Category Archives: art

Check Out the New Artwork at Waverley’s Vinyl Listening Station by Duncan Weller!

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Duncan Weller in his art

Duncan Weller is a very complex person; chatting about his art, he exudes a nervous energy, yet is simultaneously very soft-spoken and unassuming. “I love to draw and paint all sorts of subjects,” he says when asked about the complexity that is in many of his pictures. “I love assembling a number of images together.”

Along with being a visual artist, Weller is a writer, designer, publisher, promoter, and salesperson who lives here in Thunder Bay. He has written and illustrated several children’s books, a book of short stories for adults, and a book of poetry. One of his children’s books, The Boy From the Sun, won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 2007 for Illustration in Children’s Literature. The way his artwork and writing go together to tell his stories is deliberately planned: “I’ve actually thought quite hard about what I want to say and work hard to get ideas across. Some ideas are clearly in the text, but there can be an entirely different story created in the visuals that run in tandem with the story line.”

You can often find Weller at the Country Market, where he rents a booth and sells his books. The Country Market is where he met Bobbi, the model in the painting Weller created for the Thunder Bay Public Library. He was really inspired by her great attitude and wanted to capture her beaming face. Weller spent more time than he had planned to on the painting; it ended up taking two weeks to finish. He used acrylic to paint her pants and the purple background, while her upper torso, blouse and hair were painted in oil. Her natural hair is braided; she liked the idea of being painted with an afro.

Weller also rents a gallery on North Cumberland Street. “The gallery is fun,” he says. “It’s nice to see my work up on the walls. If I don’t have enough wall space, they’re in boxes.”  The gallery takes a lot of time, so he has created a work space inside of it. That was where the painting was created – he nailed the masonite up onto a wall and started painting. At the gallery, his eventual plan is to have other people’s work shown as well as his own.

While some artists mainly worry about creating artwork that sells, that is not Weller’s primary concern. “The whole idea of being an artist is to do your best work, to challenge yourself and see what you can do,” he says. “Too many artists hold back or rely on an ideology that makes it too easy to be an artist. I see nothing wrong with blowing people away, creating a sense of awe and mystery and wonder and excitement. If it’s fun for me, it’s got to be fun for the viewer.”

art work at the Waverley Vinyl Listening Station

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Shakespeare as Graphic Novels

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shakespeare_dude_3

Classics Illustrated MacbethShakespeare continues to appear in new and usual ways and one of the newest  formats is the appearance of traditional and manga style graphic novels, though the plays have appeared in illustrated editions for hundreds of years. Copies of the plays were illustrated in both adult and children’s editions and proved particularly popular with the Victorian middle class. There was another surge of popularity during the depression and following the Second World War. Classics illustrated which operated between 1941 to 1971 in it’s incarnation did brisk business selling over 200 million copies.

manga shakespeareAs illustrated novels again rise in popularity, its not surprising that Shakespeare has found a whole new audience. graphic shakespeareShakespeare Manga publishes the plays in a manga format and from it’s own advertising claims the works will appeal to  “manga fans and kids that find Shakespeare intimidating”.  A number of companies offer graphic novels in English, including No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels and Shakespeare Graphics but there is also a large market for Shakespeare graphic novels in none English speaking editions, especially in Japan.

midsummer nights dream

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare

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tudor woman

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! It is an ever-fix’d mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

by William Shakespeare

Shakespearean Inspired Art – The Classics

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The imagery of Shakespeare’s work has inspired other artists, especially painters since the plays were performed. The artists of the Victorian period, especially the group know as the “Pre-Raphaeliteromeojuliets” were particularly taken with ideas of beauty and youth that mark the lovers in the plays. The elements of illusion, magic and the supernatural, as well as the evocation of the glories of the natural world added extra appeal. While there are many to choice from, these illustrate some of the scope of the classic Shakespearean paintings. The passion of young love is caught in Romeo and Juliet by Frank Bernard Dicksee and the terrors of the storm and the loneliness of Miranda are depicted in The Tempest by John William Waterhouse.

tempest waterhouse

 

 

Interview with Christopher “Merk” Merkley

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face croppedChristopher “Merk” Merkley makes stuff from nothing. Comics, paintings, photography, illustration, tshirts, multimedia, sculptures….whatever he can get his hands on. He has 2 graphic novels under his belt (another one on the way), an ongoing comic strip, a regular weekly piece for Comic Book Resources’ ‘The Line it is Drawn‘ , and fits in as much art and craziness in between those as he can. He is also one third of Zero Issues Comic Podcast with two fellow comic artists, Bry & Kyle.  You can find him online at merkasylum.ca.

Shauna Kosoris:  You did the artwork for Nowadays, a zombie comic that takes place in Northern Ontario.  How did you get involved with that, and how do you know the writer, Kurt Martell?

Merk: Kurt and I used to work together at HMV.  He was studying film at that point.  Then we disappeared and did our own things, but I kept running into him at events, usually during Halloween.  He’d have a mask on and I’d have no idea who he was until he said “Hey. Want to make a comic?”

