Off The Page, with Adrian Forrow

Off the Page is a regular interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. Recently we spoke with Adrian Forrow, who won his very first National Magazine Award in 2016, winning the Gold Medal in Illustration for his series of illustrations featured alongside the article “My Prescribed Life” (The Walrus). The story is a memoir about the longstanding link between mental health and prescription dependency, and it also received an Honourable Mention for Best Health & Medicine article.

NMAF: As splashes of colour that break up pages otherwise saturated by text, magazine illustrations give the reader a welcomed break, a moment’s pause before they jump back into reading. What do you think the role of an illustration is for people reading magazine articles?

Adrian: The role of editorial Illustration should be additive. It should help set the mood of the forthcoming text. The image can help evoke visual interest and transport the reader to a place where ideas and understanding intersect.

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NMAF: What details do you need before you can properly begin your creative, designing process? Are there certain elements or information that your client or partner needs to relay, in order for you to develop your concept?

Adrian: What I find that works best for me is to receive the brief and the text and really absorb the core idea before putting pen to paper. Once I feel I have a grasp of the idea, I might discuss the tone of the imagery that I feel is best for the article. This is where collaboration can happen with the art director and it’s a great way to help inform your imagery. I try not to think about the imagery at this stage–just the mood, atmosphere and tone of the picture.

The other detail that is critical for my process is the dimensions of the image. It’s really important for me to consider the whole compositional area. The dimension can ignite my conceptual approach and really make the art feel customized to the space available.

NMAF: You won Gold in Illustration at last year’s National Magazine Awards for your pieces featured in a memoir called “My Prescribed Life.” The story, published in The Walrus, discussed the link between the author’s mental illness and related dependence on medication. How did the subject matter of the memoir influence your creative conceptualization for the piece? How did you decide what tone would be most appropriate?

Adrian: This was a great article and so interesting. It was a delicate and somewhat saddening topic. I knew the colours were going to be really important. I didn’t want to do what was expected. I knew I had to take an approach that might have to be more ambiguous and surreal.

I didn’t want to use this illustration to summarize or define the problem. Instead my intent was to ask a question or pose a contemplative composition so the viewer would be left to decipher the visual symbols that I included.

The colours were mostly primary and that helped carry the idea of youth and aging. The colours also helped to create a surreal or even jarring feeling in relation to the content. The goal was for the colours and composition to carry ideas about an altered state of reality.

NMAF: Your Gold win last year was also your first time being recognized by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. How does winning awards for your illustration work help you, on both a personal and professional level?

Adrian: It feels great to know that my work is being received and appreciated within the industry. Personally, it helps to motivate me to keep developing my skills as a visual communicator. Professionally, it helps to open doors and possibilities for new and exciting opportunities.

NMAF: Your work has adorned coffee cups, been part of the creative for major music festivals and has been made larger-than-life by outdoor mural installations. Your work has also appeared in magazines, including The New Yorker, Corporate Knights and The Walrus. As an illustrator, what types of creative collaborations do you like to pursue? Do you try to not limit yourself to any one medium?

Adrian: I feel that in many ways I am just getting started. I have so many ideas and desires to push what I can do. The best thing about my profession is the variety it offers. One day I’m drawing a coffee cup, the next day I’m painting a huge outdoor mural. Variety is the spice of life, so I try to be diverse in the projects I take on.

I also love the collaborative process and making things that fulfill a need or desire. I have always experimented with different approaches and tools for making images.  I think it helps my clients see different possibilities and vary their experiences with illustration.

As of now, I have been collaborating with Warby Parker for a new store mural which I am really excited to share with people. I have also been collaborating with Keilhauer to make some artful promotional products.


Adrian Forrow is a National Magazine Award-winning illustrator whose work has been published in The Walrus, Corporate Knights, Canadian Running & Cycling Magazine and The New Yorker. His debut National Magazine Award was the Gold Medal in Best Illustration, for his series of illustrations featured in The Walrus memoir, “My Prescribed Life“. 

Check out his work at www.adrianforrow.com.

Read more Off the Page interviews with National Magazine Award-winning illustrators including Gracia Lam, Hudson ChristieByron Eggenscwhiler, Roxanna Bikadoroff, Jillian Tamaki and Selena Wong. 


Submissions to the 40th Anniversary National Magazine Awards
The 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards are open for submissions until January 20, including awards for Illustration and for Best New Magazine Illustrator.
Enter at magazine-awards.com.

In alternate years, the NMAF presents distinct awards for Best New Magazine Illustrator and Best New Magazine Photographer. For this year’s 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards, the Best New Visual Creator award will go to an illustrator whose early work in magazines shows the highest degree of craft and promise.

Read more about the Best New Creators Awards here.

