Aging Art Things, and Related Tales

About 2.5 decades ago, I wanted to be an animator. I had always enjoyed drawing, but in 1991, Disney released Beauty and the Beast, and my twenty-one-year-old mind was officially blown. I was choking up ten seconds into the open sequence. You know, the one with the stained glass and the music. It was intense. I knew I wanted to make pictures move.

I found Sheridan College, and I moved to Oakville, Ontario (Canada) when I was twenty three, so that I could apply the following year to Sheridan’s Classical Animation program, as an Ontario resident.

While waiting to become a Ontario resident (Sheridan was taking only those at the time), I got my first gig working in the “IT industry” – manning phone lines at a startup (before “startup” was a word) Internet Service Provider, called HookUp Communications. I took the incoming orders of people wanting this new-fangled Internet thing in their own home, which at the time was only available in dial-up form. I filled the orders by hand, using a pen and photocopied sign-up forms, which floated around the office on desks, in folders, and eventually filed away into  an increasingly stuffed set of grey filing cabinets. We might have been getting online en-masse, but we were many years away from the “paperless office”… are we there yet, even now?

Anyhow, interesting times. I ended up taking first and second year at Sheridan, and while I did pretty darned well in most things, I burned out right at the end of second year, and that was the end of my animation career. What I have to show for those days is an aging portfolio of art, from a time when I was doing art for hours a day.

I went on to work for those same IT entrepreneurs through two other startups, a corporate buy-out, and an eventual layoff, once the IT bubble burst shortly after 2001. A lot of us “older” IT folk remember those troubling times. It took a while for things to settle in the job market, but they kind of did.

I want my art back. I want to rediscover that passion, and I have been getting back into sketching lately, and of course this new-ish thing, creative writing. I was a storyteller-in-training in my Sheridan days and in the years leading up to going there, what with all the role-playing games and attempts at being a comic book artist. I am still in love with telling weird stories, both in words, as well as images that have some story seed in them. Storytelling is a kind of breathing; you inhale great stories, and are inspired by them, and you then aspire to exhale your own back into the world.

I labeled this blog “Tiny Tall Tales and Occasional Doodles“, and while the Tiny Tall Tales are reasonably well-represented now (with so many more to come, if I can get into the good rhythms), I’m still shy on the doodles part. So I’m going to cheat mightily. I’m scanning stuff from way back, and putting them here to guard against my losing this stuff forever in a flash portfolio-case fire. I also want to remember having once enjoyed practicing the art of telling stories with different shapes of lines, because I know I can get back to it.

Here is a Giant Mouse, hitching a ride on a water vessel that would likely not function well at sea, given I knew (and still know) little about boat construction. My jam is speculative fiction, not historical fiction, or science fiction. I will leave the impressive details to others best suited to the task, and instead skip forward into realms where things hardly need to make complete sense to still provide an entertaining read or look. I am perhaps saying I should be writing and drawing for kids, but I think there are plenty of adults in the world who would get where I’m coming from too. Here’s to all of the above.


Giant Mouse on Boat (Ink and Watercolour), circa 1995, Mike McGraw

Prior to Attending Sheridan – or perhaps during or after, it’s hard to recall now – I was trying to be a proper working graphic artist, creating cartoon imagery to use on websites and perhaps paper brochures intended to direct people toward websites. My employers were young, smart, and very forward-thinking, and they took me in, allowing me space to create visuals that they may or may never have actually used or benefited from. I no longer recall exactly what the following images were for, but it’s clear they tell a story of a bold, connected future on the near horizon, where everybody would be linked to one another via phones with typey-typey features. Terms like SMS are still with us today, while protocols like TNPP have gone the way of the Dodo, at least in the average user’s mind.

Back in those days, I was doing art with pencil, scanner, and Photoshop, and then also learning how to code again. I had cut my programming teeth on BASIC back in 1983, had hacked around throughout the 80’s, and even made a short, failed attempt at Comp Sci right out of High School. Mike looks to the clouds, anguished expression on his face, and howls, fists shaking at the heavens, “Calculussssssss!!!!”

I’m pretty sure I remember learning how to “render” a webpage on a pager, using some markup whose name I shall never again remember. I have no idea though if this is a real memory, or an interesting fake one. Anyhow, here are some happy images of happy people happily submitting to the encroaching information age:


Clip art or something, drawn, scanned, cleaned up and then digitally coloured in Photoshop, mid- nineties. Remember, this stuff is all open source, feel free to use it, with accreditation (see Creative Commons Info Thing at bottom of post)

Look how happy everybody is! The future is barreling down upon them, and they are so ready for it. Look at that profit go up! Look at that not-quite-diverse-enough group of happy people posing for a drone flyby, pre-drone era! Look at the happy family in the weird van! I don’t know what they have to do with anything, but they look happy. Look! There’s a proto-hipster carrying his College Things To and Fro! What’s that have to do with the Internet?? I can’t say. I really can’t.

Anyway, I got pretty good at generating positive imagery about nothing in particular. I guess you could call it a niche. I owned that stuff, and looking back, I realize I had developed a fair amount of skill, even though I recall being perpetually frustrated at never being as good as I wanted to be. I guess that’s the double-edged nature of having a passion for something? I can only speak for myself.

One more image for now – some sketches, which I think were After or During Sheridan (AS or DS), but some of which might have been Before Sheridan (…). I like drawing fantasy characters. They never really have precise machine-like objects with them, so I can get away with pretty much never drawing a straight line (we hatesss themmm). Also, all that floppy clothing lets me get away with not drawing precise anatomy, but shhh, don’t tell anybody, it’ll just be our secret.


Various fantasy archetypes, doing archetypal fantasy things and poses. Year uncertain, probably a few years after Sheridan, but who can say?

That’s all for now, art-wise. Scanning this stuff is easy enough but I’m now without a Photoshop license and am starting anyway to lean more toward open-source applications, and so am trying to learn Krita. I haven’t done much to the images except fiddle a bit with contrast / saturation, crop, and maybe correct for rotation issues. It’s been a while – even that stuff burns calories.

I have a ton of stuff to scan and upload, and will make more of an effort to mix some of it in with the Pure Words going forward. At some point, I’d like to revisit some rough drawings and paint them in Krita or some other program, essentially art-jamming with my twenty-something past self. I think he would approve (while also pestering me with questions about the Future).

Keep writing, drawing, music’ing, and all the Things You Love to Do,


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3 thoughts on “Aging Art Things, and Related Tales

  1. Mike! This is wonderful! I look greatly forward to More! How life does take us on adventures that we didn’t anticipate. I too steer clear of straight lines…where’s the fun in those?! Take care, suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Suzanne! I am characteristically ponderous at creating the contents, but I really appreciate your kind feedback, and will endeavour to get more art stuff up soon! I hope you will write a children’s book, it would be awesome. Maybe you have already?

      Liked by 1 person

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