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.
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 the Joystick show was a blast. This isn’t the full-on, official report on the show; that’ll come later. But for now there are a few pieces left, and it occurred to me that with Christmas looming on the horizon, maybe some of you have a gamer on your shopping list.
Maybe that gamer is even you.
Anyway, here are the goods, complete with sizes and prices. If you see anything you’re interested in, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Prices listed do not include shipping charges.)
So Bugs was another fun show – a bit more intimate than the last few shows, but we definitely had fun. Full report to come, but in the meantime, people have been asking which pieces are still available, so here they are.
Each piece is 8×10 inches, and $70 unframed. Price doesn’t include shipping charges. So if you’ve got your eye on one, drop me a line: email@example.com
Also, if there’s something you don’t see here, let me know anyway. I’m open to doing custom pieces for people if they’re so inclined.
So there I was one Friday night, wondering what to do with myself. And I thought, hmmm, how ’bout an art show?
All I’d need is a few paintings, a lot of cool people, and a big room with booze, a pool table, and a 12-foot leather couch.
Also, a killer soundtrack. ‘Cause that’s a must for any Friday night.
Okay, so that’s not exactly how it went. The true story is about friendship, paint, booze, and serendipity.
One night back in March, Ned Tobin came by with a bottle of wine and some ideas about ink and watercolour. We’d never hung out and painted together before, so we figured it was high time to try. With no specific agenda in mind, he started several of his animal paintings, and I did two quick paintings – a tree frog, and then, somewhat randomly, a koi.
I’ve dabbled in watercolours over the years, but primarily just to create backgrounds for my digital illustrations. And that’s something I’ve done a lot less of since the metalflake paintings took over my life. So I’ve gotten used to a fairly lengthy process for painting, as layers are applied that often need several days to dry. Even longer in the winter months, when the weather is cold and the humidity is high.
These two new pieces were a revelation. I could easily take one from rough concept to finished piece in a single night.
Also, the response was universally positive, which gave me the idea that maybe I could do more of these. And koi are pretty exciting visually, unlike some animals. To me they look like custom cars in a way – wild colours and pattern, and shiny, silvery surfaces. I painted a few more, and a few more after that. Eventually I started wondering if this was a potential art show. Once I decided that it was, the whole process just flowed. Which could be construed as some sort of metaphor for the actual painting process, if you’re a fan of symbolism.
But all that is just backstory. What happened on May 23rd is what really matters.
Many people showed up, and frequently with friends in tow – this was easily the biggest turnout since Hot Pink. I met a LOT of new people, which is always a pleasure. It’s great to see first-timers at a show, especially when there are so many of them. In that respect, this was probably my most successful show to date (obviously I love seeing old friends as well, and there were plenty of those around. There’s a core group of loyal people who come to almost every show and do so much to support my art).
On a related note, this was the first time I had family on hand for a show, and I can’t even begin to explain how much that meant to me. My aunt and uncle even bought a painting.
Speaking of which, I laid the paintings out in chronological order, and it was cool to see how my process had developed over the two months I spent creating the koi. Even though the show is over, I still haven’t entirely stopped painting them. I’ve already completed one new commission, and there’s another waiting in the wings (there are also plans afoot for a piece inspired by the fish in Fantasia). I’ll definitely do more watercolour shows in the future, too. My thought at the moment is that I could have one watercolour exhibition and three metalflake ones each year.
We’ll see what happens, of course. As an artist I try to be open to new directions and opportunities. But overall this was a very, very positive experience, and I’m not just saying that because people plied me with alcohol.
Damn, that was a lot of wordiness. How ’bout a few photos?
Now come the liner notes. First off I’d like to thank Ned Tobin, Amanda West (who was kind enough to hook me up with the venue), John Watson, Annie Friesen, Mike Watson, Jill Sinclair, and Cathy Browne for their contributions. Each of you was crucial to this show, and my hat is off to you.
Next are the patrons, for putting their money where their mouths are: Aida King, Steve Cavers, Donna-Jay Crowe, Kirsten McKenzie, Evan Downie, Jenn Ready, Kathy & Bill Taylor, Jeff Hornby & Cass Wilson, Jewel Staite, Briar Sexton, Nicola Rueschmann, Krista Falconer, Shannon Nilson, Lori Kittelberg & George Smeltzer, Kyle Reid, Kayla, and Samantha Gilmour (incidentally, there are still a handful of paintings available. More details here).
Generally I manage to keep a list of everybody who attends the shows, but this time it got a bit overwhelming at times. So if you were there and I forgot to mention you… well, it’s just an oversight on my part (but drop me a line and I’ll update this post ASAP). Here’s everyone I haven’t already mentioned:
Cindy Busby, Kirst Ostapowich, Alan C., Chris Schneider, Don Falconer, Meghan Kilner, Shaun, Melissa Jones, Matt Bosch, Craig, Chris, Paul Erwin & Alison Tedford, Jason, Jenn Derksen, Katie Moran, Adam Bradley Carlson IV, Lindsay Bayne, Pardeep, Ian MacKinnon, Jill Plotnikoff, Steve Kinsey, Keith Murray, Brad Presta, Cristina Weir, Mila Katana, Jay Holtslander, Bria Hunter… and a handful of other new friends whose names escape me at the moment.
And finally, from the Department of Advice and Support: Jaime Lee Purgavie, Blair Pritchett, Tess McCann, Katherine Houston, Kate MacDonald, and Opus Art Supplies on Granville Island.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
P.S. Photos by Jill Sinclair, Cathy Browne, Jewel Staite, Kayla, Jeff Hornby, Krista Falconer (plus a couple of my own).