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Showing posts with label Ottawa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ottawa. Show all posts

Christmas Craft Sale 2023 in Ottawa

As has become a bit of an annual tradition, I’ll be one of the exhibitors at the upcoming Vanier Artisans Christmas Craft Sale on Sunday, November 26th. This has been a really fun event in the past and the organizers (led by the amazing Charlotte Taylor) create a really great atmosphere. And the mix of artists is really neat; comics will be represented by yours truly, but there will be a wide diversity of artists and artistic practices at the show. Crafts, clothing, food, art, you name it!

One of the things I enjoy the most is the spirit of solidarity that everyone shares. In some events I’ve done in the past, that spirit has been sorely lacking. It’s hard to put into words, but I’ve certainly experienced a hostile competitive attitude in some of these other events. It’s a shame, because I strongly believe that we’re all in it together and that competition between artists should not be an element of any art show.

I was tasked to come up with a poster for this year’s event. This time I wanted to do something with Santa Claus, mainly because I don’t think I’ve ever drawn the big guy before. The problem with that is that Santa is so iconic it can be hard to “shake” other influences when approaching a design. I did what I could in that regard and came up with something that hopefully captures the ol’ elf in all his glory. With a little bit of wonder thrown in, too. I also included the final pencils ‘cuz I know that some folks like seeing the “process” from pencils to the final piece. It was a great deal of fun to do, too. And it all came together pretty quickly; literally I went from not having any firm ideas — save for the notion of including Santa — to getting in an image in my mind’s eye. That image held through right to the final colours and poster design.

The show will be at the Vanier Community Service Centre (270 Marier Avenue, Ottawa, ON K1L 7H8). And I’ll have not only comics and graphic novels (including WOLF’S HEAD!), but various art prints, cards, and whatnot, too! If you’re in town, why not drop by? It really is a lovely event!

Vanier Artisans 2023 Christmas Craft Sale Poster by Von Allan

Pencil version of the Vanier Artisans 2023 Christmas Craft Sale Poster by Von Allan

Talk Ottawa Interview

Teaser image and place holder for the Talk Ottawa interview with comic book artist Von Allan

One of my very first long form interviews and one that I thought was lost! This was done way back in 2008 with James Hendricks, then host of Talk Ottawa here in Ottawa, Ontario. This interview meant a lot to me since I was basically just starting out and he and the producers of the show were very open and welcoming.

James and I chat about comics and graphic novels, the challenges of being an indy artist, and the changing face of technology and how that applies to comics. We also do a deep dive into my very first graphic novel, titled “the road to god knows…”, that deals with parental mental illness. In the case of that comic, I drew on a lot of my own experiences growing up with my mom; she was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was very young. We talk about that, too.

Oh! My art that was presented in the original video was pretty rough, so I decided to update it with art revisions I did some years ago.

The player should work below. If not, or if you'd prefer to watch on Youtube, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS8ADTEwBcI


David Foohey from July 2016

This is a post I had hoped that I would never have to write. Dave — David Thomas Foohey — was my oldest friend. “Was,” of course, being the key word. And “was,” in this case, is one helluva hard word to write. On the night of May 2nd, 2022, my wife and I had a visit from two officers from the Ottawa Police Service. They came to tell us that Dave was found dead in his home. He had been dead for quite some time, about three months. His neighbours, as is often the case in situations like this, had noticed that his mail had piled up and, presumably after attempts to contact Dave had failed, were worried and had contacted the police. We still don’t know the cause of death, but given that the police do not suspect foul play, it was some form of “natural causes.” That, too, is hard to write.

David Foohey and Von Allan circa 1986
Dave and I first met when I was 8 years old and we developed a friendship that survived our childhoods and had deepened as we both grew into adults. His friendship meant the world to me; I was a lonely, isolated, and shy kid. Very introverted. Dave and I met shortly after I had moved from a small town in the Ottawa Valley to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Ottawa was far bigger than anything I was used to before and pretty damn intimidating. To say I had “culture-shock” was an understatement. Dave was also shy and we bonded over so many different things: comic books, role-playing games, and pro wrestling in particular, but also pop culture and, as we grew older, life in general.

