This past July, I had a chance to participate in something truly special. When I first received the email from Canada Comics Open Library about being selected as their first Resident Creator, I was beside myself with excitement. I talked about it constantly, brainstorming ideas with anyone who paid the slightest bit of attention.
Firstly, a comics library as a concept is nothing short of brilliant. For anyone who has longed to peruse comic books for hours but didn’t know where to start — this is the perfect place!
CCOL, located on the third floor of the CSI Regent Park building is bright and inviting. With rows upon rows of meticulously organized comic books and graphic novels, it sucks even the shyest of beginners in immediately. Another great thing about the space is that there are large work-stations that can be used by artists who might like to spread out while they draw — a real haven for space-challenged Toronto artists.
The Residency was split by weekly projects starting with an Instagram takeover. Only too thrilled to introduce myself to followers of CCOL, I got to share some of my work and daily comic-related activities.
Next came “building a bookshelf,” where I selected a bunch of fantastic graphic novels and zines that are housed within the library. I also decided to add some from my own collection of favourite local artists. The library is staffed with a group of wonderful volunteers who helped me find books, kept me company and provided suggestions for interesting artists to check out. I love that I got to borrow some of the books for “research”. While, yes, I was genuinely reading some of the books for the purposes of the Residency, admittedly some of it was pure entertainment as well.
Comics included: Fatherland by Nina Bunjavic; The Insubordinate by Rawand Issa (writer, illustrator); Death Threat by Vivek Shraya (writer) and Ness Lee (artist); Tales from the Main Stage: The “Mimi Imfurst” Issue by Tim Bauer; Criminal Volume 1: Coward by Ed Brubaker (writer) and Sean Phillips (author); Midnight City: Corpse Blossom Volume 1 by G.M.B. Chomichuk (writer and illustrator); Caricature by Daniel Clowes; The Case of the Missing Men (Hobtown Mystery Stories) by Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes; Adventures of Cissypants & Wimpledick by Bo Doodley; Anthrobuds and Their Short Short Stories by Bo Doodley; Filthy Bitches 2.0 by Bo Doodey; Insides Out by Bo Doodley; Concentrate Volume 1 by Jesse Denobrega; Blobby Bobby by Patrick Sparrow; The Patch to Nowhere Companion by Michael McGlennon; Cumlung by Aaron Manczyk; Sweat and Tears Issue #2 by Loretta Miauw; Back + Forth: A Novel in 90 Linocuts by Marta Chudolinska; Watch Yourself by Chaddy Ann Newton
Although, this was not officially a part of the Residency, I was offered the opportunity to facilitate drawing games such as Exquisite Corpse with Rotem for a CSI event. Another game that we played resulted in some hilarious sketches from our table of young artists.
Week 3 brought on the surprise discovery of one of my now-favourite comic artists Julia Wertz. Her book Drinking At The Movies, filled with cynical humour and whimsical drawings, provided unexpected insight into storytelling practices that comic book artists can use.
While I love the idea of using comic books to weave stories that can be shared among a large audience, I began thinking about how creating zines and comics had affected me. One of the best things about participating in this Residency is that it allowed me to really dissect my experience with comics. What is something that I can share with comic-lovers that goes beyond teaching techniques? I could talk about the emotional impact that making art and comics can have.
As Week 4 rolled around, I was delighted to be able to conduct a workshop called Building Resilience with Art. My aim was to show the benefits of using comics and drawing techniques to cope with life’s challenges. The excellent crew of CCOL volunteers and staff helped me display a presentation to a crowd that was much larger than I expected. The audience was warm, receptive and clearly raring to draw! This topic is very dear to my heart and I was glad to be able to share it with a rapt crowd. While most of us might feel averse to sharing our personal strife, especially in a large group, I believe that many people now had a chance to view art and comics as fulfilling an emotional function. That, to me, just like this Residency, is a clear success.
Having just wrapped up my Residency, I have to admit that this was a personal and professional game-changer. This is an incredible opportunity for emerging comic artists to look within themselves, find what motivates them and hone their skills. An absolute unit, 10/10 would recommend.