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Tell me A little Q&A

Canadian-born, Manhattan-dwelling artist Charmaine Wheatley has just published her first comic book, "Beau Fleuve: The Heart of North America." She has been in Buffalo over the last four months for an artistic residency sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts, which included a recent exhibit at the Carnegie Art Center. Her general immersion culminates this weekend when she appears as a guest artist at the Buffalo Comicon.

The "con" is Sunday, at the Marriott Hotel, 1340 Millersport Highway, Amherst. Call 833-6220 or go to www.queencitycomic.com for more information.

>What is the difference between your artwork and what most people think of as "comics"?

For one thing, I don't make anything up. I draw from life; people tell me stuff, and I record it. Instead of escaping into fantasy, like Marvel comics, I escape into reality.

>Why a comic book?

You can print comic books cheaply -- it's not a fancy art book. I challenge the boundaries of the medium; I consider it an extension of performance. I even feel that it has a sculptural element. I like that, for $7, people can have this artwork.

>Why Buffalo?

I'm Canadian but have been living in Manhattan for 20 years. I instantly feel at home here -- there is so much heart. Also, because of certain things that are "Canadian" -- like Tim Hortons coffee. I have Canadian citizenship, but my home and my friends are American. I love how Buffalo sits on the border. ... When I'm here, I feel like both sides of me are being fulfilled.

>How did you end up channeling your observations of people into your art?

When I'm alone in a studio, I don't get as much done. Painting from life gives the work urgency; if I drew from photographs, it would be stale. I am turned on by being in front of people; it's like performance. I have to stay flexible. If I'm drawing in a crowded bar, serendipitous things emerge and add to the truth of that moment. I always have my paints -- basically a mini-studio -- with me, wherever I go.

>How do you feel being featured at the Comicon?

I'm honored and excited. I love comparing notes with other artists. I wonder how my comic will fit in with all the others. ... Also, I'm curious and hoping that people will show up dressed as "Star Trek" characters. I identify with underdogs. I want to meet all the passionate and eccentric people there and learn something about what makes their world tick.

-- Jana Eisenberg, Special to The News

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