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Edmonton, Canada

Oh, Man! I’ve got so much blog catch-up to do!

Today I’ll travel back a couple of months to my trip to Edmonton, Canada. I was invited there by the Royal Alberta Museum via some kind words from my friend, comics artist Ken Steacy. The Royal Alberta Museum was hosting an exhibition from Paris on the historic perception of dragons all around the world. To support the show, the museum invited speakers of a variety of disciplines relating to dragons. My slide lecture was entitled “Painting Dragons in Their Natural Habitat”.

My talk primarily consisted of images of fantasy art I had created over the past forty years. The end of the lecture was a step-by-step series of slides (does anyone out there remember slides?) showing the process and development involved in the execution of two dragon pictures. They were identical in design and content, but one was an oil painting, the other an ink & watercolor illustration.

I was really pleased to see that my friends Eva & Phil Currie showed up for my talk. Phil is one of the most important paleontologists in the world as well as being a fellow fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His wife Eva is as smart as she is beautiful, which means she’s very smart indeed.

My talk went over very well and I’ve been asked to return in the near future. I have agreed — primarily because of how amazingly I was treated by the Royal Alberta Museum and its staff and because Edmonton is one of the best kept travel secrets in the world. I’d like to talk about both factors.

Prior to my arriving in Edmonton I received a series of enthusiastic e-mails from Chris Robinson, the Director of Communications, Marketing & Education for the Royal Alberta Museum. Chris was outstanding in his organization, making sure all of the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed. He facilitated getting me everything I needed for my presentation, including a slide projector (which is no easy feat in today’s world of PowerPoint).

I researched Edmonton prior to my arrival and discovered that if you’re a music fan, there’s probably no better place to be during the summer. I’d swear that they have a music festival for a different kind of music every week there. The weekend I was there they were hosting the Edmonton Folk Festival. I expressed a wish in an e-mail to Chris that I’d like to fly in a day early and visit the festival. I had no idea that the Edmonton Folk Festival sells out very far in advance.

Nevertheless, when I arrived at my hotel, there was a ticket for that evening waiting for me from Chris. Chris had even given me a map and instructions on how to get there. After my plane trip I felt like walking. It was a decent walk but I got to see a lot of Edmonton on foot both that day and on subsequent days. Edmonton is a beautiful city. I especially liked the architecture and sculpture of the government buildings.

The festival itself was far beyond what I thought it would be. There were seven stages with acts performing simultaneously on all of the stages. The largest stage was reserved for the major headliners. There was a food court with a great variety of local and international foods and, being Canada, naturally there was a beer garden. I enjoyed several pints of some outstanding local brews. I was invited to sit, eat and drink with complete strangers. If you don’t know this already, Canadians have a worldwide reputation of being the most polite people on the planet. My festival experience bore that out. Another couple invited me to sit with them on their tarp (you reserve your spot on the grassy hill facing the main stage by laying a tarp down). I watched all of that night’s headliners with them, including Jonny Lang (in addition to folk, there was world music, blues, reggae, zydeco, cajun music, Celtic music and much, much more). I plan to return to the Edmonton Folk Festival, next time bringing my family, hopefully.

The following day I visited the Royal Alberta Museum (first class — don’t miss it!) and met its visionary Executive Director, Bruce McGillivray. Bruce invited me to his home that evening for an incredible dinner — cooked by Bruce himself. We were joined by Ken Steacy and his wife, Bruce’s wife and a couple of other family members. We shared a wonderful evening together, discussing art, science, politics and our plans and visions for the future. Bruce made an inquiry/proposal to me in regards to a future museum project. I expressed my keen enthusiasm over such a possibility. When I can talk about it, friends and fans, you’ll be the first to know what it is.

Knowing my love for comics, one afternoon Chris Robinson shuttled me (and Ken) over to an incredible comics shop (Happy Harbor) where I did a sketch for the shop and an impromptu signing.

All in all, my trip to Edmonton was one of the highlights of this year. I heartily recommend including Edmonton in your travel plans. Stay for one of their incredible music festivals and by all means visit the fine Royal Alberta Museum (and Happy Harbor comics).

Thank you, Canada!

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