An Evening w/Comic Artist Lynda Barry

On Saturday night, spousal unit and I headed over to Hutchison to see none other than Lynda Barry. Our babysitter, grandma arrived early on this snowy January evening, so we had time to enjoy some french onion soup at Le Figaro beforehand. At a table by the front window, I sat explaining some of Lynda Barry's work to my husband as I looked across the street at the night's venue, the Ukrainian Federation. I was watching the line, which grew exponentially at about 6:25 pm. Although I could see my other half was reticent about going, he displayed his good sportsmanship and quickly paid the bill, just as I spied Barry at the back of Le Fig eating dinner.

At 6:30 pm, ticket holders flooded into the 1900s style Ukrainian Federation. The relatively small seats (Were Ukrainians small a century ago?) had wrought iron embellishment on the ends, which reminded me of old movie theatre seats. The hall quickly filled with a crowd later forming on the balcony just before the show started.

For 30 years, Barry penned her own syndicated comic strip, Ernie Pook's Comeek, in addition to at least a half-dozen books. A few years ago, Barry was picked up by Drawn & Quarterly, and What it is, her first book with the Montreal publisher, went on to become its longest bestseller. D&Q's Chris Oliveros introduced the comic artist on Saturday and announced that a retrospective of Barry's earlier work would be released in September 2011 under the title Everything...Can't Wait!

I had heard that Barry was both a funny and inspiring speaker, and I was not disappointed. Barry's talk focused on how drawing is in fact "deep play" and how play performs a vital role in developing the brain. "What is an image?" and "What makes something meaningful?" are some of the questions that Barry asked, the same questions she had been asked in the 1970s by Marilyn Frasca, a teacher at hippy dippy Evergreen College in Washington State. Barry joked that her college application consisted of a piece of paper with lentils glued to it in the shape of a peace sign.

Part stand-up comic, part motivational speaker, Barry inspired me and quickly won over my husband. We didn't even stick around for the Q&A or the book signing, even though my copy of Picture This was in my bag. No, we went straight home to draw! In fact, I wanted to get straight to the water colours after I'd seen how good Barry's drawings looked painted.

With the volume of my inner critic turned down low (couldn't switch it off completely), I took an exercise from Picture This and drew the Near-Sighted Monkey and then painted it with water colours. Yes, there are things that I would do differently next time, but I had fun nonetheless.

If you would like to start drawing again, I suggest you pick up a copy of Picture This and try to catch Lynda Barry the next time she comes to Montreal.

Other hood-related posts

What it is by Lynda Barry
The True Gender
Almost a Visit to Gender
St-Viateur: the Polish Bazaar
The Mile End Buzz Around Beekeeping
For the Love of Vinyl
Airing Our Dirty Laundry
Filming on St-Viateur
A Sense of Humour With the Wilensky's Special
S.W. Welch: the Nicolski Coincidence
The Lure of Fishing on Bernard



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