Back in 2015, local weekly Swerve Magazine published maps of Calgary by local illustrators. Back then (as one of the first things I tried drawing on a computer), I drew a map of my neighbourhood, Ramsay. This time around, with summer in Calgary as the theme, I drew a map of places of explore by transit, along with my 7-year-old transit enthusiast (and hippo-loving toddler, too). Take a look here to find Swerve's summer 2016 illustrated map feature!
This time, I didn't draw the map on my computer (although by this time, I sure have a better handle on how to do that kind of thing, than I did when I attempted that first Swerve map). Instead, I drew it on old-fashioned paper with ink - and here's how the project developed, in case you're interested. This was the first "concept sketch":
Then I figured out how much I'd actually be able to fit into the space and laid things out a bit more realistically (you know I always err on the side of "way too busy" - I'm always trying to cram too much in. Leaving things out is the hardest part!)
Then I drew it all in pencil (a couple of things got changed, but not many) and then I inked it. Here's how it looked before I coloured it in!
I tried to fit all this into a tweet and realized I needed a whole blog post.Thanks to Dinner With Julie's blog for this photo!
How could I get Red's Diner, Calgary's Beltline neighbourhood, a "floodraiser" benefit at the Hotel Arts with funds going to the Calgary Foundation, and a comic strip about the Memorial Park Library (among other things) into 140 characters? I just couldn't.
So here's the story.
It all began last year when Bruce Campbell of Red's Diner - local breakfast spot and community gathering place, on 4th Street in the Beltline - asked me if I could draw some comic-strip-style posters for Red's. We envisioned something kind of like this one that I drew about Ramsay. Since Red's is opening a new diner in Ramsay soon (my neighbours and I are pretty excited about this), we talked about creating some posters about Ramsay. But then we thought it might be fun to do some posters for Red's on 4th, too.
The first in the series - which is mainly about the R.H. Williams building itself - will be on display at Red's on 4th sometime in the next couple of weeks. Watch this space for that news! (Or check Red's website, which I believe will shortly be sporting a new look, too!)
Ok, so why I am telling you all this? (Other than just to give a shameless plug for a great local business I've had a lot of fun drawing pictures for, during the last several months...) Well, not long ago I heard from Richard White (local writer, blogger, man-about-town and flaneur... look it up!), about an upcoming benefit to raise money for people affected by Calgary's recent flood. Here are the details about this event, which is happening this Sunday, August 25th (yes, folks, that's this weekend!)
Hotel Arts is launching a new concert series for the Raw Bar and its poolside patio. The first in this series will be a "floodraiser" generating funds for the Calgary Foundation to assist with flood relief in Calgary, High River and the Siksika Nation.
Amy Thiessen will be hosting the concert series which will include performances by Scotty Hills, Curtis Glas and Locomotive Ghost. Performances will take place between 2pm - 5pm.
When I heard "silent auction with proceeds earmarked towards flood relief..." I immediately thought: Maybe the Red's Diner team would like to donate a print of one of our Beltline comics posters to this cause! After all, the Hotel Arts is another Beltline business, only a few blocks from Red's, and, like Red's, affected by the flood. In fact, the Beltline suffered some of the most extensive damage caused by the flood, and, just as we saw all over the city, local residents and business owners came together to support each other in a way that really displayed their community spirit. Here was another chance for some mutual support in the hood.
To see the first Red's poster, you'll have to head down to Red's on 4th and see it on the wall in a week or two (I'll let you know when it's up!). For a sneak preview of the second poster in the series, you'll have to head down to the Hotel Arts on Sunday to see this first-ever print of the artwork. Its subject is "Beltline Stories" and it features a comic strip depiction of all things book-related in the Beltline: The Memorial Park Library, the Lougheed House (which boasted one of Calgary's earliest private libraries of note), old bookstores (Sandcastles) and new bookstores (Shelf Life Books)... and, just for fun, it also features a bit about my own "Beltline love story" (yes, my own courtship began and ended... that is, when I got married... in the Beltline). (You know I just can't write comics about neutral facts and figures, I've always got to put some stuff about myself in there.) So if you're a fan of comics, Calgary history, the Beltline, and books... this may be something you'll want to have on your wall!
Of course, you can also keep watching the walls at Red's on 4th, as the series is unveiled.
There'll be some more artwork along these lines at Red's in Ramsay sometime soon, too (featuring Ramsay stories). I'll be sure to let you know about what's happening with that. For now, get your tickets to the "floodraiser" and help support a good cause! It starts at 2 PM... which should give you plenty of time for a coffee at Red's on 4th before you head over.
There... that wouldn't have fit into a tweet, now would it?
I heard that Calgary's Signal Hill Library will be getting some new public art. I thought that sounded exciting, and I went down to take a look at the library. Although I have some good friends in the neighbourhood, I hadn't actually been in the building before. It was a lovely spot: bright and spacious, but inviting and cozy, too. And there was a lot going on in there. I liked being reminded of how much the Calgary Public Library is about more than just books. It's a gathering spot for familes, seniors, students, and all sorts of Calgarians.
Since that visit, I've been thinking about about how much libraries have shaped my life. A lot, it seems.
