A year ago, things were looking pretty good to me. I’d been on a decent freelance gig for the entire year, and after an extremely busy December, I was really looking forward to a couple weeks off before we plunged back into the work in mid-January. My Star Wars tribute show, Han Shot First, had been a big hit – which was nice after a couple shows that didn’t perform up to expectations, an aborted show with a whiskey manufacturer that, if you’ll pardon the pun, evaporated practically overnight, and a group show that turned out to be more of a scam than an actual show.
I was feeling quite content, which was unusual for me at that time of year (usually I’d be stressing over money, or the fact that I couldn’t spend Christmas with my family). There was a bit of extra cash in the bank, and I was pretty relaxed. I was thinking about improvements I could make in my life in 2016.
Then Lemmy died. Followed almost immediately by David Bowie.
For all intents and purposes, 2016 was a horrible, horrible year. The freelance gig went sour pretty quickly in January, although it still dragged out for a couple more months. The closing bookend to this was the death this week of one of my best friends, at far too young an age.
In between the entire year seemed like one giant clusterfuck: the deaths of more artists who meant the world to me, the aforementioned work situation, my 8-year-old iMac finally shuffling off this mortal coil in May, and of course the week in November when Trump got elected and Leonard Cohen passed away. Not a lot of relaxation there. Not a lot of improvements. I wouldn’t say it was as shitty as 2012-2014, but it still ranks as one of the worst years of my adult life.
So what was good, then? Friends and family. Art.
In the spring, motivated by the lack of work and a rapidly-dwindling bank account, I threw a highly-successful art sale. That cleared out a lot of the paintings that had been taking up valuable wall space, generated a bunch of new commissions, and – equally importantly – funded a couple months’ rent.
That led pretty directly into the Superchicks show in July – also a success. After that, on a whim, I started doing black & white, almost chiaroscuro ink illustrations (think Frank Miller’s Sin City work), mainly as a much-needed change of pace. I called this series Back in Black, and as it happens, it sold more than several of my past art shows – on an almost non-existent budget and without any sort of corresponding physical event.
Then a whole slew of commissions came in, primarily custom pieces people were buying them for friends.
Then came Science Fiction Double Feature.
And more commissions.
I’m pretty much lost at the moment, but at least my head’s above water.
Some people I really need to thank, then: Cristina Weir, who bought substantial amounts of art, all year. Shamil Meghji, who also really put his money where his mouth is. My parents, my siblings, Mordechai Luchins, John and Chrissy Watson, George Smeltzer and Lori Kittelberg, Joe Clark, Rachael Taylor, Jeremy Ball, Kramer Solinksky, Adé Win, Alec Von, Kimli Welsh, Jen Arbo, Melissa Sandoval, Terri Chalmers, Jessi Sensabaugh, Andrea Mason, Kate MacDonald, Alison Tedford, Tim Schneider, Apryl Trasy, Andrea Garside, Stacie Bee, Rayna Corner, Mike Seymour, Roxy Xrouz, Shannon Mackay, Meghan Kilner, Chris Dion, Stef Dorward, Rebecca Coleman, Kyle Reid, Brooke Hunter, Jaime Lee Purgavie, Mandy Fisher, Tess McCann, Gus Lindstrom, Chad Horwedel, Stephanie Coleridge, Matt Sadorf, Phil, Erin Kyle, Holly Morrison, Isabel da Costa, Jay Holtslander, Andrew Wong, Edi Mange, Michelle Bischof, Blair Pritchett, Scott Graham, Steve Kinsey, Alison Evans, Brian Vidovic, Stephanie Young, Jordana Manchester, Shayla Maddox, Dani Heavenor, Annie Friesen, Adam Carlson, Mikey Pielechaty, Shona Massey, Katherine Houston, Sherri Hodder, Brian Cronin, Maria Brophy, and Alyson Stanfield.
If I’ve neglected to mention your name, or worse, misspelled it, please let me know and I’ll rectify the situation immediately.
In memory of Steve Morrison, 1963-2016.
Looking for last-minute gift ideas?
