Everett Wilson

Short Bio

Everett Wilson is a freelance illustrator and visual creator. In his day job, he works in the non-profit arts sector, specializing in audience engagement, fund development, and operations. When he’s not helping to bring ideas to life at Wordfest in Calgary, Canada, you’ll catch him making handmade lino-cut prints, creating world-building vector illustrations, publishing a weekly comic called The Push Button Heads, and selling art prints and swag through his online shop. He lives, works, and plays in Calgary (Moh-kins-tsis), Canada.

LinoCut printed illustration of cameras rendered in a flat, two-dimensional style in assorted colours.
Framed illustration of four impossible trailer designs. One trailer is set up to function like a catapult, while another features a teardrop trailer in a larger jail cage on wheels. Another trailer is shaped like a cartoonish bomb. Another trailer is simly a door on wheels.
Crowd scene of various cartoonish characters sitting facing facing the viewer. The illustration is drawn in a Wimmelbilder style with multiple points of focus. Characters with binoculars, with popcorn, with a trombone. One character brought a plant. Another brought their dog. One is distracted on a laptop. One appears to be cheering. One seat is occupied by a couple dogs snuggling. Another pair of characters are playing on their phones.
Linocut block print in black ink on white paper. The composition includes three human figures sitting under three umbrellas on the ground. They figure in the centre is sitting up proudly, starring off into the distance as if looking at the ocean. The other two have their heads down or turned away as if worried or in deep thought.

Longer Backstory

I hold a Masters of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of Calgary. After two years of a PhD residency at McGill University in the Department of Art History & Communication Studies, I left academia for a career in the arts sector.

My dissertation was to explore the productive tensions between speech and action, thinking and doing, in intellectual and political life, a theme I had touched on in my Masters Thesis. Rather than study this topic from the sidelines, I realized I wanted to contribute directly to the ecosystems supporting broad-based engagement with ideas.

In 2012, I joined Wordfest, a non-profit arts organization based in Calgary, Canada that connects writers with general audiences through live events and a major, annual readers festival called The Imaginairium. For more than a decade now, I have lead audience engagement, fund development and—more recently—general operations at the organization.

I have experimented with a variety of media and visual art forms over the years. I discovered block print-making as a powerful medium of illustration early on in high school. My interest in Linocut continues to evolve to this day through experimentation with t-shirt designs.

My first foray into 3D computer modelling was for an undergraduate course in media studies where I set out to translate the poetic imagery of T. S. Eliot’s The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock into a short animation. The film made the highlights reel of the Melbourne International Student Animation Festival.

Poster for a university talk entitled What You Don't Know About Healthy Living May Kill YouPoster for the Alberta Global Forum Dialogue Series

Throughout my post-secondary days, I accepted gigs designing marketing collateral for a number of academic conferences where I practiced concepts I’d taught myself about visual design.

Woodblock print consisting of characters inspired by pictograms on street signage. There is a horizontal axis in the centre of the page. Above this line, there is a row of characters walking in a single-file line, and below is another line up of characters but they are all upside down, almost suggesting they are reflections of the characters in the line above. All forms are in white over a black background.
A cartoon-style crowd scene of various characters coming and going arranged along an isogrid and composed in a wimmelbilderbuch style. The effect is almost pattern-like.

Becoming an Illustrator

Sometime in the spring of 2012 after joining Wordfest, I set out to keep a daily “visual” journal in a collection of Moleskine notebooks I had obtained as a birthday gift. I would scan the finished piece each day and post on social media as my “status update” to friends, family, and anonymous followers.

This was before photo-sharing and other rich-media tools gave everyone readymade GIFs and digital stickers to use on our favourite social platforms. If you wanted to break from the monotony of plain text posts in your news feed, or submit something other than a photo of your cat, you had to create your own images.

Hand drawn doodle from a sketch book. On the left is an image of a mosquito carrying a perfect cube of red liquid. On the right, the caption reads, "Just take our blood and be done with it!"
Collage of three photographs. In the centre, an older man and woman are walking down a street and appear to be fighting. Above the man is a thought bubble, and inside the bubble is a different gentleman with the words "fa la la la" streaming out of his mouth. Above the woman is a thought bubble containing a different man with hands on his head showing signs of stress.
A collage of a torn city map and a photograph of two men working on a formula from a chalk board. The caption reads, "Please spare me the details."

For me at the time, posting something fun or funny on socials meant cracking open my journal, physically making marks, cutting, pasting, and then dusting off my flatbed scanner.

But I needed supplies. And I was desperate to get started. I went to the nearest dollar store downtown on my way into work one morning. I grabbed a package of cheap markers, a handful of disposable pens, colouring pencils, a plastic stencil for tracing letters, and a set of oversized alphabet stickers in a cartoonish font.

