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Academia Activism Illustration

Drawing The Other: Illustration and Representation

I have been sitting on posting this online for a very long time! It was written specifically in response to the theme/provocation of the 6th Annual International Illustration Research Symposium in November 2015, held at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. The theme was “Illustrator as Public Intellectual.” I also presented it at the ICON 9 Illustration Conference in July 2016. After reading it for my Modern American Illustration students (and a few times for a friend’s Illustrative Activism students), it finally feels like time to share. I’ve also interspersed my slides throughout the talk – it is really meant to be read out loud, with all of the annoyed and sassy vocal inflection I usually have when I talk from my heart about politics. I realize a lot of this may be contentious, and I’ve decided not to share the names of illustrators whose work I find problematic, in the interest of not putting those individuals on blast. Indeed, this is a systemic, structural, institutional problem, and all of us are implicated in it. I have provided the names of illustrators who I frame as ‘getting it right’ in the interest of signal boosting those individuals. Please feel free to share widely; I think this research is incredibly important, and I plan to conduct a more extensive, quantitative study for academic publication very soon. Until then, this is a bit more popularly accessible. This is the initial research I provided to the BBC, who quoted this paper in this article: “Women Who Draw website reveals world’s ‘hidden’ female illustrators.” Thank you in advance for reading. Every time I have given this lecture it has been well received; if you have any concerns, feel free to contact me. Trigger warning for images of gendered and racialized violence.

Abstract: If we take illustration seriously as a form of intellectual and cultural production that influences, reproduces, and reinvigorates public and private discourse, what do the pictures we make and the way we represent human bodies within them say about our personal (as private persons) and public (as creative professionals) understandings of race and gender? Do most of today’s award-winning illustrations challenge dominant power paradigms, or consolidate oppressive hegemonic representations as common sense? What happens when illustrators try to depict The Other? How can we avoid these pitfalls and their consequences? I examine the most recent ten years of award-winning work in the American Illustration annual, and consider the implications of what these selected works say about how illustrators and jurors perceive, represent, and validate representations of race and gender. Following this analysis, I discuss the cultural significance of socially responsible illustration, and present some suggestions for illustrators and educators interested in rethinking how they approach the representation of gendered and racialized bodies in their own work, and that of their students and peers.

The aim of my paper is to determine the answer to one simple question: do today’s award-winning illustrations challenge dominant power paradigms, or do they consolidate oppressive hegemonic representations as common sense? In order to do this, I have examined the most recent seven years of award-winning work in the American Illustration annual, and consider the implications of what these selected works say about how illustrators and jurors perceive, represent, and validate representations of race and gender. Following this analysis, I discuss the cultural significance of socially responsible illustration, and present some suggestions for illustrators and educators interested in rethinking how they approach the representation of gendered and racialized bodies in their own work, and that of their students and peers.

I looked through nearly 3,000 images and recorded how many contained people – white people, men, women, and people of colour. What are some problems with this methodology? Not everyone who “looks white” is white. While enforcing black and white binaries aren’t always useful in the ontic sense, when it comes to representation it is vital. There is an incredibly disproportionate representation of individuals with peach coloured skin. Existence is far more complex than black or white, male or female. I don’t want to forget people who are multi-racial, I don’t want to forget light-skinned people of colour; I don’t want to forget transgender and gender non-binary people. Their lives matter, and it is important that we as illustrators are aware of their existence. They are our peers and colleagues.

However – there is something useful to be gained by the kind of boundary-driven qualitative analysis I have undertaken. We can learn, at a glance, how award-winning illustration has changed over the last seven years, and what types of representations are deemed worthy of public praise. We can learn, in short, what type of representations are happening and being recognized.

So. What did I find?

I’m going to show a bunch of images throughout the rest of this talk. I know illustration is very context specific – or, at least, it can be – and I am asking for you to trust that I did not take this work out of context. In the course of my research, I examined many of these illustrations and looked up the articles or projects they appeared alongside. A lot of these images are beautiful to look at. A lot of them have some semblance of a smart concept. Some are very witty. Despite this, however, some may leave something to be desired in their representation of “the other.”

