I'll post those missing comics sometime soon, but in the meantime, here's the October comic - featuring my friend Andrew. You can read more about Andrew here. See you in the neighbourhood!
Every month (just about), I write a comic for my community newsletter, and when I remember to do it, I post the comics here. I just took a look at my blog, and realized I've missed posting the past few comics. I'll have to remedy this, soon! Especially because a few of the 2018 Ramsay newsletter comics weren't actually by me, but were submitted by a few wonderful artists-in-residence who shared their own neighbourhood stories with Ramsay readers.
I'll post those missing comics sometime soon, but in the meantime, here's the October comic - featuring my friend Andrew. You can read more about Andrew here. See you in the neighbourhood!
My kids are picky eaters. So imagine my delight when my four-year-old told me, this afternoon, that he'd tried some lasagna at preschool, and liked it enough to have two helpings! My first thought was: hallelujah! And my other thought, of course, was: Aznavour!
I saw him perform at Toronto's Roy Thompson Hall a long time ago. It seemed like an opportunity that wasn't to be missed. Around that time, I drew this seemingly self-obsessed comic to illustrate an Aznavour song that felt like the soundtrack to my life, back then - as I went through that gloomy stage of trying to get over a relationship that had ended. Here's a link to the actual song as sung by Aznavour.
Right now I'm laughing because I can't be quite sure, at this distance, who the relationship was with! I guess the boyfriend didn't make that much of a lasting impression. But the song, of course, has stayed. I hope Aznavour's music will be with us to stay, for a very long time!
A few days ago, my friend died.
I had some drawings of him, and I thought I'd post them here for people who, like me, are missing him. Then I thought that the pictures needed some context, and so this ended up turning into a long blog post, much more than I was planning to write. Feel free to skim through, if you're just looking for pictures. I think this writing was as much for me - for my own need to make sense of things - as for anyone else.
After you turn the page
Upon learning of my friend's death, which was sudden and unexpected, I'm feeling like that: like a reader who just turned the page, and was astonished to discover that it was the last page. I wasn't ready for this story to be over.
I can read his old tweets and watch his Youtube videos. I can look through my old sketchbooks and find drawings of him. But that's all secondary to the real thing, the real story of the real Andrew.
I don't remember the joke that caused the friend who introduced us, to call him Andrew Ross. (Something about a Scottish clan??) But he was introduced to me with that joking name, and I didn't actually find out what his real surname was, for a year or so. As a result, the name stuck (and I see that it's mentioned in a lot of these old pictures).
In 2002 I had this idea to draw thumbnails of all the people I knew and put the pictures up on a website with a brief update about them. (So, yes, I invented Facebook.) Here's the entry I made for Andrew.
We both thought about writing fiction back then. Here's a sketch of Andrew telling me about his "story of the 3000-year-old man." I think this was less of a real writing project and more of a way for him to document his reflections on history and the changing/unchanging nature of things.
I remember thinking of the 3000-year-old man when I read this tweet, written a long time after.
In recent years, Andrew's Twitter followers got to know and enjoy his #OTD tweets, in which he'd draw attention to a historical event of note that had happened "On This Date" in the past, and then suggest a present-day way to celebrate it.
I think these started out as a way to engage students with history, using digital technology - something that Andrew excelled at. Increasingly, though, he used his #OTD tweets to advance suggestions for political and social changes he was passionate about.
He somehow still managed to make them funny.
Andrew was one of those rare people who not only dreamt about what he wanted to do, but actually did it. The other thing I learned about Andrew upon first meeting him (besides the wrong surname) was that he was "the Shakespeare guy." I wonder how many aspiring English scholars decide they'll be Shakespeare guys, too - after all, Shakespeare probably seems like a pretty safe bet as far as literary subjects go. But there's only so much demand for Shakespeare guys, and as Andrew found in his years as an adjunct prof, it's not a steady or predictable career path. But Andrew was and remained a Shakespeare guy, broadening his expertise along the way. What does it tell you about him, that I found a good summary of his publications/research on a website called "Whores of Yore?" (I always enjoyed his retweets fromthis account, by the way.)