I learned to read at one of Canada’s historic Carnegie libraries: in 1975, I was the youngest person in North Battleford, Saskatchewan with a library card. North Battleford's library building is still there today (one of Canada's few Carnegie libraries left standing west of Ontario), although it's not a library anymore, apparently.
I don't actually remember going to this library (I was two). What I do remember is the walk to the library, which I drew in this unpublished 2003 story:
Trinity College LIbrary
Strangely enough, when I look around the internet for photos of the old Trin Library, I can't find a single one. It was in a century-old basement, and rather dark and dingy. The whole thing has been moved to a shiny brand-new building (pictured here - and not even that new, anymore). I knew the library had been moved to this new and improved location, but I'm surprised that there isn't a single picture of the old one to be found.
Incidentally, I'm also surprised that I can't find a single image of U of T's old Sig Sam Library, either. The stacks were built of metal grilles. You could see through the bars. The floors and ceilings were made of it, too. So if you stood in the aisle between the stacks, you could look up, down and all around and just see rows and rows of books. It felt as though you were in a kind of surreal 1950's book-filled cage.
Somehow, it seems no one's taken a picture of this.
However, I did find this picture of the Hart House Library, a cozy spot in which, according to both my dad and my grandfather, students used to come for a nap. If you Google "Hart House Library Nap" you'll find quite a few pages of testimonials from other erstwhile nappers. (Incidentally, the picture was part of an article in which the author mentions that she, too, used to take naps here.)
I may be the only student who actually read a book there. I still remember taking it off the shelf: Aldous Huxley's Music at Night. I was crazy about Huxley, but hadn't read this book of essays. I was sitting there getting positively electrified by his prose. (Well, I was an English major, what can I say.) And then I saw that the title of one of the essays was "Squeak and Gibber." It's a reference to Hamlet (Horatio's talking about the creepy inarticulate sounds made by the ghosts of some dead Romans). Well, I love it when authors share these kinds of semi-private jokes with those members of their audiences who get it. I got it. And that's when I knew I really had become well and truly immersed in books.
Christchurch City Library
This is my only picture of Margaret Mahy and me. She was signing my old copy of The Catalogue. As I wrote in a tribute to Mahy published in Storylines' online newsletter following her death earlier this year: she reminded me of an Ent. It was fun to see that we were both wearing long drapy scarves around our necks. (It was freezing. But so was my whole trip to New Zealand. A intelligent-seeming graduate student asked me the following question about Canada: "Don't you have some kind of special houses up there to keep the cold weather out?" Well, we have insulation, if that's what you mean. Anyway.)
Here's a bit about Mahy and libraries from the comic-strip portion of an essay I wrote about Mahy.
Calgary Public Library
I know - that doesn't sound too strange. The strange part was that the charts depicted oil derricks pumping oil out of the ground. (I have tried to draw a picture of this big chart here.) Each child got an oil derrick (and was allowed to name their own oil company. I can't remember what I called mine, except that it ended with the words "In Company," which I thought was what "Inc." was short for. You can see my future wasn't in business). At the bottom of the chart there was a picture of an enormous underground pool of oil. As each book was marked off, you got a bit closer to the oil. When you struck oil, you hit the library jackpot! I can't remember what the prize was. But I remember loving the big wall-sized chart on which some creative librarian had glued construction paper to represent layers of sand, rock, and other stuff you had to "drill" through to make the reading journey more exciting and suspenseful. I remember thinking, "when I'm grown up, I'll make a big wall-sized poster like that."
Well, that was Calgary in the oil boom of the late 70's/early 80's. It didn't occur to me then that there was anything unusual about oil-pumping library incentives. I also thought that building cranes were a regular feature of any city skyline.
A later Calgary Public Library memory is going with my dad to hear Robertson Davies speak at the Central Library in about 1991. I remember he took questions from the audience in a rather bored manner. With a pounding heart I raised my hand and asked, "What do you think will be coming up next for Canadian literature?" (Or something like that.) He gave me a piercing look and said, "Now that's an interesting question." R. D. had some strong feelings about Canadian literature, and even helped to shape it. I think What's Bred in the Bone was his only really good book, though.
I don't remember going to the Memorial Library (below)- Calgary's first library, and another Carnegie gem - as a kid. I remember discovering it in my twenties, when I went in to explore it with a few Beltline-dwelling friends. I was instantly captivated by a box of "discards" for sale. My eye was caught by the classic children's book Freight Train by Donald Crews. I bought it. My friends thought I was crazy.
And now Calgary's getting a new central library. This would be exciting enough if it weren't for the added good news about the library's location: the East Village, not too far from Ramsay (my own hood). This has been a long work in progress - you can watch Special Projects Librarian Rosemary Griebel's 2010 talk about the library (from Calgary's sixth PechaKucha) here.
I’m so glad to be putting down roots in a city with a world-class library system. Doubtless there will be more library stories down the road! But, I hope, no more glue paste.
I am a 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
I also have an (old) website which features a lot of my (old) work. Look out, it's a bit clunky and there are a lot of links that don't go anywhere, but there are still a few interesting things there:
3 Things For Canada
Calgary Flood Diary
Calgary Is Awesome
Carra Artist In Residence
City Hall 101
How We Met
Multi Generational Housing
Ramsay Comics Artist In Residence Series
Soul Of The City
The Drawing Book
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