Sometime sooner or later I'll post the drawings I made at the Expo on this blog. But for now I just wanted to put up a different Expo-related thing.
I can't resist confessing that I was pretty thrilled to catch a glimpse of Sam J. Jones, the one and one Flash Gordon from the iconic 1980 movie.
The movie, which I vividly remember seeing at the age of about eight, in a downtown Calgary theatre with my dad and brothers, had a giant impact on me for some reason. I think it was the campy dialogue (which seems to have stayed in my head for all these years - and is often something I seem to have referenced in my old drawing books. Here are three pictures I just dug up from the archives).
I had a blast attending the 2014 Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo and drawing sketchy little comic strips about what was going on there. Unfortunately, I won't be able to come for the last day, because I have another drawing project coming up (watch this space!). But, my table will still be there, with a friend of mine to look after things, in case you'd still like to come by (and buy one of the original tweeted pictures, if you feel like it!).
Of course, it may also have been the powerful presence of Max von Sydow's Ming (whom I painted, nearly life-sized, on the wall of my bedroom as a teenager. I'm not making this up. But I'm too sleepy to go and hunt down a photograph of that just now).
"Gordon's alive!??!!" "Get your toothbrush and whatever! He's at the Expo!!!"
"Long live Flash. Have a nice day!"
Here's a quick post to say that it's the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo this weekend!
I've been busy writing quick sketchy comics about what's going on around me on the Expo grounds. I'm posting these on Twitter (and the Calgary Herald is re-tweeting them... I feel like a real comics journalist!). I did this last year, too, and you can see some of those pictures here. I'll put this year's pictures up here when I have a chance (i.e. after I've had some sleep... and I have the feeling that isn't going to happen much during the next few days!).
If you're coming out to the Expo, please come and say hi - I'm at table G 10 in Artist Alley. Just so you know, I won't be able to come on Sunday (although a friend of mine will be at my table) - so I hope I'll get to see you before then!
I wrote this last year, thinking I'd post it before the birth of my new baby in October. Well, that didn't happen. But since it's kind of an Easter-themed post, I thought I'd put it out there now....
Recently I was asked if I'd be part of a panel about "Women in Comics" for the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo. That's just the kind of thing I'd usually love to be part of. But I had to say no, for the same reason I'm missing the whole Expo this year: I'm expecting a baby that's due in just a few more days. What a classic "Women in Comics" situation - or "Women in Anything," really! Babies show up when they want to, throw your career out of whack and teach you how to juggle work and life!
In anticipation of a bit of a hiatus from blogging (and everything else I usually do), there's one thing I've been wanting to write about. Well, actually two things. One is a new book called "Work/Life 3." And the other is an old book called "The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes."
Work/Life 3 is the third in a series of books created by local publishing house UPPERCASE Press. Here's what UPPERCASE has to say about the series:
"When the first edition of Work/Life was published back in 2008, UPPERCASE was a fledgling publishing house. In 2009, our eponymous quarterly magazine was born, growing into a celebrated publication with readers around the world. In 2011, the second edition of Work/Life was released and featured 100 international illustrators. It was met with much enthusiasm, not only from art and illustration buyers who appreciated the book's quality content and curated talent, but also from other illustrators and aspiring artists who were inspired by the stories shared within. [...] The Work/Life series has developed into something even greater than a promotional publication—these books are educational, inspirational and beautiful; books that have value beyond just a directory of talent."
This year I've been writing lots of comics and doing lots of graphic recording. I was intrigued by the opportunity to be part of an illustration directory, particularly one that was the product of a Calgary business. I also liked the theme of "Work/Life" - that's been my own theme song for a while now, even before I quit my day job a little under two years ago (best decision ever) to start taking this juggling act seriously!
So I headed down to Art Central to meet UPPERCASE publisher Janine Vangool and find out a bit more about this little local powerhouse of all of things print. (With the impending demise of Art Central, UPPERCASE has since moved to a new space in the Devenish Building.)
