When I was an artist-in-residence at Artscape, Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island in January of 2017 I was quite despondent.
It seemed that the world had turned upside down and as I read the news I found my mood dropping. Donald Trump was inaugurated and it seemed that every conversation amongst the artists in the communal kitchen was one of despair. We watched national and international protests and anger erupting everywhere. The mood around Gibraltar Point was definitely down.
While going through some reminiscences I stumbled across an old notebook from my time touring "This is CANCER". There was an entry about attending a strange Yoga class in Regina. The class was called "Laugh Yoga" and was based on the principal that laughter releases endorphins which can lead to better overall health. The attendees of the class performed routines and exercises designed to illicit laughter. I won't get into the specifics here but the point is that laughing made us feel better.
Even fake laughter.
I have a friend with chronic depression who wakes every morning and looks in the mirror. They force themselves to smile. And smile. And smile. Eventually, their mood lifts (sometimes only a fraction) and they can get on with their day.
"Looking at a smile releases endorphins, too" they counselled me.
So, while hidden in my studio on Toronto Island I found myself googling images of people laughing, pulling out my sketchbook, and enjoying an hour or so of looking at the lines and wrinkles and joy expressed. This would inevitably brighten my own countenance.
My morning routine was one which I eagerly anticipated as I knew it would make my whole day better. By the time I left Toronto Island, I had a sketchbook full of laughing, happy faces.
As Christmas of 2017 rolled around I took a handful of my sketches and published them as a book through the Apple Store. It's a quick and easy way to publish a book of photos though cost-prohibitive for an extensive run.
And so this year I've had the sketches made into a deck of custom playing cards, which are much more affordable. I'm hopeful that they will help to spread some joy and put some smiles out there. Some of the faces you may recognize (the Golden Girls are all Aces). Many of the faces were found randomly and some are pure fiction.
I sincerely hope they bring some light into this world.