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  • Annette Dawm

Anthony Wallace: Making Opportunities in the Land of Magic

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Anthony Wallace is an illustrator from London, ON who loves all things whimsical, the great outdoors, and admittedly, he owns “too many plaid shirts.” He has lived in many places across Ontario and spent over a year living in The UK. He even created his own canoe paddle, but most notably, over the last five years, Anthony has created Emily and the Land of Magic, an ongoing, online children’s book, which he shares on the social media site, Tumblr. It is now six pages away from completion.

Originally, Wallace attended Sheridan College for animation with hopes that he would one day work for Disney, but things didn’t go as planned: “I quickly realized that the animating life wasn't for me -- long, long, gruelling hours at a desk. I also preferred spending a lot of time on a piece of art. I would do illustrations for friends (like cards and gifts) and apply to contests while showing my work off and very slowly, one gig would lead to another and another until it grew into a profession (it still is growing). It was a slow process.”

The initial idea for Emily and the Land of Magic started when Anthony finished school and was without work at the time. “I thought since I didn't have any work I could create something to keep busy. I started off with wanting to tell a story; one that had gnomes, a troll, a witch and a dragon. That was all I had. From there I hammered out a story, started illustrating it, rewrote it, started illustrating it again and that's where I am today. I find Tumblr gave me an easy format to post the pages of the book so that people could easily find and read it.”

Although Emily might be easy to find online, Anthony might not. A Google search for “Anthony Wallace Artist” also includes a person of the same name, who claims to be a “frustrated artist”. When asked about his namesake and if they shared the same frustrations, Anthony laughed and replied, “….I wouldn't say I'm frustrated, but I know and feel his pain. I sometimes find it hard to be taken seriously, even in the art community. It's hard having your work put up beside badass, popular and sexy art and I'm [like]: ‘I draw gnomes!’ I've found that people I run into are very supportive of what I do. I'm lucky that no one has said (to my face at least) that art isn't a real job and I should find one.”

When people look at his work, Wallace said that he hopes that people would walk away smiling. “I draw a lot of fun, whimsical stuff -- gnomes, animals, dragons, etc. I'd hope they'd enjoy themselves and have fun.”

Anthony’s art has evolved in many ways since he began. Although his work is mostly digital now, it is still a very hands-on process: “My method has changed over the years. I worked mostly with gouache and watercolour when I started out. I'm almost all digital these days. It's so easy to send updates and upload files and share them when they're already on the computer. I tend to start off with a sketch/idea, give it colour and then overlay real texture of watercolours or chalk that I have to give it a nice hybrid feel of real and digital. Digital feels so plastic and fake sometimes to me. I want my work to have an organic feel to it.”

In 2017, Anthony was a featured artist during London’s annual Ting Fest, a comic and graphic arts festival. “The Ting Fest was a huge honour and took me by surprise. It was amazing to be recognized like that. I think there are a lot of very talented people in London. We just tend to stick to ourselves for the most part. Runciman Press has done a wonderful job of giving people their break in the comics industry. Chris [Runciman] gave me my first shot as an artist and is a big believer of supporting artists.”

Outside of his own projects, Anthony also designed a piece for The Jim Henson Company, which wasn’t without its challenges: “Working with the Henson Co. happened early on in the process. I had applied for an open invitation from them for the 30th anniversary of Fraggle Rock.” While votes via social media helped to determine the winner, the company had final say. Even though he didn’t have as many votes as he would have liked, ultimately, Wallace was chosen and they worked together to create mugs and other merchandise featuring his design. However, it took the company a very long time to decide on the winner, which Anthony said took “some time to get used to”.

Part of this experience lead Anthony Wallace to be able to give the following advice to others: “Get good at [writing] cover letters and emailing people you've never met. Finding new work and clients, posting to social media is all part of the job. You need to get good at the business side of things, and that's something no one ever teaches you. How to write an intriguing letter that will get someone to hire you and not delete it is an art to itself. Also, don't wait around for opportunities, you'll be waiting forever. Make your own opportunities, create your own projects, you'll never know what it leads to - a new artistic style, work, who knows? You never know who'll see your work these days.”

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Images courtesy of Anthony Wallace.

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