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ALIAS GREG: Stittsville artist featured in CBC/Netflix miniseries

(PHOTO: Greg Banning with some of his sketches, in the dining room at his home in Stittsville. Photo by G. Gower.)

You can see Stittsville artist Greg Banning‘s courtroom sketches in the first few seconds of this trailer for Alias Grace, the tv adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel on CBC and Netflix.

Besides his artwork, Banning will also appear on screen in the series as a courtroom sketch artist. As he explains below, the television gig came as a result of his work as a courtroom artist for the Mike Duffy trial.

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On how his work came to featured in the miniseries…
The book is about Grace Marks. She’s convicted of murder with an accomplice, and what the book and movie is trying to do is decide whether she did it or not.  I did the court sketches that were involved in the trial itself.  Because of my background with the Duffy trial, they heard of me… I got a call out of the blue one day and they asked if I’d like to do some court sketches for the film.

They said they just wanted a copy of the sketches that were originally done for the trial.  But I thought, “that’s probably a very different style than the way I draw”.  They sent me a copy, and I took a look and thought, “I can’t emulate this…”  They said, “just give it a try, see if you can match it, and the director will have a look to see if he can use it”.

So I did the best I could with charcoal and did a copy of it, scanned it into the computer and did a couple of changes in Photoshop and I sent it in. They were really happy with it, and then it evolved to, “can you try to put the actor’s faces in that style in that clothing, so we can use it as a prop?”

Some of Greg Banning's courtroom sketches for the Alias Grace miniseries.
Some of Greg Banning’s courtroom sketches for the Alias Grace miniseries.

 

So I did that, and I thought that was going to be it. But they really wanted me to come in and film me doing the drawing.  Up to the point that I actually left to go to the shoot, I didn’t know how they were going to do this.  I’ve got these finished drawings – but how am I going to make it look like I’m doing the finished drawing?

The day of getting to the set, I went to a window with the original drawing I made and traced onto a piece of paper. So then when they filmed me I could make it look like I was sketching it out. They brought the camera right in on me, and another camera in the back of me. I’m looking at nothing — the actress was long gone, and everybody in the courtroom.  I was literally the last shot of that day in the courthouse.

It was a fantastic experience – right around my birthday – and they paid for most of my trip to glamorous Brampton. That was a year ago.

I haven’t seen my part yet. I’m kind of nervous.  I need glasses to draw and to see — I have progressive lenses.  I mentioned that I needed glasses, and they ended up giving me these little Benjamin Franklin glasses, and David Cronenberg supposedly used them in one of the scenes too. So the set director said, “be very careful, David Cronenberg used these glasses”.  I felt kind of awkward, looking up and looking down as if I was drawing…

I don’t know if I’m going to make the movie or not, but they’ve used my sketches in the opening scenes. It was a fun thing to do, I never thought I would be in a production — I’m usually on the other side, working with directors. Normally I do storyboards, mostly commercial work — car commercials and things like that.

 

Greg Banning's sketch of actress Sarah Gordon created for the Alias Grace miniseries.
Greg Banning’s sketch of actress Sarah Gordon created for the Alias Grace miniseries.

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On how he became a courtroom sketch artist…
It was not my ambition to set out to be a court artist, and I don’t think you can make a living being a court artist. It was just really lucky. One thing can lead to something else. The Duffy thing led to this, and I’m really grateful.

I lived in Toronto for 20 years, and then I moved here… a local illustrator recommended me to the Citizen, and they called up and asked if I would want to do sketch art at the court. I’d never thought of doing it, but I figured I’d get paid to work on my drawing and it was fascinating. That’s how it started, doing work for the Citizen.

Patrick Brazeau’s trial was happening, and CTV called and asked if I would want to do that for them.  I did a job for CTV, and they were really happy. The Duffy trail was on the heels of Brazeau, and CTV called, and the Citizen called, then Global called and asked if I could do this… I had no idea how big this was going to be, or how long it was going to be, but it almost became a full time job for me. I was there every day for the trial except to see my son’s Christmas pageant show… I find it very interesting to be in the court and having the opportunity to witness all this stuff.

