In the summer I was contacted by the curators of The Museum of the Street, an exhibit and archive of prominent illustrators in Canada. They were interested in the inclusion of my father, Peter Swan’s, work. As most of his illustrations were sold during his career, and he passed away in the 1990s, I was concerned about being able to provide them with enough material. They requested original artwork as well as published tear sheets. The few originals I have gracing my walls at home are paintings, but where to find the illustrations of his prolific career? The countless magazine and book covers, story illustrations, postage stamps? What did he do for Esquire Magazine, and what about the Mona Lisa with Telephone? It was an involved process, having to track work down, to be able to contribute to and attend meetings, to consider what pieces to include.
A curator told me that the genesis of the project was asking the question, “What ever happened to the work of Peter Swan?”
A biographical overview of my father was requested, over which I proceeded to fret and sweat. Simply put, we had always been very close, and I felt the responsibility of representing him as he himself would do.
I had just finished my first draft, when I found the old portfolio case of his that he had given me for my own drawings when I was a kid. Incredibly, in it I found a school composition I wrote when I was about eight; a biography of my father. Why on earth had I been sweating over it? Apart from an over enthusiasm for exclamation marks at the time, clearly I’ve been writing the same goddamn thing for thirty years.