David Foohey's fantastic oatmeal cookies
There were so many things that I’m going to miss. He had a “secret” recipe for these unbelievable oat cookies that just knocked my socks off. They were incredible and very hearty, but he guarded that recipe — despite my best efforts to get him to share it! — like it was state secret. He loved animals, but especially cats. The cats he had in his life were mostly rescues and he gave everyone of them a good home: Logan, Garfield, Mr. Kitty, Cecil, and Thomas. He was wonderful with dogs — probably because of his background with seeing eyes dogs as well as his general decency — and he looked after Rowen, our ol’ girl husky, a number of times while we travelled to various conventions or other events. He loved games and gaming, both traditional board games, role-playing games, and video games. And he was a truly gentle and decent human being, something that we need far more of in this world of ours.

David Foohey circa 1994 in Von Allan's apartment
If we had any differences, it was really that as I grew older I became less introverted. There were a number of reasons for that. One was that I had managed to lose weight and, through those efforts, grew in confidence. Later, when I wound up working at and managing Perfect Books, a local indie bookstore, I was forced to deal with a broad range of people and that, too, helped me grow out of that “shy shell” that was my armour for so much of my childhood. Dave, on the other hand, had a hard time with that and remained pretty shy and introverted throughout his adult life.

His shyness was not unwarranted, though. Dave’s parents had him quite late in life. His dad was, if memory serves, about 50 years old (!) when Dave was born. Dave’s dad, David Edmund Foohey — Ed for short — and his mom Mary-Anne Coughlan, had marital problems and their marriage broke up while Dave was quite young. Both of his parents were also legally blind; Dave’s dad was blind since birth and his mom was legally blind, though my understanding is that she did have some limited vision, though even this degraded over time.

Photo montage of Dave Foohey and Von Allan from July 2016
Ed was also one of the most capable men I had ever met; his blindness never stopped him. Or rather, he never let either his blindness or how this culture treats disabled people in general stop him. Not everyone has the ability to do that, of course, and this society and culture needs to be far fairer and kinder to those of us who, through no fault of our own, struggle in one way, shape, or form. Ed had earned a PhD from the London School of Economics and later become an economist, first with Alcan Aluminum and later with the Canadian federal government. And he wrote a remarkable essay on his childhood at https://bobo.blackspheretech.com/?p=182 — seriously, go read that when you have a chance. It is well-worth your time.

Dave’s mom is trickier. She wound up living in Vancouver, but never had a key role in Dave’s upbringing, at least that I’m aware of. I have a distant memory that I might have met her, but I’m not sure. I do know that she was not particularly stable; there was one scary situation that did affect Dave. Ed had custody of Dave, something that was fairly remarkable for that time, and Mary-Anne did have visitation rights. When Dave was around 7 years old, she briefly “kidnapped” him. I put kidnapped in quotes because it was a peculiar situation that I wish I had more knowledge of. My understanding is that this situation did not last for very long (perhaps a week or two, possibly a little longer), but must have terrified Dave’s dad. I do know that the police were involved and Dave was eventually reunited with his father. Part of the reason that I met Dave in the first place is that this event screwed up his school year; Dave was one year older than I am, but Dave was held back one year. I don’t know if this was because of trauma, circumstance, or something else, but as a result we wound up being in the same grade when he should have been one year ahead of me.

Why did Mary-Anne do it? I’m not sure, but Dave was not physically harmed, though his emotional well-being was a different thing altogether. I do not write this to cast any aspersions on his mom. I have had some experience with parental mental illness and these are situations are never easy. As far as I know, she did a terrible thing, but I don’t think there was malicious intent. How do I know? The short answer is that Dave, as a teenager, wound wind up staying with her for a couple of weeks here and there. That was often in Vancouver, quite far from his life here in Ottawa. That tells me that something was resolved between both Ed and Mary-Anne, perhaps even legally, and she was trusted enough that Dave could spend time with her. However this was resolved, it did allow mother and son to rebuild their relationship, at least to some extent. Dave rarely talked about his mom, though, so I was left with a number of questions and very few answers. Still left, really.

