Thursday Jan 23, 2020

Ron Woodall

Artist / Photographer / Cartoonist / Observer

Ron Woodall Looks at Bowen Island

Scribe: Robert J Ballantyne

Ron Woodall - self portrait

Ron Woodall
self portrait

Ron Woodall has been observing Bowen Islanders for years. We’ve seen his portraits of many of our citizens, and anticipated his perceptive cartoons in the Undercurrent.

Ron began his talk by reviewing his amazing life, beginning in tenement in Verdun (Montreal Island), Quebec. His work as the Creative Director for Expo 86 led to similar jobs in Brisbane Expo 88, and Expo 90 in Osaka. He commented that he was aways trying artistic projects. He talked about his interest in old structures that are falling into disrepair and showed his renderings of buildings that were once landmarks of Bowen.

And people. He has produced his take on about 800 islanders, including some well-recalled members of our community who are no longer with us.

Ron’s catalogue of insightful and funny cartoons is huge. He shared many, and sometimes discussed the topic, but usually the artwork and caption said it all. As the cold winter rain fell outside, the assembly in Collins Hall chuckled warmly, and sometimes gasped, as they recognized the dramas, ironies, and humour of our unique life on Bowen Island.

And here is what Ron has written about cartooning:

Cartoons are simple things but also complex. They seem complex when there’s no idea but simple after they’re done

That quote comes from a guy I never heard of but it is true and even more so if your only subject matter is the island you live on and the people you’re supposed to get along with. By definition, cartoons make fun of all the issues that your neighbours consider to be no laughing matter. Parody, however well meaning, often seems frivolous and insensitive. That makes me uneasy because I know it is immature for a person my age to be so flip. Maybe I should stop doing that. But not just yet.

Tooning is a dirty job and somebody has to do it.

So far, however crass the cartoons may get, they seem to be tolerated with no hint of disapproval. Hopefully, this reflects my timid policy which adheres to two basic rules:

  1. Don’t take sides
  2. Don’t get personal (We already have places to get personal.)

Quite often, no one gets the joke. One theory is that the reader’s intellect will fill in the gaps but this does not always happen. The snag is probably my curious taste in humor. I love cryptic deadpan goofiness. So the better I like an idea, the more I will probably have to explain it. Sometimes its not supposed to be funny at all but rather just sit there and stare back at you. 

Cartoons are like fine art. Having tried both I know cartoons are harder because they need an idea and a story and a point. They also need fancy stuff like non- sequiturs and metaphors and ironies and puns and paradoxes. Conversely, a cartoon is the simplest, most universal way to convey an idea. With a pad and pencil, I could pictograph my way through any place on earth.

The drawing part is easier than the idea part. Ideas have to be excavated from those eccentric island quirks that always seem ripe for nudging. Once in a while, ideas magically appear like little incandescent bulbs. Sometimes I see global truisms that can be easily applied to Bowen. This is also known as plagiarism. But always, Bowen Island provides a fertile harvest of absurdities. So for every cartoon… there are at least three on standby.

Bowen Island cartoon by Ron Woodall

“Captain, there’s something funny about Bowen Island this morning”

  • Ron Woodall

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