Monday, August 31, 2009

Curious Pajamas

LAST CHRISTMAS MY FATHER-IN-LAW GAVE MY son a pair of Curious George pajamas. It wasn't until February or March that I actually realized what was printed across the front. (SEE ABOVE) The articles of clothing came from Walmart and no doubt had their beginnings in Haiti, Bangladesh or Nepal at the hands of some young sweatshop worker. I'm not certain if this is a genuine typo or if there's some kind cultural inside joke going on here. I've googled Goorge and I get a smattering of Facebook listings. Perhaps the misspelling was intentional due to unauthorized copyright use? H. A. Rey would be none too pleased.

One step further in this cultural disconnect is my CANADA shirt, (SEE ABOVE) knit in U.S.A. and assembled in El Salvador. I may be naive in this age of globalized labor driven manufacturing but the irony of my 'CANADA' shirt is too much.

. . . George could load the spool very well. The man in the Yellow Hat will be proud.

Sunday, August 30, 2009



DITOR DAVE MITCHELL FROM, THE BRIARPATCH, commissioned a cover for their special Education Issue. The piece is all about how Canada's Education system is stiffing the student population with standardized testing. The 'EQO's' are designed to produce statistical data that can be used to justify any action on the part of the Ministry of Education. God help the kids when they arrive on the worn out doormat of the 'real world' and they haven't any critical thinking skills. My goal in the illo was to portray a young person Who's on the cusp of realizing there's no invisible hand guiding the things.

Since 1973 The Briarpatch has been one of Canada's most important socio-political voices. The sub-heading reads, 'Fighting The War on Error'.

". . . fresh, imaginative and tough. This is writing by free thinkers for free thinkers. Canadians are lucky to have a magazine so committed to truth, justice and inspiration.”
- NAOMI KLEIN, author of The Shock Doctrine


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Location Scouting

MY FAMILY AND I WENT FOR A CANOE paddle out at the Rockwood Conservation Area. As we came down the valley towards to beach we encountered a beehive of construction activity. There was an entirely new kids camp, complete with 5 fully functioning cabins that weren't there a week before. I saw an artist hand painting words on the side of each cabin and I realized that this must be a complete break from reality. Turns out they're going to film a daytime feature here come September. The area is a perfect stand-in for Northern Canada with those crazy Group-of-7 pine trees and Precambrian rock. (Apparently A.J. Cassen lived here between ages 9 - 14).

Afterwords we went into town for sandwiches and the woman there let us in on the rumor that this was to be a film staring The Jonas Brothers. I immediately scrolled through the list of tweens in my community that I could share this with. The sandwich woman's 13 year old daughter is not at all impressed. According to mom she is more interested in Neil Young.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Unrequited Geek Love

WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL ALL THE pretty girls would get me to draw their title pages. All the jocks would get me to draw pictures of naked girls. I was (am) the nerd who could draw. That was my capital. Many people have this notion of the creative person as this inspired lofty human who has 'special' qualities but the reality is most of us are the socially stunted, alienated, friendless quiet ones at the back of the class drawing in the margins of our math duo-tangs.

You may have seen the Zwigoff documentary about Robert Crumb. I recently found a beautiful Crumb still-life that blows me away: The drawing below of a simple French doorway. The cement is crumbling, the paint peeling. It strikes me in the way that Crumb took an empty frame of a man and sublimated him with his artwork. If you see the documentary you'll note that Crumb comes from such an unlikely beginning and just as easily could have ended up on the street instead of becoming the voice of 1960's counterculture. Like the French drawing, he takes this empty space (a doorway no less) and creates beauty in the decay with his rich wobbly-old-peanut-butter-sandwich line work.

My wife and I have recently purchased a Crumb Serigraph of the 1971 cover to, San Fransisco Comic Book. (SEE BELOW). Excited for it's arrival in the post. Also excited to read his new work -- an adaptation of, The Book of Genesis.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

American Sex & Poetry

MY WIFE AND I HAVE BEEN BITTEN BY the HBO True Blood series. The Allegorical possibilities are endless. Vampires can be substituted for homosexuals, African Americans. The work is a wonderful critique of white America. The mix of sex and violence is shocking but I can't look away. Director, Alan Ball is some kind of artist. I'm not much into vampires or gothic this-that-or-the-other but the narrative textures in this program are very rich.