I write this mainly to give some context; Dave was loved by both his parents, but they were both distant with him, too. He and his dad did not have a “touchy-feely” relationship, at least that I’m aware of. Part of that was generational, I think. And if you read Ed’s essay that I linked to above, you can catch glimpse of why. What I do know is that Dave was an only child and had difficulty sharing his feelings. He was quite guarded about this aspect of himself. He’s obviously not alone; while our culture is changing, both boys and men still have a hard time expressing and discussing emotions and feelings. I have to be careful here; in no way do I blame either of his parents for this; it’s partially a “nature versus nurture” situation and also a societal one. In other words, it’s over-determined. To put it another way, Dave was who he was regardless of any of this and I loved him for it.

That also doesn’t mean that Dave wasn’t sensitive. He was. In fact, he was one helluva gentle human being and I dearly wish more people had his sensitivity. He often listened to me blather about my emotions and feelings with patience and wit. He could be damn funny, but most people didn’t see that too often. Dave really had to get to know you before he let his guard down. He was also supportive of my art and comic book endeavours, watching (probably with some degree of shock) when I left the bookstore that I was running to set out on an art career. He saw all the hiccups and false starts; the failures and frustrations. He also was able to see my grow as an artist and that is something I take quite a bit of solace in.

His mom died in 2004 at the age of 62. Far too young to die and I’m not clear on exactly what happened. Dave was not particularly surprised by her death, but — again — it was difficult to get him to talk about it much. She also died in British Columbia and Dave didn’t attend her funeral. It was difficult to get him to talk about that decision, too. I think he felt that he had already placed her loss. He might very well have been right. This type of thing is always so personal and I think — hope, really — that he was happy with that decision. Life carried on and he seemed to be okay.

His dad died in 2008 and this one was much harder. His dad was in his 80s and, while frail, was still pretty feisty. Dave was living in the same small apartment building that my wife and I were in, but he would regularly visit his dad to help out with cleaning, groceries, and that sort of thing. And my wife and I also were able to have both Dave and his dad over to our place a number of times, primarily for holidays, and these were always a great deal of fun. Ed was such a gentleman, in the classic sense, and I can still picture him in my mind’s eye; with the holiday meal finished, Ed would sit in a rocking chair with one of our cats on his lap, telling stories.

I still vividly remember the day that two members of the Ottawa Police Service dropped by to let him know that his dad had been found dead in his home. They found me first and, while they were noncommital, I was pretty sure I knew what had happened. I had to bring the police to Dave to break the news. That was a tough, tough day. My wife and I gave Dave the privacy he needed while he discussed what had happened with the police, ready to intercede if and when he needed us. While Ed’s death was sudden, he had died of natural causes. Again, that is easy to say but very hard to place.

Given his dad’s age, his death really wasn’t a surprise, but I don’t think Dave was at all prepared for that loss. Worse, Dave had been working as an accountant in the federal government, in a department that was then called Indian and Northern Affairs. I know that Dave had been working on some of the Residential School claims and that this was extremely difficult work. Despite his accounting work, Dave wound up becoming informed about a truly awful chapter in Canada’s history; a chapter that is still unresolved. Words can’t describe the horrors that so many indigenous children went through in this country, something that many people are still not prepared to face.

At any rate, that combination — the death of his dad combined with the nature of his work — significantly and negatively effected Dave. No, scratch that. Saying that doesn’t go far enough. “Destroyed” would be a better word. That combination destroyed him. Worse, his superiors in no way, shape, or form gave him the support he needed or the help he needed to grapple with this trauma. His PTSD. Trauma and loss can effect us differently; one person can just be wrecked by a situation or an event while others aren’t. It’s part of the reason why I don’t believe in trying to “rank” or otherwise qualify loss and trauma. It is what it is and we all react differently to it. Often our reaction is influenced by exactly where we are in life at that particular point in time.

In a way, Dave was lucky. His dad was incredibly capable and his estate was in good order. Dave wound up inheriting a house in a beautiful and expensive part of Ottawa. That house was fully paid for, so Dave would only need to deal with municipal taxes and general upkeep. On top of it, Dave’s dad had an investment portfolio that Dave also inherited. Lastly, Dave was both the executor of his dad’s will and estate and the sole beneficiary. From a financial point of view, Dave was okay. His dad made sure of that. Given what we know about so many people in our society, he was better than okay. Financially.