The first job I ever did, I brought in my laptop and Wacom tablet and sat down on the back bench in the gallery and drew the guy on the computer. The judge didn’t even bat an eyelash.  My first one was completely digital.

I thought, if I get into another trial where there’s a lot more people I won’t be able to do this.  I thought I’d bring my sketchbook, and scan it, and colour it in the computer. That’s how the process is now. I’ll do a quick little sketch, make remarks about what they’re wearing, the colour of their shirt, their jacket. I’m in and out pretty quick. I get the idea down, and I do the majority of the drawing in the media room at the courthouse, which is like a closet. I scan the sketch into the computer, and then I colourize it in Corel Painter – an Ottawa-based company – and then all I have to do is email a high-res jpeg to the Citizen or whatever other media outlet I might be doing it for.

On why he became an artist…
I’ve always liked drawing, since I was my son’s age, and I just got better and better, and nothing else was panning out for me. I wasn’t going to be the baseball player I always wanted to be – so I ended up sticking with art…. I wasn’t sure if I could make a living out of it. When I was 19 I went to the High School of Commerce just to see if I liked it, and fell in love with it. I found different avenues of art you can make a living in. I went to Sheridan College, did the illustration program there, and found that I was more suited for advertising.  So I got my start, unfortunately during the recession in the 90s. All the agencies at that time were downsizing and getting rid of their art departments.  I stuck to it, and started getting a job with one agency, next thing you know I got another job. I worked at the last art house in Toronto, TDF, as a junior artist, and when that closed up I went out on my own and I’ve done everything. I’ve worked in advertising, illustrated children’s books, covers, magazines. I did a Maclean’s cover, I’ve worked in video games, I’ve designed coins for the Mint.

It’s wide-ranging. This fits in with my background. I go from the Duffy trail to drawing in a televised movie! I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of different facets of the art world and things like this — working on Alias Grace — was exciting. No regrets!


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LINKED: British military officer wounded in Kanata drive-by

UPDATE, September 15: CBC reports that more than a dozen rounds were fired out of a white Jeep Cherokee in a drive-by shooting early Thursday morning, and Ottawa police are asking for the public’s help to find the vehicle. Read more…

From CBC Ottawa:

A British military officer visiting Ottawa to participate in a military shooting competition was injured in a drive-by shooting at the Kanata Centrum Shopping Centre early Thursday morning, Military Police say.

Ottawa police were called to a parking lot off Roland Michener Drive, near the Crazy Horse bar, just after 2 a.m. Thursday.

A 28-year-old man suffered a serious gunshot wound in the leg, Ottawa police said. Paramedics took him to hospital, where he was listed in stable condition later Thursday morning.

A 22-year-old man also suffered a minor gunshot injury, Ottawa police said.

Both shooting victims were not the intended targets, Ottawa police said in a tweet Thursday afternoon.

Read the full story…

 


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LINKED: Ottawa tech companies recruiting to fill thousands of jobs (CBC)

Interesting article from CBC about job growth in the Ottawa area. Invest Ottawa says 10,000 positions will be filled by 2019, with around 3,000 in the Kanata North area. That will impact the Stittsville area, where many of those Kanata North employees may end up calling home:

The Kanata North BIA said the tech sector in the region has to fill 3,000 positions in the coming months as BlackBerry QNX and Ford hire for the autonomous vehicle hub and existing companies expand.

Invest Ottawa predicts nearly 10,000 new jobs in the city by 2019 and said those jobs will come in a range of technology fields.

James Baker, CEO of recruiting company the Keynote Group, said he’s receiving calls from four to five new clients a week who are looking to hire new talent.

One challenge has been finding people with certain skill sets outside Ottawa’s traditional strengths from a decade ago.