Off the Page, with Richard Kelly Kemick


Off the Page is a regular interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. Recently we caught up with Richard Kelly Kemick, who was nominated for 2 National Magazine Awards in 2016–winning the Gold Medal in One of a Kind for his story “Playing God” (The Walrus), a reflection on his singular obsession with building Christmas villages. The story also won him a nomination for Canada’s Best New Magazine Writer.

NMAF: “Playing God,” your story that won Gold in the One of a Kind category at last year’s NMAs, was developed at the Banff Centre for Literary Journalism. Can you describe your experience there, and how this somewhat unconventional idea was developed into an award-winning magazine story. 

Richard: During my month at the Banff Centre––as every tagline on their website attests––I worked alongside some of the best editors and writers in the business (Ian Brown, Victor Dwyer, Charlotte Gill, to say nothing of the exceptional participants I was writing alongside). What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how affirming it would be for me as a writer. 

As I’m sure we all do, I wrestle a lot with insecurity and mediocrity. Banff’s LJ program placed me an environment where I had a month to only write, read, and sit in Michael Lista’s room to watch The Bachelor (he forced us to watch, like, every episode with him). It was an environment which told me––day after day for a month––that as long as I’m writing, I am a writer.

Anytime I get an opportunity to work with an editor, it’s an absolute privilege. The “Playing God” piece was edited, edited, kicked around, and edited again. And while I came to develop a profound hate for the Track Changes bubbles on a word document, my editor, Victor, took the piece from the ramblings of a limp-wristed despot into something with form, narrative, and an actual arc. 

NMAF: More recently, your debut collection of poetry, Caribou Run was included in this year’s CBC must-read poetry list. How is recognition — from the NMAF and other organizations — significant to you and your work? 

Richard: The CBC list was bizarre. I had no warning; I received an email from my publisher with the link and a note saying “this better translate into book sales” (just kidding, they’re incredibly supportive). It was a very rewarding surprise, just like the NMA. 

These types of recognition are indeed significant. So much of what we do as writers is sit at a desk and clack away in an isolation the rest of the world would refer to as cruel and unusual punishment. (If you’re lucky, you’ll have a dog to aid you through this.) Any recognition that someone has actually read your work and––god forbid––actually enjoyed it is inexpressibly quenching. 

On the other hand, however, I don’t want to think that recognition objectively signifies quality. There were poetry collections which were far stronger than mine but not included on the CBC list. Same goes for the NMA. A writer once told me that saying you “deserved” to win an award is like saying you “deserved” to win the lottery because you played the numbers well. (That writer was Michael Lista and it was on a commercial break of The Bachelor.)  

Rewards are fantastic; anybody who says otherwise is either lying or Buddha. But it’s boom/bust. I was on the boom for a bit. Now is the bust. And I’m finding it hard not to become petty, jealous, and focused on recognition instead of the writing. But I’m trying to work against that, work through it. Because I think there is a name for writers, and the writing they produce, who are like that: fucked.  

NMAF: Robert Moore, English professor at the University of New Brunswick, recently wrote a piece for The Walrus questioning the future of poetry as an art form. In Adam Kirsch’s review of The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner, he claims poetry is “the site and source of disappointed hope.” He adds acclaimed poet Marianne Moore’s famous line “I, too, dislike it,” in reference to the craft. You’ve just published your first collection. What inspires you to write poetry? 

Richard: As a poet, the perpetual death of poetry is my favourite topic. Yes, poetry now panhandles in the literary ghetto––neighbouring junk mail and the academic essay. Yes, poems gather more dust than acclaim. Yes, when I write “Poet” on credit card applications I all but assure rejection. 

I think, however, that this apocalyptic setting is what enables Canadian poetry to be so exciting right now. We have an environment which produces writing, not writers. The pinnacle of this is when writers have brilliant collections (Michael Prior’s Model Disciple, anyone?) without floating off into the ether of poisonous pomp. Because the stakes are hedged, there is a democratizing force in contemporary Canadian poetry, a force which I’m not sure exists in any other commercial genre, a force in which free-verse upstarts and seasoned sonneteers are working within the same circles. Yes, there are politics within the CanPoetry community––just like anywhere. But at least we have the decency to wage our wars in divisive Facebook threads, rather than at the Giller’s or, for example, in a wildly offensive open letter. 

I started writing poetry (and still do) because I wanted to be a better writer. Poetry––for my money––is the genre that best develops your craft. The attention to language is merciless, and if you can make fourteen lines of ten syllables each tell a story, think of what you can do with some elbow room!

Richard Kelly Kemick accepts the award for One of a Kind at the 2016 National Magazine Awards gala.
Richard Kelly Kemick accepts the award for One of a Kind at the 2016 National Magazine Awards gala.

NMAF: Much of your work centres around animals. How does your love for animals influence your writing, and what inspired the theme of caribou migration in your latest collection? 

