Executive Director of the Campbell River Arts Council, Ken Blackburn (left) looks through the new graphic novel, See With Your Own Eyes: The Sybil Andrews Story, with Rotarians Tony Fantillo and Doug Phyall. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

After almost two years of delays, Sybil Andrews graphic novel launches this weekend

‘Seeing the final product here on my desk, I can tell you it’s been worth the wait’

After almost two years of research, planning, drawing, writing, editing, and fundraising, the much-anticipated Sybil Andrews graphic novel, See With Your Own Eyes: The Sybil Andrews Story, will officially finally be available to the public tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 17).

“It’s been a long slog,” says Ken Blackburn, executive director of the Campbell River Arts Council, who oversaw the novel’s production, “I can tell you it’s been worth the wait.”

Whatever Blackburn and the arts council expected when the idea to create a graphic novel came to them was absolutely not what came to pass, Blackburn says, as should be evident by the initial targeted release date: April 19, 2017.

That’s two Sybil Andrews Days ago.

“It started out fine,” Blackburn says. “Laura (Ellyn, author of the novel) came to town, holed herself up in the archives at the museum and did her research and got down to writing and drawing.”

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Unfortunately, Ellyn fell ill during the process and was unable to complete the work Thankfully, local artist Alex Witcombe was available to help out.

“We brought him in, and that guy is just a wizard,” Blackburn says. “He basically finished it by doing the colouring and the lettering and he did it quite seamlessly.”

Then the arts council filled in the gaps in the story using end notes, “which are really quite important to complete the story that’s told in the graphic part of the book,” Blackburn says.

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So what’s the story the book tells, exactly. Is it a biography, or what?

“Not exactly,” Blackburn says. “It tells the story of European modernism and Sybil’s place within that, and then it goes on to tell a great story of Campbell River’s history from about 1947 onward, although it looks backwards, too. So it’s not just Sybil’s history, but it’s Campbell River’s history and also that of modernism and the avant garde and the role of the arts within that history.”

And thanks to Daybreak Rotary, who gave the arts council $5,000 for the first print run, the book will be for sale for only $15 through the gift shop at the Museum at Campbell River and the Campbell River Arts Council, which calls Sybil Andrews Cottage in Willow Point home.

We’ll also be getting it into all the schools, literacy groups, libraries and not-for-profits around town for free,” Blackburn says.

Doug Phyall, current president of Rotary, says when they were approached to be part of the project, they were happy to hop onboard.

“Rotary has always been a big supporter of the arts in Campbell River and Sybil Andrews is known well beyond Campbell River,” Phyall says. “It’s part of our history and we can’t leave that behind.”

This Saturday’s’s official book release will take place at the Artists on Site event at the Museum at Campbell River, where local artists and artisans will be on hand selling their wares and demonstrating their art, including a linocut demonstration – Andrews’ preferred medium – by Marcy Prior, who just so happens to have learned the craft from Andrews herself. For more information, contact Blackburn at arts.council@crarts.ca or 250-923-0213.