2016 may have been a dumpster fire of a year – but as I look back I find a lot to be grateful for in my own life.
And this is not to undermine what the world has been through – the terrible loss of life in Syria or the great disappointment of the results of the US election (although I still believe equality is an attainable dream!) But this post is a way of not forgetting all the good there is in the this world in the face of hatred, bigotry and the death of David Bowie.
So lets go back to the beginning of the year!
As 2016 started I was knee deep in some serious drawing for my latest book One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal. I had to draw 226 different borders for the book as well as 12 new One Year Wiser style pages. It was intense but also SO fun getting up each day and drawing five new boarders. When working in a repetitive and restrictive creative pursuit there comes this flow of creative energy that allows me to work within the restrictions but break out of them at the same time. I have always found that the best way to let creativity flow is to give it restrictions and guidelines and within that creativity can flourish. By the time I was around 100 drawings in for the gratitude journal that creative expression started bursting out and I was in a pretty much constant state of creative joy!!
Here are some examples of the boarders for that book and one of the colouring in pages.
Throughout the time of drawing this book and the rest of the year I did many festivals and DIY art markets. I recently counted them up and I did 12 all year! So in that regards it has been busy. These have included London markets in areas such as Dalston, Peckham and Bethnal Green. But I also did some others around the country like Thought Bubble in Leeds and The Bristol Comics and Zine fair. These are always great events! They are a chance to meet new people, get feedback on my work and make a some income to sustain me. I always come back from these events feeling uplifted and a bit more sure that the path I am on is making a positive difference in this world!
Here’s me at an event called DIY Cultures in Rich Mix, London. This event is always one of my favourites as it is so diverse and politically/socially engaged!
And probably the highlight of this year, in terms of festivals, was going to my first ever overseas event! And it happened to be just an hour away from where my family lives! It was TCAF (Toronto Comic Art Festival) and was lots of fun! I was there with SelfMadeHero, the publisher of One Year Wiser, to promote the series and I also ran a Illustrate Your Mantra workshop. I have run this workshop before but this one was extra special because the group really got my Canadian humour and laughed at all my jokes (a rare experience!) – it felt like being home.
Here is a blurry selfie I took with the group after the workshop.
And here is a pic of me with my nephew, Kade, when he and my sister came to visit us at the event!
After TCAF I stayed in Canada for a week or so and spent some quality time with my family! While there I was lucky to have a signing at Chapters in Barrie, Ontario – which was so cool as I spent loads of time in chapters reading books as a teenager.
Here is a pic of me at chapters with a stack of signed books!
And I also did a charity exhibition with canvases of my work and selling other merch to raise money for the The Well, a local community space in Alliston, Ontario where my sister, Melissa, lives. The event was a great success, raising over $5o0 for The Well.
Here is a pic of my sister and I under the marquee!
Then from May onwards I had my head down doing what I love: drawing, drawing, drawing!
A big portion of my time was spent working on my first full length graphic novel. This was created for the company I work at as an art editor. Jessica Kingsley Publishers is a wonderful publishing company that focuses on topics such as Aspergers Syndrome, dementia, art therapy and more. Since 2014 I have worked for them helping to create a line of comic books around subjects such as PTSD, Autism, sexual assault and restorative justice.
The latest project I did for them was a comics adaptation of a fiction book they published in 2003. It is called Lisa and the Lacemaker and is about a young girl with Aspergers Syndrome. I found this book to be a big challenge as it was the longest single story comic I have ever drawn. It is off to press in the next few days and I am super happy with how it came together. It will be out in April.
Here are a few sample pages from the book!
The other portion of the second half of this year included the first ever joint exhibition I created with my wife, Dr. Lisa Woynarski! The project was called Five Bridges: Stories of the Flood and was put on at Kendal Museum as part of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival.
On December 5th 2015 the area of Cumbria, UK was hit by devastating flooding which caused major damage to peoples homes and the local area. In June 2016, Lisa and I went to Kendal and interviewed people about their experiences of the flooding. The stories were very sad but also inspiring to hear how people came together and supported each other during the most difficult of times.
I spent the next few months drawing the exhibition and we worked with sound designer, Farokh Soltani, to create a comics soundscape landscape! The viewers would come in and listen to the interviews that had been paired up with comics panels. The interviews were necessary to give context to the images and the images helped bring the events to life visually and poetically. In the end, I am proud to say, that it was a very moving piece that was very well received by Kendal locals who had experienced the flooding first hand!
Here are some images from the event.
And a pic of Lisa and I in the space!
While at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival I was involved in loads of other events including a 24 hour comic, an exhibition at a unitarian church and giving a talk at Kendal College to art and design students.
As I sit here looking back I realise that there are too many things from this year to mention them all! A quick run down of some outstanding events are: signings at multiple triyoga studios and the amazing House of Illustration. Selling books at the Mind, Body, Soul Experience and creating my first ever art calendar which is now officially sold out! Also I spent the first half of the year drawing a weekly comic for the Elephant Journal, which was very rewarding.
If I am honest, I am exhausted!
And just to note a few personal events over the past year – Lisa was offered a lecturing position at Reading University, so we moved to Reading! And it was my fathers 60th birthday. Which I wasn’t able to celebrate in person but am looking forward to spoiling him when I am back in Canada over the holidays!
And it is the truth that there is no rest for the wicked as I am already busy working on the fourth book in the One Year Wiser series which will be out in Autumn of next year, but I have to have finished by June 1st. Then I have a few meetings set up with some big publishers to explore the possibility of working with them!! Which is enough to warm my heart and fill me with the excitement of potential that the future can bring to spread more love and understanding in this too often sad and upsetting world.
And so I take a breath, come back to myself and try to rest in the peace of this single moment. I am here, healthy, and mindful of the abundance this life has provided me with.
Lots of love to you all and I hope you can find ways to focus on the good and growth in each of your lives.