"When I was 13 years old, I was in a car accident with my sister, who was driving the car. It was her 22nd birthday, and she died. She died in front of me. She died all over me. Death stuck its big old ugly face in my face and my life changed. That's why death seems to be a theme that appears in all my stuff".

"Beauty is in the strangest places. A piece of garbage floating in the wind. And that beauty exists in America. It exists everywhere. You have to develop an eye for it and be able to see it".
The title sequence is an Incredible Haiku that sums it up beautifully.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Light

MY OLD COLLABORATOR, BRUCE MCDONALD HAS A repeating motif in his work of the sleeping female being observed. SEE: Roadkill (1989) as the director, "As Himself" pans the 16mm camera from a mirror onto the sleeping figure of "Ramona" played by Valerie Buhagiar -- SEE: Picture Claire (2001) as Juliette Lewis' character, Claire, is the subject of a photo exhibition that consists of mural sized images of her face as she sleeps. SEE: Highway 61 (1991) as Don McKellar's, Pokey Jones watches Valerie Buhagiar's, Jackie Bangs character asleep in the car after an all night drive on their way to the birthplace of Bob Dylan in Duluth, Minnesota. Subsequently one of Bruce's earliest shorts, I believe it was, Knock! Knock! (1985) began as a quasi documentary where he filmed the inside of people's bedrooms. He got as far as his parents' and then the narrative devolves from there. Bruce was in town a few weeks back to promote his latest film, Pontypool. We caught up for drinks and I asked him about this repeating image in his work. He hadn't noticed the pattern but I take Bruce for a far more complicated fellow than he would have us believe. I suspect there's a much larger narrative purpose at work here.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Hirshfeld

LAST SUMMER MY WIFE SON AND I SPENT the most lovely day in Niagara On The Lake where the Shaw Festival was holding an exhibit of some of Al Hirshfeld's theatrical caricatures. We ate chocolate bread and checked out the 'Line King'.

My good friend and animation powerhouse Sean LeBlanc turned me onto this clip of Hirshfeld drawing. I particularly love the moment when he follows the imagined line of drapery behind Paul Newman's pointed finger.

99 years old. I have so much to learn . . .

Go to this address:

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Inciting Incident

OFTEN ASKED, "HOW LONG HAVE you been drawing?"

I've been an illustrator as far back as I can remember. As a young boy I used to keep myself occupied during the Sunday mass in Exeter, Ontario by sketching with a ball point pen. My mother would give me her miniature 3 ringed vinyl notebook and I would illustrate the gospel as it was spoken from the lectern. Candle wax and slow moving promenades of alter boys is what I remember -- dirty running shoes and the earnest balancing of the long gold crucifix. My school was, "Precious Blood Catholic School" who's team shirt featured a Shultz drawing of Snoopy aboard his doghouse/Red Baron. The possibilities of this white line drawing on a blood red shirt with the words' "Precious Blood" in capitals were all too deep and lost on me. I'm 5 years old sitting among the curl of smoke and Brylcreem creating tiny Old Testament comics and trying to figure out how God could be at once all-loving and damning.

I'm sure the idea of comics was implanted there before I ever knew of Archie Andrews or Richie Rich. I had my own experiences of sequential art with the morbid and redemptive stations of the cross which lined the walls of this small town Ontario Catholic Church. These were carved from wood, 11 x 17 (standard drawing size for most comics) and followed the relentless downward spiral of the lamb of God as he carries his cross to Golgotha and is subsequently put to death. The images were gruesome tableaus and somewhere here I began to understand the power of the space in between the panels. I stared at the gaping misery and couldn't understand what we were all doing here when we could be out eating popsicles and wax pan flutes oozing with translucent saccharin gel.

Drawing has always been with me. More to come.

Best, Nick

Mary Mother of Jesus circa 1977 and . . .

. . . from my strange black & white effort, "The Cheese Heads" issue #3 circa 1991 - Tragedy Strikes Press. (50% Dan Clowes, 10% Dave Sim. The rest was me).