A few Cyber Monday art sales for you:
20% off everything (shirts, etc.) in my Design By Humans store, + free worldwide shipping. Code is BFCM.
50% off my brand-new book, Heartbreakers. Code is BEST50.
20% off all my Redbubble leggings.
And now Steve Dillon is gone, too. One of the finest comic artists of the past 30 years, a man whose skills may have seemed a bit low-key on the surface – particularly in the mid-90s when style was valued so much more than substance – till you noticed his real strengths, which were legion. Garth Ennis, the Irish writer who teamed up with him on Hellblazer and The Punisher, and created Preacher alongside him, talked about how he didn’t write thought balloons for his characters, because you could read their thoughts from the expressions Steve put their faces. That was a pretty fucking revolutionary idea 25 years ago. Steve and Garth weren’t by any means the only creative team to do such a thing, but they certainly led the way.
The Hellblazer run is often overlooked, but it was incredibly powerful. So violent, so dark, but with moments of such grace, light, and clarity that they would break your heart (disclaimer: my heart breaks pretty easily, so I might not be the most reliable arbiter of such matters. But still). Two issues in particular really touched me – the first was John Constantine’s 40th birthday party, a flawless piece of storytelling that captured everything there is to capture about a transcendent night of what Steinbeck would call “heroic” drinking, and a pivotal moment in a man’s troubled life (much as it pains me to admit it, I was in my 30s when that issue came out, and now I’m actually older than the man of the hour). The other was a spinoff one-shot called Heartland, which dealt in absolutely unflinching terms with infidelity, abuse, war, and nasty family politics, using Northern Ireland as its titular heart and soul.
What Steve and Garth did on Preacher built on that, at least partially because it was a purely creator-owned book, with very little editorial influence. What they created in the span of a few years remains to this day my alltime favourite comic series ever, although Hellblazer has some moments so powerful they’ll change your whole life.
Steve Dillon was a legend.
This past week, there have been three constants in my life: comics, fudgesicles, and Photoshop. As mentioned in my last post, I’ve set up a storefront at Design By Humans, so I’ve been obsessively working up designs to add to it. In between Photoshop bouts, I destroyed a 30-pack of fudgesicles (hey, they were on sale for a ridiculous price) and read 113 Garth Ennis-penned Punisher comics.
Today’s newest shirt is shown above: 9 Bikes. You can find it here in my store.
When I was growing up, my dad and I used to go to movies together all the time. One night he asked if I wanted to go see something called “Star Wars”. Neither of us knew anything about it, but we decided to give it a shot anyway. The next day at school, kids were absolutely losing their shit over the movie. There just weren’t any other topics.
Not long afterwards, I read an interview with George Lucas in Starlog magazine. All I remember from it now is that Lucas intended to make three trilogies, and only R2D2 and C3P0 would appear in all nine movies.
So in effect, it was their story.
Many (and I mean, many) years and thousands of miles later, I decided on a whim to do a pair of paintings featuring the two droids, just to have a couple of large-format showpieces on hand. I didn’t know at the time that we were on the verge of a brand new installment in the Star Wars franchise; I just wanted to paint some robots. Once that started, I realized I wanted to paint stormtroopers. And landspeeders. And starfighters.
It all grew pretty organically from there, till I had the makings of a new brand show on my hands. And that show happened the night of Thursday, December 17th, at EXP Restaurant.
(EXP, for the record, is one of my favourite venues. Excellent lighting (plus the option of having a slideshow), a crowd that really gets my art, great food… you get the idea.)
The day of the 17th, it seemed like everything was taking much longer than it should have – packing up to go to EXP, hanging the paintings, processing the files for the slide show, getting home and back to shower and change. Nothing went wrong per se; time just wasn’t on my side. Of course it was raining, so there were transit delays. By the time things really kicked off, I was a bundle of nerves. But that’s usually the case. And once I’m at the venue for the night and the paintings are up, the pressure generally eases off – particularly once there’s a drink in my hand.
I got back to EXP around 6:00PM. People were already waiting patiently, despite my tardiness.
