“If people can take away from my work in Hamilton that it’s possible to have a communion with nature in the very heart of one of Canada’s most industrialized cities, then they should have hope wherever they are.”
Hamilton is full of hope. David Collier sees this everyday and puts it into his drawings. Real life is what inspires David, what happens while waiting at bus stops, shopping at the Farmer’s Market, walking the North End, or paddling the bay in his canoe.
His cartoons have appeared in newspapers like The Globe and Mail, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, and the Seattle Stranger. While he was enlisted in the military, David did a lot of cartoons for army newspapers and promo material. Drawn and Quarterly, a well established Canadian art magazine, has published a lot of David’s work, like “Surviving Saskatoon,” “Harry Osmond: Psychedelic Pioneer,” and “The Frank Ritza Papers.”
David’s work reaches far into the underground press (Weirdo, American Splendor), but it was his latest collection of cartoons that gave him a national spotlight. Local publisher, Wolsak and Wynn, helped David put together “Hamilton Illustrated.” It’s a collection of cartoons about life in the Hammer. “Hamilton Illustrated” won the Pigskin Peters Award in 2013 at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.
David draws experimental and avant-garde cartoons, the award recognized this. “Hamilton Illustrated” was the best in 2013. For this CBC Radio interviewed David. The attention wasn’t wasted on him, but it wasn’t something he grasped for either. Drawing is David’s way of processing his circumstances and it’s a way to make a point in cases that are important to him.
“When drawn, social commentary and social observation can be hard-hitting and crusading, yet at the same time, disarming.”
David has always been drawn to hard-hitting and crusading environments. He worked one of Toronto’s busiest Punk Rock clubs, The Edge, in the early 80’s. After the club’s closure, David followed its founders, the “Two Garys,” as they continued to organize and promote punk shows throughout Toronto. It was the Hamilton bands that always impressed David the most.
Then David made a blasphemous move for a punk rocker, he joined the military. Basic training freaked him out. Drawing helped David discern what he was feeling and ultimately helped him survive his 3 military years in Quebec. Then he moved to Saskatchewan and met his wife. When they came to Hamilton, David joined the Army Reserves, working at the supply depot.
“[Hamilton] is stimulating enough that you find yourself changed every time you venture forth.”
David is inspired by cities — the collision of people & nature, nature & machine. This is what “Hamilton Illustrated” is all about. Its chapters focus on the Bay, the Farmer’s Market, and the North End. (There’s also a chapter on a comic that David drew for Luke Ducet’s “Steel City Trawler” album.)
As a long distance runner, cyclist, and avid paddler, David appreciates Hamilton’s awkward dynamic of industry and nature. He gets to watch and draw humanity bustling around him. Then he can bike, run, walk or canoe, and draw what he feels. David is an analog man, trusting tangible connections. These connections become poignant subjects for his drawings.
“…drawings take so gosh darned long to execute. Often, sitting there, you become part of the scene you are interested in.”
Being unplugged — drawing and publishing on paper — puts some distance between the creator and the reader, giving the creator freedom to express more audacious or scandalous ideas. David enjoys this distance. He’s free to work out frustrations or awkward concepts without the scrutiny of digital culture.
This is also why he enjoys an active lifestyle. Walking, running, or even biking slows life down, gives David the opportunity to observe and enjoy each moment. The rush of cars, the demand of digital devices, and the mindless industrial life aren’t conducive to an artist who needs time to fully render what he sees.
It’s the punk-rocker in David coming out again.
“And today, as the world gets more electronic, and once mainstream forms of communications such as my drawings become regarded as a kind of folk art, it seems important to remind people how easy it is to give up their freedom to machines.”
(All quotes take from “Hamilton Illustrated.”)