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Kootenay wildfire art on display at the Nelson Library

By Contributor
April 30th, 2024

Eerie wildfire smoke is just a part of the Kootenay summer experience now as illustrated by the art currently hanging on display on the Nelson Library gallery wall.

The panels are taken from the in-progress graphic novel by writer-artist Nathan Wilkinson and novelist Anne DeGrace. We Were Found in the Fires is about a rookie wildfire fighter who is processing her Doukhobor past while also encountering old-growth activists, ravers, homesteaders and other recognizable Kootenay figures on the job.

The gallery show will be a sneak peak of the forthcoming book, displaying a chapter that will be found halfway through, showing the fire crew as they are tasked with off-grid evacuation compliance.

As the illustrator of the story, Wilkinson found a way to convey the pervasiveness of the smoke: “All the art is simple monochrome, except for the yellow smoke that accumulates over the scenes as the story progresses. This show is an extract from earlier in the season, when the air is just starting to cloud over. By the climax, the images will be obscured by a thick, claustrophobic cover.”

The panel illustrations were created using an iPad and stylus, giving Wilkinson greater control over the final image.

“I always used to use ink and paper but working digitally gives way more freedom for resizing parts of a composition, or erasing mistakes without leaving marks. It’s a huge load off for an artist as obsessive as me.”

Nowadays summer smoke is part of our collective experience.

Wilkinson and DeGrace are creating stories that reflect that reality. The exhibition continues until the end of June.

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