Conan Tobias

Writer, editor, publisher


“My stay at Valleyview was exactly what I needed to finish a long-gestating project. It was secluded enough to allow me to focus, with small-town amenities never far away. The house is delightful and offered me everything I needed, and the grounds are perfect for taking breaks or for just having a place to walk around and think. My project was better—and completed more quickly—as a result of my stay.”


Most eyes that night were drawn to a mural that covered not only the room’s walls, floor to ceiling, but also the ceiling itself, as well as the doors, moulding, and air vents. The elaborate work depicted the evolution of the fourth estate, from the Stone Age to the present day. Vignettes included a friar, possibly Martin Luther, nailing a public notice to a poll, a reporter chasing a nineteenth-century fire engine, a pool of switchboard operators, and a group of members mobbing the club’s own bar to buy tickets to its annual By-Line Ball. Generic caricatures of newspaper staff—photo editor, slot man, sob sister—filled space between the ceiling’s decorative slats. The mural was the work of Lou Skuce, a short, stout man, often, by this time, referred to as Canada’s Greatest Cartoonist. Skuce began making a name for himself as a newspaper illustrator more than four decades earlier. He had a natural talent that allowed him to develop a loose, unstructured style, and possessed a wit that played well with the blue-collar middle class. “Lou was a horse for work,” the Telegram’s Reeve once said. “Nothing was too much trouble, no detail in his work too small for him to look after.”


—From “Canada’s Greatest Cartoonist”, a biography of the Canadian cartoonist and illustrator Lou Skuce, completed in part during my June, 2015, stay at Valleyview.


More work by Conan Tobias