Sunday 25 February 2024

Along with my partner, Tracy Pinet and help from Carol Cooper we have launched our publishing company with a website: Visit the website for details. I haven't printed a new book almost ten years, but I've been busy writing and illustrating them. I tried a number of times to find a publisher, but winning awards, selling thousands of books on my own, and getting nearly a hundred thousand dollars worth of OAC grants over the years doesn't seem to matter to Canadian publishers. And now some publishers won't accept submissions from white men. Seriously! Only BIPOC allowed is stated on some websites. So, after all these years, not being given much of a choice, I've started up my own publishing company and will be working with a number of local artists and writers to represent our region and eventually the entire country. I've got a couple of investors interested, so we're almost ready to roll. We just have to print our books and in a few months and you will find us at every market and outlet we can sign up for. The website will change as we progress. We'll hit the road in the summer to bring books to cities between here and Winnipeg. In Winnipeg we'll be looking for partners as well to access the larger population there. Please wish us luck. It's a difficult and risky business, fraught with challenges and believe it or not, real enemies. Deep seated envy creates ideologies which spreads and creates monsters. Any success we have will only make it worse as there are people primed to hate upon popular culture, which is what we want to produce, albeit the best kind of pop culture, that which endeavours to explore our liberal humanism in an entertaining way. 

Sunday 22 January 2023

I have a YouTube page! Click HERE! (Please watch, like, share and subscribe!) Short animations, Jason Bourma's short documentary on my work, and art shows from the past are up for everyone to see. As part of the promotional campaign to launch a new book, The Chameleon Snake, and maybe my first novel for adults, We Play You, I'm gearing up on all fronts.     

After consulting with my editors, I'm using a different cover for The Chameleon Snake. This book is a sequel to The Love Ant, which was my first self-published book and surprised me by selling like hot cakes in Thunder Bay. I recovered the printing costs in only a few months and printed three more books as a result. I'm certain The Chameleon Snake will be as successful, and I have the added advantage of selling the two books as a package. I will be looking for assistance with turning the book into a short animated video as well. 

Thursday 19 May 2022

Progress Continues

For more info:

Writer/director Minjae Kwak has me star in his half hour short film Flotsam where I play a man who wakes/materializes in an airport and then wanders away to find himself. He and Yoon, the DOP are from Korea and studied film at Confederation College here in Thunder Bay. They, and other graduates are moving to Toronto to continue their careers in film. It was a delight to help them out.

With a solo art show in 2024 at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery (representing a region bigger than half of Europe) ideas are being sketched out on “drop sheets.” The title of the show is deliberately pompous: The Noble Death of a Poet, the title for the feature painting. This will be an allegorical work to mock our need to create, believe and spread delusions that could wreck the progress we’ve made in bettering our lives. The show will ask; why do we need so many defensive mechanisms against reality? Another large related future work is Mr. F., a depiction of a real terror. And I’m going to complete Spiral soon, a painting that offers hope for the future. The show will include sketches and drop sheets that show how the works progressed.

Detail of Spiral, Oil on Canvas
What might also appear in the show is the best of a new series where I paint children into their own paintings. I provide the canvas to the parents whose children paint the canvas. The latest is titled, River (son of local artist Candace Twance). He has more experience painting than most children, but many children can produce startling and inspiring imagery when handed the right materials and given some encouragement. Initially I wasn’t intending to make any grand statements with this series, but the juxtapositions of the imagery immediately provokes wonder and all sorts of questions. And parents love it. The kids seem thrilled – maybe a little confused. I haven't got much feedback yet. 
 And if that isn’t enough work to have on one’s plate, I’m still looking for an agent and a publisher for a number of completed books. 

