Beyond The Uniform
One Soldier and His Art
New recruits used to enter basic training in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia. That’s where MCpl David Collier began his military career in 1987. His artistic abilities did not go unnoticed. One week into his ten week basic course he was told to produce a comic every Sunday for the Cornwallis Ensign newspaper. “I remember the commandant’s wife coming up to me at graduation. She told me her husband had collected each of my comics and had taped them to wall in his office,” said Collier, who enlisted as a combat engineer.
Collier has loved drawing since he was a child. Born in Windsor, growing up in Toronto he watched his mother Susan Collier write and illustrate children’s books. Collier only stayed in the military for three years before he made the decision to try his hand as a professional cartoonist. His work has been published in the Globe and Mail as well as the National Post. “In 2002 the Canadian Forces Artist Program was introduced. The program is based on the war artist program from WWI. Back then the point of the art was to capture the reality of war without censorship. The newspapers of the time would only print certain photos. Artists drew what they saw,” said Collier. The Canadian Forces Artist Program was intended for civilians. “I was really interested, but I really felt that to do a proper job I had to be back in uniform again. It was a big decision. A friend encouraged me to become a reservist. I’m now a supply tech with 31 Service Battalion in South Western Ontario. Now, I’m a soldier who draws. Life is busy. I am married to a painter and we have a son. My wife is working on her PhD in Art at Western and our son is in sea cadets.”
Recently the Art Gallery of Ontario approached Collier, as a member of the Canadian Forces Artist Program, to produce a comic book in reaction to Alex Colville’s life and work. Colville who passed away in 2013 at the age of 93 began his career as a prolific WWII artist and became one of Canada’s best known painters. Colville was sent to Belsen Concentration Camp to document the liberation of allied prisoners of war in 1945. The comic would become part of an Alex Colville exhibit taking place from August 2014 to January 2015. “Andrew Hunter the curator of the exhibit is young, and had a vision of what the exhibit should look like and that included among other art a film produced by Sarah Polley and a comic produced by me. It took me four months to complete my eight page work. I travelled to his hometown of Wolfville, Nova Scotia to research Colville’s life.”
Collier is very matter of fact about the honour of being asked to be part of the exhibit. “Soldiers are multidimensional. I know a soldier who makes guitars and one with an enormous book collection. There are a lot of very talented people out there who are soldiers. The point is, we don’t force people to become soldiers. You have to want to be a soldier,” said Collier. Art plays a part in drawing people to the profession. “Drawings, stories and music entice people to become soldiers. The history of art naturally involves soldiers.”
To learn more about the Alex Colville exhibit please visit the Art Gallery of Ontario at www.ago.net