In the most recent year of winners, humans featured in 75% of illustrations. This was an increase between 10-20%, depending on the year. Interestingly, the representation of white men has declined in recent years – something I perceive to be a little ray of hope. During the last seven years, on average white men appear in 55% of AI award winning illustrations; the highest number in the collected data was 65%. The representation of white women has remained fairly steady at an average of 32%, as has the representation of men and women of colour, whose seven-year averages are 8% and 4%, respectively. On average, men were drawn to be nude or nearly nude 2% of the time. On average, women were drawn to be nude or nearly nude 30% of the time. The only dead bodies depicted during the timeframe of my analysis are those that belong to men of colour.

In seven years, these are the only two images of Indigenous peoples in American Illustration.

(If you’re not sure why these two images are problematic, please have a chat with me afterwards.)

Social justice. Respectful representation. What are these things, and why should we care? It may seem like an obvious question, but when I hear endless talk of how ‘social justice warriors’ and ‘political correctness’ are restricting creativity and making the world less fun, I wonder if illustrators, designers, art directors, and artists have lost our way. I hope that we can – at least for a moment – come together in conversation and seriously question what it is that we are doing, and why.

If we take illustration seriously as a form of intellectual and cultural production that influences, reproduces, and reinvigorates public and private discourse, what do the pictures we make and the way we represent human bodies within them say about our personal (as private persons) and public (as creative professionals) understandings of race and gender? Furthermore: whose human bodies are we representing? Do we just draw ourselves, and, when we are tasked with drawing other people, do we flounder? Do we only hire and work with people who look like us?

Despite our best attempts and insistences that we do not have sexist or racist thoughts, after undertaking the requisite analysis it has become more and more clear to me that the illustration industry does in general reflect the sexism and racism within typical North American culture in the images we make. Rather than provoking critical thought about power relations, the pictures we make and sanction via public professional praise often contribute to these problems – in how we depict relationships between different genders and races.

White men often are used as a ‘netural every-person’ in illustrations. Desptie being a very specific subject position, if the work does not specifically reflect race or gender, images often depict a white man. The white man is a default.

But it’s not just about depicting more women and people of colour. It’s also – crucially – how we are representing them, especially if we’re white male illustrators, art directors, designers, artists. People of colour are rarely depicted just doing every day things; instead, they are usually figures in the background, in images of cities and streets from a far-away view, wherein many different small figures with different skin colours are depicted. I have noticed that in order to be depicted as more than backdrop filler, people of colour need to be famous.

What types of people of colour are depicted? Images of people of colour often include associations with violence. Often, black men are only depicted if they are sports stars or blues musicians. Or, if they are dead. In the most recent AI awards annual, the only deceased figures represented were men of colour – most notably a very literal depiction of Michael Brown lying in his own blood.

Can we draw attention to the violence inflicted upon racialized bodies without perpetuating further violence against people of colour and especially black and indigenous peoples? I think we can. I think we can make work that is smarter than this. We can make work that doesn’t just reproduce the same old images.

We can do this by drawing attention to the vehement practices of white supremacy and patriarchy. Draw black people succeeding. In every day life, doing every day things. Running busineses. Hanging out in the park. Black lives matter: in illustration, too. Or, at least – they should. So, too, should the lives of women.

When we represent stories other than our own – stories of “The Other” – we need to do our research. We need to think carefully about it, and look at the topic from many angles and points of view. We need to consider the lives of those involved. We need to be kind.

You need to be kind.

I need to be kind.

We need to be smarter about the images we’re making. We need to look at them not just as individual works on their own merit but as components in a larger conversation. We need to think. Really, really think.

Step outside of our comfort zones.

Yes, your image of a naked white chick sticking her ass out may be a really great drawing. Your painting of dead men of colour may be very well composed. But: do we really need MORE of these images? They are already everywhere. Are we only giving awards for how we think people of colour and women should be represented? Why do we consistently create work that always places white men at the center of the conversation and only depicts women of colour 4% of the time? And even then – when they are drawn – they are dead, raped violated. As a collective of creators, we need to take responsibility for this.

Of award-winning “selected” AI illustrations in the last 7 years, of those that contain women, women are nude or nearly nude 30% of the time, compared to the average of 4% for men. Of all of the ‘selected’ pieces from the last 7 years, only one or two images of men showed them to be sexualized in any way. For women, this was much more common. I noticed a strangely persistent trend of drawing women only as legs, a blatant sexualization and objectification that is difficult to miss.

