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Tom Hawthorn

Behind a cartoon cat, a daily discipline Add to ...

Gareth Gaudin drew a cartoon yesterday. He will draw one today. He will draw one tomorrow. He will draw another the day after that.

He has drawn at least one cartoon a day for 2,841 consecutive days (as of Sunday) and counting.

The cartoonist began the streak seven years, nine months and 10 days ago, making a pledge born from frustration with his limited output. He had returned home to Victoria after a road trip around the province during which he drew but a single cartoon, a scribble on the back of a napkin. After unloading luggage from the car, he plopped atop the hood. It was July 27, 2004.

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“I sat down, wrote ‘Day One’ on the top of a page, and said, ‘That’s it. I’m going to do this every day until I’m dead.’ ”

He has not missed a day since, through sickness and health, through richer and poorer (though mostly the latter).

The result has been an unflinching examination of his day-to-day life.

“Early on I thought, ‘No one’s going to read this, so I can write the most personal things,’ ” he said. “The fear that somebody might read this should be overshadowed by the realization that nobody will. I was taunting myself to be personal and candid. If they do read it, that’s a good thing and serves me right.”

His life became a cartoon strip, the comics a public journal of private behaviour.

The cartoons, called The Magic Teeth Dailies, have been gathered in paperback collections.

The comics feature Perogy Cat, a blank-faced feline with a vacant stare whose pudgy physique resembles that of its namesake potato dumpling.

The feline is the anti-Garfield, profound rather than cute, annoying rather than cloying, with litter-box jokes replacing lasagna jokes.

He created Perogy Cat in an attempt to impress “a cute girl” in his university art class. Her pet cat suffered from diabetes, so he conjured a cartoon creature to help raise money for insulin.

Thus was sparked a romance. The couple now have two daughters, aged 3 and nine months. “I was trying to woo a girl. And it worked,” he said, still sounding surprised at the success of his ploy. He even drew a cartoon on their wedding day.

Meanwhile, Perogy Cat caught the imagination of many readers, not the least for clever word play and pop-culture references. (Day 1,806 features a visit to Vancouver, during which Perogy Cat says, “Excuse me while I kiss the Skytrain.”) Mr. Gaudin’s feline character is so simple to draw that it crops up as a Kilroy-like graffiti around the city. A handful of the most dedicated supporters have even had the character tattooed on their flesh, branding themselves as fans in as literal a fashion as possible.

As well, fans have been encouraged to photograph plush Perogy Cat toys in locations exotic (the Roman Colosseum, the Great Wall of China) and banal (toy-store shelves, a motel room in Osoyoos).

Five years ago, Mr. Gaudin produced a 52-page collection titled, The Perogy Cat – For the Troops. Some 2,000 copies were shipped overseas in a operation the Canadian Forces headlined as, Perogy Cat Deploys To Afghanistan.

Mr. Gaudin, 39, is proprietor of Legends Comics and Books, which he bought with Lloyd Chesley nine years ago. At the time, Mr. Gaudin was an employee (he began working there at age 19) and Mr. Chesley a regular customer. They won an award three years ago as Canada’s top comic shop.

It has been a busy time. A few weeks ago, Mr. Gaudin released a graphic novel featuring Perogy Cat. In recent days, he has been interviewed by local radio and television stations for his opinion on the new Avengers movie (two thumbs up from him, none from Perogy Cat – cats don’t have thumbs). On Thursday, he opened a month-long exhibition of his work in the lobby gallery of Phillips Brewery. He called it Gareth Gaudin’s Public Hanging. He also learned the secret of a successful art opening – hold it in a brewery offering samples.

On Monday, he will draw cartoon No. 2,842. On Tuesday, it will be No. 2,843. On Wednesday …



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