And a few months later, I received Work/Life 3 - a very cool compilation showcasing 100 illustrators from around the world: not just samples of their work, but stories and images from their lives. (Take a look!)
What a cliffhanger ending!! And all true! So much for my plans to launch my brilliant full-time freelance art career. It'll have to remain a juggling act for a while longer. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Which brings us to the Country Bunny!
But first: a note from April, 2014. (Remember, this whole post was written in Sept. 2013!) That last panel above was the first time new baby Henry made an "appearance" in a comic strip - but it won't be the last! I'll be at the 2014 Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo next week (April 24-27) with the latest in my "mom comics" series, "Alec's 5th Year Book." Henry steals the show!
But more on that later. For now, back to September 2013 and the aforementioned Country Bunny.
As you may know if you've been reading this blog, I'm a fan of children's literature - mostly Young Adult Fiction. But I do love books for younger children, too, and I've been glad, since having had my son Alec in 2009, to have had occasion to enjoy so many of them again! The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is one that my grandmother gave me when I was small, and which I remembered vividly... but which I've never seen around since. Indulge me for a sec before I tell you more. The story starts with the mention of a little brown country bunny who, as a girl, dreams one day of being an Easter Bunny...
So you'd think that that would be the end of the story right there, wouldn't you? (I love the little wrinkle under her eye that just hints at the exhaustion of early parenthood.) When I rediscovered this book a year or two ago, I didn't have any clue about its context or history. All I knew was what it said in the book: published in 1939. Sounds like a time in which the career goals of a young lady rabbit would be forgotten with the arrival of one, much less twenty-one, children! And indeed, this resilient young mother puts aside her dreams and throws herself wholeheartedly into her new "career" - with great results:
OK, so if you happen to have a child (or a houseful of children), I know you're already fantasizing about the gloriously well-kept house of the Country Bunny and her brood. (And just where is Mr. Bunny, by the way? More on him later.)
Anyway, it turns out that auditions are being held for the post of Easter Bunny (one of five - apparently there are actually five of them, since it's a pretty big job), and Mrs. Bunny heads out with her children to watch the contest (again - where's Mr. Bunny?!). She ends up impressing the "old, kind, wise, Grandfather Bunny" who is doing the choosing. He wonders if she could possibly be swift enough for the job, but she proves herself by sending her children hopping off in all directions...
(Everyone knows that nothing moves faster than a parent chasing a child!)
But no! She explains how she's trained her amazing children to take care of the house even better than she can do herself. And this was in the days in which you could actually just go out and deliver Easter eggs all night, leaving your youngsters at home, without even needing a babysitter, a baby monitor, or a cell phone (Or a husband, apparently, because he still hasn't made an appearance). So technically there is nothing to keep her away. And the old Grandfather Bunny says: "I see that you are wise also..."
I just loved the above picture (a double spread in the book) that shows all those eggs piled up in the cavernous halls of the palace.
I won't give away the adventures that befall our valiant Mrs. Bunny on Easter night. Suffice to say, her efforts win her the magical pair of golden shoes. And then she hops home...
As a child, I only loved the story, but re-reading this as an adult, I saw two other things: one, that I think I want twenty-one well-trained rabbit children to clean my house, and two, that there's more to this story than I'd realized. There's actually a pretty strong message of racial equality in the tale of the "little brown bunny" who rises to the coveted post of Easter Bunny, despite the put-downs of narrow-minded, wealthy, snooty white bunnies (whom I didn't show in this post). Indeed, I discovered that the story has been widely acclaimed for its place in the social justice movement. Years later, it was (almost!) made into a ballet - this would have been incredible - produced by Ismail Merchant of Merchant Ivory fame (take a look here to read an article about that astounding project, which seems to have been truncated upon Merchant's sudden death).
But what really struck me was that it was a story of female empowerment. At a time when many women weren't even allowed to work - at least not in the careers of their choice - the Country Bunny takes her twenty-one children to the job interview and gets the job, without apparently even consulting her spouse, much less receiving his permission!
