Canada’s first Black Governor General. A pioneering civil rights activist from Nova Scotia. And a legendary Canadian Music Hall of Fame jazz pianist.
When Toronto Film School approached Class of 2011 Film Production alumnus Ho Che Anderson to create a special illustration in honour of Black History Month, the multi-talented graphic novelist knew just which trio of “iconic Canadians” he wanted to pay tribute to.
“I have deep love and respect for Michaëlle Jean as being Canada’s first (Black) female Governor General – a feat I have a great fear will never be repeated, at least not in my lifetime,” Anderson said of the Haitian-born journalist, who served as Canada’s 47th Governor General from 2005 to 2010.
Second on his list was Viola Desmond – the activist and businesswoman credited with jumpstarting the modern civil rights movement in Canada.
“With Viola Desmond, it’s just a matter of having deep respect for her for the stand she took in Nova Scotia back in the day,” Anderson said of the civil rights leader, who refused to leave the whites-only area of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946.
“She’s often described as Canada’s version of Rosa Parks, which is a little bit reductive, but nonetheless, if you know the stories of both women, there’s definitely some legitimacy to the comparison.”
Last but not least, Anderson chose a musician who played an integral role in the soundtrack of his childhood.
“The reason I chose Oscar Peterson is because he was a figure from my childhood. My father was a big jazz nut and he was one of many artists we had around the house,” Anderson said of the legendary jazz musicianwho won eight Grammys – including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 – over the span of his 60-year career in music.
In addition the illustration itself, Anderson also recorded a time-lapse for Toronto Film School’s ongoing How I Made This video series, which showcased his creation process.
“Doing this drawing was pretty simple – it was just a case of gathering as much photographic reference as I could online and sitting down with my iPad,” he explained, noting that he used the pencil brush tool for the illustration.
“I didn’t directly trace, I had the photographs right beside my computer, then it was just a matter of throwing lines down on the iPad and throwing some colour in there…If I’m doing a likeness, I like to kind of just be pure in my drawing and try to get it as close as possible.
“And that’s it – pretty simple and straightforward, a lot of fun to do, and a great honour.”