White on Black Sketch #1

Fantasy landscape painted in white opaque watercolour on black paper. The composition and perspective are a little wonky because I started painting directly on the blank page (or rather black void), inventing the scene as I went along.

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Massacre at Saint-Joachim

Throughout their siege of Quebec City in the summer of 1759, the British went about systematically raiding and destroying the French settlements both upriver and downriver from the capital of New France. During one such raid on the village of Saint-Joachim on August 23, a detachment of British light infantry, American Rangers and Scottish Highlanders clashed with a group of French-Canadian habitants led by their parish priest, the 52-year-old Abbé Philippe-René Robinau de Portneuf. There are contradictory reports on what happened next, but it appears that a group of habitants, including Abbé Portneuf, were made prisoner by the British and then murdered and scalped. The number of victims is unclear, but a monument in Saint-Joachim commemorates seven dead, in addition to Portneuf. The monument also provides the ages of four of them: 48, 61, 64 and 69 years. Presumably their younger neighbours had been posted to the defense of the city of Quebec.

These pencil illustrations of the events of August 23 are extracted from the first draft of my ongoing graphic novel project recounting the siege of Quebec City and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.saintjoachim12saintjoachim23saintjoachim33

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Leonard Cohen in The Tower of Song

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Translation of a Montreal song from 1709

jean-bergerBack in 2012, I created a comic based on the lyrics of a song written in 1709 by the Montreal painter, money forger, and jailbird Jean Berger (1681-?). Jean Berger was suspected of being involved in the beating of Saint-Olive, the town apothecary, and of providing the two accused assailants with clubs and disguises. Contrary to what is affirmed in this song, which Berger wrote to mock the judicial authorities for their handling of the case, the two assailants were eventually discovered and put in prison, while Berger was condemned to be pilloried in the town square for the very act of penning the defamatory ditty. However, Berger managed to break out of his jail cell before the sentence could be carried out, and he escaped to the English colonies to the south. As for the two assailants, they also made their escape from the town’s evidently very porous prison, and slipped town in a peasant’s cart while disguised as women.

The comic appeared in a show of art inspired by Berger that was held at Concordia University’s FOFA Gallery. It is being republished today in the newsletter of Winning Writers, an online resource for poets and writers, along with my English translation of the poem, which appears below. This translation was made very quickly, and there are a few archaic French words whose meaning I had to take a guess at, but it should at least elucidate the meaning of my illustration for English readers.

Jean Berger’s Song

Gather round, young and old,
People of Ville-Marie [Montreal],
We shall now recite
This pretty song
Which we have written in this tone
The better to entertain you.

On St. Matthias’ Day,
The unfortunate Saint-Olive,
While passing in front of the hospital, ran into
Two unknown ruffians
Each of whom, with his club,
Set him dancing very much in spite of himself.

At each blow he received
This monstrous fellow
Cried out, “Messieurs, spare me
For it is very cold
And I beg your pardon,
Messieurs, have mercy on me.” Continue reading

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Interview with Arjun Chaudhuri for Teksto.in

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Teksto.in is a new online news, information, and entertainment magazine published weekly out of Assam, India. Today’s issue features an online interview that I gave to Arjun Chaudhuri, a Teksto.in patron and an Assistant Professor of English at Gurucharan College, Silchar.

You can read the interview here:

http://www.teksto.in/article-a-week-with-julian-peters.php

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Anniversary of The Battle of The Plains of Abraham

Two-hundred and fifty-seven years ago today, on September 13, 1759, a British army under the command of General James Wolfe defeated a French army under the command of Louis-Joseph de Montcalm just outside the walls of Quebec City. Wolfe’s victory at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, as it came to be known, would give the British command of the city after a more than two-month-long siege, and greatly contribute to the final conquest of New France one year later.

The outcome of the battle was largely a result of the surprise effect achieved by the British in attacking the city from the westward side, rather than from the eastern Beauport shore, as Montcalm was convinced they must do. Wolfe absurdly risky plan involved ferrying his men across the St. Lawrence river in the dead of night, sending a detachment of light infantry to climb up the steep cliffs west of the city and take out the sentries guarding the only path leading up these cliffs, and then leading the rest of his troops up this path to a point which was actually in between (!) the two main bodies of the French army. When the sun rose over Quebec,  its inhabitants awoke to find Wolfe’s entire army lined up in front of the city on the side where they had least expected them. This prompted Montcalm into making a disastrous sortie in which the French army was roundly defeated. Montcalm was fatally wounded at this point, and Wolfe was killed on the spot. In spite of the loss of their commander, the English were then able to wheel about and fight off the smaller contingent of the French army that was marching towards them from the other direction. Five days later, Quebec capitulated, and the Union Jack was hoisted over the capital of New-France.

In this brief extract from my graphic-novel-in-progress recounting the events of 1759, Montcalm argues with the Governor of New France, the Canadian-born Pierre de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil, on the best strategy for fending off the British. Montcalm generally proved himself an able commander during his four years of campaigning in North America, but his military instincts failed him in the end. This quote from his journal, which appears in condensed English translation in the dialogue here, is particularly damning in light of the events of September 13: “Il ne faut pas croire que les ennemis aient des ailes pour, la même nuit, traverser, débarquer, monter des rampes rompues, et escalader, d’autant que pour la dernière opération, il faut porter des échelles.”

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English Translation of Émile Nelligan’s “Déraison” and “Le Fou” in Winning Writers

scan0014The latest issue of the Winning Writers (https://winningwriters.com/) newsletter is out today, and it features my comics adaptation of nineteenth-century Montreal poet Émile Nelligan’s “Déraison” and “Le fou”, now accompanied with my English translation of the two poems. I am reproducing the translations here. They are very literal, as the objective was simply to give English readers of the newsletter the sense of what Nelligan was going on about (as much as can be discerned in these brilliant but clearly rather mad ravings) in the reproduced original French text in my  comics adaptations. You can read the comic here: https://julianpeterscomics.com/deraison-and-le-fou-by-emile-nelligan/

Insanity

Yet now I have the vision of bleeding shadows
And of spirited horses stamping,
And it’s like the shouts of hobos, hiccupping of children,
Wheezing of slow exhalations.

Tell me, from where do they come to me, all these hoarse hurricanes,
Furies of fifes or drums?
One might think it dragoons galloping through the village,
With helmets of a radiant murkiness…

The Madman

Gondolar! Gondolar!
You are no longer out on the road till very late.

They murdered the poor idiot,
They crushed him underneath a cart,
And then, after the idiot, the dog.

They made a big, big hole for them there.
Dies irae, dies illa
On your knees before that hole there!

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