Richard: I write about animals because I’m unable to convey actual human emotion. Animals provide a healthy alternative. Like, if you’ve got a character that is unlovable but you want to make him lovable but you don’t know how–give him a dog. Then name that dog Maisy. Then let Maisy fool a woman, preferably a public school teacher because of the job security, into a long-term relationship. Then feel safe and loved and statistically unlikely to now die alone as you work on your poems all day, drinking coffee from small cups as your wife toils in a grade one classroom, with Maisy curled at your feet.

The caribou idea was just that I thought the migration was pretty rad and already had poetic elements within it. Four years later (which is about a third of a male caribou’s life), a book! Aim for the stars, kids. 

NMAF: Your writing ranges from fiction to nonfiction, poetry to prose — do you have a favourite form? And, if you can tell us, what can we expect to see from you next?

Richard: I don’t have a favourite form. I consider forms like my children: they all disappoint me for different reasons. 

I’ve currently got a collection of non-fiction essays (one of which is the piece that won the NMA) under consideration. I’ve also got a collection of short stories that was turned down for publication, but I’ve since been working on it and hope to submit again soon. 

I’m trying to view rejection as an opportunity for me to make the work better. In five, twenty, or a hundred years (I plan to live forever), I know I won’t mind having been delayed in publishing a collection of short stories, but I will mind if those stories are shitty. I’m not saying that every rejection a publisher makes is sound; but in this individual case, the rejection has given me the clarity to realize that I can make the stories stronger and (after I’d cried myself dry and drank myself wet) I’m trying to do that. 


Richard Kelly Kemick is a National Magazine Award-winning writer whose work has been published in The Walrus, The Fiddlehead, Maisonneuve and Tin House. His debut collection of poetry, Caribou Run, (2016, Goose Lane Editions) follows the Porcupine caribou herd through their annual migration, the largest overland migration in the world. Caribou Run was included as a one of CBC’s fifteen must-read poetry collections. Follow him on Twitter @RichardKemick.

Special thanks to Krista Robinson for her reporting on this interview with Richard.

Check out more Off the Page interviews with National Magazine Award-winning writers like Emily Urquhart, J.B. MacKinnon, Heather O’Neill and more.


The 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards are now accepting submissions for the best work in 2016. Deadline for entries: January 20. Submit now.

NMA 2015 Nominees: Top 7 Canadian Magazine Illustrations

Canada’s National Magazine Awards will be presented on June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto, and among the prizes to be bestowed is the award for best Illustration or Photo Illustration. The finalists were announced on May 4 and include a great mix of first-time nominees and previous award winners.
The Gold and Silver winners will be revealed at the National Magazine Awards gala on June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. [Tickets & Gala Info].
And the nominees for Illustration & Photo Illustration are…
Gérard DuBois
Gerard is a 3-time National Magazine Award winner, most recently in 2012 for Spot Illustration, and also designed the cover art for the 31st annual National Magazine Awards in 2008.

Gérard DuBois
Learning to Fish
CPA Magazine

Raymond Biesinger
Raymond has previously been nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards for work in The Walrus, Alberta Views and Report on Small Business. This year he won 2 nominations: one for a cover illustration in Precedent, which is also nominated for Best Cover at this year’s Kenneth R. Wilson Awards; and the second which appeared in Reader’s Digest.

Raymond Biesinger
The Well-Oiled Machine
Precedent

Raymond Biesinger
Stop Shouting!
Reader’s Digest

Pascal Blanchet
Pascal won the 2010 National Magazine Award Gold Medal for illustration, for artwork published in enRoute, and is nominated this year for a cover illustration in the literary magazine Taddle Creek.

Pascal Blanchet
The Orphan
Taddle Creek

Byron Eggenschwiler
Byron is a 5-time National Magazine Award winner. As a rising star in magazine illustration, he won the 2008 National Magazine Award for Best New Visual Creator. Read our interview with Byron in which he talked about the process of creating illustrations for magazine stories.

Byron Eggenschwiler
Best Shot
The Walrus

Min Gyo Chung
Min Gyo is an emerging talent in magazine illustration who is also nominated this year for the award for Best New Illustrator or Photographer for artwork in Corporate Knights. This is his first National Magazine Award nomination.

Min Gyo Chung
Expos Nation
The Walrus

Melinda Josie
Melinda is another rising talent in Canadian magazines and one of three nominees this year whose work is published in The Walrus. This is her first National Magazine Award nomination.

Melinda Josie
Who Will Water The Wallflowers?
The Walrus


Who do you think is most worthy of this award? Leave us a comment or tell us on Twitter: @MagAwards | #NMA15.
You can view the complete articles of all National Magazine Awards nominees at magazine-awards.com.
Tickets are on sale for the 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala, Friday June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto.

