By the mid 1990s the art renaissance in North America was all but over. I tend to blame the art reproduction market, which was misrepresented and oversold. Of course, there were also a series of ups and downs in the stock market. Sales dropped off, and it became even harder for artists to survive.
At about this same time there was a hint that a revolution of sorts was about to take place. We were beginning to hear about computers, and how they were going to change the world. Some even suggested that they could revolutionize the publishing world, and make things easier for artists. In 1999, I believe, I purchased a computer. It was a Mac IIVI. It had a 80 megabyte hard drive, and 4 megabytes of random access memory. I asked the sales person at the time if I’d need more memory, and he replied to the effect that 80 megabytes would be all the memory that I‘d ever need (my personal computer today has 500 gigabytes of memory). It also cost a small fortune, something in the neighbourhood of $4,000.00. Of course I also needed a black and white printer, a Hewlett Packard laser jet costing another $2,000.00, and a digital scanner.
I’d always had an interest in reading and writing, and despite the fact that my Secondary School teacher wasn’t thrilled by my writings, I decided that with this new technology I’d write a book. I had an idea for a sketchbook about Algonquin Provincial Park. I approached several publishers about my idea. There response was nil to being lukewarm. One publisher telephoned me and said that the idea was good, but that Tom Thomson had, with his art, “ said it all”. He went on to say that if I wished I could write a book about Tom Thomson and include a few of my sketches, which he would consider publishing. I declined.
I stubbornly went ahead with my idea. I spent a couple of years sketching and painting in Algonquin under all kinds of conditions; all the while learning how to use the computer. As publishers were not interested in publishing my efforts I decided to publish digitally. Adobe had come up with PDF files that could be read universally, so I set about to learn how to create a PDF file. Back in those days one couldn’t just hit File -Save as a pdf , one had to create a PDF file. Adobe Acrobat 5 came with a huge book.
In 2001 I put together two books, A QUIET SOLITUDE, and WHERE RAVEN PLAYS-An Artist’s Guide to Algonquin Provincial Park. I located a music CD publisher and published digitally.
I was told by book publishers that “no one would ever read a book on a computer”.
And, here we are today. The publishers that I attempted to interest in my book are now out of business, and digital publications are set to overtake the paper books.
As for my first digital books, it is true that they were a difficult sell. It took a decade for PDF files to be readily accepted, but I did sell a good number of my digital books, enough to pay for the publishing costs plus a few dollars for a hamburger, or two, and I continue to write and publish digitally.