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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Je suis Charlie

I don't think that I can ever remember a time in which I did not have any sort of art supply in my hand.

I know that in my earliest childhood years, I was always playing with crayons and scribbling all over everything that I could. 

Well, all right...I suppose when I was a kid, I did try eating a crayon or two.  With all the bright colours that crayons could be, I suppose it could be easy for a two year old to mistake them for a delicious stick of candy.  I wonder how many times it took me to brush all of that cornflower blue crayon wax off of my teeth?

Of course, crayons were cool, but pencil crayons were cooler.  I still have fond memories of colouring in colouring books with Laurentien brand coloured pencils.  Any Canadian who remembers these pencil crayons (which sadly are no longer being manufactured) knows that they were the pencil crayons with the fancy names and a number to correspond with each colour.  Well, I had used those pencil crayons so much in my childhood that I actually memorized each colour as well as the number that corresponds with them.

For the record, my five favourite colours were 5, 8, 13, 19, and 22 - otherwise known as Orchid Purple, Emerald Green, Ultramarine Blue, Cherry Red, and Sky Magenta.  And, if you're going to add in the 60 pack in that mix, I was also fond of 25, 33, and 39 (True Blue, Tangerine, Ocean Blue).

I have to admit that when it came to art supplies, I was kind of a bit of a snob in that regard.  In everything else in my life, I was hunky-dory with any brand, but for art supplies, I definitely had my preferences.

For crayons, they almost always had to be Crayola.  Although, there was a store in town called Woolworth's that made a package of 64 crayons which I felt were of higher quality than the Crayola ones.  It's a shame that Woolworth's/Woolco got bought out by another retailer whose name begins with "W", because I really did love Woolworth's crayons.

Pencil crayons had to be Laurentien.  Not because I knew the colours of them, but because they were the only pencil crayons that could withstand the force of those monstrous pencil sharpeners in the classrooms. 

Markers, on the other hand, I was more lax with.  Obviously Crayola makes an awesome marker (and I have the Crayola Marker Maker to prove that fact), but I also love markers that do more than...ahem...mark things.  Have you ever heard of Mr. Sketch markers?  I love those things!  They not only last a really long time (I still have markers that work perfectly after four years), but these markers are scented as well!  Now, some scents are absolutely wonderful.  I'm particularly partial to the raspberry, mint, mango, and grape scents myself.  On the other hand, whoever thought that black licorice would be a great scent needed to get their heads examined.  Oh well, I suppose out of a standard twelve pack, there has to be one scent that is less than special.  

And these markers are great for making posters and signs.  Just have a look at the one I just did using them.

Isn't it lovely?  Of course, I didn't use all of these colours.  I just added them in to make the sign look more beautiful.

But what does it mean?  Je suis Charlie?

Well, I'll tell you what it means.  Je suis Charlie is French for "I Am Charlie".  And, no, I haven't changed my name to Charlie.  It's actually a phrase of symbolism and a phrase of strength.  It was coined by music journalist and artist Joachim Roncin, and he posted the image seen above (the one in black and white, not the one that I just drew) immediately following the tragic events of January 7, 2015 in Paris, France.

By now, everybody in the world has heard of the Charlie Hebdo massacre which took place on that date.  A dozen people were killed at the offices of the satirical magazine by two masked gunmen.  Over the next two days, various other attacks all around Paris took place with hostage situations and shootings.  By the time the majority of they suspects were taken down, seventeen people had lost their lives and another twenty-one injured.

The reason behind the shootings?  Political cartoons - particularly the ones about Muhammad, the Islamic prophet. 

You know the ones I mean right?  In Canada, the political cartoons are splashed all over every opinion page in every newspaper.  Mostly the political cartoons in my area poke fun at the Prime Minister of Canada, or the Premier of Ontario, or whoever the major newsmaker of the week happens to be.  They can hit below the belt, but for the most part they are harmless.  I always say that artists all over the world are free to paint, or write, or illustrate whatever they want because that is how they express themselves.  If people choose to agree with an artist, they can praise them, write them a letter, or share their works with other people.  And if they don't like their stance, they have the right to ignore it, or even criticize it.

What they don't have the right to do is go on a rampage in Paris and kill every single person who has opinions that differ from theirs.

Look, I'm not the type of person who would illustrate political cartoons that potentially could insult a political leader or an entire religious group.  For one, I can't draw very well, but for another, I don't have any interest in political cartooning.  That said, I do believe that people do have the right to express themselves in whatever way they want.  And if that way just happens to involve a little controversy, so be it.  I'm sure that most of the people who died at Charlie Hebdo realized that the drawings that they were doing could potentially upset a lot of people, but they went ahead and published them anyway because they were proud of the work that they had done.

I certainly don't believe that any of the eleven people who were killed in the Charlie Hebdo offices on January 7, 2015 did anything that warranted them losing their lives at the hands of a pair of cowards who chose to use violence to express their rebuttal towards the cartoons.  And anyone who does believe that the cartoonists deserved to die that day, I simply shake my head in disgust.

That's why I drew up my own "Je suis Charlie" sign.  That's why I am posting it here.  To show support to those artists and journalists who died, not just on January 7, 2015, but over the course of modern day history.  As someone who takes pride in his own work, I certainly don't want to be told what I can and can't post because of fear of repercussions.  Not that I really post anything controversial in this blog anyway, but that's beside the point.

We should all have the right to express ourselves in whatever way we want to that does NOT HURT OR DESTROY OTHER PEOPLE IN THE PROCESS. 

Je suis Charlie.

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