Picture Books, The Chameleon Snake and Lara
Wood are looking for a publisher by year end
otherwise I'm printing them myself.
The difficulty has increased exponentially as about 80% of publishers and about half the agents don’t reply at all. Twenty years ago about 90% of the publishers replied and nearly all of the agents. Back then I got a publisher within a matter of a few months. This likely has something to do with the pandemic. Although it’s expensive to print the books myself, I really enjoy selling my books at markets and elsewhere. I’ve met the thousands of people who’ve bought my books, which is unusual for an author. This opportunity gives me great insight into what children like about my books and much more. I've learned that every time someone hands me a twenty dollar bill for a book, it’s not just a financial transaction, it’s a vote for me and making more books. From a strictly financial perspective, for me, it makes no sense to have a Canadian publisher. They print so few books, and rarely reprint books, that making a living is hard. Yet, without a publisher it’s difficult to obtain status, near impossible to get reviews, harder to get grants or to be invited to writer’s festivals. Fortunately, Canadian parents are very eager to support self-published authors, so long as the quality is there. With ten years of reading to children, talking to teachers, parents, kids and other writers, I've got some interesting views on the publishing industry in Canada, not favourable to the current status quo. 
Over the years I did hundreds of 
cartoons with varying themes    

    While playing archivist I realized I have enough imagery and cartoons to put together two more books. Both have over 130 pages laid out in the InDesign program. Hardball and Riley: The Ultimate Collection is nearly complete. Some cartoons need conclusions, editing is required and I’d like to do an original cover. Comic Gazer includes a few cartoons, lots of illustration work, sketchbook drawings, drop sheet imagery and fine art. The introduction is turning into a philosophical exploration of the functions and motivations behind what I do, along with my take on issues in the art world.    

    And if all the above isn’t enough, I completed my first script a few months ago for the first episode of a serialized episodic science fiction, a three season series called E.R.S.. I hope to talk soon with a couple agents in the U.S. First, I have to do some architectural drawing and plot mapping to fully convince an agent, and hopefully a production company, that I’m not crazy.

River, depicted here, is the young
talented artist who painted the background. 
And honestly, to prove to myself that I’m not insane. To pull off a monumental project like this would require being a manager and motivator of other people. I've only done that for a few months and not very well. I'd have to read a management book and get good advice. Just thinking of the logistics for a project this size is frightening. But the ideas are so good that I have to try, otherwise I’ll always regret not doing so. The ideas for E.R.S. first formed in my head when I was fourteen years old, inspired by the threat of descending intercontinental ballistic missiles that could have potentially sent us back to the Stone Age. The themes are directly related to my art show, so the more I read related material, and work on the projects, the clearer the goals become. One project informs the other. During the pandemic I spent hours walking around parks and laying in bed building plots within plots, constructing scenes that cascade into other scenes, into threads driven by story engines to the ultimate dramatic conclusion. And similarly with the paintings. I could babble on an on about the undercurrents involved in the paintings and E.R.S., as I have done with friends, but I’ll stop here. 

Wednesday 28 July 2021


At the Valhalla and Victoria Inn, here in Thunder Bay I gave away over a hundred books to the children of evacuees from Deer Lake and Poplar Hill. As I write there are over a 117 fires in Northwestern Ontario. As much as the elders want their people to return home as soon as possible, the evacuees could be here for weeks. A variety of emergency services from all over the province have been instrumental in the evacuees welfare. With so little rain this summer the situation won't get better soon. The well from which my friends and I are watering our little community garden is down to three feet from eight feet a month ago. We're bringing water from home to compensate. Hope for rain. 

There's a new bookstore in Thunder Bay; Entershine! In the Bay/Algoma central hotspot the bookstore is sure to do well. A partnership with four owners their selection of books will quickly grow over time. It's a great place to get quality books, including mine, along with many other local authors. 

Fish is back in town! A regular participant in the Definitely Superior Art Gallery and DieActive community, Fish is a visual artist, writer, model, downhill long-boarder and provocateur. Here she has painted her long-board and made the leather strap contraption that holds her books and sundry other items. 

