This portrait tells the story of James Andrews a commodore in the British Navy, and his ship the HMS Ontario which disappeared in Lake Ontario during a storm on Halloween, Oct 31 1780. The HMS Ontario was the largest British warship in the great lakes a that time and was to sail from Fort Niagara to Fort Haldiand in Oswego when it was caught in an autumn nor’easter. According to the ships records there were over 170 passengers on board, including the crew, British soldiers, passengers and American prisoners, all of whom perished. Legend had it that the Ontario may have been carrying a small fortune in gold as a year’s pay for the British garrison at Fort Haldimand on Carleton Island. While this has largely been dismissed, that along with its old time frame have made it the holy grail of shipwrecks for treasure hunters in the great lakes. It was discovered off the shores of the lake towards Rochester in 2008, but the details and its exact location have not never been revealed.
The third portrait is surrounding the story of Sarah Ann Tracey, the daughter of Thomas and Hannah Tracey who were stationed at Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake in the 1830’s and 40’s. Tomas Tracey was the Sergeant major of the King’s Dragoon guards. It was typical in those days for higher ranking soldiers to be able to bring their families with them, while lower ranking soldiers would often never see their families again. While this experience of living in a fort was unique, and could I’m sure in some ways could be exciting for a child. it was also a treacherous one. Very little is known of Sarah Ann other than sadly she passed a way when she was 7, in 1840. Where her legend is more widely known is for haunting the fort, as she is one of Niagara’s most celebrated ghost stories, showcased in numerous ghost tours, should you believe in such tales. She has apparently been seen many times wandering around the fort throughout the last century, and has been described as having curly blonde shoulder length hair, and wearing a white dress, that were commonly made at the fort for children in those days from old men’s shirts. Sarah is buried at St Mark’s church where you can visit her tombstone, and her story regardless of whether or not you believe in apparitions, is an interesting one of the pioneering child. Some details added to this portrait are her cat, which was a toy from that era, and are seen by many cultures as spiritual companions to the afterlife, and the reflection in the mirror. Portraits from this era of children were often on chairs to bring them up to the heights of adults in the camera.
Solomon Moseby a slave who made his way up to Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the 1820’s from the US, via Harriet Tubman’s underground railroad. As was often the case back then Moseby was pursued by his former slaveholder; David Castleman from Kentucky, who accused Moseby of stealing a horse during his escape. Castleman who was a man of prominence was successful in convincing the Canadian government to extradite Moseby for this crime. Suspicious of this accusation, the African American community in Canada raised $1000 to repay Castleman for the lost horse, much more money than the horse was worth, but Castleman who was a spiteful man refused it.When Moseby was to be handed over to the Americans at the mouth of the Niagara river, a fate which would have inevitably lead to hims spending the rest of his life in slavery and misery, a riot broke out and Moseby escaped. Anticipating trouble soldiers had been accompanying the Niagara sheriff, and Moseby’s escape did not come without a cost, as many members of the African American community where hurt in the riot and 2 were shot dead. While no images of Moseby exist, I was able to track down a description from the warrant in the towns records, which this was based on. It was my intention to capture the moment as he was to be handed over. The child’s toy train he is holding is meant to represent innocence and the underground railroad.
This illustration is part of a series exploring legendary characters of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Jubal Early – Also known as the “bad old man” or “old jube” was a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was born in Virginia and fled to Niagara-on-the-lake upon the defeat of the confederacy. He was famous for his views on the “lost cause” a set of beliefs held by the white south that depicted the confederate cause as a heroic one against great odds. He was also famous for demanding $300,000 from the residents of the city of Frederick, Maryland, who were unwelcoming towards the Confederates. He threatened to raze their town if they did not submit to his demand, and the city’s residents paid the ransom. Ironically at the time Early lived in Niagara-on-the-lake, it was also the end of the underground railroad, and Early and many other of the high ranking confederate brass (who were hiding out) ended up living in the same part of town as the freed slaves they had fought so vehemently to oppress.Talking about uncomfortable block parties!
The tail of the Ogopogo -Man you have to love cryptids! I spend a fair bit of time fishing up north in the summer, and when you’re sitting in a canoe by yourself in the middle of nowhere it’s easy for your imagination to conjure up some thoughts of what might be lurking below. This one is a tribute to all those that know and love what I’m talking about! And one of my favorite Canadian cryptids; the Ogopogo, another sea serpent with first nation ties, rumored to be living in the Okanagan Lake.
An illustration of a yeti heading south, and not blending in so well outside of his natural snowy environment. This one is a tribute to the great Canadian road trip! You never know what you might find driving coast to coast. But for me the experience of hitting the trans-canada highway on a beautiful morning with coffee in your cup, good tunes on the radio, and a breeze on your man whiskers is tough to beat!
Ole yellow top and the teddy that wasn’t a teddy – another Canadian myth about a big foot like creature with a yellow tuft of hair. Reportedly seen by mine workers over the course of the last century, in the woods around the remote town of cobalt Ontario. Legend has it the creature was scared of people and industry and would hide deep in the woods. I thought this legend had a number of aspects surrounding it that would make it appealing to children, and also provide a platform for a commentary on what we’re doing to the environment.
The whale and the Gaasyendietha have tea at Toronto island – another Canadian myth; the Gaasyendietha is a Seneca legend of a fire breathing meteor dragon that lives in the depths of lake Ontario, which now also supports Canada’s largest city, Toronto.
The wendigo is an Algonquian legend tied in with psychosis of a cannibal monster that lurks in the forest and preys on those that are lost. As the tale goes the wendigo was a supernatural creature that was kind of a culmination of the northern woods; wolf, deer, bear, pine, dirt etc. This is my take on what a modern day urbanized version of this creature might look like. As you can see he’s much friendlier and has sworn off meat… After all being a cannibal is a bit passé!
Some layout designs I did, exploring how the 2:1 ish screen format I enjoy working in compositionally, would translate over to children’s books.
An illustration I did for some friends at the Sandtrap; a bar in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Working on this illustration made me take a breath from the animation and 3D world I had been working in for a moment, and remember how much I love traditional drawing. I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the role this illustration and Mike Dietsch played in reminding me how important it is to do be doing something you love. The fun I had working on this illustration has lead me back to doing more traditional drawing and hopefully publishing a children’s book some day. Mike was a true gentleman and will be missed by anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.