TRAVEL BLOG: Edmon-fun Fringe Festival

It wasn’t until shortly after I attended a couple of performances at the Edmonton’s 34th Annual Fringe Festival that I learned about it being the oldest and largest fringe theatre festivity in North America. Looking back, that explains some things.

Like why Whyte Avenue was a madhouse and why I was able to eat a nutella funnel cake on a Tuesday afternoon while watching a man juggle swords before wandering two blocks over to where a comedy show was happening. It also explains why Fiddler on the Roof the following Saturday was amazing!

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This week in review: PHOTOS

Sadly this week was rather light in terms of beauty shots to share, but here’s a few.

PORTFOLIO: Highly Animated

Don Perro, program coordinator and an instructor of the commercial animation program believes that the strong emphasis on professionalism and training in a variety of styles helps Capilano University grads get ahead. Photo: Rob Newell
Don Perro, program coordinator and an instructor of the commercial animation program believes that the strong emphasis on professionalism and training in a variety of styles helps Capilano University grads get ahead. Photo: Rob Newell

The hum inside the Bosa Centre at Capilano University isn’t the heating system — it’s the gears of hundreds of minds turning with creativity. When you walk in the front doors, you immediately sense that you’re among artists. The state-of-the-art building, which opened about a year ago, houses film and animation students who are furiously at work bringing new characters and worlds to life.

“You’re surrounded by like-minded people,” says Simon Edwards, a second-year commercial animation student. “I’ve learned what it’s like to work cooperatively with other people in an environment like a studio.”

Capilano University offers three programs in animation — commercial animation, digital animation and visual effects. Carrying either a diploma or a certificate, these programs are all designed with the goal of employment in the industry.

“We called it commercial animation because… you’re basically a chameleon of styles and designs, and are really geared towards stepping into a studio and working without a lot of supervision,” says Don Perro, program coordinator and an instructor of the commercial program.

The three programs are all heavily vocation-based, with guest speakers and instructors from the industry and constant communication between the department and animation studios.

“I always [ask] students when they come in here ‘Are you looking for a job… or are you looking for a career?’” says Craig Simmons, program coordinator of the digital program. “When things go up and down in this industry, a career is what we want our students to get.”

The digital animation program, which began in 1999, was created as a supplementary certificate for the two-year commercial animation students to take as a third year.

“The idea of digital animation is that it becomes a third year for people who want it and we recruit from other places as well,” says Simmons. “A lot of our students come through the two years and go to the third year.”

Simmons also coordinates the summer programs, where students can get a sample of any of the three animation streams for two months. “There should be a way to starting on that path,” says Simmons.

“Some people are shocked, they come in here and suddenly they’re drawing for eight to 10 hours a day or working on a computer and they’ve never done that much before.”

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Craig Simmons, the digital animation program coordinator. Photo: Rob Newell

With less than 30 students being accepted to each animation program once a year, competition for spots in the classes is fierce.

“We like to keep [the classes] small because in good years and bad, the industry is cyclical. Even in bad years our students get jobs because we’re not throwing a bunch out there,” says Perro.

Like many who apply to the animation programs at Capilano University, Edwards wasn’t accepted on his first try. “I thought I could draw,” says Edwards, who was considered one of the top art students in high school in Kelowna.

“I didn’t get in because I didn’t get what life drawing was,” says Edwards.

Perro agrees that life drawing is crucial, as well as an eye for design and technical skill. By drawing from real life, scenes or people, life drawing is just that — drawings with life in them.

Starting last year, the animation department began accepting portfolios posted online, so applicants can now post their work to a blog or website and send that, rather than hauling piles of paper to campus.

Out of the acceptable applications, ranging in number from about 40 to 80 portfolios, Perro provides a small assignment to test the applicants to further whittle down the numbers.

“I just took a picture of one of my daughter’s teddy bears… and say ‘OK start with this and create an original character design based on it.’”

With cutting edge classrooms, including tablet computers for each student to use, and instructors with experience working in the industry, Capilano University’s animation program continues to make a name for itself as more quality graduates enter the field.

“Cap grads are everywhere,” Edwards, who is currently on a summer internship at DHX Media as part of his studies, points out. “I work myself with Cap grads.”

With so much to learn in just two years, Edwards points out that the heavy workload and long hours can “get a little much.”

Often at school for 10 to 12 hours a day working on assignments or projects, drawing and refining, Edwards believes this greatly improves an artist’s technical skill.

“You’re locked in this chamber of drawing,” he jokes. “You can only get better.”

And you don’t have to look too hard to see the results.

Several Cap U graduates have won awards for their work, including Sarah Airriess and Clio Pitt, who both contributed to Paperman, which won Disney the Oscar for best animated short film earlier this year.

PORTFOLIO: Cutting Out the Tongue at West Van Museum

Pierre Coupey, photo by Ley Doctor
Artist Pierre Coupey, photo by Ley Doctor

Canadian abstract artist Pierre Coupey’s latest show, Cutting Out the Tongue, showcases some 40 paintings spanning more than three decades.

Now 70, Coupey has created other forms of art, like prints and poems, but in the mid-1970s decided to focus his efforts on painting. The title of the show is a reference to artist Henri Matisse’s famous quotation, “Whoever wishes to devote himself to painting should begin by cutting out his own tongue,” advice which Coupey plans to follow.

“It’s partially choice and partially recognition that I was more interested in painting than in writing poetry,” says Coupey. “I just began to feel the need to shift and accept the fact that painting was the thing that I perhaps had the chance to do best and let the other people I know that are better writers keep on writing the poetry.”

Growing up in Montreal and the youngest of three children, Coupey played hockey, some winters playing for four teams as a goaltender in equipment he fashioned himself. As a McGill student, he found solace in the galleries and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. “I was never taught as a kid, never had art lessons,” he says. “I was educating myself at the age of 15.”

As Coupey explored the art scene in Montreal, he found the gallery of artist Agnes Lefort. “She would accompany me in her tiny little gallery and we’d have a dialogue about the paintings,” says Coupey. “She would ask me questions and ask me what I saw and she would gently guide me to what could be seen.”

Coupey firmly believes in enriching kids with exposure to arts and culture. “The more art you can see when you’re young, the better off you are and one of the sad things about Vancouver is that we don’t get to see it as much as I think we should.”

His art has been hung in galleries and collections from Canada to Japan, but Coupey is especially fond of how this series is being presented.  “What I like so much about this show,” says Coupey, “it’s not hung chronologically. It’s hung chromatically, and for me it’s giving me an opportunity to see how something from 1976 speaks to something from 1990.”

With a background in poetry and writing, Coupey believes that his education in philosophy and literature have heavy influences in his work.

His pieces are sometimes based on war or conflict, though he says that despite his days fighting for social justice as a founding editor of the Georgia Straight, he isn’t pushing any agendas. “I’m not trying to send any overt messages,” says Coupey. “It’s a resonant thing… It’s a recognition that the world is a world filled with violence to which one responds the best one can and in a way you hope is both witness and redemption.”

Coupey often paints in sets or “clusters,” such as his collection A Book of Days, which consists of 13 paintings. “When I get bored of them or I think I’ve figured out as much as I need to… I just stop.” Many of his paintings in Cutting Out the Tongue are companions with other works of his, often with one being shown in West Vancouver and the other in Coquitlam.

Coupey’s show runs from now until April 27 at the West Vancouver Museum and from March 17 to April 27 at the Art Gallery of Evergreen in Coquitlam.