“We’ve moved to development. We were a hardware city, we’re moving into a software city,” he said. “Now the self-driving car is coming as well, which is a whole other spin on what we can do in Ottawa.”

Larger companies like Shopify, Amazon and BlackBerry QNX are forcing companies to compete for people with specializations in software as a service, automatic vehicles and artificial intelligence.

Read the full article…


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CBC: Anonymous donor gives family $60K for Ottawa girl’s U.S. surgery

From CBC Ottawa:

Lamitta El-Roz’s parents went to sleep last Friday night with a huge worry — how to pay for the $140,000 surgery that could help their six-year-old daughter take her first steps.

When Canadian doctors didn’t consider Lamitta a good candidate for surgery, the family turned to the United States.

The Stittsville girl was born with spastic cerebral palsy, a condition that prevents her from walking, crawling or rolling over on her own due to damaged nerves in her lower spine. She is travelling to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri at the end of this month for selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery.

Now, that worry that kept them up at night is gone. A donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, gave the family $60,000 to help pay the bills.

Lamitta’s mother, Maya Taleb, won’t reveal any details about the donor but said she’s overwhelmed.

“We went crazy and we said there are angels on earth and we are so grateful to them forever. It’s amazing news,” she said.

“The good news is now her surgery is covered and the five or six months of physiotherapy after the surgery.”

Read the full story here…


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CBC: Family upset government won’t cover out-of-country surgery

CBC Ottawa did a story about a Stittsville family raising money to pay for surgery in the United States. Lamitta El-Roz is six years old and has been denied funding for dorsal rhizotomy surgery that’s only available in the United States.

The family has launched a fundraising campaign called Lamitta’s Wish to Walk to cover the surgery and follow-up treatment.

Lamitta El-Roz, 6, and her family hope surgery in the U.S. will allow her to walk and help ease her chronic pain. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)
Lamitta El-Roz, 6, and her family hope surgery in the U.S. will allow her to walk and help ease her chronic pain. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

Lamitta El-Roz loves comic book super heroes — especially Spiderman.

When asked what super powers she’d like to possess, she doesn’t hesitate. Continue reading


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LINKED: Cavanagh fined for discharging sediment into wetland

From CBC Ottawa:

An Ottawa construction company convicted of discharging construction sediment into a drain that flows into the Jock River in 2013 has been fined $275,000.

Thomas Cavanagh Construction Limited was convicted in June of four charges under the Ontario Water Resources Act, according to Ontario’s environment ministry. Continue reading


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CBC: Teen survivor struggling with guilt after fatal crash

From CBC Ottawa:

Hours before a horrific car crash claimed the lives of her two best friends Sunday night, Sommer Foley’s parents told the 17-year-old to have fun swimming at a local quarry, but be home by 10 p.m.

Instead, the Stittsville teen was rushed to hospital, where she remains with serious injuries to her neck, arm and back, which was torn open in the crash. 

“She’s hanging in there, and every day she gets a little bit better,” said Cherie Dillon-Foley, who also said the grief of losing her friends has changed her daughter forever.

“She’s feeling guilty. She’s here and they’re not.” 

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Partying at the quarry owned by Thomas Cavanagh Construction on Jinkinson Road has been described as a popular pastime for Stittsville teens, and the Foley’s parents don’t blame that tradition.

Jeff Foley is more concerned about how the rampant speculation on social media might be affecting the families of the teens involved in the crash.. 

“That’s all got to stop,” he said. “Everybody gets twisted and confused … it’s garbage.”

Read the full article…


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LINKED: Waste Management scraps plan to accept Quebec garbage

CBC reports today that Waste Management is backing away from its plans to accept Quebec waste at the Carp Road landfill facility:

A proposal to allow construction waste from Quebec to be dumped at a processing facility in Carp has been trashed.