However, emotionally Dave was not okay. Not even close to okay. He could not easily talk about the losses and trauma he had suffered. I supported him as best I could through all of this; talking with the police, trying to find his dad’s body at the morgue before we discovered that the body had already been transferred to a funeral home, going to that funeral home and dealing with all of the arrangements, breaking the news to his neighbours, dealing with the will, and so on. Dave was clearly hurt, but he could not really talk about that hurt. Again, there’s no fault or blame in how he dealt with and processed his dad’s death. He did the best he could. It was just so difficult to see someone I loved not be able to share the burden of loss.

Then things got worse. Dave wound up quitting the government entirely. Here I do blame his supervisors; he was never given the support he desperately needed. The department itself dealt with a great deal of “burnout” (what a euphemism that is) and Dave was clearly just a cog in a very big machine. When he couldn’t handle it, he walked away. What should have happened? Well, first off he should have been given assistance if and when he needed it. Second, he should have been put on stress leave. Hell, unions have fought for that right and, while many workers in Canada do not have that right, it is an important right and needs to be much broader. Every damn worker should have that right.

To his credit, Dave did seek out some help from his doctor who referred him to a psychiatrist. This he did on his own and I dearly wish he had reached out to me for some help with this; visiting doctors, especially when one is dealing with trauma, is not easy. Having a friend with you, both as moral support and as an advocate, can be and often is helpful. However, it would be an intrusion in his privacy. Dave chose to go a different route and tried to handle it as best he could on his own.

I did manage to talk with him about what the psychiatrist told him. This was really the only time he opened up about it with me. He basically said that the trauma “popped” his brain. He tried some prescription anti-depressants to help, but the problem with meds like this is that they can often take a long time to get “right.” In Dave’s case, the medicine emotionally “flat-lined” him. He phrased it this way: all of his emotions, not just the sad ones, were shunted off. Not sad, not filled with loss, but equally missing out happiness and joy. There was just nothing at all. As a result, Dave gave up on the medications. And, as far as I know, he never went back to them.

Von Allan and his deceased Siberian Husky Rowen at Dave Foohey's House
Dave never did wind up working again. He wound up moving into his dad’s house. That house, in an older retired neighbourhood, became his prison. I don’t think that’s overstating it. The house was really meant for a family; it was big and old and meant for a post-World War II-style nuclear family. Living all by himself in that house was… well, not a good situation. Worse, Dave had wealth but little income. He could rely, as far as I know, on investment income from the stock and bond portfolio, but this was always unpredictable and variable.

He did have a cat or two and they helped. And early on, he did have a roommate and that helped, too. But the roommate eventually moved on and was not replaced. Then it was just Dave, a cat or two, and that house. Both my wife and I urged him to sell the house. He couldn’t do it. I think I understand; it was both his childhood home as well as a direct connection to his dad. I think that for Dave selling it was anathema; it would have been like cutting off his own arm. However, at the same time the house was expensive to maintain. Property taxes alone were high and that, combined with day-to-day expenses, created a number of financial problems. I should add here that I’m partially guessing; while Dave was guarded about his emotions, he was even more guarded about money. Both my wife and I would ask him how he was doing for money or even offer to help out if we could, but he always deflected. I think he knew, probably, that selling the house was the practical thing to do. It would have resolved a lot of the financial issues that I suspect he was having, but — again — he couldn’t do it. Again, to be clear, I don’t blame him for that. Whatever the reason was, he just couldn’t do it.

This was all made worse by his social isolation. Living in that house and not working meant that his social circle became that much smaller. We did manage to get him to visit us from time to time and we did visit him from time to time as many of the photos that accompany this piece attest, but it was always impossible to get him to leave for an extended period of time. In other words, getting him to go on a vacation was a bridge too far. Getting him to even stay with us overnight was nearly impossible. And, as the 2010’s continued, the visits became less frequent. We used to see him on all the major holidays combined with various weekends or whatever throughout the year. As time went on, it just became the major holidays. And then even those became unpredictable and less frequent. Dave, I think, retreated from life.

