But last weekend that starved-for-creativity part of me had a real treat, because under the guise of a responsible business networking event, I got to spend three hours talking with, and learning from, some Alberta people with a whole range of inspiring talents!
Jill and Ben work as graphic facilitators in Calgary. From the sound of it, the projects they do are quite different, but both use graphics and images to help them lead their process with a range of organizations. For example, Ben chairs the Calgary Logistics Council (which sounds like a group my infrastructure-obsessed son may grow up to contribute to, somehow). I think it is really great that Jill and Ben have been interested in getting people together to share experiences. They have brought together a variety of people in the past, including talented local graphic recorder Joleyne Mayers-Jaekel who wasn't able to be there this time.
So, we also had Susan Merchant at this meet-up, who's on the lookout for ways to define her facilitation practice, and wondering what role visuals might play in that. I have been fortunate to meet Susan a few times at facilitation get-togethers and I think it's pretty cool that, despite the fact that she doesn't identify as an "artsy" type, she came out to this! She clearly gets what many people still don't - that graphic recording/graphic facilitation is not about art per se, but about using visuals as tools for learning and memory. In an interview with Aaron Chatha of Calgary's Metro newspaper (from a couple of weeks ago), I tried to stress that point, and was really pleased at how well the article expressed that (thanks, Metro!). You don't have to be an artist - really!
Despite the fact that graphic recording and graphic facilitation are still not exactly well-known in Alberta, they're pretty well-established fields if you know where to look (the International Forum of Visual Practitioners is probably the best place to look).
Oh, and speaking of the IFVP, a group that acts as a great worldwide resource for both practitioners and clients looking to find people who do this kind of thing: we also had Rob and Laurie Benn at our meet-up. Rob is a past president of the IFVP and was its first Canadian member. Rob and Laurie are unique in an already unique crowd, in that they work as a tag team, doing graphic recording and facilitation together, in tandem - and sometimes with their grown-up daughter, too!
I was fortunate enough to meet Rob and Laurie a few months back when they were in Calgary to record the Teachers' Convention. They live in Medicine Hat and it sounds like they've contributed their work to every southern Alberta community you can think of, as well as working in many locations further afield. Why did they come all the way up to Calgary for this? Like Jill and Ben, they've been interested in starting a more formal Alberta-wide visual practitioners' group.
This is something I'm increasingly interested in, too. People often ask me where to find the right person for a particular project involving visuals. Some want custom infographics or illustrations for their organizations. Some want facilitation that includes live "charting" (drawing big visual maps of the event). Some want silent sketchnoters to sit in on an event, taking illustrated notes that can be used later as a reflect-back on the discussion. And I wish I had a dollar for everyone who's told me their organization wants an animated whiteboard video. (That's another story.)
Yes, organizations really want these kinds of cool visual contributions! But people often don't know where to look for the skilled practitioners who can do these things... or what the options even are.
That's probably my favourite way of graphic recording, too. I've always taken notes that way, too, and I also didn't know it was a "thing" until Jeff Mason of Alternative Comics told me at the San Diego Comic Con in 2001 that there was such a thing as autobiographical comics. I wrote comics about what was going on in my life for years, taking notes at all sorts of interesting events, before I ever heard of sketchnotes or graphic recording. But I've kind of put comics on the back burner over the past couple of years while getting my head around this graphic recording business. Kind of funny, then, that at the end of this visual practitioners' networking chat, I felt super inspired about comics once more... mostly thanks to the presence of Lethbridge comics creator Eric Dyck!
Indy Comics in Alberta???
Ok, so this is a slight digression from the visual practitioners' meet-up session, but bear with me - it's related. About fifteen years ago when I moved back to Calgary with the sketchbooks I called The Drawing Book, it seemed as though there was hardly anybody making independent comics in Calgary, except the amazingly tenacious Damian Willcox (who is STILL doing it, to my utter admiration) and a couple of others. These days, however, there seems to be a veritable groundswell of Albertan comics people doing amazing work! Not only that, these talented folks have banded together into a comics collective called Panel One and are putting together their own local independent comics fest on June 4th, 2016! If you haven't already put this on your calendar, please do. I will be there! Even better, take a look at the Kickstarter campaign they are running in an effort to bring down the costs for exhibitors (there isn't usually a whole lot of money in independent comics creation). The campaign only has a few days to go - considering supporting this local group!
And if I can keep up this blogging trend, I will put something up here soon about the project I'm hoping to bring to that event myself. How's that for a tease.
If that wasn't exciting enough, consider this: what's the parallel here between Alberta comics and Alberta graphic recording/graphic facilitation? It seems both are on the rise, and both groups are interested in collaborating with their peers: referring each other, learning from each other, driving halfway across the province to have coffee with each other! I think this trend is pretty exciting. Hence my labours to write up this rambly, long-winded post about it. (I'm rusty. Next post will be briefer, I promise.)
So basically, we met, we drank a lot of coffee and we went our separate ways... but I'm pretty sure more is going to happen with this group. Stay tuned.
Let me leave the last word to the final member of our meet-up, whom I haven't mentioned yet: Carolina Pelaez, a local facilitator who specializes in Change Management (just the expertise we need around here). Carolina is also a contributor to Newscoop, a new media platform for telling local stories which is also a cooperative (hm... another collaborative group... this is really a trend!).
Carolina mused, "We could tell stories about this group." We should. And we will!
Answer: at 2:15 AM on Tuesday morning. Please chalk up any errors in this post to my sleepless state. Good night!
Oh no, it's already April 3rd and I still haven't posted this month's Ramsay newsletter comic strip!
To be fair, though, my family just went through a stomach bug episode (well, to be more accurate, it went through us) that kept making me think of that illustration by Garth Williams in the "Little House" books that shows Laura crawling across the floor holding a ladle full of water because she's too sick to just walk over and get a drink.
I combed the internet and I couldn't find that picture, but I did find the one showing the Ingalls family recovering thanks to the ministrations of Dr. Tan. That picture's probably better, anyway, since that's more how we're feeling around here now, thank goodness!
Nothing like children's literature to help you get through the winter flu season. And now on to that April comic strip, just in time for "Marvellous Monday!" But first, while I'm here, just one note:
Did you notice, I just wrote something on this blog? And I even put a picture in there! Not that exciting, I know, but getting this blog back up again has been one of the rustiest processes I've ever been through. Rest assured, there is a lot percolating. These posts may still trickle out slowly for the next little bit. But when I get my head around it... and the convalescence is complete... there will be lots coming!
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