Saturday 12 August 2017

August: Mural Work, Portraits and Logo

Claire Douglas-Lee (Assistant/apprentice - studying at McGill)
paints leaves better than I so I have to follow her example. 

I've had to put book projects on hold while I work on a few commissions to pay the rent. I've hired an assistant so I don't fall behind. Claire, who is going to her first year at McGill will be leaving me at the end of the month to study politics and international studies. She's hoping to work overseas for an NGO. I didn't know she could paint! I set her up to paint leaves and now I have to adjust my style and match her unique approach.
     Bille, from Thailand is working as a lab technician in town till the end of the month before she heads back to Thailand. She posed for an oil painting. I made her cheeks a bit fat so I'll have to rework the painting. It was great that she had the time to pose for a live portrait.
     This month I received a wonderful compliment from a woman in Woodstock, Ontario. She got a tattoo to celebrate her three children, one who loves The Boy from the Sun. Mother and son have read it "a hundred times" and are still reading. 
Promoting and selling books at the Westfort St. Fair
     Writer, Gleb Raygorodetsky has asked for a logo for his book, Archipelago of Hope. I'm working to get a number of themes represented in the logo. No small task. More updates to follow this month. Back to selling books at the Country Market, a new street fair in Fort William and the Westfort Street Fair at the end of the month. READ ABOUT MY WORK IN FRENCH. CBC RADIO INTERVIEW.
Visitor to the Country Market gets a free book!

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Current Works

Afro Vinyl - Oil on board a 4'c8' sheet -
 hair soon to be filled with vinyl discs. 

This July continues to be active. I had fun painting this 4' x 8' tall board for the Waverly Library in Thunder Bay. Interviewed by the library: HERE. A Lakehead University Engineering student named Bobbi posed. She has braids, but was okay with the oversized afro to mimic a Chicago Library work. Our librarians used the idea to promote their "new" vinyl collection. The afro will be filled with vinyl discs.

Ocean Guard at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery
My last painting is hanging at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery for a show called, The Perspective From Here: 150 Artists from the North. It's nine feet long, so my biggest canvas yet. The show wonderfully represents both past and current artists from Northwestern Ontario.
Read Article HERE
Commissions are coming - it helps to have a gallery/studio (118 Cumberland). I completed the cover for a dice throwing game, Vault Assault, for its box.
Calmly laying on a rock in the painting on the lefts is a Hollywood damsel who is not in so much distress in a storm. (Storm in the sky yet to be painted). The painting is a metaphor/allegory so realism is not required. I had fun creating waves that you wouldn't see in nature. A little guy will be featured in the background of the painting, working with a few wires. And a panel will have popped open on the side of the rock.
Read about my work in French.

Friday 9 September 2016

New Works, literary and visual

Temporary cover design for book. 
The images help me to edit text down to the basics. 
I've been working on first drafts for two middle reader novels, a novel for adults and a number of visual arts projects. All have been slowed down as I've taken on a couple paid commissions and am busy setting up a gallery space, vendors booth and all the necessary promotional work for them both. (Special thanks again to Ahti Tolvanen for use of his space! I wouldn't be getting all this work done without his help.) Which work gets attention at any one time depends on my mood and ability to focus on a project – the number of free days I can afford and probably a bunch of other factors. I can't leave a project for too long or it takes a couple days to re-familiarize myself with it. There are benefits to leaving a project aside for a while. Time can give a writer/visual artist a fresh pair of eyes to work with. A number of times I've made major changes because the thing I was originally dedicated to doesn't seem so worthy any more or in a couple cases, I decided I needed a more interesting character for a story. Or that the hand is too big in a painting. That sort of thing. I'm not worried about a project taking a long time. But I do worry that I'm not taken seriously because I'm slow to produce a work. However I already have a number of completed works looking for a publisher so there's no rush.
Dr. Yes tries out new foods outside of the International Fast Food Restaurant.
     With the use of a studio/gallery space (118 Cumberland St. S.) and a quiet apartment in which to focus on writing I'm in the unique position of being able to balance painting and writing as a full time writer/artist. (Special Thanks to Ahti Tolvanen!) 
    I've been asked to show at two local restaurants, which is perfect timing for me as I'm trying to complete a couple larger paintings and start a couple more paintings in new styles.  Article link:   
Fire Fish. Oil on Canvas. 3'x3' $750.00
$750.00  Duncan Weller