Yes, the absence of Mr. Bunny really surprises me. Either he's working up in Fort Mac, or he's out of the picture completely. But whatever the case, the Country Bunny doesn't seem to be suffering from it. She's completely independent. And she's complex: realistic, but still harbouring dreams.
You'd think that the story of a lady who puts aside her childhood dreams while raising her family, and then goes on to have a brilliant career after the kids are old enough to look after themselves, sounds like a story that would resonate with readers today. It is amazing this feminist-friendly book was written in 1939, and not only that, written by a man. DuBose Heyward (pictured here) was the startlingly ahead-of-his-time South Carolina writer who penned this little tale.
I'm tipping my Easter bonnet to the Country Bunny, that heroine of a bygone generation who apparently wrote the book on balancing work and life!
Would I have chosen to start a very fun and exciting new career in the same year I was having a baby, if I'd had a choice? No! But am I still loving every minute of this balancing act? Well, yes, although typing this with my left hand while nursing Henry at 1 AM is not exactly the ideal scenario for work or life. But since it is actually what I'm doing, I'm going to wrap this up and go off in hopes of getting some sleep. Happy Easter!
I live in Calgary. But when I was invited, a few months back, to contribute some graphic recording to a City of Edmonton initiative, I was really pleased to do so - and not only because it meant I'd be able to count on free babysitting from my in-laws. (That's my baby under the "welcome" sign!)
I was actually excited to learn about Evolving Infill, a City-led "collaborative project that is aiming to create an Infill Action Plan to shape the City’s plan to advance Infill." Infill housing is happening, whether people like it or not (and not just in Edmonton). The City of Edmonton is hosting a conversation between citizens from every different side of the story, gathering up as much information as possible from real people, in order to make the process better for everyone.
That's my short version of what the Evolving Infill team is doing - but you can find out much more about it on their website.
I happen to love this kind of project. I love civic engagement (one word: VoteKit!!!), and I love good urban design that makes for walkable and multi-generational neighbourhoods (if you actually make it through this whole post, you'll see a comic strip I wrote on this subject a while back - from which, a little snippet here). And, well, I love eavesdropping on interesting conversations.
And I have to say, speaking as a Calgarian who came to love Calgary by the long way around (here's a bit on that subject, in this post about Calgary books), I kind of love Edmonton, too.
I mean, it's cold, it's got a layout that's more messed-up than you'd think would be possible considering it's on a grid, it's full of all these passionate small-L (and big-L, I guess) liberal thinking artsy unpretentious educated culture-loving citizens, it's famous for its potholes, there's that insane bridge, and it's got the best Indian food outside of Bradford, UK (although its most beloved local dish is apparently the green onion cake). What's not to love?
Throughout the four days I've spent so far with Edmonton's Infill Action Collaborative (of whom more below), I found myself wishing I knew more about the nuances of Edmonton's city scene. A lot of what I heard sounds like what's going on in Calgary, too (although, interestingly enough, there are some big differences - for example, in Calgary there's still this ongoing debate about legalizing secondary suites (here's a passionate contribution to the debate by blogger Mike Morrison), whereas in Edmonton, these are accepted fare).
Anyway - here's my fly-on-the-wall view of this very cool Edmonton project.
Meet the Infill Action Collaborative
In "Step 1" of Evolving Infill (last year), project leaders gathered "infill stories" from citizens. Right now they're in the middle of "Step 2," and here's what their website says about that:
That's City Planner Jeff Chase up there, speaking to the Infill Action Collaborative at their first workshop. Next, everyone introduced themselves, and while they were at it, mentioned their favourite kitchen utensil. I managed to catch most of them!
Dave Robertson, by the way, who's the principal at Calgary's Mistri Consulting, is leading these workshops, and he is the person who invited me to collaborate with him in doing so. Thanks Dave!
By the end of our second workshop, the group had worked through a lot of information. Here's Dave (above) leading a discussion about all of the stuff on the posters you can see behind him! Group participants discussed various "infill stories" (some that they came up with themselves, and others that had been contributed by Edmontonians during "Step 1" of the project).