Waste Management Canada had sought and won approval from Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal on March 1 to transfer construction and demolition waste from western Quebec to the Ottawa processing and recycling facility at 2301 Carp Rd.

The city announced last week it planned to appeal the decision.

But on Monday Waste Management said after talking with city officials, the company is backing away from the plan.

“After discussing the matter with the city and the ministry, we have decided not to proceed with our proposal to include portions of Quebec within the service area for the West Carleton Environmental Centre and … we will as soon as practicable take such steps as are necessary to amend the [Environmental Compliance Approval] accordingly,” said spokesperson Wayne French in a letter to city councillors and community stakeholders.

During public consultations on the plan last year, members of the public raised concerns about increased truck traffic flowing over the bridge into Ottawa, and worried Ottawa could become a dumping ground for other regions.

Read the full story…


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CBC: Stittsville farmers lose crops, cry foul over wild parsnip purge

(FILE PHOTO: Wild parsnip growing along the ditch on Huntley Road south of Stittsville. Photo by Barry Gray.)

From CBC Ottawa:

Organic farmers near the Ottawa community of Stittsville say they’ve had to destroy portions of their crops because the city botched its notification process for spraying herbicides to kill wild parsnip.

Wild parsnip — officially labelled a noxious weed in Ontario last year — has become a concern because the plant’s toxic sap can cause skin rashes. The weed also wipes out other species, including flowering plant species that attract bees.

The city sent certified organic farmer Dick Coote of Littledown Farms a notice in the mail saying he could opt out of herbicide spraying along his fields on Mansfield Road. The notice said the city would put up signs in advance in areas it planned to spray to give Coote time to opt out.

But the signs never appeared, he said.

Read the full story…


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CBC: Dad of injured hockey player hopes criminal charges make players ‘think twice’

From CBC Ottawa:

The father of a teenage hockey player who was injured in November during a game in Ottawa hopes that criminal charges laid against the teen who hit his son will encourage other players to think about their on-ice behaviour.

“I hope that when players see this, and when they’re about to do something that’s outside the norm of hockey, they think twice about it and they take the time to think that there’s consequences for their actions,” said Tim Sheehan.

Police charged an Ottawa teen with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm after an incident during a Nov. 8, 2015, major midget game in the Ottawa community of Stittsville.

Read the full article…


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LINKED: Old barn moved from Wakefield to Ashton

CBC has a story today the Ashton Brewing Company buying a barn in Wakefield, Quebec and moving it to Ashton, just west of Stittsville.

“The weathered beams will be re-assembled to make a 6,000-square-foot addition to the existing building. The barn wood is worth thousands of dollars, and rebuilding it in Ashton will cost thousands more — but brewery co-owner M. J. Hodgins is gambling that access to the LCBO, and, eventually, Ontario grocery store shelves will be worth the expense.”

You can read the full story here…

CBC screen shot: Ashton Brewing Company moves barn from Wakefield for expansion


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LINKED: Huntmar overpass unfriendly to bikes, pedestrians

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Besides running StittsvilleCentral.ca, I’m also president of the Fairwinds Community Association.  CBC reported today on an issue that we’ve been pursuing around pedestrian safety on the Huntmar bridge.  The bridge has been deemed too narrow for pedestrians to cross safely, and there’s no plan to widen it until 2026.  We wrote a letter to councillors last month with a simple, inexpensive solution: make the bridge one-way for cars. That’s where CBC picked up the story. -GG.)

Residents who live near the Tanger Outlets mall and the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa are calling for better pedestrian access across Highway 417.

The Huntmar Drive overpass connects the two Kanata landmarks but it was designed and built before thousands of people moved into homes nearby.

The narrow thoroughfare lacks sidewalks and is dangerous to bike across, said Joe Boughner of the Fairwinds Community Association.

“[It] was never designed with pedestrian or cycle traffic in mind,” said Boughner, whose group wants the city to convert part of the overpass to alternating one-way traffic.

Read the full article…

 


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