrate covers for VUE.
Before the merge, Genevieve Simms created covers for SEE as well as FFWD. Byron Eggenschwiler, a Calgary-based power illustrator, shined his boots on SEE covers as well as FFWD. I’m sure there are many more.
Sadly I think we’ve lost this in our local weekly. I haven’t seen a thick, juicy, pleasant, crisp illustration made by someone who is first and foremost an illustrator on the cover of Vue in a long, long time. And I’m not suggesting that I be hired for it. But what I do know is that, here in Edmonton, there is a large pool of up-and-coming illustrators being pumped out of local institutions every year. These young illustrators are spry, full of energy and ready to impress all of us as though their life were on the line.
If you are one of these illustrators, I highly suggest you start promoting the shit out of yourself to Vue. Maybe there isn’t enough of that happening. Does Vue ask for solicitations?
Finally, I also want to point out that this isn’t just about giving illustrators more of a profile. This is also about giving our city more of a profile. This is about giving the weekly more of a profile. This will help us prove that there is a talent pool that we can rely on for visual illumination by having something fresh and new on the cover of the local rag. It helps the weekly look like more of a patron of the arts by supporting visual artists.
I wrote this on a computer. Also, another cool perk about having worked with the small alternative weeklies is that I’ve met some cool people throughout time. One in particular, Mr. Omar Mouallem. He’s a writer and rapper. He’s also a good proof reader.
Meet Joanne Madeley. She’s the Administrative Coordinator at Latitude 53 who was so kind to sit down with me for a portrait session in my atelier. That’s a fancy word for studio here in Edmonton.
Joanne is new to Edmonton - nearly reaching her 10 month anniversary as an Edmontonian, in fact. She hails from the vast city of Montreal where she studied printmaking at Concordia University. Cool!
On the lookout for new ventures, she finds herself now in Edmonton, helping to run the show at Latitude 53. Without her Latitude could very well be in shambles, but here she is, organizing armies of volunteers to help run the show, be it exhibition prep, special events or fundraising. Noble indeed.
So next time you’re at Latitude 53, say hi to Joanne, and if you have a spare minute or two, ask her about her adventures one kilometer below the earth’s surface in one of Saskatchewan’s potash mines. It’s really, really, really cool. Imagine driving for an hour straight underground to reach a mining machine at the end of a salmon pink tunnel. It’s that sort of cool. Neat!
Anyway, this portrait is a part of a series I’d like to continue over this tenure as Writer/Illustrator in Residence. Goal: to capture all of the fine folks who run the show behind the scenes at Latitude 53. To sit down with them for a couple of hours, get to know them personally, and of course, to stare at their faces. Without these fine folk, nothing would happen at Latitude.
This was drawn on Stonehenge paper, one of my all time favourite compressed pulps. 10” x 12”, graphite on paper. I used a range of soft Staedtler graphite pencils, and of course, a kneaded eraser. Also an important part of the process of this portrait - listening to Pavement’s 1999 album Terror Twilight. My favourite jam from that album? This one.
This Writer/Illustrator in Residence is actually a difficult thing to create content for because Latitude 53 is currently in a state of transition at the moment, getting ready to move into a new facility. With no exhibitions or installations to see in the current space, I can only pull from the idea of moving into a new space and what that new space can become.
Still, I’m very excited about all of this! In short, I really can’t wait to see what will become of Latitude 53 once it gets that fancy new sweater.
This Tuesday, though, I’ll have Joanne Madeley, Latitude’s Administrative Coordinator, sit for me for a portrait session. This will be (hopefully) part of a series of portraits of the wonderful people who work behind the scenes at Latitude 53 and make it the place that it is. Stay tuned!
Graphite on paper - in sketchbook.