I’m not saying that these illustrations aren’t good or smart. A lot of them are witty, clever, technically proficient, well composed, beautiful to look at with a unique style. That’s all well and good.

But what I am saying is – when award winning illustrations of women mostly show them as sexualized or as partial body parts, and when award-winning illustrations of black people link them to slavery and prison and death and violence… I want to ask everyone in the room to think about this with me. Really, really think about it. What does that say about us? What exactly are we doing here? Why do we – as an industry – continue to “punch down”?

This illustration appeared alongside an article about a black woman being raped.

These illustrations are from two different series, by the same illustrator. They, too, depict rape – primarily the gang rape of a Middle Eastern woman.

I look at these images, and I can’t help but ask myself: what, exactly, is it that we think we are doing? Do we really think illustration is such a frivolous medium? Do we really have so little to say that the only way we know how to talk about violence is to literally depict it and retraumatize and revictimize survivors, rather than to say something about the reprehensibility of racialized and sexualized violence and trauma? At first glance, these illustrations may seem raw and edgy and transgressive. They may seem radical in their bluntness.

But they aren’t.

It is not activism to draw more dead black people. It is not activism to show more womens’ cleavage, more women with their butts in the air, seemingly asking for it. It is not activism to draw women being raped. This is not radical. This is nothing new. If we think we are provocative or interesting or smart for making these images, we are sadly mistaken. This work is not intellectual, ‘public’ or otherwise. It is not taking the job seriously.

It is not justice.

It is not responsible.

You: yes, you in this room, you sitting here right in front of me. I ask you: think of all the people you know. Think of yourself. You, whether you know it or not – you know people who have experienced race and gender based violence. You know them. They are your friends, your colleagues. It might even be you. Even if you haven’t told anyone.

Will drawing black people being shot and women being raped create social change? Who are we trying to ‘create awareness’ for? Who is it, exactly, that doesn’t have awareness about these things that are so easy to see if we just step outside of our own selves for a fraction of a second? Some people have the luxury to look at a literal image like a woman being raped or a black person being killed and take something abstract from it. Some people have the luxury to distance themselves, to say, Oh, this is good because it creates awareness. But: some of us, well – we’re already aware. We’re aware every day of our lives. Actually, it’s most of us. We already know.

I think, deep down – you already know, too.

So: you’re with me. You know.

What do we do now?

I want to show you some pictures I like. Some pictures that are getting it right. Some pictures that are doing something a bit different. The two images on this page are saying something – very intelligently – about race and power.

When we’re thinking about representation in illustration, we can consider:

What power relationships are depicted? What are the power dynamics between the figures within the image?

What about the power dynamics between these illustrations and the others we have already seen – whether in this presentation or otherwise, out in the wild? As illustrators who take what we do seriously, we need to look into what else is happening in life and cultural production – in illustration and beyond – and see how we and our work fit into that conversation. What role do we play? Are we just reinforcing harmful stereotypes, or are we actually changing the conversation for the better and making an intelligent statement?

I am asking us all, right now, to hold ourselves accountable. Hold your friends and colleagues accountable.

I wanted to conclude with some suggestions for how to do this, and I really do think they apply in illustration and design classrooms with students, as well as for each of us creating work for clients and for ourselves. This stuff takes time, and it’s not always easy. It takes commitment. You’re going to mess up. I still mess up sometimes. As illustrators, we’re storytellers. Whether we like it or not, whether we think we’re merely interpreting or offering a witty commentary – or even if we just see our work as decorative – there’s story there. The kind of work we make can show what is important to us, and how other people behave towards each other in the world. It’s never just one image. It’s never just the image you made last week or last year. It’s the collections of works we make throughout our careers, both individually and collectively, as a larger community of people who think and create with images.

Maybe, together – we can help change those numbers I told you about before, so the next seven, ten, fifteen, twenty years of awards winners don’t just feature women of colour 4% of the time. Maybe, together – we can draw women as more complex than just being naked and sexualized one third of the time. Maybe, together – we can draw pictures that inspire, that reaffirm how black lives matter. Maybe, together – we can educate and inspire. Maybe, together – we can tip the scales.

Thank you.


