Friendships that start in childhood and withstand the test of time are not unusual, however, one that has extended beyond the passing of one friend might be. Such friends – the late Stephen Arnett Groves and T. Keith Edmunds – had a bond that transcended the usual. After years of hanging out in Souris, they created a few stories together. Today, Keith is paying homage to his childhood friend, the co-creator of their online comic strip Dumb Guys, and the artist whose wealth of work had not yet been presented to the world.
“Steve was a fantastic, talented artist who never got the audience he deserved in life. With the help of his family, I’m hoping to put together a book so that more people can enjoy his art,” said Edmunds, who has started a Kickstarter project to see this dream to fruition. “Being an artist is often a solitary endeavour and selling one’s work can be daunting. Steve’s greatest hurdle was the business of comic art in that he was forever inventing, creating, drawing, but not necessarily reaching out and selling his amazing work.”
“There was only one other guy at Art School that would gush over comics the way I did. We were brothers in arms, taking on the post-modernist artistic ideology with our shared love of fantastical stories in comics,” said Andrews. “After those two years–more in the middle of them, really–we both dropped out of the same art school that John Byrne and Joni Mitchell once dropped out of, and we moved away. But somehow we managed to keep in touch for all these years. These small co-conspirators in our lives leave a mark (and) in some way, (Steve) will always be a part of my work in comics. His was a talent that left this world too soon.”
Another long-time Souris friend, film composer Jeff Tymoschuk recalls with fondness his teen years spent with Groves and their tightknit group of friends. An admirer of Groves’ talent, he also feels that the world has lost a unique artistic voice.
“Steve was one of the most creatively gifted people I’ve ever met, in addition to being an excellent artist he was a storyteller, a singer, a songwriter, and a drummer. He was good enough at them all to have headed down any one of those other paths, but drawing was his first love, and that’s what he stuck with,” said Tymoschuk, who is now based in Vancouver. “Like many creative types, the big problem with having a million ideas is that it’s often less enjoyable to finish with one than starting on the next, hence this book. His life had many bumps in the road along the way, but through it all his work kept a sense of whimsy and magic, his characters always with a smile, a quizzical look, or a wisecrack. This book is a story of untapped potential, but more than that it’s a celebration of the joy found in the pursuit of the Next Big Idea.”
Local teacher and writer, Joanne F. Villeneuve collaborated with Groves on a children’s book entitled Akiak and the Sky Jewels. She was pleasantly surprised at how he perfectly interpreted the characters of her story, which has been shared digitally at several school assemblies.
“I had never worked with a visual artist before, and it was such a positive experience. He truly brought my tale to life. He really got the message, the feelings I was trying to convey. The students respond really well to the images, which are at once endearing and whimsical, but done in Steve’s own contemporary comic style,” said Villeneuve. “I really appreciate what he brought to the project and I so wish we could create a follow-up story.”
The Kickstarter project aims to gather support for a book that will focus on Groves’ art – his characters, storylines and ideas. During his life, his family was a constant support and is enthusiastic of this endeavour.
“It means the world to his mom and his family to see Stephen’s dreams coming to life with this book,” said Erin Groves, one Groves’ sisters. “It breaks our hearts that he was never able to achieve his true potential in life, but this will finally show everyone what he could never admit: He was an amazing artist, and his passion needs to be shared with the world.”
The deadline to participate in this project is Saturday, March 31. For more information about this Kickstarter project, please visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/115465592/unfinished-stories-the-art-of-stephen-groves