Alphacity: guest post by artist Eric Cator

On Twitter, my friend Eric Cator describes himself as “Artist, filmmaker and guy who spends more time drawing than can possibly be healthy.” I’ve been following his posts for some time, and recently noticed a series of alphabet drawings he was making for his baby daughter. In fact, he was building her a city made of letters. I was so touched by these pieces, which popped up randomly rather than in alphabetical order, that I asked him to write for Blog of Green Gables and tell us a little about what prompted him to make Alphacity. Turns out it has something to do with a love for stories, and the imaginary worlds you find there.

I’d love to hear your comments on what Eric’s written below. Did having a child inspire you to make something?

alphacityA great deal of my childhood was spent looking for another world to live in.  Specifically, I wanted to live in the ‘adult’ world (the one that parents lived in when they weren’t around their kids).  I didn’t feel like I fit in with the kid world, and anyways, I was pretty sure the adults were keeping all the really good things for themselves, and I wanted in. 

Yes indeed, it was going to be nothing but late-night pancake feasts and afternoons spent speeding around in race cars for me!  In order to learn more about the secret adult world I began lingering around adults, hoping to pick up clues from their conversations, but it soon became clear that they knew I was listening, and therefore insisted on only talking of dull and pointless things when I was around, to throw me off.  

huck finn

EW Kemble’s version of Huckleberry Finn, 1884

Now, I’m pretty sure my parents tried to warn me that the truth about adult life was that it was mostly filled with mundane activities like going to work and paying bills; things that couldn’t possibly measure up to my fantastical theories or even fictional novels.  I of course dismissed this as another clever ruse designed to dissuade me from digging any further into their secrets.

After some time however, I realized that I wasn’t reading books just to look for clues anymore, and instead I was just enjoying being with the characters and spending time in the worlds the authors had created. The truth was that I had fallen so in love with fictional worlds that I had stopped looking for hidden secrets about the adult world; it seemed more and more likely that my parents were telling the truth, and the real world would never compare to the endless imaginary lands that existed in books and comics.  Only then did I realize that these works of fiction were open doors into the minds of their writers, who likely created these worlds because they felt they didn’t ‘fit in’ with the normal world either.  It also seemed very likely that the parts of them that didn’t fit were the same parts that allowed them to create their own worlds, and by sharing these worlds they had found a way to connect to other people after all, which is what I was really after all along. 

sNow that I’m a parent, I find myself wanting to share my love of imaginary worlds with my kids.  Luckily my wife is also a writer and lover of stories, and we make a point of reading to our children daily.  I also try to put my own imagination on display around them whenever possible, with the side benefit that it often encourages them to put their imagination on display for me; at three my son is a frequent teller of make-believe stories, usually involving dinosaurs and firefighters.  My daughter is only a couple of months old, so she hasn’t begun making up her own endings to bedtime stories just yet, but I have been working on an alphabet poster that I will hang on the wall beside her crib; in this poster each letter is an entire building, and together the alphabet forms an entire city.

Hopefully, in the near future she will imagine herself in this city, perhaps living in a two-dbedroom condo on the sixth floor of the letter S, or spending her days watching the world from a balcony in the letter D.  I also hope that this ‘Alphacity’ will spark her interest in other imaginary places, and in the written language that can bring her to them.  And who knows, as she gets even older maybe she will even find some comfort here in this fictional land, on those inevitable days when she feels like she isn’t fitting in with the regular world around her.

_Eric_and_PaigeEric Cator has always loved stories, but usually tells them through pictures.  He is a Toronto-based visual artist with works in the Colart Collection, City of Toronto collection, as well as private collections throughout Canada and around the world.  He is currently working on too many things at once, but enjoying the heck out of it.


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8 responses to “Alphacity: guest post by artist Eric Cator

  1. How delightful Eric, an alphabet city. I’ve been looking for similar ideas for my 8 month old granddaughter. I’m an artist also. Maybe I’ll try a vegetable city??? Thanks for the inspiration.
    Susan McCrae

  2. kristendenhartog

    Hi Susan, would love to hear if it comes to fruition — er, vegetable-ition?

  3. I like that idea too, a whole alphabet garden!

  4. Lilly

    What a fabulous post! Your kids are lucky to have a dad with such fantastical ideas through which they will learn about a world that doesn’t have to be all about work and paying bills. Maybe one day they WILL live in one of your letters, and in that letter, will continue that celebration of creativity that is really in all of us. Thanks for that Eric.

  5. Marilyn

    What a wonderful imagination you have, Eric, and how lucky is your little girl to be able to choose so many imaginary places to live.

  6. Ann T

    Eric, I think I was the female version of you as a child – except for the pancakes and race cars part!
    My mom had a shelf full of old books with serious plain covers (they were the Anne series, and I was probably too young for them), but I asked if I could read them, and to my surprise she said yes. I never looked back. They started me on a path to the pleasure of reading, and the absolute delight of the world of imagination. I shared it with my boys, and I still live in that place.
    Thanks for your post.

  7. m

    So beautiful. I hope, selfishly, that this wonderful alphabet city makes it way into a book for other children (my own!) to dream about inhabiting.

  8. kristendenhartog

    I agree! They’d make a lovely picture book.

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