NOTE: Names of illustrators in last few slides – Byron Eggenschweiler (girl with books), Anthony Freda (blackboard illustration, last slide), Brian Stauffer (N illustration), Marcos Chin (kama sutra), Olaf Hajek (black Marie Antoinette), Brian Cronin (tightrope), Christopher Silas Neil (bicycle). I have not included the names of the illustrators who drew the more (IMO) problematic pieces because this is very much a systemic industry-wide problem. I am interested in the picture our industry paints as a whole.

Academia Events Illustration

Autumn Update: Travel, Book Fairs, Conferences, Oh My

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Wow okay it has been a thousand years since my last update in May, and I have about a thousand more things to update y’all on. So I’ll just get right to it! TCAF 2016 (May 14-15 at the Toronto Reference Library) was AMAZING. I felt high as a kite the entire time just off of good vibes and the insane generosity and love I received from like everyone I met. I also had a new banner thing and business cards printed, which you can see in some of the images accompanying this text! I’m really stoked on how they turned out.

My book Witchbody (currently sold out, second edition in the works and available soon) was nominated for the Doug Wright Nipper Award, which is the ‘emerging talent’ category, so that was pretty cool. Even though I didn’t win I totally did in my heart, hahaha, so I’m just going to pretend I did. Anyway we are all winners, am I right? Of course. Big congrats to all the nominees, official ‘winners’ or not. Also, huge love to everyone who came out to my table to say hello, I actually had The Best Time Ever and that is very much thanks to everyone I met.

I also tabled at the first Ottawa Zine Fair (June 4 at the Bronson Centre), which was absolutely fucking fantastic. The picture below was taken after the zine reading the night before the fair, at which myself and a bunch of other folks performed our writing. I had a great time and more or less sold out of Witchbody’s first printing at this event. I had the great honour to read some of my writing at an event put on the night before the fair, and it went super super well. A few days before the fair I also had the pleasure of being interviewed on the radio about the zine fair and my work, and I do a short little reading on it too. I was interviewed with Mariela Libedinsky by Mitchell Caplan on a CHUO show called ‘Click Here.’ The interview is below.

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I went to Edmonton, Alberta to speak at the The Three Societies Meeting which was held June 22-25 at the University of Alberta. The ‘Three Societies’ in question are the British Society for the History of Science, Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, and the History of Science Society. The theme for the conference was ‘Transitions’ and my panel was called ‘Knowledge from the Edge.’ I had the pleasure of presenting alongside my brilliant colleagues Bill Atkinson, Nox Dineen-Porter, and Tyler Hnatuk. The panel was incredibly well received, I am happy to report! The paper I presented was called “Developing Highly Sensitive Instruments: Spiritualist Mediumship and Séance Science in Victorian Britain” and I am hoping to develop it further.

When I was in Edmonton I also had a pleasure of facilitating a workshop under the auspices of APIRG (the Alberta Public Interest Research Group, an activist organization) and The Landing (whose slogan is ‘A Space for Gender and Sexual Diversity’) at Lotus Gallery. It was called ‘Energy Work for Facilitators.’ Here’s the workshop description:

“In this two-hour session, learn some practical skills for how to work with magic, energy, and ritual in your teaching and facilitation. Taught from a non-denominational perspective influenced by life-long praxis in Spiritualism and witchcraft, this workshop focuses on feeling energy, working with energy, setting up and releasing space. If time and interest permits, we can also discuss how to incorporate understandings of energy, magic, and spirit into art-making practice.”

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I’m really happy to have had the opportunity to have met everyone who showed up. I am so touched by the vulnerability and heart each person brought to the space we shared together. The communal energy really was electric. Huge love to my main girl Laura Kruse for organizing this! You can see a lot of the beautiful souls who participated in the photo above.

Fast forward to Texas where I spent a week in July for the ICON 9 Illustration Conference, which was held at the Hilton in Austin from July 6-9. I spoke as a part of the Education Symposium, and my talk was the same one I gave in RISD last November for the Illustration Research Symposium. It was called “Drawing the Other: Illustration and Representation.” I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but if you’re interested in reading the abstract it is in my last update. I’m likely going to post the full talk transcript shortly, so keep your eyes peeled for it, including the slides from the visual presentation that appeared alongside my talk. If you haven’t been to ICON, it’s a strange bird! Worth checking out at least once. Happy to meet so many amazing educators.