When we did see him over the past few years, he was obviously declining. I say “obvious” because he became harder to talk with. His physical well-being seemed to be deteriorating; we’d see him one time and he had gained weight. Another time, months later, and he had lost a lot of weight. Maybe too much. Then the weight was put back on. Back and forth, forth and back. My suspicion, and it’s only that, is that he was surviving on canned stews and other poor quality food, assuming he was eating regularly at all. The cognitive issues were that much worse; his memory wasn’t as crisp as I was used to. He also seemed to be getting paranoid; I vividly recall one conversation that I had with him where he claimed that he couldn’t read an illustrated Lovecraft book outside in his backyard because the neighbours were uncomfortable and judging him. While I’ll never know for sure, I doubt that anyone who happened to notice could even determine what he was reading.

Selfie by Dave Foohey with his cat Cecil
Things got worse. He was supposed to visit us on Christmas Day in 2017; this was a long tradition we had had with him. However, his cat Cecil was having health issues and Dave called to cancel. It was the only time I ever remember him crying; Cecil, after a bad few weeks, had died that Christmas morning. Dave was unable or unwilling to take him to a vet, even an emergency vet, so he had stayed with Cecil until the very end. I was shocked; we’ve had to put a number of our animals down over the years and it was unthinkable to me to not bring them to a vet to end their suffering. Again, I’m not saying this to judge Dave or anything like that; what I am saying is that the idea of bringing Cecil to a vet either didn’t cross Dave’s mind or he felt that he couldn’t afford to pay for Cecil’s end of life care. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that Dave was unable to talk with us about Cecil’s health until that poor little cat had died.

Dave fully retreated after that. I don’t know if this was sparked by Cecil’s death or a coincidence, but reaching him was basically impossible. We’d leave phone messages that were never returned. Worse, his answering service would “fill up” and leaving further messages was impossible. He would not return emails. We’d try sending postcards and letters, even containing a self-addressed stamped envelope sometimes, and these weren’t returned. We became desperate, reaching out to the Ottawa Police Service to arrange a wellness check. We were told that we need to try visiting him in person before the police could intervene. I should add here that Dave lives fairly far away from us and, worse, none of us owned a car. We were always reliant on either public transit or taxis. Anyway, given the situation, I hopped on a bus and went down to his house while my wife stayed home to look after our animals. I have to admit that we both thought he was dead. I still vividly remember getting off the bus and beginning the approximately 15 minute walk to his house. That was one helluva tough walk. A walk filled with dread. A walk filled with sadness. A walk filled with questions. A walk filled with remorse.

Dave in 2018 at his home after I thought he had died
As I neared his house, I could see a pile of mail in the mail box. I was positive that he was dead and, in a minute or two, I’d be calling the police from his front steps. With a lump in my throat, I approached the door and started banging on it with my steel toes. After a little while, I heard a commotion inside and Dave opened the door. I almost cried with relief. He was okay; or, as the saying goes, okay for not being okay. In fact, he was bewildered. He didn’t understand why I was upset or what the problem was. I remember calling my wife to tell her that Dave was alive and “okay” and she burst out crying. We had been so worried and the relief that he was alive was almost overwhelming. At the same time, there were obvious points of concern. His sense of time, his isolation, his confusion about why we were worried, and his gentle dismissal about his absences. The phone? He was having problems with the phone company, and rather than deal with it, he just let it go. Email? Too much spam so he gave up looking at it. The self-addressed stamped postcards and letters? Never got around to answering them. What was the big deal?

It’s hard to put into words how shocking this was. The Dave I had grown up with was the epitome of responsibility. He was an accountant, after all, and — stereotypes aside — was incredibly responsible. As a kid and a young adult, Dave was always on top of things. That Dave didn’t let anything slide by. This Dave? Well, in many ways he was still the same Dave, but in many other ways he was clearly not. Reconciling the two was pretty damn difficult.

