The sun squeezed through the gaps in Kemptville’s curtain alcove and radiated onto his face, slowly waking him up. He yawned deeply, giving himself a good stretch, and hauled himself up awake. “Good morning,” he greeted himself, reaching out to touch his bedside clock. As his sight cleared up, he suddenly noticed the time. “Eh…?” he began quietly, then he rubbed his eyes to clear his sight further and make sure he wasn’t dreaming. He blinked several times in succession as he gazed at the clock. It then hit him: the time had gone forward, and his clock was wrong! “Oh, not again!” he wailed, and he began to cry noisily, burying himself beneath the covers and his pillows, shedding tears.
Yep, it’s another book cover starring the Months. But unlike the one I exhibited last week, this cover was hiding something even bigger than a comic book. It was a graphic novel (possibly the first one I’ve ever created. Apart from that other one about November and Jake Long the American Dragon causing some havoc in an inflatable toy factory…)
Since the beginning of my art career at the mere age of two years old, I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate longer stories than just 20 pages’ worth of a picture book for kids. The idea keeps returning to me every now and then, but I can often never find enough time or have enough concentration to keep the story going, sometimes losing interest altogether.
Nevertheless, the idea is always a very attractive one, and with The Months proving to be one of my most successful series ever (or at least until a certain someone came along…), it seemed futile to resist the idea of a graphic novel starring the Terrific Twelve. (I tried to make a Fantastic Four or Famous Five reference there, so that explains the alliteration…)
The layout of this book cover is practically identical to the cover for the proposed first issue of the comic book series, although of course all the characters are in different poses to avoid being a direct carbon copy. (All my artworks are unique in their own way – no two drawings are the same!) And unlike the other cover where only December’s skin was coloured in for some unknown reason while everybody else was a ghostly white, everybody’s skin on this cover is coloured in for more realism.
Pretty much everybody has returned to their normal design, including December, whereas on the other cover he was wearing a sort of ‘formal’ Santa suit, complete with hat and belt. However, June and July still have their trousers and shorts, whereas before it was the other way around – June wore shorts and July wore trousers. I would continue to draw them this way until the 2008 series, possibly as an experiment to see if me and my audiences would still recognize them even with a different style. (Drawing characters in outfits other than their usual fare is still somewhat hard for me. It seems to be a custom in the world of cartoons that characters always wear the same clothes, and I find it hard to shake off.)
Though the cover features all the Months, the actual story itself seems to concentrate on October, November and December. Unfortunately, the story seems to be stuck on perpetual hiatus, as with many longer stories I’ve been trying to write over the years (that’s why I called it a ‘marathon’, as it would be a lot longer than most other Months stories). Until Once Upon a Time in Canada, which was the first novel I actually completed (and thus am the proudest of), there was never a proper long story about any of my characters. And that’s something I felt somewhat disappointed about.
Every year in either April or March (depending on the year), Easter is celebrated. While it may be popularly associated with bunnies, lambs, chicks and coloured eggs in wacky colours and patterns (due to falling in the spring period), the festival actually has a much more serious side to it. Easter is actually a pagan festival celebrating the life of the Old English goddess Eostre, whose celebrations would be held during the month of the pre-Gregorian calendar corresponding to April. Many people, however, have interpreted it as celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ after he was crucified on the Cross circa 30 AD (in much the same way Christmas is celebrated as his birth on 25th December 0 AD). Eggs connect with Jesus in that they represent his empty tomb, which is why they are hollowed-out inside.
And since I’m a huge fan of Hetalia: Axis Powers and the IAmMatthewian Project (now called Project Canada), the idea came to me: why not give each of the provinces their own personalized Easter eggs? That idea led to this drawing.
For easier identification while they were out hunting for these eggs (that’s the title of the drawing, after all), Canada hand-painted and etched each of the provinces’ postal abbreviations onto each one of the eggs, then hid them in randomized spots all around the provinces’ house. After a long afternoon spent rooting them out (and not without a bit of bickering and back-and-forth from Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec), they’ve all now returned to the centrepiece to show off their finds from this year’s big Easter egg hunt!
