Students help publish first-ever book on artist

William Forrestall’s introductory painting class helped bring to life the first-ever book on the works of Canadian artist Stephen Lack.

The class was assisted by the Office of Research Services at St. Thomas University to publish a 136-page book entitled There is a War.

Lack was born in Montreal in 1946 and moved to New York in the 1980s. He’s a painter and a movie director who’s built his career around comic books, horror stories and stylized paintings of cars. His drawings are based on how he, as a Canadian, sees American life.

Forrestall said this book is supposed to bring students and artists together.

Forrestall knew of Lack’s work for years, but never thought about doing a class research project on him until two years ago.

“I was reminded of Lack’s work by Terry Graff, the director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery at the time,” said Forrestall. “He was working with Lack on a much larger book and told me about it. So, I contacted [Lack], one thing led to another and the idea of working with students came out of [it].”

The students researched Lack’s background before contacting him for an interview. All students were required to participate in the development of the interview process, as well as the interview itself.

The students were also assigned reading material to get to know Lack better and to learn how to create a book.

Thalia Ackroyd, a student in the class, said the process felt like more than “simply a class project.”

“I’m happy with the product because it feels good to be part of a real book and have our names on the editorial team,” Ackroyd said.

Vanessa Lunn, another student in the class, agrees with Ackroyd.

“The way Forrestall [assigned the project], by giving us materials to study and having us do the questions by ourselves was a really interesting approach, because it allowed the students to focus on specific things we found interesting about Lack and develop interviews from there,” said Lunn.

“I’m really happy with the final result. I never thought I’d take part in the process of publishing a book during my university life.”

Forrestall said the whole purpose of the project is for students to know they can publish books like this one.

“The students were great and what they did is a great document of a great Canadian artist,” he said. “Lack liked the book, he’s happy with it.”

The book launch for There is a War will happen in Toronto on Oct. 26 at the Toronto International Art Fair.

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