I took him out for lunch, my treat, and, given the stress, we had a relatively nice time. Both my wife and I hoped that our anguish over whether he was alive or dead might make an impact. Maybe he’d stay in touch, at least better than he had been? Maybe he’d be more proactive, knowing that we loved him and worried about him? Maybe… maybe things would change for the better?

Sadly, it became pretty clear that nothing changed. Our little intervention made no difference at all. Dave continued to withdraw from the world around him. Offers to help him find work, suggestions to volunteer in the community, offers to hang out, all this and more fell on deaf ears. Again, I don’t blame Dave for this, though I’m profoundly saddened by it. I had seen similar behaviour in my mom, but the circumstances and situation was different. In my mom’s case, her anxiety, depression, and struggle with schizophrenia was paralyzing. She literally could not get out of bed some days and her retreat from the world was as a result of this. She had also been hospitalized a number of times for so-called “nervous breakdowns.” In Dave’s case, the details were different, but the end result was the same.

Dave in 2018 at a local diner in Little Italy after I thought he had died
One of the most difficult things about mental illness is that unless one really “bottoms out,” there’s very little aid given to people in our society. All of the Bell “Let’s Talk” campaigns don’t matter if one can’t get help when one needs it. Worse, there’s a conundrum here; what if one doesn’t think they need help? How does one help an adult that doesn’t not admit that they need help? Even “admit” here is a tricky word because that implies some type of denial. I’m not sure Dave was ever aware that he was in trouble. Or, if he was, he may have felt that these troubles would pass in time.

Dave could function, nominally. I suspect he could visit a grocery store and present as normal. I suspect no clerk or other customers really took any notice of him; he was still quiet and respectful, at least when I was with him, and I think most clerks might have just thought he was a bit quiet or — maybe — “odd.” He certainly never had any “episodes” (i.e.: an obvious mental health crisis) on the street that would have allowed some type of formal intervention. He was never hospitalized for depression. He was never hospitalized for any mental health issue at all.

He lived in a decaying house, on a quiet street, by himself. Alone is not a synonym for lonely. Dave might never have felt that he was lonely. I don’t know. From the outside, I think he was, but at the end of the day only he would know for sure. We were desperate to help him. We loved him dearly and it was brutal to watch him decline. For me it was especially hard because I had experienced this before with my own mom. Seeing it again, albeit with significant differences, was not easy. The feeling of powerlessness combined with a looming sense of inevitability is extremely difficult to communicate to someone who has never experienced it. Like an oncoming storm that’s still very far away, but coming all the same.

It is brutal to watch someone you love decline. And both my wife and I had to make a decision. There is only so much one can do. Dave’s behaviour was harming us. At some point we had to accept that he was living the life he wanted to, even if he wasn’t “well.” And, perhaps, a life that the “other” Dave, that younger healthier Dave, would not have accepted, either. We would always be there for him, but we couldn’t resolve any problems for him. As a matter of self-preservation, we had to pull back. At the end of the day, all we could do is be there for him, no questions asked, if and when he decided to reach out.

New Year's Eve 2016 Group Selfie with Dave Foohey, Samantha Boswell, and Von Allan
He never did. I suspect the pandemic made things that much worse. Given my wife’s health (she’s immune-compromised), we couldn’t risk much personal contact since COVID began. We had already made the decision to pull back from Dave to protect ourselves, but COVID basically cemented that. It hurt. Dave knew my wife’s health situation, but he never reached out to see how she was doing. That hurt, too. Do I blame him? No, I don’t, but the sting was there all the same. It did confirm to me that his mental health was not good; old Dave would have touched base. This Dave? He couldn’t do it, for whatever reason. Perhaps it never even crossed his mind.

Did Dave do anything wrong? No. What’s hard about this is that there’s no one really to blame. While I do hold his supervisors at Indian and Northern Affairs responsible for the lack of support they gave him, that was also 14 some-odd years ago. It’s not their fault. Nor is it his dad’s fault or his mom’s fault. It’s no one’s fault. It just is. And that’s hard. It’s also senseless and that’s hard, too.

