Champions Of Breakfast
Some of the best and worst days of my life have either started with or been followed by an All-Day Breakfast Special. A fixture of Canadian cuisine, if there is indeed such a thing, the All-Day Breakfast Special is at best an over-priced oddity here in Vienna.
It’s a curious and convenient fact that my love of All-Day Breakfast Specials began at a place called Cafe Vienna. I hasten to point out that there was nothing Viennese about this place, unless you count the one old poster of an even older couple sitting happily on a bench in front of some picturesque old Viennese building. I’m sure if the place had been authentically Viennese the Hollow Boot would never have existed, and that would have been a shame indeed.
The Hollow Boot was a masterpiece of Breakfast. One huge pancake, taking up most if not all of the plate, three scrambled eggs, two slices of toast, turkey bacon, two falafel balls (Yasser, the chef and owner of Cafe Vienna was Egyptian), two breakfast sausages, potatoes, a coffee and just in case you could still breath after all that, french toast.
To my great dismay, the Cafe Vienna is no more. It went under quite some time ago, which when one considers that at times I ate all three meals of the day there, is probably in my best interests anyway. Much more recently one of Halifax’s more venerable greasy spoons, the Spartan, closed its doors after 44 years. I was never a regular there, only having 4 or 5 meals there in my 8 years living in Halifax, but Michael Kimber was. In fact it played a major role in his childhood and you might say it was his second home.
Michael asked me to contribute an illustration to his new blog Colony Of Losers, and when I considered which of his stories I could add to I was immediately drawn to his ode to the Spartan: ‘Breakfast Of Champions’. For one thing I related well to it as a fellow Breakfast Special man, but what really impressed me was his passion for this particular restaurant and its owners Maria and Nick Kyreakakos.
There were two passages which struck me most. The first, referring to the Spartan’s last day of business, shows just how much this place was like home to him:
“I knew that as soon as I stepped outside those doors my childhood would be over.”
And the second passage begins to describe his conviction that the demise of the Spartan should not be in vain, that he would forever carry this diner and the power of its Breakfasts in his heart:
“…the man I am today has been indelibly changed by knowing this family. People have asked me what I am going to do next. I guess what I am going to do is try to make something that offers people a little of what Spartan offered me.”
These two passages inspired two different illustrations for the story. One was about the loss of childhood and home, told with an egg. And one was about determination and courage, told with bacon. In the end I submitted only the egg to Michael for his blog.
Each piece started with a black india ink drawing:
Then, I made a very pale grey print-out of the ink drawing on a cream-toned sketch paper with a nice mild grain to it. I used alcohol markers to fill in warm undertones on the printout. This image was then scanned back in, and dropped under the line drawing in Photoshop.
This tonal layer gives texture and more importantly it serves to make the flat digital colors richer, giving them a nice variability. Preparing this layer separately allows me to keep the linework separate and color the lines independently of the tones beneath them.