Monday 9 May 2016

Writing in Finland

My wonderful host, Anna,
checks her phone.
Writing in Vihti, Finland
     I'm hold up in a cabin in the wood care of the Tolvanens. My father knew Ahti Tolvanen years ago when they both taught at Lakehead University. I met Ahti through my friend Anna who I came to visit in Helsinki. Anna is moving to Oulu when she returns from Singapore.  I had a chance to see her  and a bit of Lapland and the Arctic Circle. We also travelled to St. Petersburg to visit the city and stroll around the Hermitage museum, which was larger than I expected. Anna, as of this writing, is in Bali on vacation with a friend. I plan to stay here at the cabin for a while longer. The next stop is either Holland or Spain.
Meeting with Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin, one of Finland's top
 children's book illustrators, now retired.
Northern lights in Oulu, Finland.
Cindy, the house cat.
In the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, standing in front of Danae by Rembrandt. 
Anna at the Hermitage.
Giving a talk and reading my books to
children at a Finnish International
School in Vantaa.
At Caisa conference room to attend meeting
with a presentation by Sandi Boucher.
Host Ahti Tolvanen.
Members of different political parties attend. 
So my mission right now is to complete several projects and find an agent or agents to represent me in order to procure a publisher in the United States or Europe. I had a publisher in Canada, but because a Canadian bestseller is considered only 5,000 copies it made sense to try my hand at self-publishing for a while. That went far better than I expected. I was earning a profit of eleven to twenty dollars per book after the printing costs were paid, which didn't take long, due to the wonderful support of the citizens of Thunder Bay. I spent $50,000 in three years printing four books. However, I'm not making a professional wage and for that I need a better publisher with wider distribution. So, here I am in Finland cleaning up a couple projects and starting a couple new works. The surroundings are immensely inspiring. Ideas come to me while I'm doing yard work, housework, canoeing, or when sitting in front of the fireplace. I've been incredibly productive and feeling great, although I feel a little like I've abandoned my home town, family, friends and others. So at some point I'll have to regroup in Thunder Bay. 

Monday 30 November 2015

The Boy from the Sun: Expanded Edition –Second Printing

The Boy from the Sun is selling like hotcakes. Thank you Thunder Bay! In the last three months I've recovered 20 percent of the printing cost! A record for me and it means every dollar I invest eventually quadruples. And every new book I print gives me more selling opportunities and new markets. It doesn't make me rich, but it keeps me self employed as a full time artist, which is rare in these parts. I had 2,000 of 5,000 books delivered. The plan is to sell the rest in other cities. So later this year I will buy a vehicle for the first time in my life to take the books on the road beginning with Winnipeg.

Friday 6 November 2015

AMA: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade

I met Manu Herbstein in Accra, Ghana in 2012 and one of the discussions we had was of our difficulties with the publishing industry in our respective countries. The link HERE is where you can order his book and has a brief description of Manu's current troubles. AMA: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, is a great story and well-researched novel which won the 2002 Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book. 

The description below is provided by Daniel Musiitwa 
The story is set in the west coast of Africa, where Ama (or Nandzi as she is then known) lives. After her village is ransacked, and hundreds of her kinsmen are shipped off to slavery, Ama is left alone to care for her baby brother. Life turns even uglier when she is later captured, raped and enslaved. Although she manages to escape the first time, she is recaptured. We follow her journey into slavery, as she is transferred from one group to another, eventually ending up onboard an English slave ship, where she unsuccessfully tries to instigate a rebellion.  Ama, as she is now known after being renamed by her slave masters, is shipped to Brazil, where along with other slaves, she starts a new life working long, back-breaking hours and suffering humiliation. Still her spirit never breaks, and Ama refuses to see herself as a slave. 

