Sean Karemaker: Comics and the Child Within


After work at the airport I hopped on the skytrain and headed towards downtown. I had been invited to check out an artist’s new studio and pick some drawings for the art case displays at the airport; 5:00pm on a Tuesday I think it was. It was raining as is usual on a winter night in Vancouver. I pulled my scarf up close around my neck and held my hand over my phone as I navigated with google maps, looking for the studio. I was a few minutes early so I snuck into a cute little coffee shop in a triangular shaped building and texted the artist to let him know I had arrived. My almond milk matcha latte sat steaming in front of me and I cozied up to enjoy the creature comforts offered in the city.

The Gene Cafe below Sean’s studio

A few minutes later Sean walked into the coffee shop to show me the way up to the studio. We had met once before. He wore a fedora and clothes that looked like they came either from a thrift store or his grandfathers closet. He was tall, but unassuming and soft spoken. He seemed truly pleased that I had come to see his space and his art.

The studio sat up above the coffee shop accessible via a long shady stairwell through a little doorway on the street. The stairwell and hallways were carpeted with low lights. As we walked into the studio I was greeted by several other artists. There were at least two working at desks when I arrived and one or two more dropped in while I was there. There were introductions all around. I’m terrible with names but I smiled and hoped I would recognize them again if I saw them out at an event in the city.

The time I spent with Sean was some of the most fun I’ve had talking to an artist about his art. Sean’s enthusiasm for what he does holds not a single thread of ego, but seems driven by pure passion and excitement of discovery. Twice he had me out in the hall, helping him unroll his long scroll drawings and explaining the images, inspiration and process in his calm, gentle manner. Many of his images are inspired by childhood experiences and impressions, but rather than these experiences being philosophized and filtered through IMG_3509his adult eyes, he seems to simply travel back to that time in his life as he creates. As I watched him talk about what inspired him, his manner never changed, instead he just slowed down a bit as if he was trying to interpret the way he felt then into adult language so I could understand better. The explanation wasn’t necessary though; his drawings tell the story far better than words ever could.

As he walked me back down to the street he told me one of the artists I had just met was the illustrator for Margaret Atwood’s new graphic novel. What a strange world I had dropped into! I shook my head a little and laughed at where my journey has led me. Sean seemed genuinely grateful that I had taken the time to visit his studio and look at his work. But I walked away with much more than I had come with. I smiled as I strolled back up the street in the fine mist of rain to the bus stop and felt blessed to have cross paths with another inspiring human being.



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