That’s where Dollar Store Doodles first got its name—in that rush to seed a new personal project. Ever since it has been the label I append to almost all my creative output, regardless of content, medium or intended audience.

The project soon evolved from publishing hand drawn sketches and lettering experiments to incorporating collage elements alongside punchy banter. I had inherited my grandparents collection of National Geographic magazines by then, which meant I now had five decades worth of material to incorporate into my daily “doodles.”

Photographic image of people sitting around a banquet table. One woman leans in to another. Above her head, in collaged text, a caption reads, "You won't believe whom they have tied up in the broom closet here."
Photo of a chinese puppet doll with long orange hair. The doll appears to be frowning, and the caption reads, "This is my grump puppet look."
Photograph of a man sleeping inside a cabinet on a factory floor. Collaged text is affixed above with the word "Nap" spelled unusually as N.A.A.H.P. In the bottom corner is a collaged placement of the IKEA logo, creating a satirical composition.

What I found striking about the photography in National Geographic is how they can serve as the backdrop for any number of made-up, hammy captions. The magazine is campy without trying, especially the issues from the 1970s. Once I noticed this, I couldn’t un-see it. Ripped from the pages of the otherwise earnest dispatches from far off places, every prized photograph looked like a New Yorker cartoon waiting for a punchline.

My daily practice of adding whimsical alt-captions to National Geographic images lasted for about two years. My creative “interventions” changed the intended meaning and original context of the photos, allowing me to inject my own voice and develop a unique brand of humour. But I never felt I could claim full ownership of the work. Even if the satirical nature of my adaptations were “fair use,” the bulk of the composition—the photo—was someone else’s work product. I worried about how limiting this would be in the long-term, and I stopped developing the series.

By then, from 2013 to 2020, my life partner and I were knee-deep into other forms of world-building. These ranged from a “Small Space Living” condo experiment and camping trips inside the tiniest teardrop trailer imaginable, to erecting a luxury-rustic shipping container cabin that sits overlooking a valley adjacent to the middle of nowhere in Southern Alberta. And then Cooper, a Chihuahua and Tibetan Spaniel mix-breed, entered our lives and stole our hearts.

The focus of my creative pursuits in this period turned to documenting our adventures through videos, animations, and daily doodles. It was all about making memories and then drinking them up visually. But the point was not to take my chronicling efforts too seriously.

Pandemic Years

When the global COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, my day-job at Wordfest changed overnight. For the next two years, our team embraced online programming and became a broadcaster, beaming twice-weekly livestreams over the internet. Unable to carry out our regular in-person activities during lockdown, and mindful of keeping audiences safe even after public health restrictions were relaxed, we experimented with new show formats that enabled us to advance our mission as a platform for engaging with ideas, books, and authors.

The reinvention of Wordfest at the height of the pandemic opened new avenues for flexing my creative muscles. I became my own “avatar” on screen—a “Digital Concierge” charged with making our audience feel welcome in the virtual space. I developed fresh content for the pre-show reels that kept people entertained while waiting for the 10-minute countdown to finish ahead of the main program. These ranged from quirky animated instructional videos on how to maximize your video-viewing setup, to original trailers and credit openings featuring handmade animations and illustrations.

The intense creative output at my day job during the pandemic years sparked a renewed interest in building up my design and illustration chops. In another lifetime, I would have gone to art school in my formative years. But I’ve since been able to fill in these gaps in formal training through online courses. Domestika.org is my go-to source at the moment for learning new techniques and the foundational principles of design and illustration from leaders in the field. I have enrolled in more than 30 courses.

Pictogram illustration of Montreal.
Illustration of a street sign showing someone slipping with three legs.
Minimalist illustration of a character walking in a deserted landscape in the middle of the day.
Cartoon illustration of a character warming his hands over an oil drum on fire that says Burning the Midnight Oil.

Current Projects

Of late, I’ve been keeping busy visualizing turns of phrases, puns and philosophical musings in my weekly comic series, The Push Button Heads. And one of my latest projects is drawing abstract pictograms of my favourite cities in a style inspired by how people, places, and things are represented in way-finding signage.

To support my creative journey, you can check out my print shop or subscribe to my comic on Substack. Or find me on Instagram, Theads, Facebook, and Mastodon where I am the most active.

About me

Hello! My name is Everett Wilson and I'm an illustrator, printmaker, cartoonist, and creator of The Push Button Heads comic strip. I live, work, and play in Calgary (Moh-kins-tsis), Canada. Find out more about me here.


Illustrator & Cartoonist
2005 - Now


Senior Director, Operations & Development
2012 - Now

Master of Arts

University of Calgary
2005 - 2008