Ama has been taught at several U. S. universities including Harvard (Prof. Emmanuel Akyeampong), East Carolina University (Prof. Kenneth Wilburn), Carleton College (Prof. Martin Klein, University of Toronto) and Boston University (Prof. Heidi Gengenbach, University of Massachusetts). This fall Prof. Rebecca Shumway is teaching it at the College of Charleston in a HIST 361-02 course entitled West Africa in the Era of the Slave Trade.

Reviews: "A book written with tremendous moral passion about a monstrous episode in human history." The Right Reverend Bishop Richard Holloway, Chairperson for the pan-Commonwealth judging panel, author and former Bishop of Edinburgh.

"A monumental work, epic in scope and design, and clearly the result of extensive research, which has been skilfully woven into an enchanting narrative. This panoramic story, with its vividly realised characters and heroic action, restores the ancient link between history and literature." Africa Book Centre, London

"Ama is a story of struggle, resistance and inner strength. Great attention is paid to detail and the descriptions are atmospheric and sensual . . .this is a notable debut which amply deserves its recognition, in particular because of the deep research which underlies the text." Rayda Jacobs, Rapport (South Africa) 29/06/02

Friday 19 June 2015

Gifts from Finland!: The Beautiful Illustrations of Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin

I contacted an illustrator in Finland whose work once appeared in Canada in a collection of stories called the Kalevala. We exchanged a few emails and Pirkko-Liisa was very helpful with information regarding the industry. We agreed to exchange books, and to my delight she sent me five book that she illustrated. Her work is beautiful, and very inspiring, but sadly she has retired from the industry a few years ago finding a new love: gardening.

Saturday 23 May 2015

The Ugg Lives! Dr. Yes, and Book Stand

Christopher Rantala made wonderful bookstands for me and Summer Havelin did an amazing job creating two stuffed Uggs, along with a surprise Fimo version of Dr Yes, both from the Ugg and the Drip. Both commissions were created for promotional purposes. Thanks!! They look great! The kids love them.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Giving Back: Big Book Giveaway at 3 different schools in Thunder Bay.

To give back to Thunder Bay for all the public's support of my endeavours as a self-published author I wanted to give away 300 books to kids across the city. About 260 + children each received their choice of one of three of my self-published picture books in the last month. And last year I gave away 90 books in Surrey, B.C. In T. Bay, I visited three different schools. The best reaction came  from kids who asked me, "Can I take this home?" When I said yes, they were either thrilled or stunned. The response from the principals, teachers and the kids was fantastic. I did get paid for the readings, which basically covered the printing costs of the books, but the fun and excitement generated was what it was all about.
The photos above were taken last week at Ecole Catholique Franco-Superieur, in grades 4 and 5. At Ogden School kids in 2nd and 3rd grades got books. I did readings in two sessions. During the second reading the teachers were whispering and talking in the halls. They apologized for the distraction as it turned out that Ogden was in lockdown mode informed that a "shooter" (man with a gun) had  left Intercity Mall which was evacuated. The teachers and staff handled everything very professionally and quickly. A group of children waited in the library for their parents, a few distracted by the books they just received. The man with the gun was soon after arrested without incident. 
     At St. Martins (photos below) in Westfort I did the reading in the gymnasium to 88 kids who all got books.

I also talked a little about how the stories were created, the underlying meanings, and what it's like to work as a freelancer and self-employed person. The children had lots of questions and were very attentive. There are always a few good insights and I get a few good laughs from the unpredictable responses, questions and interpretations. Thanks to all involved. It was a blast. I might do more come September. Please contact me if you think your school might be interested. Thanks!