Just getting off work at the diner on a Sunday, my feet aching from running plate to table to drink to table to kitchen, my head spinning with complaints of under-salted fries and over-aged coffee, I marched down the street in search of the Victoria Emerging Arts Gallery (VEAG). Google Maps told me I would find the gallery, which I had never before seen on my many strolls up Fort St., between Vancouver St. and Quadra. My friend Harold, whom I phoned at 4:05 (five minutes past the start of the workshop) informed me casually that the gallery could be located through the red door, at the top of the stairs.
With directions like these, it was no wonder I was late. Thankfully, Harold came down to usher this poor dazed soul into the VEAG. I have known Harold Hejazi since our first year of post-secondary school at Langara College, back when we both lived in Vancouver. We were taking a writing course and on the first day we were asked to share with the class why we had chosen to focus on poetry composition. Many students gushed about an heart-felt, deep-down, bubbling love-spring in their souls for poetics that had been effusively surging forth in them for like, forever—but not Harold. Harold’s response cemented itself in my mind for eternity, perhaps because of its strong juxtaposition to the other answers, mine included. “I want to learn to write poetry,” said Harold slowly, quietly, deliberately, “to pick up girls.”
It is this absolute honesty and placidity of speech that can lead people to believe Harold child-like and thereby underestimate him (I’m looking at you, local comedian who played Felicita’s Thursday evening). Do not let his calm exterior mislead you. Harold speaks slowly because he is considering every word he is about to speak, and he speaks with complete candor because he is braver than you or I will ever be. It is for these reasons that I learned to admire Harold and one of the reasons we are still friends five years later, long after he outgrew his hightop-sneaker-phase and I, my unfortunate and unflattering red-jacket-phase.
It is also for these reasons that Harold is as successful in his endeavors as he is. In 2013, he received an Outstanding Community Contribution Award for founding The Foster Mom Collective, a non-profit arts and crafts skill-sharing collective established in 2011. This year, Harold became the workshop coordinator for the Victoria Emerging Arts Gallery (VEAG) as part of its artGO series. The artGO series are Sunday workshops designed to encourage art education within the Greater Victoria community. The workshop series were created with accessibility in mind; they have been built to accommodate any level of experience, and at 25-35 dollars per session, are easily affordable to people of all incomes.
The artGO workshop I chose to attend was the January 26th “Comics and Cartoons” class taught by Patrick Murray, alumni editor of the Warren Undergraduate Review and creator of the beloved local comic strip, North-East Lynx, (http://northeastlynx.tumblr.com/). The class was already seated by the time I arrived, with five other students fitting snugly into VEAG’s well-lit workshop room. Patrick thoughtfully waited for me to sit my shame-faced self down before giving us an illuminating overview on the history of comic art. Throughout the next two hours, Patrick would guide us through four different comic writing and drawing exercises, each more stylistically and intellectually involved than the last. He patiently explained to us the importance of comedic timing in cartoons, and how the writing and artistry should always build upon the other to create a whole comic that surpasses the sum of its parts.
How did I find Patrick’s class? Well, those of you who know me know that I have been making my own comics for over a year, and though I do some self-guided study on the art of comic creation in my own spare time, Patrick was able to offer many useful insights into the art form that I had previously overlooked and undervalued. Previous experience was not necessary to appreciate this workshop, however, and the novice cartoonists in the class were thrilled to leave the gallery with a solid foundation of cartoon making under their belts. Needless to say, if Patrick were to teach a regular class on comics and cartoons I would be there. Hell, I would even break custom and get there early, as VEAG’s only downside is a lack of ample workshop space.
The experience of the well-directed comic workshop was enhanced by a sense of camaraderie invoked not only by Patrick Murray and my fellow classmates, but also by Harold Hejazi, who joined our class and was on hand to offer refreshments of tea or homemade cookies to students and teacher alike.
I enjoyed the workshop so much, I stuck around afterwards to help stack the chairs and ask Harold some questions about the artGO series.
A.C.: What do you hope to accomplish in the community by hosting these workshops?
HAROLD: My intention is to inspire students and empower them, as I take great pleasure in seeing people learn and thrive through art. All of the art organizations (MISSA, Fostermom Collective, artGO) I am a part of share the same mandate: to foster an environment for the arts, recognize practicing artists, and employ them to share their knowledge. I see artGO contributing to the arts community in Victoria by broadening the network of people here who are passionate about the arts. ArtGO workshops provide the perfect opportunity to unleash one’s inner creativity and encourage people to try something different and new without having to commit too much of their time. From ‘expressive arts’ to cartooning and computer programming, something unique and exciting is offered every month by guest instructors from the creative community in Victoria. Classes are small to keep it friendly and social. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than learning, meeting new people, and creating something beautiful?
A.C.: How do you find teachers for your workshops?
HAROLD: I look for folks with fresh skills at art shows, in art classes, and through the internet. It is rewarding for me to recognize talent and reward artists for their work. I get great satisfaction from employing emerging artists in Victoria.
A.C.: Patrick Murray did a great job with our “Comics and Cartoons” class. How do you help teachers like Patrick prepare for their workshops?
HAROLD: I help them prepare by raising their confidence and lowering nervous anxiety. The instructors I bring in rarely have teaching experience, and thus, my formal training in education (from the Secondary Teaching Program at UVic) comes in handy. It is second nature to me to be present and to encourage artists with compliments or suggestions. Perhaps my greatest skill as an artist lies in the art of teaching and empowering others to transcend personal boundaries.
A.C.: Who can attend these workshops, and how can they sign up?
HAROLD: The workshops are meant to be affordable, accessible, and open to everyone. I take great pleasure in seeing people learn and thrive through art! You can find all the upcoming workshops here:
Space is often limited. Please register at the Victoria Emerging Arts Gallery or by phone at: 778-430-5585
Thurs: 3pm - 6pm
Fri: 3pm - 6pm
Sat + Sun: 12pm - 4pm