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I also tabled at the Toronto Anarchist Book Fair on July 23-24, which was, as always, a lot of fun. There were so many families there this year!

I made it out to Montreal a few times this summer as well: for a book fair, and because I had a painting in a show! Camp Gallery was a month-long pop-up gallery in July, and I had work in the ‘Summer Camp’ half, which was installed for the second half of the month. I went to montreal for the closing party on July 29. It’s an honour to be involved; the curatorial crew really put together something special inspired by an incredibly unique vision. I also tabled at Queer Between the Covers in Montreal on August 13. It is a book/zine fair with a queer flavor, which was a lot of fun, and I’m always happy to be back in my hometown of Montreal.

In other news – on the more present and upcoming front – I will be debuting the second edition of Witchbody in two weeks at the fourth annual Toronto Queer Zine Fair. It’s the biggest yet, and it’s going to be fucking amazing. Deets on the poster below. I’ll also be tabling at Canzine on October 29, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, 1-7pm. Both fairs should be super awesome and are definitely worth going to if you’re into books, comics, zines, book arts, and everything in between! At this witchy time of year I’d like to go out of my way to remind y’all that I read tarot professionally. I’ve been reading for around 16 years now, and I know what I’m doing – so if you think you might need to talk something out and that I may be the right person to talk it out with, please do check out my Tarot Readings page. I swear I don’t bite, readings with me can be really fun! It’s a great time of year to take advantage of the big energies of change all around us.


In other news, I’ll also be in Edinburgh, Scotland next month for the 7th annual Illustration Research Symposium. The theme this year is ‘Shaping the View,’ and I’ll be presenting a babble about my book Witchbody. I’m super excited – never been to Edinburgh, and I really loved the symposium last year: definitely one of my favourite conference experiences. I’m hoping to have some illustrations in the show they’re mounting alongside the conference. So that’s fun. In other conference news, I’ll be in Montreal next February for something on occult poetics, and that’s all I can share on that topic for now.

I’ve also started to teach at OCAD U, my undergraduate alma mater! I am the course director for the first year Illustration course Illustrative Concepts 1. I can honestly say I absolutely love it and it’s my favourite time of the week. I have a lot to think about in regard to teaching – but it’s one of my favourite topics, and I am really thankful for the energy my students bring to the room when we are sharing time together. OCAD students really are a special bunch and I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to work with them. Next semester I am the course director for a more academic/theory course (the one I’m doing now is studio-based) called Modern American Illustration. I am hoping to approach it as a course with a foundation in contemporary illustration history (1950-present) but also organize it around key concepts or issues in the illustration industry – such as handmade/craft vs mass production, gender, race, auteurship, etc. It’s a work in progress but I’m so excited to work it out, and to put everything in action in January!

I’ll end this absurdly long post by sharing one of the most beautiful things that has happened to me lately. It took me a few weeks to share this publicly. Sometimes when I’m really touched and humbled by something so sweet and amazing, I’m rendered speechless and I can’t respond immediately. This is one of those times. I am so beyond honoured and was moved to the point of tears when I received this message and these photos.

Sabrina, thank you. I’ve been trying to reach out to you for weeks to get your permission for my tattoo, and to explain how much Witchbody has meant to me. I’m not sure how much Juawana shared with you. Someday, sometime, I hope to get to explain my connection to it. In summary, I’ll just say two things:

1. I’ve identified as a witch since I was a small girl, and have long interpreted many women in my family as witches. I didn’t feel I had permission to use those words public ally until WB.

2. The pedagogy of Witchbody gave me a method for staying present and physical, when my mental space was unsafe. It gave me a method to begin to heal. In summary, you have my gratitude and a connection for life. Your voice matters. Your style adds loveliness to the world. Witchbody rules. I chose each symbol carefully. Thank you.

