Title and statement of responsibility area
Jane Wolsak fonds
General material designation
- Graphic material
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Statement of scale (cartographic)
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Dates of creation area
- Wolsak, Jane
Physical description area
15 sketchbooks ; spiral bound, approx. 28 x 36 cm
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Archival description area
Name of creator
Jane Wolsak is a Vancouver based artist and illustrator. Wolsak was born in England in 1942. She attended St. Martin's School of Art where she studied painting, and the London University Institute of Education, where she received her teaching diploma.
Wolsak moved to Canada in the 1960s, and worked as a high school art teacher until December 1969. She married and had two daughters. During this period she also spent time living in Portland Oregon, and England.
By the late 1980s, personal and financial challenges led Wolsak to focus more on her art work. Her work includes illustration projects, art work for hotels, murals, community projects, and set painting. In 1998 she began working as a courtroom illustrator; her first job was a civil copyright case involving BC artist Sarah McLachlan. She has since gone on to cover many famous and infamous cases in the greater Vancouver region.
Most of her time is spent doing acrylic painting or drawing in her studio, a shared space in East Vancouver. She self-describes her area of interest as still-life, working from subjects set up in her studio rather than from photographs, which according to Wolsak, don’t provide sufficient information. She has had shows of her work, beginning in 1989, in Vancouver and the surrounding region, Victoria, Ottawa and Toronto, including a show of her courtroom drawings at Richmond Art Gallery in 2006.
Wolsak offers the following commentary on her work as a courtroom illustrator:
“When doing my own painting and drawing I can do just as I want, whereas on some illustration jobs I'm told exactly what to do. Courtroom drawing falls in between these extremes, there are requirements, but I have some choices in the creative process. I may be constrained in court by time (brief appearances, changes in procedures), and by space (crowded courtrooms, view-line obstructions). Outside court, deadlines and camera requirements have influence. I portray the court scene as accurately as possible, I'm there in place of the, so far, still forbidden-in-court camera.
“My perhaps old fashioned classical training at art school, with much life drawing and outside sketching, provided me with skills that are useful in courtroom drawing. Now, almost intuitively, I know perspective, how clothing folds, human details, hands, ears… If I have the time I like to watch my subject for a while, in order to catch a repeated gesture, an expression.
“I had a false start in courtroom illustration with Sarah McLachlan, in 1998, a copyright claim, when the newspaper collaged a photo of her head on my drawing of her body – not good for confidence building in a new job! Later, in 1999, I met a friend of a friend, Heather Spears, who was drawing at a trial in Victoria where I was visiting. She suggested I draw at another case in session that day. I did, and managed to sell it to the Times Colonist. Confidence restored, I took my sample drawings in to CBC in Vancouver, and have been working with them, and many other media outlets, ever since.
“I'm often asked if hearing grizzly details in a court case - Pickton for instance - affects me. Luckily it doesn't. I'm concentrating very hard on the visuals (things can change very quickly), so I don't listen well. I'm not there with any continuity, and often court evidence is quite dry. The journalists pull it all together for their sometimes dramatic report.
“Courtroom illustration, as a job, is very irregular. Sometimes I've been in court a couple of times a week, then there can be no work for a couple of months, yet I need to be ready to go with an 8.00 am phone call. Since courtroom drawing has been one of my better income earners, other projects have to work around a sudden day in court.”
Donated to the Archives by Wolsak in 2019.
Scope and content
The fonds consists of fifteen sketchbooks containing courtroom illustrations done by Jane Wolsak. The sketches depict participants in civil and criminal proceedings in both provincial and federal courts held in the greater Vancouver region between 1998 and 2010. Some of the sketches were licensed to newspapers and television news broadcasters for inclusion in their reporting.
Wolsak covered many high profile trials during this period, including the trials of Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski for the murder of Reena Kirk; Ajaib Singh Bagri, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Inderjit Singh Reyat for the Air India bombings; and Robert ‘Willie’ Picton for the murders of twenty-seven women. Complete listings of the covered trials are included in the respective descriptions for the individual sketchbooks.
Immediate source of acquisition
Wolsak removed some sketches from their original sketchbooks. This was done for varying reasons, such as grouping sketches together for exhibition purposes, grouping sketches together based on the trials, or to consolidate sketches into a smaller number of volumes. Many trials spanned extended time periods, and Wolsak often covered multiple trials at the same time, resulting in chronologically ordered sketchbooks that could contain multiple trials, often interleaved. The sketchbooks received by the Archives have been maintained in this arrangement. However, Wolsak numbered individual pages with a two-part identifier that identifies the original book number and page number within for the sketch. This information can be used to reconstruct the original ordering of the sketches before they were removed and consolidated into other volumes.
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Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
Reproduction of individual works is permitted under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
You may copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, as long as you credit Jane Wolsak as the creator and provide a link to the CC BT-NC-ND 4.0 license (https://creativecommons/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode). You may not use the material for commercial purposes, or distribute modified versions of the material. The CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license does not prevent you from any use of the material that would be considered fair dealing.
Copyright: Jane Wolsak; expiry: undetermined