OCAD Book Arts Fair

The first big dump of snow this year is piling up outside and I feel very content sitting here in the studio watching it come down. I’m thankful that it didn’t happen two or three days ago, when Holly and I were whipping up and down the 401 to Toronto and back to exhibit at the Ontario College of Art & Design Book Arts Fair.

This venerable (25 years old this year!) show has certainly evolved over the years, now housed in the spacious and well-lit open hall inside the college. One of the things I like about the OCAD show, and book arts shows generally, is the number of younger artists and artisans involved. Clearly OCAD students are encouraged to sign up (table fees book arts fairs, in Ontario at least, are accessibly priced) and they bring an innovative and fresh viewpoint to how paper and text and illustration and binding can be interpreted. I wish I had taken some shots, but photography can be considered a bit inappropriate at art and craft shows sometimes.

The show was fine, but just as important to me was the opportunity to meet socially with other printers and wood cut artists. We had dinner again with George and Michelle Walker (http://www3.sympatico.ca/george.walker/) and Ian and X, who does beautiful lino prints of animals. It gave me the opportunity to show George the collection of engraved blocks and the prints I took from them, and got some feedback.

George’s work was amongst the first to inspire me to pursue printing, and then illustration. He has tapped into the power of the block, and creates strong prints with strong messages. He’s exploring the wordless novels (as opposed to the contemporary graphic novel — pictures with words) in the tradition of Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward. George’s Book of Hours featured almost 100 wood engravings silently telling the story of the early morning hours in the live of the people who perished in the twin towers on 9/11. Very powerful.

At the show I got to speak face-to-face with Wesley Bates (http://www.wesleybates.com/home.html) after interviewing him for the CBBAG newsletter by phone a couple of months ago. Wesley is an amazing illustrator and his wood engravings have a youthful vigor and energy, they’re emotive and celebrate sensuality. I would say George and Wesley are two of the three finest wood engravers in Ontario, the other being Gerard Brender-a-Brandis in Stratford, Ontario.

Enough name dropping for now. Back into the studio to plan this years Christmas card. Well, season’s greetings, since most may not get it until January!

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