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Illustrating a point

By Amy Kenny

There simultaneously is and is not a lot of space for illustrators to show their work in Whitehorse. On the one hand, illustrations surround us—in picture books, comic books, logos and branding. On the other hand, when was the last time you saw illustrations hanging in a gallery?

“Illustration kind of has that reputation, where it’s not seen as a fine art form,” says Whitehorse artist Tedd Tucker. “I don’t know why that is. A lot of times it’s because illustration is commercially applied to a product … and sometimes people don’t see it as pure art even though it is still applicable.”

That’s part of the reason Tucker and a group of 11 other Whitehorse artists established the Yukon Illustration Coalition (YILCO) this fall.

The group, which has its first show, Beast of the Boreal, at Northern Front Studio from Nov. 3 to Nov. 30, formed when Tucker posted on ArtsNet earlier this year, asking if anyone else might be interested in exploring some sort of illustration association.  

He says he got responses from graphic designers, architects and arts administrators—people who, like Tucker, are used to applying their creativity to someone else’s project.

Tucker, himself a designer (you may recognize his work from various local logos and campaigns, or his 2019 publication, The Yukon Alphabet Book), says it’s a different feeling to create work for clients than it is to create solely for the sake of creativity.  

“A lot of times when you’re doing client work you’re doing a bit and then checking in, asking for feedback and kind of merging their ideas and your ideas,” he says. “It was nice just to run with an idea and, when it gets momentum, just keep going with it.”

Tucker says members have been enthusiastic about the process of putting the show together, from coming up with the prompt for their illustrations, to sitting down and doing the work, to meeting up and sharing the results—another upside to forming the coalition.  

“A lot of artists are introverts,” says Tucker. “And I don’t think many of us knew each other.”

He says a lot of them met for the first time a few weeks ago, when they gathered to share the work they’d created for Beast of the Boreal. The resulting pieces, from artists including Monika Melnychuk, Esther Bordet, Charlie Fidler, Gorellaume and more, show a broad range of styles, approaches and media. 

“It’s such a varied body of work,” says Tucker of the images, all of which take the show’s title to different places. “It’s not just from one artist so there’s a lot of different ideas, a lot of different interpretations of the prompt. Some of it’s weird, some of it’s very beautiful, some of it’s cute.”

Going forward, Tucker jokes that he’d like YILCO to operate similarly to the band Broken Social Scene, where one artist takes the lead on an idea and organizes a show around it. He’d also like the group to be able to bring people in from Outside, for training and workshop opportunities.

At the moment though, YILCO is excited to see how its first show goes, with the hopes of planning another this winter or spring.  

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