Why Walter Scott created a humourous comic about art, anxiety and coming-of-age
Walter Scott is a Kahnawá:ke-born artist who lives in Toronto. He is the creator of the Wendy comic book series.
In the most recent Wendy comic, Wendy, Master of Art, Wendy is a serious art student at the University of Hell in a small Ontario town. As she works toward her Master Fine Arts, Wendy confronts her ever-ballooning insecurities, fears and doubts with therapy, excessive drinking and partying.
He's published two other Wendy books, including Wendy's Revenge, and has appeared in The New Yorker and the Best American Comics anthology. You can watch Scott discuss his work on CBC Arts's In the Making on CBC Gem.
Scott spoke to Shelagh Rogers about Wendy, Master of Art.
Walter inspired Wendy
"It would be untrue to say that Wendy isn't inspired by my own adventures or misadventures. I went to the University of Guelph, I applied for a master's program. I got in and I went there in 2016. I was drawing comics a lot, releasing books and stuff. There's this whole other aspect of my art practice, like sculpture and drawings and even a little bit of painting. So I mostly put drawing Wendy aside to go to grad school and focus on more on the sculptural part of my art practice. The new book, Master of Art,, emerged from that experience.
It would be untrue to say that Wendy isn't inspired by my own adventures or misadventures.
"The joy of making these fictional art practices is that they could also be real. They're made up, but they're not that far from the truth. And I like that fuzzy sort of in between reality and fiction."
The origin of Wendy
"I drew her on a placemat, when my friend and I went to brunch. You're hungover and at that point, I had graduated from my undergrad. I had been out in the world for a few years. I had been trying to make this like Capital 'A' art that I thought would be appropriate for a gallery. I didn't understand how the art world worked. I thought that I needed to dumb myself down or create things that were obscure on purpose or austere. The pressure of always trying to do that brought me to this point where I was like, 'I'm just going to draw the stupidest, funniest, dumbest thing possible.' I didn't think of it as my art.
I was like, 'I'm just going to draw the stupidest, funniest, dumbest thing possible.'
"Then I posted on Facebook and Facebook likes are addictive. I basically started posting Wendy stuff on Facebook for laughs. Then somebody said, 'If you made a whole book of this, I would buy it.' That was interesting, the idea that you could get a little bit of coin for your dumb drawings. I ended up making a 60 page full-length Wendy book. I sold it at Expozine in Montreal for eight dollars. People came out and bought it and it was because they had seen it on the Internet. It felt nice actually to feel like people went there and said, I came here just to get your book."
The serious art world
"The irony and the continuing punchline in the book is that nobody really knows what Wendy actually does. I want to keep her like an every person. I want to keep it vague. The reason why she hasn't quit is maybe the reason why none of us have quit so far, which is because we all have this strange desire to keep doing it no matter what it is.
I feel like to tell an interesting story in the art world, the characters kind of have to be human.
"I try to not limit myself to one medium. I like I make sculpture, I make drawings, I do some performance and I make comic books. I think it is serious art in the sense that if somebody takes me seriously as an artist, they'll look at it in relation to the other stuff that I do. It's all related and you get a little piece of the puzzle from one medium that you might not immediately get from the other. That for me is an attempt for it to all make sense together. And that's like an unfolding journey, I guess, of me trying to make sense of myself or my own experiences.
"To tell an interesting story in the art world, the characters kind of have to be human. It's about the art world, but it's important that the story is also about the people in the story."
What's next for Wendy?
"Where's Wendy going to go next? It's a good question. I like to know if panels are big enough for the kinds of social distancing I might have to draw. It's interesting to think about — when I'm ready to write the next one — where we might be, in a climate where the world might be. How do you not talk about that? How does Wendy deal with that? It's related to how I might deal with it or how I am dealing with it."
Walter Scott's comments have been edited for length and clarity.