Looking back on it now, the rest of the night feels like a movie montage or highlight reel. People just kept showing up, and for the first few hours it was tricky to actually have a lengthy conversation with anybody. Staying focused in these situations is a challenge; there’s just so much to take in. I’m sure there must be someone I didn’t get to talk to at all – and if that’s the case, you have my heartfelt apologies.
(Once again I never thought to take photos of the festivities. So what you’re seeing in the slideshow at the top of the page is more a means of summing up the process of putting the show together.)
I got to meet a bunch of new people, which for me is the best part of putting on an art show. I’m a social creature by nature, and new friendships mean a lot.
Less than a week later, I finally saw The Force Awakens, which brought it all home for me. The first thing I realized was that every theory I’d read or formulated prior to seeing the movie was bullshit. And I’ve never had another movie push so many of my buttons so well. On the way home I wanted to walk up to random people on the street and scream “Star Wars!!” It’s a true love letter to the original trilogy (and to the collective childhoods of the original viewers).
Which, of course, was my intent with Han Shot First. I can’t begin to explain how much those movies shaped my consciousness, so it was nice to work some of that out artistically.
Now it’s a brand new year, and I’m planning to see The Force Awakens again soon. You should, too.
And without further ado, I’d like to thank some people:
My dad, Frank Ricketts, who started the ball rolling way back when.
Brian Vidovic, for providing the venue and generally being a prince among men. And the staff at EXP for their heroic efforts (especially with regards to the Commander Shepherd’s Pie).
Annie Friesen, the Queen of Buttons.
Charlie Ritchie, who provided some much-needed and unintentional inspiration.
Holly Morrison, for her continued support of my art career.
Opus Art Supplies, Michael’s, and DeSerres.
Meghan Kilner, Edi Mange, Lori Kittelberg, Barbara Sweeney, Alec Von, Michelle Bischoff, Chris (whose last name I never got. I hope your friend liked the painting), Kyle Reid, Marga Lopez, Shamil Meghji, and Dawn Danger.
Rachael Taylor, for representing the Empire.
Jay Holtslander, who came to the show twice in the same evening.
Cailan Fox, who has now attended four consecutive art shows – no small feat when you’re barely a year old. But then, he attended his first show while he was still in the womb, so he had a slight headstart.
Michael Fashionista and Dani Heavenor, who went the extra mile and came to the show in costume.
Cristina Weir, who arrived directly from the seven-movie Star Wars marathon, and then went for pulled pork poutine with me afterwards.
Jack MacKinnon, Daniel Heim, and Steve Robinson, fellow veterans of many a battle.
Adam Carlson, Rachael’s mom, Andrew Wong, George Smeltzer, Donna & Dan Fox, Alan Chuck, Shona Massey, Laurie Casey, Salisha Miles, Chris, Jonathan Franco, and Mark Sweeney.
Jill Sinclair, Alison Tedford, and Todd Hancock for the free publicity.
My hat is off to every one of you.
So it’s midsummer already. No idea where that year went; between work and shenanigans, I’ve been busy as hell, though.
I’m also, once again, up to my ass in paintings. My studio walls are covered, my couch is buried in them, every spare bit of space in my bedroom (which isn’t necessarily a lot) is crammed. This, obviously, will not do.
So hey. You wanna buy a painting at a bargain price and give me a little more space to paint more stuff?
Sure you do.
Here’s what’s up for grabs this year:
If you have your eye on a piece, drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) and refer to the sale in the email title.
Prices are in effect till Friday, July 17, 2015. Prices do not include shipping.
A few years ago I designed a tattoo for myself – something to show how much my adopted home – Vancouver – meant to me. When I showed the design around, I immediately got requests to feature it on t-shirts. Since then I’ve developed more designs, primarily based on the East Coast (trivia note: I’ve also lived in all of the Atlantic Provinces).
Now I want to expand the options available, and so I’ve added shirts for Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta so far, with more to come.
You can find the shirts here, in my Redbubble store. And kids’ sizes are also available.