They talked about challenges and obstacles for the infill process - from many points of view (i.e. speaking as neighbours, developers, realtors, architects, planners, builders, you name it!)
Oh, and another point of view that was pretty important in these discussions was that of "Community League" members. I had no idea that these neighbourhood organizations, which in Calgary are known as "Community Associations," are called "Leagues" in Edmonton.
I couldn't stop thinking of "The Adventure of the Red-Headed (Community) League" - ha ha.
Anyway, the group worked through infill stories, challenges and obstacles to the current process, and also listed their hopes and aspirations for the infill system. Plus, they drafted eight statements that they felt summed up what was happening in Edmonton infill currently. And all of this went on to a poster - details below.
Two random notes: First, a shout out to Under the High Wheel, the caterers who brought some really tasty food to the workshops. Now I know where I'll be going, the next time I have the chance to eat out in Edmonton!
And second: I was not the only one taking creative notes during all this. I noticed one of the Infill Action Collaborative participants, Geoff Abma, taking really lovely notes in his sketchbook, and I asked if I could take some pictures of them (here they are, below). (He has a pretty cool website, too.)
I really love sketchnotes. As a total aside, I recently took a look at some other great sketchnotes by Dave Wittekind from Chicago. And take a look at these truly amazing sketchnotes by Vancouver-based Brad Ovenell-Carter! If you can believe it, I'm actually supposed to do a graphic recording of a talk he'll be giving in Calgary in May (at the InnovateWest Conference). Um, just a little intimidating!!!
McKay Avenue School
But now, back to Evolving Infill for a few pictures from our amazing venue: the former McKay Avenue School in downtown Edmonton, which now houses the Edmonton Public Schools Archives & Museum.
Notes about the photos below: The golden-doored elevator reminded me of the elevator in the Calgary Public Building (there's a photo of it in this post). The pink couch was in the "powder room!" And what's with the painting in the hinged frame? Is it just so you can slide the picture into the frame? Or is it so that you can hide some classified document in there? (Shades of "The Secret Adversary.")
On my way to one workshop I listened to some glorious organ music on the radio (thanks, CKUA) and was delighted to find an actual organ at the venue when I arrived. The placard says it was donated by the grandson of William F. Puffer, Member of the erstwhile Alberta Provincial Parliament. I looked him up just because I liked his name (I liked the organ, too) - sounds like he was quite a progressive fellow. Ah, so much Edmonton history, so little time!
At the third workshop, the Infill Action Collaborative spent a lot of time in breakout groups coming up with strategies for supporting the evolution of established neighbourhoods through infill development.
Here is something else I noticed while drawing all these folks: almost all the women were wearing scarves. It seemed as though every time I turned around to draw someone, I'd see another scarf! And this was the case, not only on the three different days I worked with this group, but with all the women at the Infill Action Review (coming up below). What's the deal, Edmonton women? I know it's cold in your city (and yes, it was kinda chilly in the McKay Avenue School, too), but what about cardigans, turtlenecks, shawls? I have been to other cold cities, but I didn't notice anything like this.
Is the scarf a ubiquitous Edmonton winter fashion element I just didn't know about? A civic statement that says "Edmonton" just like the green onion cake? I'm kind of intrigued.
Anyway, here is the poster that came out of the group presentations about infill strategies.
Graphic recorder based in Calgary. I like local stories. I write comics when I have free time. And I leave eraser shavings everywhere I go.
Looking for a
Some nice things people said about my work:
“If Breitkreuz and Foong [founders of the Calgary Comics & Entertainment Expo] represent the Type-A side of Calgary's self-publishing community, Hester may be the community's right brain.” – Tom Babin, FFWD Magazine
“…A strong graphic style similar to other autobiographically-inclined Canadian cartoonists like Chester Brown and Julie Doucet.” – Gilbert Bouchard, Edmonton Journal
The 23rd Story: an indie comics creator's tales of life in Calgary