He received his PhD from the University of Guelph in 2012, where his dissertation work was on the representation of the rapist on the early modern stage. He has published or presented on Elizabethan brothels, sexual identity in the early modern period, sexual violence and pedagogy, early modern prison writing, masculinity in film, Shakespeare on the radio, and digital approaches to teaching medieval and early modern literature.
In a 2014 article, Andrew wrote about how an understanding of history and literature was relevant to an understanding of a contemporary culture of masculine sexual violence on university campuses. I love how he made a great case for the importance of studying old texts, from this angle. And, I also love that he pointed out that we have the power to do what we want with that knowledge: we can use it as a tool for reinforcing the way things are, or as a tool for change.
Sometimes I wondered if he was cynical, or hopeful, about the way things were going.
Ok, so that was a lot of scholarly stuff, but if that was boring and inaccessible, it doesn't do him justice. Andrew was an award-winning teacher, and one of his popular teaching tools was a video podcast series called The Scholemaster. The ones I like best are the short videos in which he answers questions from his students, about himself ("Do you like any sports?" "No"). But the other videos, full of historical and literary info for his students, are also wonderful, and the pop-culture references are sometimes hilarious. Here are two - the first one is about how the history of prostitution contributed to modern popular culture, and the second one is about why English teachers make students read Shakespeare.
My own (minor) academic pursuits owed a lot to Andrew's support. For me, too, he was a mentor. In 2006, he helped to organize the University of Calgary's Free Exchange Graduate Conference (of which I can no longer find anything online), and invited me to participate. I remember that my talk was called "Why Don't Grown-Up Books have Pictures?" and being able to present it was a giant confidence-builder for me. Later, when I wrote an actual scholarly paper which (of course) was accompanied by a comic (it's me, after all), I put Andrew in the comic (below). He was my go-to person for all questions academic. He read everything I sent him, checked my citations, and, as recently as this year, kept on looking up articles for me in that tantalizing secret database only university people get to use. That's a true friend.
A few pages from the drawing book
But strange as it may sound, although Andrew and I shared an interest in literature, that always felt secondary to the real reason we were friends, which was just because we were friends. Here's a 2005-ish sketch during a conversation in which Andrew was helping to boost my spirits at a time when I was feeling down.
But, of course, it wasn't all philosophy and art. We also just hung out. We went to movies, for example. Here are some other sketches I found from the early 2000's.
I remember drawing this last picture while we half-heartedly studied French at Higher Ground Cafe in Kensington (Andrew, as part of his M.A. coursework, I think... and me, for those dreaded Air Canada language tests I had to do, to keep my route language qualifications as a flight attendant). Reference to the "Galerie du Nuit" included here for old-time Calgarian scenesters (see beginning of this blog).
Around the same time, Andrew met his future wife. So we dissolved our "club," but luckily we kept the good rapport and abiilty to really talk about relationship ups and downs - a connection I know I appreciated a lot, in our talks over the past year or so.
Andrew was the friend around whom the other friends gathered. He'd just call us up and we'd all congregate at the Hop In Brew or at someone's smoky apartment. As significant others appeared in all our lives, they all joined in and were made to feel welcome. I drew this comic about Andrew and Cindy's anniversary celebration (2005 or 2006, I think?) (I also posted this little story in a blog about Leonard Cohen, in 2016).
I'm not a biographer, a colleague, a member of Andrew's family - I'm just a frend, and this is just a list of my memories about someone who was always nice to me, right up until the last time we met, in July of this year. These were the pictures I took of him, then (it may amuse you to learn that the person he was conversing with so expressively, was my 4-year-old).
Way back at the beginning, I wrote about the shock - the feeling of bereftness - that happens after you turn over the last page of a book you loved. I think that writing this essay or whatever you might call it, is my way of keeping those echoes of Andrew's life story around me, for as long as possible, after turning the page and discovering that I'd just finished the last chapter.
