Sunday, April 24, 2011

I'm giving a talk Friday April 29th on Chatelaine Magazine

I spent all day editing my presentation and making the powerpoint. It came out to 74 slides! I'll be mainly discussing the careers of Chatelaine's women illustrators 1928-1932, which was a high point for them. After that, the Depression reduced their work by half and women never did get that back, while men continued to get work. I will also be saying a bit about why illustrators in general have been left out of Canadian art history. 
The talk will be at the Toronto Arts and Letters Club, around 9pm. Doors open at 8pm. 
Image: Marie Cecilia Guard. Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


The above postage stamp uses a stock photo of the replica statue of Liberty Bringing Enlightenment, according to a BBC report. USPS is unapologetic.

For decades, stamps were a country's proud display of their accomplishment in the arts. Engravers were highly sought after, and artists and photographers were commissioned to do their best. It used to be an honour to be asked. In 2001 USPS issued a series celebrating American illustration. Here is the Rockwell Kent stamp based on Melville's famous book, which among other themes addresses a person's control over their own thoughts and person, ie liberty:

Kent was known for his Communist sympathies, and a rather libertine life. Yet he would never have abided by the Soviet style oppression of liberties, which would have never tolerated Kent's shenanigans in return. He stayed American, his artistic contribution celebrated.

While I'm sure the replica statue photographer is pleased, I doubt he/she made anything more than the same royalty they would have made had it been used for a story in one of those free travel magazines in the back of an airplane seat. Any old shot of Liberty would have sufficed; this person just got lucky that the designer turned them up in a search engine query. I bet the designer at USPS did their own cropping too.

Isn't it a bit hypocritical? Hasn't this nation always championed artistic liberty? Yet by depriving their creative people of the chance to address the theme of liberty in a thoughtful and innovative way, by going with a yawner of an overdone icon long since drained of all but bland unthinking symbolism, they have hampered not just artists' livelihood but liberty of thought too, that is, by not adding to the variety of thought circulating out there.

Conservatives grudgingly had to tolerate Kent, by the way. As they should. Opposition is an important part of thought, of reason, of logic. Liberty allows for opposition in order to refine thought and policy, you know, as in enlightenment.

Stamp art, as representative of good governance, can rightly reflect humanist values. But now they just download something mundane from a corporate stock site. They have taken liberties, not given them. Enlightenment awaits.

[this blog post is dedicated to D.A. :-P]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Postcard reference books

I'd like to thank Michael J. Smith for his excellent reference books on Canadian postcards, especially the one on patriotic cards. I'll also point to for the above image, which I'm borrowing somewhat naughtily for this post.
Michael's boks are chock full of colour reproductions and meticulous cataloguing, and are a great resource for anyone interested in illustrated ephemera. Check out his essay about Canadian cards here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Library of congress

It's been a strange couple of weeks, with a lot of family events overlapping my trip to Washington. Despite the distractions I came back with lots of new sources and images to work with. This shot is the roof of the Library of Congress's main reading room.