Artist wants Dawsonites to tell their stories through comic strips

What if you got your news through a comic book? That’s what the new Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) artist in residence plans to do in Dawson City.

What if you got your news through a comic book?

That’s what the new Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) artist in residence plans to do in Dawson City.

Jonathan Rotsztain has been collecting comic strips drawn by local residents for a printed newsletter that will be released late September.

Named the Dawson Comics Crier, the one-time newsletter will have anything from poetry, reporting, micro-fiction, jokes, games, recipes, trivia, and paintings.

Rotsztain says he will accept anything, as long as it’s not offensive.

For him, the project is about creating a hyperlocal media for Dawsonites to tell their stories.

“There’s never enough local media,” he told the News in an interview. “This project is trying to empower people to feel represented in the media.”

And rest assured, anybody can contribute regardless of their drawing skill.

That’s because penning comic book strips isn’t only about drawing but also about simplifying and deciding what to omit from the strips.

Rotsztain has held seven workshops in Dawson so far, teaching people the basics about comic book drawing.

“We try to focus on helping people recognize that everyone is good at art,” he said. “It’s not a special skill, it’s almost like a language.”

Drawing comic book is about simplifying the world visually.

“With expressions, you can use one or two lines to make someone be very angry or very happy,” he said.

“It’s empowering for people to recognize they can communicate a lot with very little visual information because of the power of symbols and our shared symbol vocabulary.”

The trick is to get people started doing art. The rest will follow.

“Sometimes there are barriers where people feel they can’t make art, don’t have permissions or they’re not good enough,” Rotsztain said. “Once you give people some framework to work in, the results are usually amazing.”

The Dawson Comics Crier is not his first experience with creating local media outlets.

He and Rebecca Roher, who is also working on the Dawson comic book project, published 13 issues over three years of the West Dublin Monitor.

The micro-publication based in West Dublin, Nova Scotia, featured book reviews, community events and portrayed the lives of ordinary local residents.

Everyone deserves an outlet, Rotsztain says, and his project offers something you can’t quite get with a blog or a social media page.

“When you curate … a print publication, this kind of a yearbook of our community, it can be a really valuable touchstone for a time and a place and artistic energy,” he said.

“When I see similar publications from other artists in other communities, you always can feel the vibrancy of that community spirit through these art works.”

Rotsztain, who hails from Toronto, has made comics since he was six.

“I’ve always felt artistic but didn’t really feel like an official artist, not that there is such a thing,” Rotsztai said.

It all changed when he enrolled at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont.

“I’ve always been a writer and graphic designer and done illustrations,” he said. “(Comic books) combined all of that into a tool.”

He likes how versatile the medium is: it could be used to create IKEA assembly guides or go full artist and express intense emotions.

As an artist he had heard of Dawson City for many years. He finally applied for the KIAC residency, and hasn’t regretted it.

“It’s so beautiful here … the wilderness is so astounding,” he said. “It makes me feel humble and small.”

On top of his residency, Rotsztain works on his own comic strip, Dreary Diary. He pens a strip every day.

In the most recent ones, he reflects on Tombstone Territorial Park’s size.

He describes a vibrant art scene in Dawson and the warm welcome he got when going around town talking about his project.

“I think we’re going to get a lot of good submissions,” he said.

To submit a comic, email dawsoncomicscrier@gmail.com or drop them off at the KIAC office on Second Avenue.

The Dawson Comics Crier will launch Sept. 27 at the KIAC at 7 p.m. Rotsztain said the comic will be available in print and a PDF will be posted online.

To see some of Rotsztain’s work, visit rotsztain.com.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No new COVID-19 cases despite infection ‘wake-up call’

Testing surged this week after the government released new information about infected visitors

Apology for racist actions of Yukon Energy Dawson City employee inadequate, complainants say

Two Dawson City residents who were accosted by a Yukon Energy employee… Continue reading

Yukon legal aid can only fund 100 hours to prep for murder case, executive director says

Lawyers for Charabelle and Lynzee Silverfox, charged with first-degree murder, seeking more funding

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Aug. 5, 2020

Yukon Conservation Society hires new executive director

Coral Voss brings background in administration and enviromental work

Delegate calls for crosswalk changes to show support for people of colour

Mayor states support for idea, but cautions it could take some time

Whitehorse advises of water system maintenance

Residents on the city’s water system are being advised they may notice… Continue reading

Walkway, signs planned for West Dawson paddlewheel graveyard

Unofficial attraction may get 135-m walkway and interpretive signs, if YESAB application approved

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week. Tennis… Continue reading

Cancan show to return to Gerties

The Klondike Visitors Association announced in a press release on July 29… Continue reading

Air North named best airline

Tripadvisor named Air North the Travellers’ Choice Best Airline in Canada 2020… Continue reading

Community banking services to move to CIBC

A number of Yukon communities will see changes in banking this fall… Continue reading

Majority of Yukon businesses don’t have employees working remotely during COVID-19, survey says

Less than a third of businesses have any portion of their workforce working remotely

Most Read