Now that I've compared his life to a book, I can't help wondering how Andrew, the scholar, would have analyzed that text - the text of his life? What would he have said about the fact that his readers weren't prepared for this unexpected and highly unsatisfactory ending to the story? Would he have told us that we should have been paying closer attention to the text? But Andrew was a theatre guy, perhaps before anything else. Drama - timing - the element of surprise - he had all this at his fingertips. Maybe the idea of a surprise ending was more in keeping with his philosophy, than anyone knew.
Let me just apologize for my flawed and foolish metaphor, comparing Andrew's life to a story in a book, or a play. It's dumb, I know. But, I also hope he might have got a kick out of it?
Here's the ending I'd expected: Andrew becomes an old, wise, cantankerous professor in an elbow-patched cardigan and a white beard, surrounded by old books and old friends (both animal and human). The elderly Andrew would have reflected, like Tennyson's Ulysses, on his own life - quoting aloud, perhaps, in that mock-affected, read-aloud, theatre-projection-style voice that he could just turn on:
"All times I have enjoy’d
I know - I should have quoted some Early Modern poet, not Tennyson. I always think of Ulysses, mostly because it's the only poem I can ever remember well enough to quote anymore, these days... but also because I was thinking about how Andrew felt things deeply, and how much he enjoyed the physical experience of being alive. But when I read this quote now, I'm struck more by the phrase, "those that loved me." There are just so many of us - those of us that loved him. I'm looking at the online responses to the announcement of Andrew's death on Twitter, and at the comments on the GoFundMe page where his family is raising money for a scholarship in his memory - and I'm finding so many of us: those that loved Andrew. Even the @Shakespeare Twitter account said as much, the day after Andrew's death:
This comment on the GoFundMe page is another example of what made Andrew such a valuable mentor and friend. I love that this person took the time to share this story, and I hope she doesn't mind me re-posting it here:
Andrew smiled at me at the plenary talk of my first SAA. I was nervous to be at my first Shakespeare conference where I didn't know anyone and was extremely intimidated by all the people in the room. I tried to talk to him after the talk was over, but I lost him in the crowd. It may sound trivial, but at that moment I really appreciated the smile from a stranger, so much so that I remembered what he looked like to this day. I am saddened that I have only now learned his name. I send my sincerest condolences to Andrew's family and loved ones for their great loss. All I knew of Andrew in the briefest interaction I shared with him was that he seemed kind. Now I know him to have been greatly loved.
I feel like I love those people, too - these online friends of Andrew whom I've never met, the people I'm realizing I've been thinking about as "Those that loved Andrew." I want to write to them all, hug them all, thank them for having been there, being part of his story, so many parts I didn't even know about, so many people affirming what I also felt about him. That he was loved.
I hope he knew that, too.
And now: go to the scholarship fundraiser page. It's a perfect way to honour Andew.
#OTD in 2018, celebrate by making a donation and helping his story to continue beyond that last page.
It's time to share this month's Ramsay newsletter comic. This year, I've been inviting different artists to contribute a comic to the Ramsay newsletter, to continue the Ramsay comics series about life in my neighbourhood.
Presenting this month's artist-in-residence, Sharon Barrette!
Sharon is an artist based in Parksville, B.C. And this is her first comic!
I asked Sharon if she could send me something about life in her own community in B.C. Sharon paints pictures of the people, animals, and scenes in her life, and I thought she might send me a painting. I was surprised (and delighted) that she tried her hand at a comic. It doesn't show much about the physical setting of her neighbourhood, but instead takes a look at some characters and their interactions. And I love that it has a punchline - in a classic comics style that reminds me of Lynn Johnston's beloved Canadian comic For Better or For Worse.
