Hero worship: Graphic Design grad honours departed Can-rock icon

Graphic Design grad Adria WarrenTragically Hip frontman Gord Downie’s death affected so many Canadians in so many ways.

Fans placed wreaths, politicians gave teary tributes, and radio stations devoted endless airtime to the Hip’s decades-spanning discography.

On Oct. 17, 2017 — the day Downie peacefully passed after a battle with brain cancer — local artist and Red River College grad Adria Warren found comfort in picking up a paintbrush.

“He’s such a Canadian staple and the voice of Canada, some would say,” says Warren, a 2015 graduate of RRC’s Graphic Design program.

“I just feel like it really affected people. And when we found out he had cancer, I had actually just been touched by it pretty hard. I’d had loved ones who’d passed away, and one of my girlfriends is currently battling (cancer). So I just wanted to express this and make a difference with my art.”

Courage (painting by Adria Warren)Little did Warren know the work she would create — a piece called Courage, featuring Downie’s now-iconic feathered hat — would eventually be presented to one of those aforementioned politicians.

“I found that out and I’m still in shock,” Warren says, of learning RRC President Paul Vogt gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a framed print of Courage last month. Trudeau was a good friend (and fan) of Downie’s, so the College thought Warren’s painting would be a meaningful way to showcase the talent of their grads.

While Warren has yet to receive a response from the PM’s office, she can take great satisfaction in the fact that Courage has raised more than $3,000 for CancerCare Manitoba. All of the proceeds for the painting have gone directly to the charity.

Courage is one of several Warren works you may have seen around town. Another is her typography map of Winnipeg, which graces T-shirts, cloth bags, mugs and throw pillows.

And that’s just her side business. Warren, who graduated RRC’s Advanced Graphic Design program in 2016, works full-time as a production designer in the marketing department at hunting, fishing and outdoor merchandise retailer Cabela’s.

“I love it,” she says of thPRine Minister Justin Trudeau and RRC President Paul Vogte job. “I love the people I work with and I love the consistency of it. Some people prefer agency life over corporate because it’s not the same thing every day, but I like it. I work on flyers but I also do a ton of the signage and more traditional print stuff.”

Warren says the local job market is tough for graphic designers, and — though it was “a lot of work” — feels that putting in the third year at RRC (while completing the Advanced Graphic Design program) played a role in her landing such a solid gig so shortly after graduation.

She’s found plenty of use for the skills she acquired during those three years — especially in computers and communications. Oh, and just life skills in general.

“We would sleep there,” she laughs. “It was so much fun and I got to know so many awesome people and the instructors were nice and a big help. It was a fire under your butt the whole time.

“It’s a great course. It really helped me with stress. I’m like, ‘If I can get through this, I can get through anything.’ Not just work — even [in my] personal life.”

Plus, Warren — who’s currently saving up for her first house — is so accustomed to working around the clock that she gladly devotes her post-9-to-5 hours to developing her own business, Adria Warren Creative.

She plans to start selling her printed designs at local markets, including the upcoming Third + Bird spring market, May 4 and 5 at The Bay downtown.

Profile by Lindsey Ward (Creative Communications, 2004)