By Cody McEachern
March 11, 2016
Sandy Carruthers sits in his office tucked into a corner at the far end of the graphic design lab at Holland College.
To his left is a dark purple wall covered with sketches, comic strips and a ruler.
Drawings from famous comic artists like Spider-Man’s Yanick Paquette sit in large frames hanging all over the wall.
Light shines through a window behind him, highlighting a small piece of paper on the wall. A faded sketch of a person fills the paper.
“That is my most treasured possession,” Carruthers said.
The sketch is from the late art legend Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud.
“I got that in 1989 at a comic convention. Moebius was just sitting on a wall, sketching random drawings. He would sign each one, and just hand it to someone.”
Giraud revolutionized comic art, sparking a growth in an otherwise underground art community.
It is a community that is growing steadily on P.E.I.
Carruthers is a published comic artist and a graphic arts instructor at Holland College. Being a published artist since the 1990’s, he has seen the local art community grow and it is at a very healthy state today, he said.
“Right now it is pretty good. There is a lot of really strong talent here, like Brenda Hickey and Tyler Landry.”
Although it is growing, the Island’s art community is still very much underground, he said.
“The Island is funny because there is an incredible amount of talent, but we tend to stay under bushes. I don’t know if it’s because we are just naturally isolated people to begin with or not.”
Right now is the best time be an artist, as the Internet has created an outlet for creative people to publish their own work, he said.
“Twenty plus years, ago it was harder to get published as there was only a handful of publishers where you had to go through a submission process. Now you can set up your own web comic, do your own weekly series, and get your own fans without that middle man.”
Instead of skipping this middleman, some artists have decided to create their own.
Troy Little is a local comic artist living in Charlottetown.
In 2000, Little decided to create his own publication company, Meanwhile Studios, and used it to self-publish his new comic series Chiaroscuro.
He didn’t like working for others and being “a cog in the machine,” which encouraged him to go on his own, he said.
“I was just doing backgrounds and storyboards before 2000, but I wanted to create my own stories. I discovered a bunch of cartoonists self-publishing their work, and I thought, ‘I could just be at home, drawing and writing what I want,’ so I did it.”
The need for creative freedom and inspiration from independent artists is what pushed him to begin working on his own stories, he said.
“For years I would do comics in my spare time and eventually collecting them into books that I published. Eventually I got picked up by IDW, and they began publishing my work.”
IDW is a comic publishing company, and currently publishes all of Little’s work.
In October, 2015, Little released the graphic novelization of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and loathing in Las Vegas.
The graphic novel was a hot topic before its release. It was featured by the CBC, GQ magazine and the Guardian UK.
While Little created his own success, other local artists would benefit from more art centric events on the Island, said Carruthers.
“I think we need to do what Moncton and Halifax is doing, which is have a small comic convention. We need some sort of gathering where artists can display their work and expose people to new content that might have just strolled in out of interest.”