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Writing Vicariously

Writing Vicariously

I may write a book someday, a vague threat. Like owning a weapon with no bullets.

My son, Mike Holmes, an illustrator, cartoonist and graphic novel artist, has pulled the trigger a couple of times.

In 2007, Mike illustrated Oni Press's Shenanigans for Texas graphic novelist Ian Shaughnessy.

Last spring, Mike wrote and drew his own graphic novel, This American Drive, published locally by  Invisible Publishing, about a trip to Texas with his then-girlfriend.

The other Mike Holmes, a Canadian general contractor, is well known for his TV fix-it show Holmes on Homes and book Make It Right, so when our son introduces himself he tells people outside the graphic novel world that he is Mike-Holmes-Not-the-Carpenter.

This past spring, my husband and I were thrilled to be at Nova Scotia's Atlantic Book Awards gala to watch our son Mike-the-Graphic-Novelist win the Mayor's Prize for Book Illustration for This American Drive.

Mike had little formal commercial art training, mostly a natural talent. Mike started drawing as a small child. I still have a selection of family pencil-drawn portraits he did when he was eight: Mine is a picture of a lion, with the caption, “Mom's nice, but loud.”

He was always drawing. While he was in high school, when we lived in Yarmouth, he came to Halifax with his school to a student entrepreneurial conference, and spent the whole day drawing crowds, literally, in caricature.

Mike started doing a weekly comic strip called This American Drive in The Coast, Halifax's entertainment newspaper, which strip he later expanded into the book of the same name. His current weekly Coast strip, True Story, just as it sounds solicits and illustrates other peoples' true stories.

Halifax's ArtSmarts artists' directory says, “Mike Holmes (Halifax) is an illustrator and professional comic book/graphic novel artist. He performs comedy, teaches workshops for young people and was a writer for the CBC's 'Street Cents.' He believes the comic book can be a valuable tool in literacy and creativity promotion.”

Through our provincial department of education, he taught cartooning and illustration to local junior high students from disadvantaged areas. His class usually starts with a few very reluctant students sitting in the back of the class, arms crossed defensively across chests. These kids brag about their drug dealer fathers. He engages them by encouraging them to write their life stories, first showing them that they have a life story, and then teaches them to illustrate those stories. He hopes to help them see the possibility of a life outside of drug dealing and working at McDonalds. Because he gets the kids to work together, he satisfies his other ulterior motive, to reduce bullying.

He always has several projects going at once. He's worked on a couple of puppet projects for the CBC. The only qualification he had for that job was that he had made puppets, just like any number of other kids, when he was a teenager. He has drawn people as Simpsons characters in the local comic book shop, Strange Adventures, both in Halifax and Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Meantime, because drawing doesn't pay the bills, he's lived in rooming houses and shared apartments. He's worked in comic book shops and art stores and as a cook and a roofer and in a library.

One of Mike's favorite memories is of working at Toronto comic book shop The Silver Snail and meeting there, and kibitzing with, Robin Williams.

Mike is a well-known commercial illustrator. He made puppets for a local Simmons Mattress distributor, featured in their print ads. He's done stand-up in Toronto, and performed sketch comedy with his friend Sean Jordan in a group they call The Friend and The Jerk. Sean's mother and I participated in one of their sketch performances at a local pub, an embarrassing but funny undertaking.

The last few summers Mike has taught drawing at Ross Creek Summer Arts Camp. He's a huge ham, participates enthusiastically in their amateur theatricals, and is well-loved by the campers.

He's also a fabulous cook, and he plays guitar and sings. To hear him and his brother Jeremy, also a young man of many talents, play guitar and harmonize with each other is to cause you to clasp your hands over your heart. Or perhaps you have to be their mother.

Darn, I wish I were more proud of my kids.

Copyright © 2010 Barbara Pottie Holmes

5 Comment count
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How amazing is your son?? How lucky he has had such amazing parents that have supported his pursuits.

Well done

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writing a book is harder than it looks. I think about JK Rowling and how amazing her accomplishment has been. To write a book and to have it published it would be amazing. Good luck to you - may inspiration tap both of us on the shoulder.


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Honestly, he astounds me ...

... he just soldiers on, no matter what comes up, and keeps bravely attempting new things.

Thanks, Charon!


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I disagree...

"I may write a book someday, a vague threat. Like owning a weapon with no bullets."

It would seem to me (after reading quite a few of your wonderful posts) that you have quite a few bullets in your arsenal. Not a vague threat at all and perhaps your son gets his ability to "soldier on while bravely attempting new things" because of his mother...Just a thought. Great stuff. Please keep writing and a book would be a wonderful addition :)

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Colleen ...

... this officially makes me slow on the uptake, but for some reason I hadn't seen your wonderful comment before now.

Thank you for taking the time to leave it here, and now I have to go get a pin for my head (to let the air out).