Live illustration in Toronto
July 2, 2019
It’s always my goal to work with good people.
Teaching provides me with that in spades thanks to the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies where I teach the ever-morphing topic of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media.
In essence, this course is about storytelling and the best way to digitally distribute your stories, regardless of their format (take your pick: written, drawn, recorded for video, for podcast, and formats yet to be invented).
In my experience, folks who sign up for higher education always come with open hearts and a sense of their own vulnerability, which I take seriously. Handle with care is my personal motto. I hope to inspire every student I meet to come into contact with their true voice. I cultivate that in myself through writing and drawing. It’s hard. Hanging on to your sense of self is a daily excavation through the noise of the world and the curve balls life throws at us.
When someone sits with me for their portrait, we chat about life. I aim to capture their true essence so that we both feel seen and heard. It builds such a strong sense of human connection. I am getting more of this kind of work now, thanks in large part to social media.
Late last month, Isorine Marc DM’ed me on Instagram. One or more of my illustrations had flashed by in her feed. Just when I thought social media had become this irreparable pit of despair, something wonderful and constructive happens proving that true connection can still happen. And it will happen again, despite all.
Isorine is the founder and Executive and Artistic Director of Jamii Esplanade (Jamii is Swahili for “community”), a charitable organization that produces free and accessible arts programming for the residents of Toronto’s St. Lawrence neighbourhood. Isorine is always looking for ways to bring together Torontonians from diverse backgrounds and income levels, and art is the glue. She and her team believe that offering free access to and engagement opportunities in the arts contributes to a more cohesive, united and supportive community where intercultural understanding prevails and economical disparity does not build walls between families. Nor does age or intellectual ability. At Jamii events, people with special needs as well as seniors feel as engaged and connected as kids and parents and everyone, young and old, comes with an open heart.
I got to be a part of this vision this week. Isorine (pictured above holding her daughter) invited me to participate in Multicultural Day on The Esplanade last Thursday in David Crombie Park. When passers-by caught a break from the sun under our cool tent, Alicia Herbert, Andrew Patterson (@visiblenoise) and I drew them! As our pens and brushes were flying across the page, each model was treated to a story or a song from a rotating line-up of amazing talent: Iman Abdul Razzak on violin (Bach anyone?) and Valérie Descheneux on accordion and violin )Edith Piaf, watch out)! When Djennie Laguerre took to the stage, she mesmerized us with her movements and winding stories in French and English. Meanwhile, Indrit Kasapi scared the heck out of us with his Albanian folk tales (his roars could be heard across the park). Jim Adams took us across time and space with his beautiful broad narratives from Anishinaabe folklore. Half the time I had little kids leaning into my left side while I drew with my right arm. They took turns asking, “Which pen are you going to use next?” I let them choose. Here are some shots from the day and from the Canada Day Picnic and Parade that took place a few days later in St. James Park. We had so much fun we said, “Let’s work together again.”
I tried painting on the ground, but scrapped that after a while. Photo by Theatre Francais de Toronto.