NMA 2015 Nominees: Top 5 Photojournalists in Canadian Magazines

Earlier this month the NMAF announced the nominees for the 38th annual National Magazine Awards, including 5 finalists for the award for Photojournalism & Photo Essay, sponsored by CNW Group & Media Vantage.
This year’s shortlist includes intrepid photojournalistic pursuits in Southern Ontario‘s wine country (Prince Edward County), France‘s brandy country (Cognac), British Columbia‘s sulphur hot springs (Liard River), a Northern Ontario Cree community (Attawapiskat), and a German reconstruction of traditional Amerindian life.
The Gold and Silver winners will be unveiled at the National Magazine Awards gala on June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. [Tickets & Gala Info].
And the nominees for Photojournalism & Photo Essay are…

John Cullen
At an Escargot’s Pace
enRoute

Jen Osborne
Der Indianer
Geist

Eamon MacMahon
Liard River
Maclean’s

Jessica Darmanin
Prince Edward County
Maclean’s

Larry Towell
In Attawapiskat
The Walrus

Who do you think is most worthy of this award?
Leave us a comment or tell us on Twitter: @MagAwards | #NMA15.
You can view the complete articles of all National Magazine Awards nominees at magazine-awards.com.
Tickets are on sale for the 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala, Friday June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto.

NMA 2015 Nominees: Top 5 Spot Illustrations in Canadian Magazines

Canadian magazine creators and readers are getting excited to see who will win this year’s National Magazine Awards, happening on June 5. The nominees have been announced and this year’s jury has nominated 5 finalists for the award for Spot Illustration. The Gold and Silver winners will be announced at the 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 5 in Toronto.  [Tickets & Gala Info].

Here’s a look at the five nominees for Spot Illustration this year:
Byron Eggenschwiler
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Byron Eggenschwiler is a five-time National Award-winning illustrator, with three Golds and two Silvers, along with four Honourable Mentions. His work has appeared in Swerve, Maisonneuve, Cottage Life, Canadian Business, Up Here and other Canadian magazines.
This year his illustration that accompanied the story “Up, Up and Away” in the May 2014 issue of Cottage Life has earned him a nomination. Byron’s illustration supports the story of how highway passages are protecting animals from busy roadways.
And check out our Off the Page interview with Byron in which he chats about the career of a magazine illustrator.
Patrick Doyon
Although this is Patrick’s first time being nominated for a National Magazine Award, his artistic abilities have been internationally recognized, as his animated film, Dimanche, was nominated in 2011 for an Academy Award for animated short film.
This year, his illustration which appeared in the August 2014 edition of Maisonneuve magazine, accompanying the “Letters From Montreal” page, has been nominated. The story told the experience of a woman who had moved to Montreal, the city where Patrick is based. He actively works with both animation and illustration.
Gerard DuBois
Gerard has received three Honourable Mentions from the National Magazine Awards for his illustrations. His clients include the New York Times, the New Yorker, Globe and Mail, L’Actualité and many more established publications and has won many awards over his career.
This illustration appeared in the July 2014 issue of L’Actualité magazine, accompanying a story that was written in response to a book titled, 1 kilo de la culture générale, which speaks about a shift in cultural norms. His sophisticated spot illustration mimics the tone of the story, as the artwork is reminiscent of a traditional oil painting.

Sébastien Thibault
This is Sebastien’s first nomination for a National Magazine Award, but his work has appeared in many major publications, such as the New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde and Wired magazine. His work has appeared internationally, in countries like Australia, Italy and Germany.
His spot illustration was featured in the November 2014 issue of The Walrus, accompanying a story about Naomi Klein’s research into climate change. The story brings attention to the link between climate change and capitalism, which Sebastien’s spot illustration clearly exudes.

Joren Cull
Joren’s illustrations appear a staggering seven times in the May 2014 issue of The Walrus. Joren has also worked with many other esteemed publications, such as the New York Times, The Guardian, Readers Digest and the Globe and Mail. He has also illustrated the front cover of National Magazine Award-winning magazine, The Feathertale Review.
Accompanying a variety of pages, including the contributors, letters and editor’s note pages, his work is clearly distinct among the glossy pages.
Do you have any predictions on who will win Gold?
Tweet: My top @MagAwards nominated Spot Illustration is... http://ctt.ec/u4tZe+ #NMA15Tweet us your favourite #NMA15 nominee for Spot Illustration.
At last year’s awards gala, the spot illustration category experienced unprecedented results, as both the Gold and Silver awards were presented to first-time winner, Gracia Lam. You can read our interview Gracia in which she talks to us all about the Spot Illustration’s special place in magazines, part of our Off the Page series on the NMAF blog.
You can view the complete articles of all National Magazine Awards nominees at magazine-awards.com
Tickets are on sale for the 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala, Friday June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto.
See more 2015 National Magazine Awards Nominees.