Kurt had a love of zombie movies and wanted to make one.  Long before the current explosion of zombie stories, he wanted to reinvigorate the genre.  He ended up approaching me to make a comic instead.  From a business standpoint, I get lots of pitches of ideas, but nothing is written.  Kurt was different; he had everything written and he understood it’s a business.  “I don’t want you to work for free,” he said.  So we applied for grants and got one.  We also did fairly well with the Indiegogo campaign.  We were approached by Indiegogo to do talks about it but had to decline because of the distance.

Wow, too bad you weren’t able to go!  Going back to Nowadays, you used a lot of browns and other somber colours in the art.  Why did you choose that colour scheme?

I’m not big on bright primary colours.  And they don’t suit the tone of the book.  Each panel is made up of different photos with locations between Beardmore and Thunder Bay.  We found places on the highway that looked interesting.  The cars are from the junkyard. There were stores in Thunder Bay and Nipigon. Houses out on the highway. I had to take thousands of photos to find the ones that work.  Then I drew the people in before adding textured layers, filling in colour then tonal layers to match.

Originally we weren’t going to do the book using photos. It was just a test at something different but it looked great.  I thought it would be easier not having to do the backgrounds but it took way longer.

I wasn’t sure about asking people if we could take pictures of their businesses to use in our comic with no compensation.  But Kurt had no problem asking the first time.  After that it was a lot easier, and everyone was great about it.

You also did the art for Victor’s Legacy, which was by Andrew Sookram and Matthew Jowett.  How did you get involved with that?

They were both based out of Winnipeg.  I was living in Vancouver at the time.  I don’t know why I looked at it, but they had a Facebook group or page called Starving Writers. I’d never seen anyone looking for collaboration that way.  Usually you run into people and talk.  Those things don’t usually amount to anything.  But we clicked, and did the comic as short chapters available online, and then we eventually collected the first story arc.  We’ve discussed a second volume.

I hope you guys work on it; Victor’s Legacy was a fantastic read!  Thinking of collaborations, how did you get involved in Comic Book Resources’ ‘The Line is Drawn’?

I’d seen it online and thought it was a good idea.  I sent messages asking how to get involved and they ignored me.  Then last December they were looking to expand their pool of artists.  They had tryouts that were like how it’s done now: here’s an idea and draw it in a week.  Then again.  If you couldn’t do that, you weren’t cut out for it. I made it through.

It sounds like a lot of fun.  Who is your favourite character to draw?

I don’t know if I have a favourite character.  I get bored quickly and like to draw different things and different styles.

That’s fair.  Where did you get the idea for your comic strip, Zygote Bop?

It was part of a bigger idea I came up with years ago.  Part of it was two guys who work in a music store, like how Kurt and I worked in a music store.  The absurdity of working in retail.  But the original idea had Felix as the son of a superhero.  Carl wants to be a superhero and idolizes the dad.  It was going to be a quirky look at superheroes in retirement.  But that didn’t suit the format when it got picked up by the Walleye.

I’m going to keep on it now that it’s not in the Walleye.  But I’m really bad with deadlines.  And I’ve got the new strip, Freak Nuts, too. Both are available at Merkstrips.

Along with comics, you work with paintings, photography, illustrations, t-shirts, multimedia, sculpture, and whatever else you can get your hands on.  What’s your favourite medium to work with and why?

Comics easily.  It’s such an underrated genre and a way of expressing a story as art.  It’s coming into its own now more so.  Thirty years ago adults didn’t read them.  They got to a certain age and stopped.  That’s not the case anymore.

I look at comics as modern mythology.  We pass things on through stories, like religion.  We don’t pass things on through lists very much. It’s just a universal thing to pass along ideas, morals, lessons and information through a story.

What are you working on now?

Another book that I’ve written.  Season of the Dead Hours.  Wrote it awhile ago.  It’s going to be smaller than Nowadays.  Closer to Victors Legacy in size. 100 pages or so.  Black and White.  Dealing more with mythology, magic, etc, among other things.

Good luck with that!  Was there a particular artist who inspired you to draw?

All of them.  There’s a couple that stand out but there’s always that continuing awe of seeing both old and new.

I grew up reading comics and copied the pictures.  Then I went to Lakehead and took Fine Art there.  It opened a whole new world of fine art, the gallery experience, art history.  I did gallery art and comics fell to the side.  Then ten years ago I got back to comics.  It was like returning to what I wanted to do.  And it’s super inspiring now that Independent comics are exploding.

That’s so true.  Is there a particular comic you think everyone should read?

There’s some I would’ve said 5-10 years ago life Jeff Smith’s Bone before it got picked up by Scholastic.  The simplicity of his line.  How he’s able to capture the nuance.  Other than that there’s so many independent comics.

And what are you currently reading?

My comic list.  I’ve never had so many.  I try to weed it out for budget reasons.  But there are so many to read.  There’s a slew of Marvel stuff.  I kind of gave up on DC.  Image comics (Saga being the number one).  Black Science, Paper Girls, Fade Out, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Afterlife with Archie, We Stand On Guard, Conan the Adventurer.

And I love finding books on the history of comics, or biographies of creators. I just finished From Shadow to Light: The Life & Art of Mort Meskin by Steven Brower. I’m a comic geek. Head to toe.

Victor's Legacy cover