Starting next week artists in venues across Gabriola Island will be holding workshops and giving performances in a wide variety of disciplines for the eighth annual Isle of the Arts festival.
Gabriola Arts Council program director Mitch Miyagawa, who is organizing the festival for the first time, said there were people lining up to register for events and after the first couple hours four workshops filled up. More have since been added. He estimated that if all events sell out they will alone draw 500 attendees to Isle of the Arts.
Miyagawa said the festival is all about building community.
“I really believe in the ways that the arts and just being creative in general bring people together on this island and that it’s a real part of the identity of this island to be a creative person,” he said.
“And so I’m hoping that individually people are inspired. That they just feel great spending a day with somebody learning how to weave or taking pictures or dancing. It’s something that brightens their lives in some way and adds richness to their lives… Just because you’re not a professional artist doesn’t mean you’re not part of that community, that artistic community”
A new addition to Gabriola’s community of artists is New Yorker cartoonist Kaamran Hafeez, who moved to the island from Vancouver last fall to be closer to his mother, a retired Gabriola potter. Hafeez taught his inaugural cartooning class on the island in January and on April 13 he will be leading his first Isle of the Arts workshop.
“I wanted a way of introducing myself,” the newcomer said.
Hafeez has been contributing cartoons to the New Yorker, among other publications, since 2010. He said he will guide his workshopees through the process of creating a cartoon, touching on both writing and drawing, which he calls “the two sides of cartooning.”
“I’m going to start with the writing side of the process because that’s the most important…” he said.
“When I first started I got into [cartooning] because I was drawing well. But you find out pretty quickly when you sit down to come up with a cartoon that it’s really the idea that matters more.”
He said he hopes to equip his disciples with the skills necessary to make cartoons for their friends or to seriously pursue the craft. Hafeez said professional cartoonists need a think skin. Some New Yorker contributors have submitted ideas for 10 or 15 years before making a sale. He said it comes down to making a personal commitment and never giving up.
“When I first started submitting to the New Yorker I wrote on my website at the time that I was submitting cartoons to the New Yorker ‘whether [cartoon editor] Bob Mankoff likes it or not,’” he said.
“That’s basically the stance that you take: You’re doing it whether anybody likes it or not.”
WHAT’S ON … The eighth annual Isle of the Arts Festival comes to multiple locations on Gabriola Island from April 4 to 15. More information and a full schedule of events at artsfest.artsgabriola.ca.