Maybe you've seen Tom Wujec's talk on How to Make Toast. When people are asked to draw the steps involved in making toast, they come up with many different versions of the story: everything from sowing the wheat, baking the bread, fixing the toaster, smearing the jam, to eating the toast! The way they tell the story, and what they choose to tell about it, gives us some insight into the storyteller's perspective. I'm having fun seeing the different ways my Ramsay newsletter artists-in-residence tell their versions of a one-page neighbourhood story. I'm not surprised that Sharon's comic focuses on the people: she's a sociable person who's sincerely interested in what makes people tick. One of the original founders of the Inglewood Night Market back in 2013 (when she lived in Calgary), she's also a tireless volunteer who's passionate about helping people and enriching her community.
To see her work, you have to go to Parksville - there isn't much to be found online. But here's an article featuring her work for Nanaimo's 2016 Festival of Banners, as seen in the photo above!
Here's her Ramsay comic, "In My Hood."
It's the middle of March, and this month's Ramsay newsletter was delivered to Ramsay neighbourhood mailboxes a while back! I haven't had a chance until now, to post this month's newsletter comic here. This is the second in 2018's newsletter artist in residence series, introduced in last month's blog.
I met Phil at a Bob Dylan concert WAY back in the 1990's. It was only my third show, but he'd already seen Dylan dozens of times! Dylan was at the height of his "Neverending Tour." Fans came from all over the world to see Dylan, but a secondary benefit of coming out to a show was the opportunity to meet other people who shared the passion for the music. It was early internet days, and you couldn't make these kinds of connections online. You'd travel out to the concert venue and hang around early and late in hopes of running into those friends you'd seen before. You got to know the seasons and the hemispheres in which you'd be likely to find certain fans. And you'd have conversations you couldn't have anywhere else.
Ok, so I'm waxing all nostalgic about my days as a Bob Dylan groupie. Suffice to say, one of the friends I made on the road, was Phil, and although a love of Dylan's music was the initial connection between us, we quickly discovered we also shared a love of comics.
Comics Collectors vs. Comics Makers
And as Phil gently nudged me towards some comics education, others (myself included) were nudging Phil to make the shift from a comics reader to a comics maker. One of my favourites among Phil's self-published works is Drawing Crazy Patterns, a narrative about the so-called BobCats - the Dylan fans who met on the road, their paths crossing and diverging again, until the next show. I've been digging through boxes of comics and I couldn't find that particular one (argh, I know I have it somewhere) - but if you really want to see some comics about the Dylan fan scene, you could take a look at this old blog post of mine.
Hi everyone! As you know, if you've ever taken a look at this blog, I've been writing comics about life in my neighbourhood for a while. This year, I'm stepping away to work on a few other things. But I hated to leave the Ramsay newsletter readers without their monthly comic. So I thought I'd ask some creative people to contribute their own comics this year, instead. Hence, the Ramsay Newsletter Artist in Residence Series! (A fancy way of saying you'll be getting some surprise artworks in your monthly newsletter - which may or may not have anything to do with Ramsay!)
Here's the comic Eric kindly contributed to the newsletter, to start off 2018. What will be next? Wait and see! (Or, if you have a great suggestion - send it my way!)
Check out the whole Ramsay Community Newsletter, in all its volunteer-run glory! This month's issue features a story about creative Ramsayite Caitlynn Cummings! (Alas, the online version has not been posted at the time of writing, but stay tuned, it'll get there one of these days. Did I mention volunteer-run?)
Well, it's halfway through December, so I guess I'd better post my monthly Ramsay newsletter comic.
For those who don't know, I've been writing a comic strip for my community newsletter, for most of the last five years. This month's strip tells the story of how the whole thing got started. It's also the LAST ONE in the series. Yes, Wayne (neighbour who always teases me about my idle threats to stop writing the Ramsay comic), it's really the end. After such a long time, the Ramsay newsletter could use a change from my old stories, and I need a change, too. I'm hoping 2018 will be see some new creative projects. Stay tuned!
