From time spent working at an arts drop-in centre for youth in Regent Park to daily observations of life in downtown Toronto, graphic artist Dave Lapp has seen his share of interesting stories.
Lapp, who lives near Yonge and Bloor streets, has captured snippets of downtown Toronto life, compiling what he has seen and heard in his latest book, People Around Here.
The book acts as a companion piece of sorts to his first published book, Drop-In, in which he outlined some of his experiences teaching art to children in the inner city.
Drop-In offers an insider view of life in the organization where he worked, and is in turns funny and shocking.
“Drop-In was almost a harder book to write because a lot of the stories are about the rough stuff that happens in (the Regent Park) neighbourhood,” he said. “They’re often completely beneath notice and they happen to children.”
People Around Here, meanwhile, looks at day-to-day occurrences, bringing the Annex and downtown Toronto to life in its 152 pages. Like his earlier books, it developed organically.
“None of my books were planned, but I’m just constantly producing work,” he said.
Lapp has long been interested in graphic art, taking on a role as the graphics editor for his school paper at the University of Western Ontario in the late 1980s.
He continued to pursue his passion at the Ontario College of Art and Design, winning a comic art award from now-defunct independent Canadian comic book publisher Vortex.
While he thought he was on his way, his optimism was quickly dashed.
“They gave me the award and I signed a contract with them when I was in school,” he said. “However, they didn’t really publish anything in 1992 (when he won) and they wound up closing down.”
Lapp began publishing mini-comics of his work while having some of his work published in various publications.
“A fellow cartoonist, Joe Ollmann, handed some of my mini-comics to his friend, who was the publisher at Conundrum (Press),” he said.
While Conundrum has published his three books – Drop-In, People Around Here and a compilation of more surreal strips called Children of the Atom – he continues to find the road a tough one to hoe.
“When you see art commodified like this, you assume people will buy it, but apart from a few of the big names like Kate Beaton and Chester Brown, it’s hard to get your name out there,” he said.
Lapp remains committed to his art, however, supplementing his career as a graphic artist with work teaching cartooning to children at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Avenue Road Arts School.
“My wife is confused sometimes because she sees how much hard work I put into it,” he said. “I could make my life a lot easier by giving it up and teaching more, but I’m not the same person if I’m not doing my own art.”
Lapp is currently working on a longer graphic novel, running around 500 pages, recounting his childhood.
Some of his existing work can be seen at his website, www.davelappcomics.blogspot.ca, and his books are available at www.conundrumpress.com