A Portrait Of The Artist

A Refined Palette

From a very young age it was obvious that my taste in art favoured the classics. Mad Magazine and Archie Comics. When I was in grade school I was always in trouble for defacing the flyleaves of my textbooks. It seems that my jumbled cartoons and unflattering portraits of teachers were not as popular as I thought they should be.

Despite my checkered academic career I lived for art classes. I would sketch out several partially formed ideas ahead of time. In class I would somehow convince the teacher they were relevant to the day’s lesson. Before the end of most art periods I would be surrounded by inquisitive classmates aligning to view these latest creations. I have to admit that I reveled in their attention because I was otherwise a useless klutz outside on the playing field.

As time passed it dawned on me that my frivolous, youthful avocation might develop into a legitimate career. Ultimately I decided to channel my creative impulses towards less mischievous and more profitable results. But was the field of freelance illustration really a sound career choice?

I attended the local art academy as my job prospects were otherwise sadly few in number. There I learned that drawing straight lines was frowned upon by serious artists. The instructors were therefore impressed with my inherent aptitude for colouring outside the borders. I dallied in all sorts of artistic ventures. Inevitably I came to realize that my quirky, realistic images of people and animals were a valuable commodity in the freelance  illustration field. Apparently people were actually willing to pay good money for me to do what came naturally.

Time To Spread My Wings

In time The Ontario College of Art and Design had few things left to teach me. Equipped with my cheap, wooden t-square and leaky technical pen I plunged into the cutthroat underworld of freelance art.

The internet was still in it’s infancy which, in a sense, made two of us. If you wanted to work you had to meet face to face with potential clients. In no time at all I was as busy as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Maybe my renowned fashion sense and scintillating personality were contributing factors. Maybe my portfolio was strong enough on it’s own to leave a good impression. I’ll never know. My published work began to appear on newsstands, billboards and bookstores. With all this renewed attention I felt like I was back in my fledgling days in art classes.

A Microchip Off The Old Block

Inevitably the freelance illustration field began to feel the effects of the digital revolution. I replaced my cheap, wooden t-square with a digital drawing tablet and a bountiful supply of gigabytes. The marriage of computer technology with my artistic sensibilities proved to be a good one. Cleaning brushes and sharpening pencils were not activities that I would come to miss.

My conversion from pencils to pixels coincided with the arrival of McLuhan’s “Global Village”. It was suddenly feasible to work seamlessly with clients in Australia, California or London England. The internet brought them within close proximity to my studio on the east coast of Canada. My professional life continues to broaden in interesting and challenging ways.

My wife and I live in a beautifully renovated one hundred year old farmhouse in the wilds of Cape Breton Island. That’s the large island at the eastern end of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. There I have my studio where I remain extremely busy, juggling work and family activities. Our fully grown children and their partners visit regularly and our two ornery cats are nothing but trouble.

picture of John Fraser as a child
elementary school notebook page
(Back to HOME PAGE)