Dave was 49 years old. He had a lot of living still to do. I dearly miss my friend. I miss what he was and I miss sharing what he could be. What if he had been able to gain control of his mental health? What could he have done? Where would he have gone? What joys could he have shared? The sting of death is not just the loss of what was, but the loss of what could be. There is an old poem, written in 1856 by John Greenleaf Whittier titled “Maud Muller.” It has a line that has stayed with me all of my life: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

A photo I took of Dave when he and I took a litle weekend trip to Montreal
I miss my friend. I miss what could have been. The three of us (Dave, my wife, and I) had loosely talked, way back when, about growing old and maybe buying a house together down east. Dave’s dad was from the Maritimes and I think the notion of moving back there one day appealed to Dave. It wasn’t a firm plan or anything like that, but it was an idea of three friends who loved each other and wanted to support one another. I miss that Dave.

Death is awful. The loss of loved ones, human or otherwise, always is. I think back to the experiences we shared together. Reading comics. Playing role-playing games. Watching pro wrestling. Playing cards. Hanging out. Talking. It hurts that I’ll never have that experience with him again, but I’m glad I had them. I can say that he helped me, especially when I was a kid, more than I ever realized. I was able to relax with Dave, something that — given my own history — was not so easy for me to do. I’m glad I told him, more than once, that I loved him. One of the last times we saw him, he said it back.

To love and be loved is, at the end of the day, what I think life is all about.

Dave was loved. And that’s important.

Dave is remembered. And that’s important, too.

Goodbye, Dave. I’ll miss you forever.


Photo of a young Von Allan with his mom in Dave Foohey's backyard
“We find in the myths no sense of bitterness at the harshness and unfairness of life, but rather a spirit of heroic resignation; humanity is born to trouble, but courage, adventure, and the wonders of life are matters of thankfulness, to be enjoyed while life is still granted to us. The great gifts of the gods were readiness to face the world as it was, the luck that sustains men in tight places, and the opportunity to win that glory which alone can outlive death… The dangers of this view of the world lay in a tendency towards lack of compassion for the weak, an over-emphasis on material success, and arrogant self-confidence: indeed the heroic literature contains frank warning against such errors.” — Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson, GODS AND MYTHS OF NORTHERN EUROPE

This is the last photograph I have of my mom and I together. Taken by Dave in his backyard.

City of Ottawa Grant Support

Cover of the City of Ottawa 2022 Grant Funding ReportIn a surprise (well, at least to me!) turn of events, I’ve received a $4,000.00 grant from the City of Ottawa’s Arts Funding Program (the PDF announcement from the City is here). The grant is in support of my ongoing comics project WOLF’S HEAD and represents a significant step in my arts career. Why significant? Well, bear with me here for a sec and I’ll try to explain.

As I’ve struggled to cobble together an arts career, there have been a number of obstacles that I’ve had to overcome. This is not unique to me, unique to Canadian comic artists, unique to visual artists, or unique to the arts in general. Despite certain stereotypes of artists (“heads in the clouds,” blah, blah, blah), it’s quite a tricky career to manage. There is not a lot of support “out there” for artists, either. Most artists I know are forced to manage their careers as best they can and there really isn’t a road map to help along the way. That’s been very true for me. While a lot of words come to mind to describe this — ‘challenging’ being a very good one — it just is what it is. And there is a certain truism to the notion that by the time acknowledgement does come (usually in the form of awards, accolades, and sales), the artist doesn’t need as much support as they once did. That’s definitely not true of me.

Let me say that again: That’s definitely not true of me.

It’s been a fight every step of the way. The first fight was simply to become competent and that might have been the toughest battle of them all. The learning curve, at least for me, has been extremely steep with a lot of false starts and dashed hopes along the way. Then, the next fight is to survive. Truth be told, that’s been tough, too. Being pretty much a fringe artist at the best of times and a true Outsider most of the time meant that building awareness for my work has been a never-ending struggle. Pragmatically speaking, surviving as an artist means generating an income. In my case specifically, that primarily means selling my comics. And that has never been easy.

Wolf's Head Book 1 cover by Von AllanAs some folks know, I really had hopes that I AM STILL YOUR CHILD, the documentary film I’m in, would help build awareness for my art. That really hasn’t happened, at least so far, and the disappointment was hard to place. That doesn’t mean I’m not proud of my role in the film. Far from it! And I still think the film is important for shedding light on parental mental illness, a taboo subject to this day.

