Meet Colin, an illustrator, cartoonist, and designer living in Ottawa. Colin is well known for his illustrations of Ottawa streetscapes and ‘comix’ depicting interactions he has with people living in the city. Right now – and through the month of June – Raw Sugar Café is hosting an exhibit of his work called Confectionaries, which is a collection of illustrations of corner stores in downtown Ottawa. The exhibit’s vernissage will be hosted at Raw Sugar on June 8th between 6:00 and 8:00PM. To view Colin’s work, visit his websites at http://colinwhitestudio.ca and http://colinwhitecomix.ca. I definitely encourage you to take a look at my favourite of his comix, Cool Drawing, Dude, where Colin records the interactions he has with people who approach him on the street while he’s drawing streetscapes.
Okay. I’m an illustrator and designer based out of Ottawa. I do freelance work, and self-publish comix. The overarching theme throughout my life has been art, drawing, design, and self-publishing, even when I was a kid. I founded a local newspaper when I was 11 – I grew up on a dirt road, and the newspaper was called the The Goshen Report, after the name of the road. It went out to the locals, mainly, as well as my relatives. I had maybe 30 or 40 “subscribers,” and I did all of the reporting, designed the whole thing, and even “hired” my brother to do interviews. Thinking back, that was my first interest in self-publishing and putting myself out there. I was also pretty interested in cartooning my whole life, and I’m really into politics and the environment. I spend a lot of my time reading political stuff, which ends up influencing my work. A lot of my comix are influenced by politics.
Did you grow up in Ottawa?
I grew up outside Ottawa, between Arnprior and Renfrew. Ottawa was the nearby city we’d go shopping in once in a while.
I was pleasantly surprised, I guess, to find that there is an underground or alternative scene in a city that I thought was really plain. You know, Ottawa’s large enough to sustain some interesting things – cafés, printing houses, galleries, all that sort of stuff, and there are people here with money to spend on it, who are aware of it and want to further culture in Ottawa. It’s at this breaking point right now where there is this legitimate underground scene that’s very organic, and it’s happening and growing because there’s room for it. Raw Sugar is a good example of that – it’s only existed for a couple of years, and it really filled a gap. There was a niche for it to fill – we didn’t have any place where you could chill out that was aesthetically pleasing, that put on shows, that had great communities built within and around them. It’s been successful, and most people seem to know about it. It’s nice to see these types of things happening, basically, and it’s nice to be directly involved in it.
Can you tell me about your art and influences?
Well, the environment is a good start. Last year I started a series called Gigafauna – it’s imagery of ordinarily harmless animals, like snails, sparrows or mice, who have become giants and accidentally crush cities while they go about their day. We have had such an impact on the environment, and it may come back to bite us on the foot at some point. Gigafauna was inspired by that, but I also like a bit of humour so it’s a little whimsical.
Certainly what’s happening in the world – politics, religion, everything – ends up in some form or another in my comix. A lot of that comes out in comix that are more fantastical. One that I’m working on right now is called The Watering Hole, and it runs in X-Ray Magazine, which is based out of Ottawa. The Watering Hole focuses on a couple of woodland beavers who are very concerned about what’s happening in the world. I like that route because it’s a good way to critique these larger issues, but keep it light.
Stuff that happens in my life is something else that really influences me, and it often takes me in a different direction. The first summer I lived in Ottawa I spent a lot of time just walking around trying to get to know what was around me, and I wanted to practice drawing. I would just sit down and draw interesting buildings. Not necessarily tourist destinations, just regular places, like maybe a back alley or an industrial building. Inevitably someone would come up and talk to me – no matter what, no matter how remote an area, someone would ask me about what I was doing or engage me in conversation.
The kind of people who randomly engage strangers in conversation on the street – there’s something about them. They’re interesting. They’re either charismatic, open, interested in meeting someone new, or – on the other end of the spectrum – they’re off their meds. I was approached by so many interesting people that I just started documenting them, writing down our conversations and making comics out of them. It’s like reporting little day-to-day stuff – the small things. So, you know, sometimes I’m drawing snails running over cities, and sometimes I’m just drawing the city. I’ve got a balcony, and sometimes I just draw the people walking by below.
I find the aesthetics of cities really interesting. I really like telephone poles – those old wooden ones with all the stuff on them. That’s often been a theme in my drawings. Fire escapes, side alleys – a little dirty, a little grungy – that sort of thing. There are a lot of places in Ottawa that appeal to me, so I draw them.
Thank you, Colin! Be sure to check out Colin’s work at http://colinwhitestudio.ca andhttp://colinwhitecomix.com, and stop by Raw Sugar Café any time in June to see theConfectionaries series in person. Colin can also be found on Twitter at @colinwhite, and on Facebook at Colin White Comix.