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Thank you so much Amey for permission to share your words, and to Mackenzie Swecker in Reno for doing an amazing job translating my illustration into a tattoo. I have so much gratitude and my heart could not be more full, and I can’t imagine the first tattoo of my work looking more badass than this!! I’ll leave this already too-long post on that note – more soon, as always! xooxoxo

Academia Books Events Illustration

Big News! Doug Wright Award Nomination, TCAF, Past Talks, Catch-up, and So On



So! I haven’t updated in about a thousand years, so this is going to be a bit of a big one, from most recent and pressing to least recent. I am incredibly ecstatic to announce that my book Witchbody has been nominated for the 2016 Doug Wright Spotlight Award! It is such a big honour that I honestly can’t even begin to comprehend; the other nominees include a lot of my heroes and folks whose work I really admire. I’ve done a brief interview about it on York University’s YFile, and OCADU kindly made mention of my nomination as well. If you want to come check out the awards event itself, it’s on the evening of Saturday, May 14, from 8-10 PM, in the Forest Hill Ballroom at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel (90 Bloor St. E.). For more information, check out the Facebook event page.


TCAF (the Toronto Comic Arts Festival) is also happening on the weekend of Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15. I’ll have a table so you should definitely come say hello; it’ll be the 3rd or 4th time I’ve tabled (honestly can’t remember), but the first time I’ve tabled outside of the Wowee Zonk Small Press room. It’s at the Toronto Reference Library (Bloor & Yonge) from 9-5 on Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday. As of this writing I only have 99 copies left of the first edition of Witchbody and am in the process of ordering up a second edition, so act fast if you want to snag your copy before pre-ordering starts! I’ve finally set up an online ordering system, so if you’d like your copy of Witchbody shipped directly to your home you can order online here, with Paypal. Otherwise, try your luck at TCAF! Here is a map of where I will be, on the second floor:


I’ve also done a bunch of talks lately, most recently at the Navigating the Metamodern conference (otherwise known as the 15th Annual Art History Graduate Symposium) on March 19, 2016. It was such a fantastic event, I had a blast! The notion of ‘metamodern’ is actually super neat; here’s a little blurb from the conference’s Call for Proposals:

Metamodernism is not characterized by oppositions or polarities, but rather explores the possibility of oscillating between perspectives, of existing in a liminal state and finding empowerment in that uncertainty. In the arts, this has reintroduced a space for a discussion of the sublime, affect, and materiality alongside theoretical models such as Speculative Realism and Object Oriented Ontologies.

I presented a talk called Drawing Magical Bodies and Teaching Occult Ontologies in ‘Witchbody’. I’d presented this for the first time in February of this year, also at an art history conference at McGill in Montreal. That conference was called Magic: Between Embodiment and Ontology, and was also super fun, but I have to say I have such a soft spot for the Metamodern conference. I really loved the way each speaker took up the challenge of the CFP, and appreciated how receptive everyone was to my work. Here’s a blurb from my abstract:

I examine why magic is unique, how it can teach, and what it can teach about other-than-human bodies that constitute ‘environment’. Witchcraft makes available an ontology that does not view any beings as exploitable or disposable, and can have powerful repercussions in how human bodies interact with other-than-human bodies. Complicating the simple idea of the performance of magical rituals, I also look at the materiality of magical books as a way of materializing occult ontologies. This comic book is both about witchcraft and an act of witchcraft. The format of the work is inspired both by study of practitioner-made talismanic books (both about spirits and containing spirits). This talk is about the theory within the work, the process of its creation, and artistic production as philosophical labour.

I also had the incredible privilege of giving an hour long lecture and Q&A session at an amazing evening at 8-11 here in Toronto, back on March 10 (photo above). The event was called The Practical Application of the Occult in Music and Art, and shared the bill with the inimitable Edward Mason, with music by SINS and a performance by Rosemary Stehlik. I spoke a bit about my own illustration and book arts work and how the occult has figured into both my work process and content, and I had a fabulous time answering some really amazing nitty gritty questions from the audience. It’s really fun to answer explicit questions about technique, where I can really get into the mechanics of what I do and why I do it in a rigorous way.

Programs for RISD

Back in November (of 2015) I road-tripped to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island for the 6th Annual Illustration Research Symposium. It was fucking awesome. The theme was Illustrator as Public Intellectual, about which I have a lot to say. If you’re interested in applying to get involved in the 7th Symposium this November, you can check out the CFP by clicking here. The theme is ‘Shaping the View’ and understanding landscape in conjunction with illustration.

Here I am with the amazing Gary Powell, one of my favourite folks I met at the Symposium. His talk was incredibly inspiring (high-energy, amazing work, and a lot of fascinating insights about teaching) and he was just a really cool, approachable guy. If you’re interested in an illustrated (with drawings and photos!) summation of the conference, Jamie Hogan put up a great blog post about it, which includes a super great illustration of yours truly, as well as a photo of one of the slides in my presentation.