That said, as my wife is fond of saying, the film was ‘kindling’ for my arts career and represented a milestone in its own right. While it hasn’t changed awareness of my work in the larger comics community, it has led to growing awareness in the local arts scene. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been a finalist for the Peter Honeywell Award without it. And I certainly wouldn’t have won a CBC Trailblazer Award without it, too.

And with today’s announcement of winning a grant from the City of Ottawa, I’m pretty confident saying that it wouldn’t have happened without the film and the other awards. One thing does lead to another. And the grant is important from another point of view; it really does give some much needed financial support for my comics endeavours. As I’ve noted, being an artist is not an easy path and every little bit of financial support helps. When a jury of my peers determined that my application was worthy of financial support, my jaw dropped. And it’s taken a bit of time for me to really get my head around it. I’m both honoured and pleased as punch to receive it. And in these pandemic times we live in, it is one helluva lift.

So yes, Von Allan Studio (that’s me, folks!) gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the City of Ottawa. Boy, do I!

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Ajamu Baraka illustration and Ottawa visit

Ajamu Baraka will be in Ottawa, Ontario on November 14th to discuss "Defeating the US/EU/NATO Axis of Domination. A Global De-Colonial Imperative." The event will be held at the McNabb Community Centre (180 Percy Street) sponsored by the Canadian Peace Congress (note that their website is currently being revamped, but their Twitter account is at https://twitter.com/CdnPeace). I was asked to do an illustration of Mr. Baraka for the poster promoting the event. The illustrations below are the pencils, inks, and final colour version I did.

Pencil portrait of Ajamu Baraka by Von Allan

Inked portrait of Ajamu Baraka by Von Allan

Colour portrait of Ajamu Baraka by Von Allan
As I write this, I'm not quite sure what the final poster design will be. Unlike the posters I designed for the Ottawa Transit Riders, in this case I'm not wearing a designer hat. Which is a little scary, but it did allow me to focus on the portrait and not worry about anything else!

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Art Page: https://www.vonallan.com/p/art.html
Twitter: https://twitter.com/scoundrelwizard

Ottawa Transit Riders Founding Meeting

I was tasked to create the English and French language posters for the Ottawa Transit Riders Founding Meeting to be held here in Ottawa on April 27th, 2019. A key goal, of course, is for the new group to liaison with OC Transpo. And challenge OC Transpo when necessary.

The goal was to keep the posters reminiscent of my first design without duplicating them exactly. Here's what I came up!

Ottawa Transit Riders Founding Meeting Poster in English by Von Allan

Ottawa Transit Riders Founding Meeting Poster in French by Von Allan

More information about Ottawa Transit Riders can be found at the above links. The organization is also on Twitter (at https://mobile.twitter.com/otttransitrider), Facebook (at https://www.facebook.com/ottawatransitriders), and on their website at https://www.ottawatransitriders.ca/.

Photos from the book launch of Stargazer

The book launch for Stargazer took place at Ottawa's Perfect Books on Sunday, November 7th. Turnout was pretty good if I do say so myself and the bookstore seemed quite pleased with the sales. That's win-win, I think! What follows are some photos that were taken from the launch. My wife took the first four and the rest were taken by the "The Phantom Photographer."

Von Allan chatting with fans at the book launch for Stargazer in Ottawa

Von Allan at the book launch for his graphic novel titled "Stargazer"

Von Allan signing a copy of his graphic novel Stargazer at the book launch in Ottawa

Von Allan chatting with fans at the book launch for Stargazer at Perfect Books

Von Allan at the book launch for Stargazer at Ottawa's Perfect Books
Photo by "The Phantom Photographer"

Von Allan at the book launch event for Stargazer
Photo by "The Phantom Photographer"

Wolf's Head by Von Allan

Link to Von Allan's Wolf's Head comic book series

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City of Ottawa Grant Support

Von Allan Studio gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the City of Ottawa.

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I Am Still Your Child Trailer

Documentary Film Excerpt