The artwork of Patrick LaMontagne: Back to the archives

Patrick LaMontagne - 15th anniversary of the first issue of the Rocky Mountain Outlook

Left: Patrick LaMontagne’s very first editorial cartoon. Eighteen years later

Left: Patrick LaMontagne’s very first editorial cartoon. Eighteen years later

The Rocky Mountain Outlook is the local newspaper here in the Bow Valley, which includes the towns of Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise and Exshaw. I’ve been their cartoonist since its inception and this past week was the 15th anniversary of the first issue.

In recent weeks, I’ve been reminded about my editorial cartoon career and all of the stepping stones along the way.

The Outlook anniversary was fresh in my mind this summer because of a video that was being done by a local video production company, Two Cowboys, who interviewed me in July for a piece on the paper. While it didn’t specifically mention the anniversary, the video was released to coincide with it and I thought they did a great job. There’s a link below if you’d like to take a look.

In keeping with this cartoon nostalgia theme, my sister and her husband happened to be in the Whyte Museum in Banff recently and mentioned that they saw a display of my cartoons there, something of which I was unaware. As I had to deliver some prints to About Canada gallery a couple of weeks ago, I made time to visit the Whyte to see the display.

Just outside of the archives, there was indeed a small selection of cartoons. Ten of them were framed up on the wall and quite a few more were in a small portfolio book for people to flip through. None of the pieces were professionally printed, merely copies or clippings from both The Crag and Canyon, where I got my start in the late nineties, and from the current Rocky Mountain Outlook.

I never wanted to be an artist as a profession. It had never occurred to me when I was in high school or college. I moved to Banff to be with Shonna after a difficult two year long distance relationship. I worked in hotels and retail shops for the seven years we lived in Banff. When the Crag and Canyon newspaper advertised for an editorial cartoonist, my wife showed me the ad and I thought, “well, I’m always doodling something, what do I have to lose?”

My buddy Jim, also my boss at the time, was writing a regular humour column for the Crag, so over beers after work one day at The Rose and Crown, he introduced me to the editor and suddenly I had a weekly editorial cartoon. I barely read the paper before that. At $30/week when I was pretty much broke most of the time, it was some extra beer money. That’s how it all started.

Standing outside the archives, looking at my old work, I thought it would be fun to take a look through the back issues and see if I could find my very first cartoon. While I couldn’t remember the month, I was certain that it was sometime in ‘97.

I asked the staff member for the range of issues I wanted, but instead of seeing my own work anywhere, I was confronted with those of my predecessors. I ended up sending her back to the stacks three times with my apologies. She was gracious each time and returned with the boxes of papers, four months of issues in each.

Finally, I found the right issue. My first cartoon, from May 1998.

For so many years, I have somehow been misremembering when I drew my first editorial cartoon. Whether it has been in interviews, articles, my bio on my website AND on my prints, I’ve always listed 1997 for when it all got started and I’ve been off by a full year.

It was a fun hour going through the old papers. I got to see much younger pictures of people I didn’t know then, but have since known for years. I saw the ad for the Accounting Clerk job at the Douglas Fir Resort, the position I eventually convinced them to give me as I was managing their Waterslide Facility at the time. I laughed out loud at how reasonable rent prices in Banff were, although they sure didn’t seem that way at the time.

The cartoonist Terry Mosher (Aislin) and his wife, Mary were in Banff a number of years ago and Shonna and I went out to dinner with them. Terry had been generously mentoring me at the time. During the conversation, he made a throwaway remark that “nobody gets into this business by answering an ad in the paper.”

Shonna and I had a good laugh at that. Guess I was the exception to the rule.