The comic may be done, but don't stop reading the Ramsay newsletter (which you can find online here, if you're not one of the lucky neighbours who gets this monthly publication in your mailbox). It has been, and continues to be, a cool collection of volunteer contributions, stories about life in the community, and announcements about awesome local businesses, services, and events. At a time when I keep hearing people talking about the failing state of local journalism, the Ramsay newsletter is an example of a local publication that's going strong! Thanks to the volunteers who work to put this together every month!
See you around, everybody!
love from sam
November's been off to such a busy start, I forgot to post my Ramsay newsletter comic for the month! Here you go! It's in three parts because the text is kind of small, and dividing the image up seems to help with the resolution.
If you'd like to listen to Bochum (you know you want to, now), here's a link to the song on Youtube. Enjoy!
See you soon, and keep an eye out for the December Ramsay newsletter comic - I've got something a bit special coming up.
Hi Ramsay comic readers! This month's comic is about "What's new in Ramsay?" You can see the comic in print in our neighbourhood community association newsletter... which also features a great story about my talented neighbour Allara, of Tangy Lime Dance Projects!
So, what ISN'T new in Ramsay: the Ramsay comic. I wrote the first one at the beginning of 2012, and it's time for a change. I'd love it if some other comics creator in the neighbourhood would like to take over this super fun volunteer project for the newsletter. Any takers??
I'm going to be winding this down, though, at the end of 2017, so that I can (hopefully) turn my comics work in a new direction. Just wanted to let you know. Meanwhile, we still have two more issues until then! Stay tuned!
My Word on the Street Festival story begins with Eric Dyck, Lethbridge-based comics creator and community builder. He makes comics as fast as the good people of Lethbridge can read them. His monthly Drink & Draw with Eric Dyck at Lethbridge's Owl Acoustic Lounge brings out doodlers of all ages.
Eric's historically-inspired comics about local happenings are putting independent comics on the radar of readers who might otherwise never know about this fast-growing field. But Lethbridge is far from a one-comic town. It seems that there are a few other big local comics supporters, such as retailer Kapow! Comics, for example. And apparently the Lethbridge Public Library has a particularly big and wonderful collection of comics. No wonder Eric feels so much at home in this town!
Twenty years ago, even ten years ago, I don't think independent comics had much representation at literary festivals. But in 2017, indie comics have a growing audience, as witnessed by events like last week's CXC Expo in Columbus, Ohio, as well as homegrown festivals like Winnipeg's Prairie Comics Festival and Calgary's Panel One Comic Creator Festival. Readers are interested in this medium!
Still, though, there are probably some old-fashioned folks who think the comics makers and readers should stay at their own designated festivals where they belong. Not so Lethbridge's annual Word on the Street Festival. This year the festival played host to a whole day's worth of comics conversations, featuring Panel One's Erin Millar; Svetlana Chmakova talking publishing illustrated books with Yen Press; Halli Lilburn and Ryan Jason Allen Willert talking colouring books; and of course the Lethbridge-inspired work of Eric Dyck.
I was so excited to be invited to come down and join in the comics conversations at WOTS. Anybody who's seen my work can tell that I like drawing pictures, but here's a little-known fact: I'm much more interested in the words. It's the story that drives everything else. So thanks, WOTS Lethbridge, for including me among your talented writers this year!
My favourite part of this event was the conversation between the writers themselves. Not just comics creator shop talk - although I do love that - but I also had the chance to talk with, and listen to, a few YA fiction writers. Teenager books are one of my favourite subjects, and Tom Ryan's casual E. L. Konigsburg reference was a highlight of my last evening! Where else do I find people who know about this stuff??
Here are some pictures I took. Scroll over them to see the captions. The best picture's at the bottom!
And a highlight from the weekend: watching a couple of iconic Canadian authors, Joy Kogawa and Louise Bernice Halfe, devour a boatload of sushi at Lethbridge's O-Sho Sushi. An amazing end to an amazing weekend!
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