Todd Byers spent years working for the automotive industry in Alliston, Ontario.
Meanwhile, his wife, Franca, worked as a legal secretary before switching to homeschooling the couple’s son and daughter.
While both passionate about art, the two prioritized making a living and raising their children, squeezing in art where they could.
Todd and Franca sold their farm in Cookstown a couple of years ago. They were planning to retire to Nicaragua, when COVID hit. Plan B saw them find some land in Tory Hill, where they are building a log home and have now opened the Cabin Art Studio.
Todd offers custom illustrations, caricatures and cartoons, while Franca specializes in handmade greeting cards.
“It’s a nice arts community up here in the Haliburton area,” says Todd as he and Franca show their art on a table at their home.
Todd studied illustration at Sheridan College, then he and Franca got married and had kids, and it was more lucrative for him to work in the automotive industry, although he concedes, “doing repetitive shift work on an assembly line is soul crushing for an artist.
“I always loved art and did it freelance on the side. I taught in Mexico with another company, Comix35 Media.” He instructed in cartooning, character design and comic book page layout and will be offering upcoming workshops locally and a week-long intensive course in Quebec this spring.
Todd draws and paints in both digital and traditional media.
Franca, meanwhile, did art all through school and studied graphic design in college. But without a lot of jobs at the time, she ended up working at a law firm, married Todd and they had their children. While homeschooling, a friend introduced her to card-making and as she had always been into arts and crafts, it took.
“I started making birthday cards or Christmas cards for family members. I enjoy creating different cards and having something handmade is always more special.”
Todd adds, “we were always artsy kids and then we just ended up doing life.”
They are now coming full circle, being able to make art a priority. They are also finding Haliburton County to be an inspiring location. “Very much so,” says Todd. “I’m a big fan of, especially, the surrounding lakes and the Birch trees. I like the texture and look of Birch trees and often incorporate them into my paintings.”
As for the studio, Todd said he is doing special orders and commissions for illustrations and caricatures. He also looks forward to teaching a cartooning and character design course in the spring of 2024, “for kids to get out, and keep it affordable, for families up here whose kids are interested in the Sheridan Animation and Illustration programs.” He said he helps students from about age 12 and up with their application portfolios.
Todd said many of us stop drawing when we are five years old. “I actually really prefer kids’ drawings over adults because they’ve broken all the rules because they haven’t learned any. They’re very engaging pieces of art.”
From drawing at home after night shift, to being able to do his own art, accept commissions and teach, Todd said it’s shaping up to be a nice lifestyle change. And with no legal secretary work or homeschooling to be done, the craft table is now permanently set up in Franca’s world.
You can reach Todd and Franca at email@example.com.