This is the second of my posts about artists who were at TCAF this past weekend. Today I’m featuring my friend and mentor, Joan Steacy! Follow the links in the text for lots more images of her artwork, including from her books both published and upcoming.
I’ve known Joan for quite a few years, travelling in the same art circles around Victoria, but we never really spent a lot of time together until the last couple of years, when I started taking the comics and graphic novels program at Camosun College and later a private mentorship with Joan and her husband Ken Steacy. In fact, Joan was responsible for me taking the program; she happened by my studio back in December of 2011, late in the day of a studio tour, and told me about a night course in comics that Ken was offering at the time, and that they were working on getting the program going for the fall. I had been doing some illustration of children’s books and book covers, and while it had never occurred to me that I might do comics, I thought that taking the night course, at least, would be beneficial for my storytelling skills for illustration. I did take the night course, and was hooked!
Joan has released the first volume of her autobiographical graphic novel series, Aurora Borealice, with the second to be released soon. The first volume begins in the seventies, when she met Ken, and chronicles her journey through university and the people who were influential in her life and thinking, particularly Eric McLuhan and Marshall McLuhan. I think it takes a lot of courage to write an autobiography, and Joan has done it so gracefully! Her “characters” including herself, are are portrayed with empathy for their human foibles and a gentle sense of humour. The illustrations, in ink wash, draw on Joan’s expert caricaturing and figure drawing skills to deftly express the emotions of the people in her story. I’ve seen some of the advance artwork for the second volume (and you can too, on her blog) and can’t wait to read it!
“The Alice of Aurora Borealice is brilliant, talented, and a functional illiterate who believes what she’s been told all her life, until with the aid of a supportive boyfriend and a healthy dose of Marshall McLuhan, she breaks free of her labels. Aurora Borealice is wittily written and charmingly drawn – roar, Alice!”
— Trina Robbins – Writer and Herstorian, excerpt from the introduction
Joan’s illustrated biography of her father, So, That’s That! The Life of “Junky Jack” Thornborrow: a Century of Hardship, Laughter, and Recycling is a delightful tribute which she made for his 100’th birthday, based on stories he told her. It’s not a comic, but a picture book, with paintings in a palette evocative of the era and mood of each illustration. She’s posted them all on her blog, in the 2011 archives (scroll down a bit to get to them). I believe the book is still available, too.
Joan teaches the life drawing and character design courses of the Camosun College Comics and Graphic Novels Program. As one of the students, I took both courses, and thoroughly enjoyed them. refining my figure-drawing skills under Joan’s direction, and finding out that I both like and am good at sculpting in polymer clay in the character design course. Joan’s teaching style is quiet and understated; she knows just when to put in a word or a demonstration, and when to let a student work it out for herself. If you’re interested in making comics, and would like to study in a beautiful island city, I can highly recommend the program.
Over the past year I’ve been taking a private mentorship with Ken and Joan, along with one other student continuing from the Camosun program. Their input has been extremely valuable for me in refining the graphic novel I’m working on (snippets of which I’ve been publishing for the last several weeks on this blog). Best editors ever!
And what did I do today in Toronto?
I went out to the Art Gallery of Ontario with Joan, Ken, and their friend Linda Roy, who is also an artist. I discovered that the AGO has a whole room full of beautiful ship models, which is helpful for the webcomic I’m working on, to be launched soon, very soon, as it has lots of ships. I bought a lovely book about the collection for reference. I also spent a long time in the Thompson collection rooms grokking the Group of Seven paintings and finding out about some other Canadian artists that I didn’t know about. Alas, I took no pictures today but if you follow all the links I’ve scattered through here, you’ll find lots of eye candy!