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Ottawa street scape artist wants patrons instead of art consumers

Colin White is using a subscriber model instead of individual sales to try and fund his art making.

A Colin White drawing depicting Boushey's Fruit Market – an Elgin Street landmark that closed last summer.


A Colin White drawing depicting Boushey's Fruit Market – an Elgin Street landmark that closed last summer.

A local artist is turning from individual sales to a subscriber model to fund his work – including memories of an Ottawa that won’t last.

Colin White grew up near Arnprior, but when he moved to Ottawa 10 years ago he felt like he didn’t know the city. To get introduced, he grabbed his sketchpad.

“I started wandering around with my sketchbook,” said White. “I would just stop and sketch an interesting scene or building, whatever it was – something that appealed to me. I saw it as practice and a kind of an excuse to travel around the city.”

While sketching Bank Street in 2006, he found curious people would often approach him to ask about his work. Some offered advice, some offered anecdotes about the area and some wanted to buy original drawings.

White is a graphic designer and illustrator by trade and makes a living from freelance jobs. Selling art for a living – as the starving artist stereotype attests – can be a risky endeavor.

In October, he decided to join a growing number of artists experimenting with a subscription model instead of just relying on individual sales. While he still plans to sell artworks, he's also giving people the opportunity to contribute monthly.

His campaign, set up on the Patreon platform, allows patrons to pledge anywhere from $1 a month to $400 a month and receive a yearly supply of urban sketches and other bonuses.

Even $3 subscribers might find something familiar on their annual postcard piece, since White often draws images of Ottawa – with a special talent for documenting things before they disappear.

“The first set of drawings I did in Ottawa in 2006 on Bank Street – all of them, every single one has changed. I started doing corner stores, same type of thing, they’re a disappearing element of the city,” he said.

“That’s the nature of the city. You will have these places – as cherished and beloved by the community as they might be – things will definitely change at some point. It’s a somewhat practical level of documentation, of archiving, what was in front of me and what appealed to me. I could tell they’d have some meaning to people around them as well.”

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