Anywho, my talk was called Drawing The Other: Illustration and Representation and here is my fun abstract:

If we take illustration seriously as a form of intellectual and cultural production that influences, reproduces, and reinvigorates public and private discourse, what do the pictures we make and the way we represent human bodies within them say about our personal (as private persons) and public (as creative professionals) understandings of race and gender? Do most of today’s award-winning illustrations challenge dominant power paradigms, or consolidate oppressive hegemonic representations as common sense? What happens when illustrators try to depict The Other? How can we avoid these pitfalls and their consequences? I examine the most recent ten years of award-winning work in the American Illustration annual, and consider the implications of what these selected works say about how illustrators and jurors perceive, represent, and validate representations of race and gender. Following this analysis, I discuss the cultural significance of socially responsible illustration, and present some suggestions for illustrators and educators interested in rethinking how they approach the representation of gendered and racialized bodies in their own work, and that of their students and peers.

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I also gave this talk as part of a guest lecture/guest co-facilitation in the lovely and talented Dushan Milic‘s Illustrative Activism course at OCADU this past winter semester. It was so fun to hash some of these ideas out with students! I’m also going to be delivering it in Austin this summer at ICON 9: The Illustration Conference, in the ‘Education’ stream.

Also, just for fun, to right, check out this picture of RISD’s amazing Nature Lab – there were endless rooms of anatomical specimens (human bones, animal bones, living and preserved animals, minerals, dried plants, etc). It seems like a really productive resource for artists and illustrators! I’m trying to figure out an excuse to get myself back there sometime – I could really see myself getting (pleasantly) lost in the rooms upon rooms of animals, vegetables, minerals, and everything in between. It was a total dream!


Other fun news: I’ve recently been commissioned by artist Lisa Frost to do an illustration for her Village 89 project. Lisa has invited illustrators to create an image to be made into an accordion book. The work I made for this project is called At the Crossroads and you can see some proposal sketches, digital process, and final screen print of the accordion book (both front & back) below.

It was such a fun project to illustrate; it’s not every day I get to just play! The little statement I gave about the work is as follows:

At The Crossroads is a visual meditation on a day in the life of a dedicated city witch. Between collecting herbs, calming unruly spirits, and paying tribute to ancestors, it seems the trials and tribulations of urban magic never end! That’s ok, though – what’s an afternoon without a little chaos?

Accordion book: front

Accordion book: back


Anyway! That’s enough babbling from me for now! I have a lot of other exciting things coming up soon, and will be writing a bit about that once the chaos and excitement around TCAF has passed.

Academia Education Environment Illustration

New Report! Climate Change Education: Acting for Change

image by Sabrina Scott

I am pleased to announce the release of my first co-authored research report! It is called Climate Change Education: Acting for Change, and we intentionally set it forth into the world during the current climate talks in Paris. I also had the pleasure of illustrating and designing the report. It is a joint project of York University, Lakehead University, and the TD Friends of Environment Foundation. The report is co-authored by Steve Alsop, David Greenwood, Philip Vaughter, and myself.

Project convener (and one of my favourite people in the entire world) Steve Alsop writes:

The report emerged from a series of meetings with  teachers and researchers ­- all recognized as jurisdictional leaders in Climate Change Education. The teachers are all from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario, Canada.

We release this report during the Global Leaders Conference of the Parties on Climate Change in Paris, France.  It has three goals, to: (i) recognize the profound importance of education as a response to climate change; (ii) share innovative school-based approaches to Climate Change Education, and (iii) make a series of recommendations for future policies and practices. It contains nine teaching practices and nine recommendations.

The report is a distinctively local contribution to the International Climate Change negotiations. We hope it inspires many other responses. It is designed for administrators, teachers and students. School-based Climate Change Education is so important and it deserves so much more of our attention and support.  We celebrate the multiplicity of ways that students, teachers, ENGOS, schools and school boards are responding to contemporary global changes.

You can download the 12-page report from the York University website:

Feel free to share and distribute the report link to anyone who may be interested!

Just for fun, here’s my illustration for the back cover of the report. This is my favourite kind of project (lots of nature and plants)!

image by Sabrina Scott