Obviously, since the eggs are labelled with the provinces’ postal abbreviations, each egg is matched up with the province whom it represents. I’ve coloured in each egg (so it wasn’t Canada, then?) using the specially-invented colour code I use whenever dealing with the provinces, with each colour representing one particular province.
Many of the provinces look pretty happy to have their own Easter eggs to eat – Nunavut especially – but some of them don’t seem to be enjoying it. Manitoba seems to be mad at Saskatchewan because his egg is only slightly bigger than his, while Quebec is also wondering why Ontario has a bigger egg than him. And Newfoundland seems to be surprised at having found an egg inside today’s catch, as is Yukon Territory, who was digging for gold and instead dug up an egg!
I’ve based Prince Edward Island’s pose somewhat on how Sherry Lai (the creator of the IAMP/Project Canada) drew her on the height reference chart for the series, but I’ve reversed it and made her hold an egg instead of a potato. It’s a sort of throwback to the IAMP days (before it got renamed Project Canada).
A very Happy Easter to all!
As you may know from reading my blog for the past month or so, I visited Nova Scotia for a week during the February half-term. While of course the cold was biting and almost unbearable at times due to wind chill, very low temperatures (on one day it was minus 14 degrees Celsius!) and near-constant snowfall, which thankfully began to melt away towards the end of the week (although since I’ve left there have been a few more heavy snowstorms), it was my ultimate dream come true to finally visit Canada (or more specifically, my favourite part of Canada) after many years of dreaming about it. (My next big dream is to see Canada in the summer, so I can enjoy it even more than in winter.)
One day towards the end of my holiday in Nova Scotia, I travelled outside of Halifax (the provincial capital, where I was staying) on the way to Peggy’s Cove, a small fishing village on the Atlantic coast. The village’s lighthouse is possibly the most well-known in Canada, and it is the subject of numerous photographs of lighthouses across the globe. Naturally, I took some of my own shots of the lighthouse too, though the fog sort of got in the way.
Since my first time in Nova Scotia (and Canada as a whole) has left such a huge impression on me, it is right that some of my future artworks will obviously be inspired by the memories I’ve made. So here’s my first artwork inspired by my first visit to Nova Scotia!
Or more specifically, my visit to the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse. You might be wondering why the woman in the picture looks almost exactly like the lighthouse. Well, that’s because she’s Peggy’s Cove (double apostrophes?) from Canadian Boys – or to be more precise, a show-within-a-show in Canadian Boys called A Nova Scotian Way of Life. Think Jersey Shore, any of the Real Housewives series, The Only Way Is Essex (in England) or Made In Chelsea (also in England)… but set in Nova Scotia. Put simply, ANSWOL (as it’s popularly abbreviated within the Canadian Boys universe) is a scripted-reality show-within-a-show following a troupe of fun-loving Nova Scotians on an ongoing quest to become the “funnest people in Canada”. (I’m not actually sure if there’s a scripted-reality show on Canadian TV in real life that’s set in Nova Scotia, though there is the fan-made Real Housewives of Pictou County. That’s as close as it gets, as far as I know.)
Obviously, Peggy’s Cove (the character, not the village) has great civic pride, so much so that every day she dresses up as the eponymous lighthouse her hometown (or technically, village) has become so well-known for. Her lighthouse costume includes an actual Fresnel lens just like those used in real lighthouses, connected to a small switch on the side of the ‘roof’ (sort of like a hat) that can be pressed whenever she enters a dark, foggy area or goes underwater to search for crabs and lobsters. (Because Nova Scotians eat lobsters, you know…)
You may have seen Peggy’s Cove (again, I’m referring to the character, not the village) in some of my previous drawings, such as the doodle of her and New Glasgow (who is also from A Nova Scotian Way of Life) which I drew for my Valentine’s Day exhibition this year, and another ANSWOL-themed drawing I’ve yet to exhibit on this blog. (If you want to see it before then though, you can see it on the 2012 page of my portfolio.)
