After working for 25 years as a technical illustrator in defence publishing and vehicle manufacture in 2011, I fell into unemployment. I picked myself up by volunteering at a neighbourhood house in North Richmond called BANH INC. I answered the phone on Mondays and that was about it. I had the occasional burst of energy but most of the time I didn’t do much actual work. I decided to get back into some drawing and began carrying a visual journal with me as I went about my daily life in North Richmond and Abbotsford. I drew some little portraits of some of the lovely women I met at Belgium Avenue and at the Community Drop-In Centre on the Nth Richmond Estate.
Jenny was very stylish. We often ate Pho on Thursday afternoons on Victoria St. I drew her two times and was fascinated by her lovely features that spoke of her dignity and her determination to succeed in life.
I met the ‘other Jenny‘ at the Thursday drop in. She had a very sweet voice and one day sang The Beatle’s song ‘If I Fell’ to me. She sang the entire song with a breathy, lilting pitch perfect sensuality. She was also a keen knitter – may possibly have been knitting while she was singing.
Nancy was originally from Indonesia and we met at lunchtime at the Neighbourhood House learning centre. I did two pictures of her and gave her one of them. If a person allows you to draw them, they are agreeing to a fair amount of scrutiny and I am truly grateful and feel it is a rare opportunity.
My memory of Hanh was she was very shy and didn’t want to sit for me. I drew this picture while sitting on the lawn outside the drop-in centre. She had stood above me for a few seconds and I had to remember what she looked like. This turns out to be a reasonable likeness. I bump into her regularly – she calls me Chi (Sister) Kerrie.
I met R-Coo on Victoria St one morning when she asked if she could take a photo of me for a photography assignment for her Arts Degree. We became friends and often met for afternoon tea at Finas near Church St where I drew this picture.
This is really about the community on the Estate. R-Coo is still in the picture but there is more going on around her now and we can see the backs of the Victoria St restaurants. I hope this drawing captures a sense of harmony and acceptance among the people who live on the estate.
I had an idea to do a series of little comics about people I had met who did extraordinary things on the Estate. I would call the comic ‘Legends of the Highrise’. This one was published in Links Magazine and created no interest whatsoever. It tells a lovely true story about a friend of mine and Michael’s garden is still there – which I believe qualifies him for legend status. Maybe people just weren’t ready for this. I sometimes think my ability with the pen is not that great and I get around it by conveying an honest, quirky beauty to the lives of people who may not have lived the Aussie dream.