Showing posts with label Lynn Johnston. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lynn Johnston. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Exhibit Review: The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston

by Mike Rhode

The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston. Kate Grumbacher. Washington, DC: Embassy of Canada Art Gallery, September 13, 2019-January 31, 2020.

The Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, between the White House and Congress is a striking setting for this small exhibit on For Better or For Worse, the long-running and popular comic strip. From 1979- 2008, the strip followed the lives of the Patterson family, a wife and husband (a dentist) and their three kids and dogs as they grew up in Canada. The strip is still running in reprints. The exhibit was originally shown in a gallery in Canada and modified by Grumbacher for exhibit in Washington. Johnston was in town for the exhibit opening, and also spoke at the Library of Congress the following day. She noted that she can no longer draw the strip due to tremors, but she’s being creative in other ways. On the back of the introductory plinth is fabric that she’s designed and goofy paintings of dogs and cats, but the exhibit largely concentrates on the comic strip.


As you walk into the exhibit, a large panel depicts a collage of her characters over the life of the strip, and has the title of the exhibit in French and English. The exhibit is bilingual throughout. In French, for the record the title is L’Art de la Bande Dessineé selon Lynn Johnston. Turning left from the title plinth, Johnston’s desk is featured along with some early drawings framed above it. The desk looks barely used compared to some other cartoonists’. The ‘office area’ is bounded by a small wall, and on the other side of that is a small interactive section where a visitor could color a sheet with characters from the strip, or create their own four-panel strip in a blank sheet of squares. A large set of labels explains the process of creating a comic strip. Next to that is a small enclosed exhibit case with family photos, toy cars and other materials she used as references to draw the strip. Next to the exhibit case is a group of several original Sunday strips matched with color prints to show how they 
 actually appeared in the newspaper. 


The main characters of the strip are introduced, and then large panels with purple headers explains the high points of the strip over the years. These included “Michael & Deanna” (the oldest son and his wife), “April’s Birth” (the third child), “Infidelity,” “Lawrence Comes Out” (when the character was revealed to be gay, it was a major controversy), “Mtigwaki” (the eldest daughter Elizabeth goes to work in a First Nations community), “Shannon Lake” (an autistic character introduced in a school setting), “Elizabeth’s Sexual Assault,” “Elizabeth’s Wedding,” “Death & Illness,” and “Farley’s Death” (also controversial when the family dog died saving April from a stream).

The exhibit concludes with a short film, a quilt of the characters (hanging up very high), and in a nod to our locality, reproductions from the Washington Post of a page of comic strips, and Michael Cavna’s article about the end of the strip. 

This is a celebratory exhibit. There is no deep analysis of the social or historical implications of the strip, beyond the purple panels’ basic claims, and that is fine. The exhibit is both a celebration of a Canadian artist and an enjoyable hour-long stop for Washington’s tourists, in a venue they would not normally see. More photographs of the exhibit are at and Johnston’s Library of Congress talk at

(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 22:1, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on January 8 2020, while the exhibit is still open for viewing.)



(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 22:1, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on January 8 2020, while the exhibit is still open for viewing.)

Friday, September 13, 2019

Lynn Johnston and Jaime Hernandez in photos (UPDATED)

I'm not sure if the link to the Flickr site works correctly, so I've added some images just in case.

Jaime Hernandez and Gary Groth at the Library of Congress 

Johnston drew on an overhead projector and tossed the transparencies on the floor behind her.

PR: The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston opens at Embassy of Canada Art Gallery in DC

NEWS RELEASE – The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston opens at Embassy of Canada Art Gallery,
September 13, 2019 to January 31, 2020.

Washington, D.C., September 11, 2019 –
The Embassy of Canada is pleased to present The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston, an art exhibition exploring the career of Canadian comic artist Lynn Johnston and the themes of her popular comic strip For Better or Worse. The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston shows selections from the comic's 30-year history, highlighting the characters that readers know and love, and includes content from the Washington Post, as well as original artwork and current projects.

For Better or For Worse underwent many changes - taking the comic from a glimpse into the everyday home life of the Patterson family, to a comic with three-dimensional characters that seemed like real people. Seeing Elly Patterson and her family go through familiar situations added to the overwhelming success of the strip. Styling changes and character development were features that made For Better or For Worse uniquely relatable.

Throughout her career Johnston consistently drew from her own life and personal experiences. The exhibition gives a behind the scenes look at Johnston's creative process, her life, and the ways that her experiences made their way into her work, culminating in realistic characters and a complex storyline full of detail, color and humor in For Better or For Worse.   
The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston opens September 13, 2019, through January 31, 2020. The Embassy's art gallery is located next to the Newseum at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW and is open to the public Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, free of charge.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Comic Riffs also asks, "How about that San Diego Comic-Con"

What's interesting is that Cavna asks Aragones, Johnston, Gaiman, Pastis and Lee. He also adds insult to injury by caricaturing them.

See "San Diego Comic-Con: 5 Star Cartoonists Do the Time Warp Again," by Michael Cavna, Washington Post Comic Riffs blog July 22 2009.

Cavna, along with Richard Thompson, is at the Comics Con, thus providing a sizable DC contingent.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Threefer For Better or For Worse

Actually, there was a 3rd bit in the Post today, at least the electronic one - Cavna, Michael. 2008. "Interview With the Artist: "For Better or For Worse's" Lynn Johnston," Washington Post Comic Riffs blog (August 27). It ended with the surprise news that "As of next Monday, The Washington Post plans to drop "For Better or for Worse" from its print edition but continue to carry it online."