However, in this drawing (which I’ve titled Peggy of the Cove), Peggy’s Cove has more of a protagonist role than in the others, where she is merely just a supporting character. I chose that particular title as the village of Peggy’s Cove (now I’m making a clearer distinction here) is apparently named after the sole survivor of a nearby shipwreck – a woman named Margaret, or Peggy for the nickname. (There’s even a museum and gift shop called Peggy of the Cove near to the village, presumably dedicated in her memory, while also being an obvious spot for catching up on the history of the village and the lighthouse.) Since Peggy is a proper name in addition to being in the name of the village, I decided to associate Peggy’s Cove with the name of Peggy (as though she’s the one being referred to in the title, rather than the real-life Peggy), and have her stand out to sea with her light flashing in synchronization with the actual lighthouse’s light.
The sea and waves are rough and the sky is cloudy grey and black, though a little bit of blue can be seen peeking through the overcast cover. I based this on the weather when I visited Peggy’s Cove in real life – foggy, overcast (though there was no rain or snow) but later becoming sunny, with roaring seas due to a prior Atlantic storm, which threatened to throw us off the battered rocks and drown us under the raging waves. (Some people have sadly lost their lives trying to capture the awe-inspiring nature of the lighthouse and the ocean.) With all the wild weather going on, Peggy’s Cove is standing surprisingly tall on top of the rocks, bravely enduring the rough seas to send out a beacon of comfort and hope to any fishermen or sailors who are unlucky enough to be stuck out in the storm.
This won’t be my last drawing that’ll be based on my experiences in Nova Scotia; in fact, it’s only the first one. As I recall all my memories of Nova Scotia (by calling on my emotions to bring them back from the memory bank and project them onto the big screen, like in Inside Out), more inspiring ideas featuring Canadian Boys/A Nova Scotian Way of Life characters on landscapes (or seascapes) akin to those I encountered during my trip will come to me, as will any future expeditions I make to Canada in the (hopefully near) future.
At one point or another, I decided to turn the Los Ninos Meses series into a comic book, rather like I’d done with Danger November some time before. Until American Boys came about merely two years later, The Months/Los Ninos Meses had been my most successful series up to then. So it was right that it should expand out into a bigger franchise, and comic books were the ideal starting point towards that expansion.
After thinking this up, I designed this front cover for the first issue of the Los Ninos Meses 2007 comic book. As expected, I’ve managed to include all the Months as it’s obviously their first outing into the world of comics and so they’ll need a little visual introduction on the cover. Strangely enough, it still sports the Adventure People logo, as I thought the Months still hadn’t grown out of that umbrella term which I’d been using for a year or two prior. (It’s a sort-of spiritual successor to the Adventure Advanced Gang, in case you’re wondering.)
To celebrate this new milestone in the whole run of the Los Ninos Meses series, I’ve given some of the Months a redesign in terms of their outfits. For example, June and July have had the style of their pants reversed – June is now wearing trousers and July is now wearing shorts, as opposed to the other way round. (I would be using these designs for some time afterwards until the 2008 incarnation of the series.) November’s trousers have the lower parts cut off to make them knee-length shorts, and December is wearing a Santa Claus suit, matching with his general habit of wearing a Santa hat. (Even when it isn’t Christmas.) Weirdly enough, he’s the only one who has his skin coloured in; everyone else looks almost ghostly with skin matching the white of the paper.
Unfortunately, I never got around to creating the actual comic itself – my imagination was running all over the place and I couldn’t exactly concentrate on just one project. Also, the outdoors of Colombia (where I was living at this time) was too wide and varied to just stay inside my farmhouse all day, so it’s no wonder I never got on to it. So Danger November would be my only venture into comic books – for now, at least.