Beyond Our Edges: Abram Hartrick – Getting to the Other Side of the Table
Abram Hartrick is a Project Coordinator and Graphic Designer in our Edmonton branch, where he lives with his wife and two young children. Aside from keeping busy with his team in Edmonton and chasing after his one and three-year-olds, Abram is the creative talent behind Archangel Art, as well as being a professor at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).
Q: What keeps you busy when you’re not in the office?
A: With two kids, ages three and one, life is very busy, and my wife and I are constantly trying to keep some semblance of balance in our home (he laughs). Outside of that, I like to work on my passion – art. I attend comic conventions with the fan art I’ve created – my take on existing art and honouring the characters I grew up with like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Thundercats – and some original work as well. I also teach illustration and graphic design at NAIT.
Q: How did you get started creating fan art?
A: When I was younger, my parents gave me comics to help build a love of reading, and it worked. I was always doodling based on the drawings in my comics. When I got a little older, I remember finding out we had comic conventions here in Canada, and when I attended my first one, I was in awe of the majesty of it and the sheer talent all in one room. In speaking to the artists, I learned that you could be anywhere and still work as an illustrator. I was blown away by the professionals I met, and also a little intimidated, but from that I set myself a goal that one day I would be on the other side of those tables.
Q: Why did you want to be an artist on the other side of the table and how did you get there?
A: When I was younger, I would ask my dad what he did and never really understood it. Even to this day I’m not entirely sure what he does, and I wanted my kids to be able to say to their friends, “My dad is an illustrator,” and really understand what that meant. It took me some time to build up the courage, but after about two years, I finally said, “I’m doing it!” That gave me the push I needed to build up my collection and get it done. I’ve now been attending Comic and Entertainment Expos for over a year, and it’s been a lot of fun… busy, but fun!
Q: What’s it like to travel around Canada for the conventions? Any fun stories?
A: It’s so much fun to travel and meet people, and we all start to get to know and support each other. As I attend more shows, I’ve realized that the artists that were once intimidating are just like me, becoming friends, and being on the other side of the table has proved to me that my goals are attainable. It’s also incredibly rewarding to have someone I don’t know come to my table and buy one of my pieces, and I’m starting to build a fan base, which is amazing!
Recently, I had the host of the Outdoor Life Network’s Escape of Die see my work and commission me to create a couple of posters for some of his episodes. I don’t know how I would have come across the opportunity any other way. It was a moment when I realized if I can create art and help pay my mortgage, then this is great!
I’m really happy I started attending the shows as an exhibitor. I may not be the best artist, but I’m here, and that’s what matters.
Q: What inspired you to start teaching?
A: I’m always looking for ways to get better and improve my abilities, and through NAIT, I found there was a connection between what they teach and my talent to fill a gap. As much as I enjoy focusing on my art at home, I think it’s a really nice way to be able to expand my network, see what others are doing, and push them to achieve more as well as myself. My intention is to show them how to do what I did – get from one side of the table to the other, and I help them build up that network to be able to make that happen. I love it, it’s such an absolute blast!
Q: Does any of this work tie into your experiences at Urban Systems?
A: For sure! Even in an engineering firm, this experience has value – everything I do comes down to communicating the story we’re trying to tell. For me, I try to find the best way to communicate ideas, designs and concepts through my visual design work. Attending the conventions has also helped to build my confidence in my work, and see the practical applications in my day-to-day projects to keep my “saw” sharp, and occasionally that includes getting to do some illustration, which is a nice overlap. Just as with my personal work, there are always these unexpected interactions and paths that are forged at work when I get to show what I’m capable of.
Q: Looking at everything you’re doing, why is it important to keep at it?
A: I’ve realized that when I was just doodling at home, I wasn’t getting any better. Now I’m producing a lot and really working at it, and I don’t want to stop! I feel like I’ve been blessed with this talent, and to not see where it can take me would be a waste. The whole experience has shown me that I’m able to chase my dreams, and I’m very proud of what I’ve done – it’s such a great sense of accomplishment, and I want to see how far I can push this.
As a kid, I remember looking at grown ups and thinking they had it all together, but now that I’m a dad, I’ve realized that’s not really true. But when it comes to art, I know what I’m doing and it keeps me going. If my kids can look back at my art when they’re older and are proud of what their dad created, then it will all be worth it!